As I sit here in my living room with my Macbook getting increasingly hotter on my lap trying to write my own personal story of my journey to the Mecca of Comedy, I find myself at a loss for words…
Where do I start? Do I start at the trip’s beginning on Wednesday afternoon where I met a man eating next to me in Penn Station who could very well turn out to be the biggest networking opportunity in my comedy career?….What about the standup comedy at the Comedy Cellar that literally had my abs hurting and included a surprise set by Dave Attell (which was one of the least funny sets of the night if you can believe that)….No…I think I will go back to the beginning of my love affair with comedy and SNL as a child…
Now, realize that when my buddy Grant and I planned this trip, I knew from the beginning that I was going to try to go to the live showing of Saturday Night Live. As a child who has been influenced by comedians just about as much as my parents, Saturday Night Live was a weekly staple since I was little. My routine used to go a little something like this…Mom makes Dom go to bed. Dom waits for Mom’s bedroom door to close. Dom peeks out his bedroom to watch for Mom’s lights to go out. Dom sneaks downstairs to the basement and turns on NBC. This was a weekly thing.
Having studied the wood floors of my house for years so as to know where it is safe to step without making a creak (yeah, you guys with noisy floors know what I’m talking about), I had my routes around the house down to a science. (although if anyone was ever to see the routes I would have to take due to my small stature in grade school they would think I was Billy Elliot hopping and jumping around for the next quiet bit of flooring). Once in the basement I was home-free. As soon as I heard the voice of Don Pardo (if you don’t know who he is look him up) I was glued to the TV. Most of the time my Dad would come home from work and find me sitting five feet from the TV watching, but he would never make me go to bed, and I thank him for that. Many of the Saturday nights he would watch with me.
Growing up watching the likes of Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley and Norm Macdonald, just to name a few, was incredible. So much talent on one show. As a middle child who wasn’t the popular athlete like my older brother, and not the baby of the family like my little sister – it was SNL that taught me how to be funny. Watching the show became my schooling. I found out fast that making people laugh was a lot more fun than trying to act like the cool kid. ( I mean a 4 foot something kid with big ears and a smile that sported teeth that looked as if they were trying their damndest to escape my gums in any direction they could was not necessarily the definition of cool, unless I’m in England) Yet, doing impressions of characters I had seen and studied on SNL and Jim Carrey movies was my bread and butter. I had a knack for it. I memorized sketches and monologues ranging from Farley’s “Matt Foley” sketch to Jim Carrey’s “Heinz Getwellvet, Trainer of Dolphin” scene in Ace Ventura. I imitated their every move and their voices. I even dressed like them and paraded around the house acting in their mannerisms. (I still do this by the way, but now it tends to be reserved for Halloween (at least that’s what I’m going to tell you anyway)…hence I have been Wayne Campbell and my buddy Tony was Garth, and this year I was Ace Ventura…needless to say I take my characters seriously and don’t break character all night)
Now fast forward to December 2, 2011. Grant and I are in the middle of Rockefeller Center. Having done weeks of researching blogs and others’ experiences with waiting in line for SNL standby tickets, I had a pretty good idea of when we would need to get in line outside 30 Rock on the 49th street side. Now for those of you who don’t know, the only ways to get SNL tickets to either the 8:00pm Dress Rehearsal or the 11:30pm Live Show is to A) Be an NBC executive (or one of their current girlfriends or boyfriends) or a cast member’s family member 2.) Be chosen in the email lottery which you can only enter in the month of August or III.) Wait in line for standby tickets which are handed out at 7am the day of the show.
Having not been chosen in the lottery, I was prepared to wait in line for standby tickets, full well knowing that there was still a chance of not getting in if I was lucky enough to get standby tickets. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to leave New York without at least trying to get tickets. So, after returning to Brooklyn to add more layers of clothes and prepare ourselves for a long night enduring temperatures in the 30’s while sitting on the sidewalk outside of 30 Rock, Grant and I got on the subway and made our way back to Rockefeller Center. When we arrived, I was surprised to see that the kids who were in line when we left Manhattan at 4:30 earlier that afternoon had only added two more kids behind them. I was ecstatic! That meant that we were easily within the first forty people in line! We took our blanket and bags of goodies, which mostly included alcohol to keep us warm throughout the night and took our seats on the sidewalk. Still a bit unsure of our plan to stay up all night and constantly wondering if we would get into the show or not, we began to strike up a conversation with the two kids in front of us who had come prepared with books and board games to keep themselves busy. They had waited in line before, but had not made it in before. A fact that i did not need to hear. Grant was also obviously a bit skeptical of what our chances were of getting in, so he went to the front of the line to try and count out how many were exactly in the line; a task which was actually quite difficult because out of the many air mattresses and blankets and chairs, people were always getting out of line to go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat. We figured we were somewhere between 30-40th in line.
Around 7:45 pm a girl named Amber showed up behind us and got in line. She could not believe that the line was so short. After calling several of her friends to inform them of the short line and to get their asses up to 30 Rock, I knew I had to talk to her. After asking if she had waited for standby tickets before she informed me that she had gone 5 or 6 times before and that our current spot in line was the shortest she had ever seen it this season. At that, my heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t help but smile. Just then her friend, Amanda, showed up who reiterated just how unbelievably short the line was. She told us that for the recent Emma Stone/Coldplay show on November 12, 2011 the lines were across Rockefeller Center and past the lit up trees across the street. Even before the trip I knew that a very popular host and musical guest would mean that people would be lining up as early as Wednesday according to blogs I had read, so when it was released that Steve Buscemi was hosting and The Black Keys were the musical guest I got excited. Despite Steve Buscemi being a great actor and someone who I would enjoy to watch live, I knew that the rest of my generation could give two shits. Why? Because they watch crap like Jersey Shore and don’t have the first clue about Boardwalk Empire or Reservoir Dogs. I hoped that this would mean fewer people would want to get in line for standby tickets, especially since the likes of Katy Perry and Jimmy Fallon are scheduled for the next few weeks.
As we continued to wait, people kept walking by asking us what we were in line for. After telling them several times truthfully why we were sitting in line, I decided to entertain myself by giving BS responses. (some examples: We’re waiting in line for a soup kitchen, A new strip club is opening, Occupying NBC, Justin Bieber) Of course people tended to believe me which was a bit unbelievable.
One of these couples asked us, and I responded with a BS answer but they seemed like nice people so I told them I was messing with them and told them the real reason we were braving the cold. The woman, named Kathryn, was instantly ready to get in line with us and wait till 7am, but her partner in crime, named Raf, was a bit skeptical. After a little bit of an alcohol aided sales pitch on the part of Grant and myself, she said that she would be back. She was going to convince Raf to stand in line. None of us believed they would be back. At that point our friend Maura showed up with a bag of goodies including snacks, pillows, a blanket and more vodka (as a fellow Spring Hill Badger Alum/St. Louis native would). After about an hour or so, I got to talking to a man named Philip (with 1 L) who was in front of us in line and I suspected may be homeless when to my surprise Kathryn and Raf returned. And not alone might I add….They were toting with them a mattress! No, not a blowup mattress like others in line, but a real spring twin-sized mattress wrapped in plastic and duct taped and twined. All of us could not stop laughing! Kathryn’s face exuded a look of child-like excitement as they dropped it on the sidewalk at our feet.
“You bought a REAL mattress?” we collectively asked, well actually it was probably more like, “Where the F@*$ did you get a mattress in the middle of midtown Manhattan!!
After laughing, Kathryn and Raf explained that they brought us a mattress so we wouldn’t have to sleep on concrete, in return for us saving them a spot while they were gone. Obviously we agreed because anyone who shows up with a mattress in midtown Manhattan is OK in my book. They departed again to explore some of the city only to return an hour later with two shopping bags full of beer, soda and food that consisted of oversized candy,chips, pretzels and of course Funyuns. Again we thought it was hilarious, but after finding out they were from Texas it all seemed to make sense. Ha, just doin’ it big! Then they departed for their hotel to sleep a few hours and come back at 5:30am to wait until seven.
As the morning came, people began to start falling asleep except for us. After more drinks, we decided to play a game of Apples to Apples which is definitely one of the best games to play while drinking, not to mention on a plastic wrapped mattress on 49th street in Midtown Manhattan. (By the way, we found out later that our Texas friends found the mattress up against a building a few streets away from Rock Center…which makes me wonder who was murdered on it or what was wrong with it…at that point though, I did not care).
Skip to the next morning at 7am. After sleeping a couple of hours, I was very anxious for the page to come out and begin the process of handing out the 100 tickets for the Dress Rehearsal and the 100 tickets for the Live Show. After a man came out and explained just what was to happen, we all packed up our belongings and got into a single file line eagerly awaiting 7am. Once the line started moving I began to hope and pray that when we arrived at the front of the line that the Live Show tickets were still at a reasonably low number. When we got to the front, I asked the page what numbers the tickets were at. She replied that the Dress was at #12 and the Live was at #29. Despite the advice we had been given to take whichever tickets were at a lower number, I took one look at Grant and we instantly decided on the Live Show. We did it. We got standby tickets for the Live Show and they were low numbers- 29 and 30. We had a very good chance of getting in later that night.
With that, we said goodbye to the people who had been camping out around us whom had become our family for the last 12 hours, exchanged numbers and hugs and simply said, “See you tonight!” Grant and I, tickets secured headed for the 49th St. Rockefeller Center subway station to go home to Brooklyn. I could not stop smiling. Both still in awe of the night we just had (which wasn’t even all included in this post) we got back to the apartment we were staying at, congratulated each other on our accomplishment and both went to bed, only to wake up three hours later at 11am to continue exploring Manhattan.
Sleep could not find me though, I felt like a kid again peeking around my bedroom door waiting for the sliver of light under my Mom’s bedroom door to go dark so I could sneak down to the basement to watch my idols do what they did best in Studio 8H…
[TO BE CONTINUED]