Friday, October 10, 2014

8 Years in New York City

A few weeks ago I had my 8 year anniversary of moving to New York City and I was too busy juggling work and standup comedy to notice it. But it got me thinking about what I've done over those years. 

In the 8 year period that I’ve been living, working, and performing in NYC most of my college and hometown friends have gotten married, bought houses, had children.  I have done none of those things and society tries to make you feel like a real screw up for choosing a different path—especially as a woman.  I’ve had plenty of moments at weddings or cocktail parties when I’ve been prodded for information about why I’m unmarried and questioned as to whether I’m “still trying to do the standup improv skits."  As much as I resent these questions, I’m not ashamed of my life’s path—I’m super proud.  Sometimes people look at me with concern and pity—I don’t have a family or a house to return to at night and to these people, that is unimaginable.  No, I don’t have kids (nor do I want them) and I don’t have a traditional life and I love every minute of it.  I often think of the scene in Good Will Hunting when therapist Sean Maguire snarls at snobby Professor Gerald Lambeau, “I didn’t fuck up—I chose this life.” 

I chose this life and the past 8 years of performing standup, storytelling, and sketch comedy in New York has been phenomenal.  My years spent in living Boston and Chicago were great, too, but New York is where I found my comedic voice so it will always have a special place in my heart.  

New York is where I moved to after I had been living in Boston for a  few years and trying out standup.  I was working for Prentice Hall and when they relocated my team to NJ, I was laid off.  I didn’t know what to do and my boss at the time (who is now one of my best friends), Anathea, encouraged me to be thoughtful and deliberate in plotting my next steps.  She knew that I wanted a change both in my publishing career and with standup and she suggested that I move to New York City.  I thought about it and made some plans, then my generous uncle Jim offered to let me live in his Upper East Side apartment and before I knew it, my parents had loaded up the Buick Roadmaster (rest in peace, Land Yacht) and moved me into uncle Jimmy’s apartment.  It was like a "Fresh Prince of Bell Air" situation and I was the luckiest girl in the world.  Anathea kept her job, relocated to the Upper West Side, and would commute out to the office in NJ.  As we found our way in NYC, Anathea and I would often say to each other, “Holy shit! We live in New York City!” when something magical happened. We just couldn’t believe everything that was at our fingertips—culture, shows, restaurants, excitement.  

My first sketch comedy class started 4 days after I arrived in New York and my life here has been comedy ever since. 

New York is where I met hilarious people in that sketch class at UCB and connected with 2 brilliant ladies to form a sketch group (rest in peace, Walking Contradiction) and my classmates and I went on to make movies, teach, sell books, and write for SNL.   

New York is where I learned how to produce and run a show (rest in peace, basement of Two Boots Pizzeria and Luca Lounge) and be part of a comedy community.  

New York is where I have found 9-5 work (let’s be real—9-6 or 7) at 2 different publishing houses that has been professionally rewarding and where I have met great people.  

New York is where I’ve met a lot of terrible ex-boyfriends, including one who stood me up on Valentine’s Day (you’re still a loser, Nick B.) and another who wanted to "get successful at comedy THEN find a partner” (how’s that going for ya, Kevin?) but also where I’ve found some wonderful boyfriends who have taken me out to some of the nicest restaurants in NYC (I’m pretty sure you were in the mafia, Craig, but we had fun while it lasted!) and taken me mudding in rural New Jersey (I’ll always think of you fondly, Ryan—even with your Axe body spray).  

New York is where I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my book proposal over 18 months, then sold my book to HarperCollins, cranked out roughly 60,000 words by sequestering myself inside my apartment every weekend for 8 months, and hosted an amazing book release party.  

New York is where I discovered the Sex and the City bus tour and got myself hired so that I could parlay my love of SATC into a second job.  For 3 years, every Sunday at 3pm I could be found outside the The Plaza waiting for a posse of 55 awesome visitors and fellow SATC fans to board a bus and cruise NYC for 3 hours while I told jokes, pointed out spots from the show, and did crowd work.  It was the most bonkers and fun job I've ever had. 

New York is where I learned how to tell stories and found the ceaselessly inspiring storytelling community that has enabled me to share some of the most triumphant and heartbreaking moments of my life with an audience. 

New York is where I learned to accept that I’m high-energy onstage and I should stop fighting that instinct—that’s me.  

I often say that when I started doing standup, my entire life made sense.  And as I reflect on the past 8 years of amazing shows and terrible shows and open mics and crummy road gigs and storytelling shows that make you explode with both laughter and tears and book proposals and rooftop comedian parties and packed subway cars and afternoons at Coney Island beach and check spots and writing meetings in random cafes and drink tickets and walking around with a bag full of wigs and props and running into fellow comedians on the street when you both say, “hustling to a show—give ‘em hell!” and feeling completely understood as an artist and a person, I want to pinch myself.  Holy shit, I live in New York City.