I had an interesting talk with a homeless dude I have seen hanging around the Comedy Cellar for months. I first noticed the man who looked to be around my age last spring on a warm day when the Olive Tree has tables set out front. ( The Olive Tree is the restaurant directly above the Cellar.) Tracy Morgan often held court there before his accident last summer. People were stopping by for pictures with the 30 Rock star.

The homeless guy came by and Tracy handed him what looked to be a fistful of twenties. I have since seen him posting up at the entrance to the W. 4th street subway station. Sometimes at the top of the steps but more often at the bottom with his usual spiel,” little help, god bless.” He’d shake his cup hoping passersby would add to his jingle.

A few nights ago as I walked by him on the subway steps, I heard him tell a group of Asian folks to “go back to their own fuckin’ country!” I was glad I never gave him any money because he was just rude. Nobody is obligated to give you money so you can’t get mad when they don’t.

Last night I was having my usual smoke and cup of coffee before the show and he stopped to chat. A couple of people recognized me and it’s then I find out he didn’t know I was a comedian. He thought I just put shows together. He mistakenly thought I had money to give him since I was a performer.

I told him a bit about my homeless experience 30 years ago. I broke it down to him how broke I was and now he’s telling me how he’s going to get his shit together. He has been studying for a food service handler’s permit. He said he saved money to buy new shoes, shirt and pants. His plan is to take the test and get a job.

He seemed surprised and encouraged by my story and with the help of the bathroom arrangement he had with a nearby McDonald’s, he vowed he would follow through. Stay tuned.

William Stephenson

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