Getting A Job

I got a call from the casting director for the “untitled Chris Rock movie project” offering me the role of the Black Cop. When the call came in I didn’t pick up because I didn’t recognize the number and figured it was a bill collector. ( Even though they usually call from an area code outside of NY, I thought it might be one of their tricks). I listened to the phone ring thinking how much I hated my choice for ring tones. My voice mail played an old message first, which was the original call from the casting associate last week.

Now I’m thinking my phone is messing with me, and there is no new message. Ah, but there was! The message was from Matt, and all the news was good. I was in full nap mode, and it took a minute to sink in. I have had dreams where I’m winning everything from free vacations to jillion dollar lotteries.

The role is the lesser of the two I auditioned for but so what. I’ll get a check for several hundred dollars for a days toil, and I get to work with one of my favorite acts. In the audition, I was told Doug Stanhope is playing my partner. Doug is a very funny comic featured in season 2 of Louie on FX playing the depressed comedian who is about to kill himself.

Now I have to figure out whether to try to go back and finish my nap, or stay up and go with the little sleep I had. I have to be at work in 6 ½ hours. The battle between excited and tired is on. Excited led early but tired is way ahead now. I’ve told 3 people the news, my sister, cousin and friend whom yesterday predicted I’d get the part. I’ll tweet and Facebook when it’s much closer to the shoot date, August 7. For now, it’s…back..to…sleepytown.

Behind the Side Door Waits the Comic

Behind the side door, waits the comic. It won’t be long before the comic’s name is electronically tossed before a group of humans he or she expects to amuse. Maybe? It’s the old False Intro, a plague in the world of standup comedy.

The main thing every comedian wants from the emcee is to be brought “right up.” That is, on the first try. The host can be halfway through the comic’s credits and suddenly realize he didn’t mention the waitresses. Or his favorite album cut. When a comic is told next, he goes into his preparation mode. Standing offstage, he will roll his eyes to the back of his head or employ one of the various tics, twitches, and shiggles available to him.

Kevin Brennan slowly and steadily heads toward the stage. If the emcee doesn’t hurry, Kevin will be talking over his own intro. Mark (Coco) Cohen enjoys pre-set banter with the host. This can be dangerous, but we’re talking about Coco here. He’s built for it.

Waiting behind the side door this weekend at the Comic Strip Live is Wanda Sykes Hall. Noted for her writing and appearances on the Chris Rock show, she recently broke out on her half hour “Comedy Central Presents.” performance. Tim Young works out at the Strip and is always fun to watch. I figure any comic that can use the phrase “bucket of bb’s” in a set has got to have funny all up in him.

Over at Standup New York, see David Atell. Love Dave, hate Dave. You can have fun just trying to figure out how you feel about him. Dubbed the “comic’s comic,” Dave says things other comics think about, but figure those things are not funny.

Note to all late night comics searching for a closing line, try….Thank You and Good Night!

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William Stephenson

Chris Rock Dave Chappelle and More

Chris Rock Dave Chappelle and More

 

A second show at the Cellar was one of “those” shows that make life the wonderful thing it is. Just before I brought up the last act, I was apprised of the possibility that Dave Chappelle was coming in. I told the audience Godfrey was the last act. When Dave got there, Godfrey was signaled by the manager to seriously wrap it up. Godfrey was having a fine set, but when Chappelle is in the house the feeling is, let’s get him onstage ASAP. Godfrey comes off and a few people start to rise up.

“Wait, I know I told you Godfrey was the last act, but every now and again somebody comes in and we extend the show. Tonight we have a man you will recognize from his appearances on the Chappelle Show on Comedy Central, Dave Chappelle”.

The audience that had just seen a great 2:20 of standup goes absolutely apeshit. (Of course) Dave opens very businesslike, much sharper than I’ve seen him in years. He did a bit on the no feet killer that will soon be a classic and I’ll bet he’s not done with it yet. I won’t spoil it for you here but it had to do with what life would be like in jail for the guy. Pure Dave, pure funny. Then Chris Rock shows up and sneaks to the back of the room and Dave doesn’t know he’s there. I asked Chris if he wanted to go on and he said if he was coming off soon, he would just walk on. I wanted to intro Chris with a chicken wing in my hand. (you had to be there!) When it looks like Dave is gonna wrap it up after an hour or so, Chris walks on stage. Servers are scrambling around stopping folks from taking pics and video, they cannot believe what they are seeing. The two exchange lines and bits and backs and forths for another hour. Chris slipped in some of the material he’s been working on pretty seamlessly but Rock was a little awed at Dave and the shit he was coming up with. Dave would bang the mike on his thigh or the piano when Chris said something he particulary cared for. It was music. Jimi Hendrix trading licks with Stevie Wonder.

Rock: (to the crowd) You are some lucky motherfuckers.

The best part for me, it wasn’t a competition. (I don’t believe standup should be competitive , part of my overall disdain for festivals and the like) It was two brilliant comedians combining their talents which produced an amazing live experience that few ever witness. Only about 120 people did on this night, but in a year, 10,000 people will swear they were there the night Dave and Chris did their thing together.

Oh, and for some dessert, for the last 20 minutes the fellas were joined onstage by Marlon Wayans. He came with a entourage that barged their way into stage side seats. ( A few folks had left ) Marlon admitted being drunker than anybody in the room and said he was just there to hang out. The last time Dave was in town and doing a set at the Cellar, Chris and I watched him from the floaters. After a few minutes, Chris leaned over to me and said. Dave is P Funk! I’m Earth & Wind & Fire! Whatta night!

William Stephenson

William Stephenson

Hurry Up and Wait

After almost 14 hours of waiting, I finally got my one line in the next Chris Rock movie. The saga began a little after 10 AM as the bus rolls up to the Queens House Of Detention. After surrendering our identification, we were given jail badges. The bus mostly had extras for the film, and they were herded inside to a holding area. My name wasn’t on that list, and an assistant walked me over to a row of trailers, parked 3 blocks away.

The door of my compartment read “B. Cop” and I went in to change to my costume/cop uniform. My partner Doug Stanhope was already in his room next door. The two compartments on the other side read “Desi” and “Lucy.” I had seen this on other trailers and didn’t know it was movie speak for men/women bathrooms. We sat on the steps waiting to be escorted to the set and curious passers-by asked us everything from where the courthouse was, to what movie we were shooting. We told them Lethal Weapon 6. It wasn’t long before it was time to head to the set and we had to wear regular shirts over our police uniform for the walk over. They didn’t want us to be mistaken for real cops.

We ran into Chris and DMX, which signaled our wait would be a lengthy one. The original call time was 3:30pm but changed to 9:30AM at the last minute in case DMX didn’t make it. Doug and I went into a courtyard just inside the gates and mingled with the extras, all of whom looked as though they were waiting to be indicted. At the dinner break, we were led upstairs to a room big enough to hold the cast and crew.

Doug and I got in line and as soon as we picked up our plates to load up, we were told we had to wait until the crew ate. Alrighty then. We sat at a table with fellow comic Jeffrey Joseph. When it looked like no one else was in line we went back on line and were told again to scram, there were more crew coming on the next elevator. Fine, back to the table we go. Jeffrey asks why we weren’t eating and we told him the story. He said oh no, you are a part of the crew, not an extra! He went and spoke to the lady, came back and said it was now cool to eat. As we went to the line for the 3rd time, Jeffrey says “I didn’t say anything to that lady, y’all gotta wait!” Wha tha? Then he says he was just kidding, we were fine. That was the biggest laugh of the day for me.

Finally, we are called into the set for our scene. Wardrobe pinned a badge on me and strapped on a heavy belt with a fake gun to my waist. I was shown where to deliver the line and when to cross into the scene.

You’d better watch that shit!

The first take Chris (the director) said was too hard. I brought it down for the second try, but it was still too much. I nailed the 3rd take, but they wanted a few more takes until they were satisfied after about 7 attempts — that was a wrap. On the way out, we retrieved our ID’s and headed back to the trailer to change. I waited 14 hours for 5 seconds of screen time.

Show biz!

Chris Rock

Chris Rock Workout

After my set at the Cafe Wha? I ran into Chris Rock at the comic’s table in The Olive Tree, a restaurant above the Comedy Cellar. The same restaurant where the idea for Colin Quinn’s Tough Crowd TV show came about. Chris sat next to Gilbert Gottfried and was howling about a Gilbert joke:

“I took my wife to the doctor and said I don’t know if she’s got VD or TB. If she coughs, fuck her.”

I told Chris I got the script for my Black Cop role in the untitled movie he is currently shooting and wondered if I was actually going to shoot the scene since I only saw one line so far. (I had been scrolling through the script on my phone and my thumb got tired). His response was vague, so I guess I have to wait and see.

Chris was going on stage after a couple of acts, so I decided to hang out and watch him. It’s been about a month or so since I last caught his set and I wanted to see what he’s done with the jokes he was working on. I walked down the back steps and heard the crowd roar when he was introduced. I stood in the back corner as he told the audience to lower their expectations, he wasn’t going to be that good.

He mentioned it had been a while since he did standup and it looked like it. After asking himself what was going on a few times, he started hitting his jokes. In his 45 minute set, I heard new lines added to bits I had heard and some I hadn’t. Whenever I watch Chris he always says at least one thing I wish I had thought of first.

When we watch his specials on TV, we see rapid fire, boiled down, broke down to the nitty gritty funny. His pace in workout sets crawls in comparison. I try to figure out which lines he had written and which lines came to him in the moment. After closing his set with a huge laugh getter, we headed back upstairs.

He asked how long I thought he was on stage and I guessed 45 minutes. Back at the table he talked about how his new standup material was coming along.

“I love Louie, and I love Kevin Hart, but I don’t want there to be a conversation!”