Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Nude York, New York

One of the joys of a career in the entertainment industry is that each and every day holds a different adventure.  Some are most enjoyable —like a TV show paying me to portray a patron of a strip club where Jenny McCarthy portrayed the dancer—and some not so enjoyable —like having cans thrown at me because the rapper I was opening for, Petey Pablo, was late.  But even at its worst, I recognize that I am blessed to not have to face the same boring, predictable routine every single day that most working people endure.  Although I like to think I’ve done most everything there is to do as a comedian, I know that is impossible, because you never know what someone will ask a comic to do next, and chances are I will agree to do it.

Remember the episode of “The Brady Bunch” where Jan imagines the audience she is addressing isn’t wearing any clothes?  Well, I can now say I’ve done a show where there was no pretending necessary.  I was hired to perform for a nudist group that had rented out my neighborhood comedy club, Stand Up New York.  Although I do not consider myself a prude, I have never had any desire to participate in any clothing-optional group activities that take place in public.  (I once refused an offer to visit a nude beach because I couldn’t think of any method to apply sunscreen where I needed it most, without appearing like a total pervert.)  However, the members of this free-spirited assembly enjoy a wide variety of fabric-free events such as a Naked Bingo Night and a Naked Reading Night, featuring authors who read in the nude.  Much to my relief, the comedians were not allowed to disrobe, since New York law requires a special license for establishments providing nude entertainment.

I am certainly not morally opposed to nudity.  In fact, I once worked at Chippendale’s.  They fired me, I got drunk and put my g-string on backwards… and it fit (insert rimshot here).  

Back to Naked Comedy Night.  My carnal curiosity led me to arrive at the club two hours before I was scheduled to perform. (A first, I admit.) Being the product of a proper sexually-repressed American upbringing, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered a room filled with naked strangers.  The closest I’ve ever come to that scenario was looking at photographs of Hugh Hefner’s friends lounging around the grotto at the Playboy Mansion.  Basing my expectations on a Playboy pictorial, I made two assumptions: one, these types of events attract people with bodies worthy of showing off (like Hef’s pals did), and two, these people would be trying to sleep with anyone they could get their genitals on (like Hef’s pals did).  So when I agreed to do the show, my biggest fear was that I would be so aroused by the sexually-charged atmosphere, that I would get an embarrassing erection on stage.  Once I got a look at the audience, my biggest fear was that I would never get another erection as long as I lived. 

Much to my surprise (and disappointment) the nudist group was not composed of people who had spent long hours at the gym, or big bucks at the plastic surgeon, sculpting a body close to physical perfection.  In fact, it is safe to say that none of the people baring their assets before me had ever seen the inside of a gym, much less an episode of “Nip/Tuck.”  These were not old people. They were more like the parents of old people. Picture in your mind a porno movie featuring the cast of Cocoon.  (This made me wonder. Why do people say someone looks great for their age, only when they don’t look their age?)

Nudity and sexuality often go hand in hand, but that was not the case with this gathering. And even if it had been, there were five men to every one woman.  I was beginning to question my decision to arrive early, but soon realized I had made the right choice, because the comedy started long before the comedy show did. I overheard one woman tell the waiter, “I’ll have the baked ziti with two meatballs.” Which inspired the naked man sitting across from her jump up and wiggle, while loudly proclaiming “I’ve got your two meatballs right here!”

The actual comedy show commenced with the very funny, Ross Bennett serving as the emcee.  Ross confided, “It's going to be very difficult for my jokes to be effective, because all sense of subtlety is lost.”  I almost fell out of my chair laughing when he mentioned, “I feel like I’m in that scene from Rosemary’s Baby.”

Next up was a member of the nudist group, Carol Pinchefsky, who also is a novice comedian.  She opened with, “Hi, my name is Carol, and maybe you don't recognize me with my clothes on, which is what they told me during my high school graduation.”

My good friend Al Ducharme followed Carol, and explained to the audience why he was there, “I hoped this experience would give me some new material, but I see there’s really not much material here.”  The audience was still howling at the pun when a ringing cell phone interrupted, prompting Al to ask, "Just where are you keeping your cell phones?"  When a member of the nudist group snapped Al’s picture, he protested, “How come you get to take pictures of us, but…”  (Not that he really wanted a nude photograph of this collection, unless he was planning on using it to scare away burglars.)

The evening was a smashing success.  I believe the performers and the nudists all enjoyed themselves immensely, and the only complaint that I’m aware of was lodged by people who were not even in attendance: a Smokers' Rights Advocate Group questioned the New York City law that allows people to take off their clothes in a restaurant but not to light up a cigarette. I found that protest to be just one more thing to laugh about.

Although the audience may not have been as loaded with as many young, attractive nude women as I had fantasized about (actually none) I could not have asked for more appreciative group.  They were intelligent, open minded, quick to laugh and very comfortable in their own skin. 

I guess it is difficult to take life too seriously when you are buck naked in a roomful of nude strangers.  These were people with the wisdom to recognize that the demanding concept of beauty that the media bombards us with is simply not attainable except by a lucky few who are blessed with fortunate genetics.  They have accepted they don’t, and won’t ever look like a Madison Avenue Supermodel, and it doesn’t appear to bother them in the least.  Instead of wasting their time and money trying to hide their physical flaws, they choose to gather and celebrate their inner beauty.  The ego has landed, and it truly was an inspiration.

I found the affair a pure delight and I know it will probably be the last time I can look at an audience and say, “I see some of the men here tonight are not Jewish.”  I also walked away with a couple of valuable kernels of knowledge: one, I should never, ever expect real life to resemble the pages of Playboy Magazine, and two, I will never ever sit in one of the chairs at that comedy club again…

“The Laff Guru” has taken his message of LAUGHTER=NIRVANA to all 50 states and 23 countries. His awards include: “Comic of the Year,” “Campus Performer of the Year,” and a “Cable Ace Award.” His credits include over fifty TV appearances, including: Showtime and The Late Show. He is represented by GP Entertainment. To find out more about his award-winning comedy act please visit: laffguru.com

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