—Friday, October 28, 2011—
I’ve hardly ever been cool enough to be well versed in cult classics. I’ve always thought that the people knew every great B movie, every criminally underrated band or every avant guard comedian were somehow ahead of the curve and had a bold predisposition to exploration which I lacked.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was always something I knew about and though I had a great curiosity to explore it, I had never actually experienced the spectacle. My impression of it was that of another culture and I would never truly understand it unless I was audacious enough to go see a midnight showing. But I wasn’t that audacious. Or at least, I wasn’t brave enough to organize my friends to go see it. Even if the Rocky Horror fandom was largely built by outcasts and weirdos, their willingness to be outgoing and not give a shit what other people thought seemed very cool to me.
I have always followed coolness much after the fact, when the trends have been safely tamed. As such, Rocky Horror didn’t into my life until 2009, the year after I graduated college. My alma mater ran a production of the Show and I went to see it to support my friends who were involved. Having finally seen the show live, I went back and watched the movie all the way through for the first time and, of course, read about its history on Wikipedia, because simply going to a midnight viewing and seeing it first hand still would have been too much.
What I came to love about the film was the underground community that supported it and kept it playing in theaters all over the country (and presumably Britain) for decades. It was not unlike alternative comedy in the US. Both were these underground scenes that everyone knew existed but few realized the extent to which they had rabid fans bases keeping them alive.
It made sense then, that I asked a comedian out on this date.
LET’S DO THE TIME WARP.
It was Halloween weekend — the the perfect time to take in a spooky science fiction feature. The first time I’d seen the play was the same weekend two years earlier. While it took me two years to finally see the movie in theaters, the date itself had also also been a long time in the making.
I had asked Amy out two-and-a-half months earlier, but with our crazy schedules, we just couldn’t get anything together until Halloween weekend. I don’t know why I waited so long. Each week that passed only increased the chance that she would rescind her offer and I was lucky that she had agreed to go out with me in the first place.
Amy was way out of my league. Or at least, that was what I thought when I first met her at The Del Close Marathon in August 2011.
DCM is the largest improv festival in the world and each year, for one weekend in NYC, there are hundreds of shows around the clock a handful of different theaters. It’s also the one weekend of the year where all my buds from ImprovBoston descend upon the city and get reckless with sleep schedules.
One of my friends who was staying with me, Geoff, had previously done improv in NYC and I asked him if he knew Amy. He said he did and I explained to him how I thought she was hilarious and gorgeous and how I was desperate to take her out. However, I didn’t know her and felt awkward going up to her without any kind of lead in. She was a fairly prominent performer in the scene. I would regularly go see her shows and I loved her team— they were one of my favorites. I didn’t want to come off as some kind of fanboy who dreamed of dating the star, even if that was the truth of the matter. I already felt as if she were too big a deal to go out with me. It was a feeling that only increased over time.
The next day, Geoff texted me to say that he had run into Amy and mentioned me. She said that she might already know who I was and that the next time I saw her, I should introduce myself. “Cool,” I thought, “Maybe I can make this happen today.” So, I looked at Sunday’s schedule for the festival and saw that Amy would be in a show a couple hours later.
Unfortunately, when I got to the theater, the line was so long that I didn’t get into the show. I did, however, run into a pair of Geoff’s friends from NYC and talked to them for an hour or two. They were both performers and were asking me if I’d been to the party space yet, but then I informed them that that year, I was merely a spectator. Only performers and volunteers got into the party space, which was a total bummer because that night’s after party sounded like fun.
However, it put the idea of attending it in my head and they seemed to think I could find a way inside if some of my friends were going to be there.
When I finally got into the theater and sat down, I saw that Amy was sitting just five seats over from me. “Awesome,” I thought, “I can just follow her into the lobby after this show and talk to her.” As I said it in my head, I knew how stalkerish it sounded but I had few other options. When the show ended, I headed out to the lobby with Amy walking directly behind me. As we made it into open space and I built up the courage to turn around and say hello, someone called out Amy’s name and she moved to greet them.
“Great,” I thought, “Just great. Amy’s surrounded my other improvisers, being popular, and here I am, standing in this lobby like a creep, just waiting to get her alone so I can introduce myself.” I felt very conspicuous, standing maybe ten feet away in a slowly emptying lobby. I assumed that once her conversation was over, I would be able to interject. That was when another friend of Amy’s grabbed her, and started pulling her towards the bathroom. I stood there silently as Amy and friend walked right by me.
That was when Amy stopped and looked at me.
“Hey! Aren’t we supposed to meet?”
Oh shit, she knew who I was! And yeah, we were supposed to meet. I introduced myself and made conversation with her. I told her I loved her team and that I saw their entire CageMatch run that year. I told her how I knew Geoff and that I was taking classes at UCB. In the end, I mentioned absolutely nothing about a burning desire to ask her on a date.
So, it was a total flop. To top it all off, when I ran out of innocuous banter, I ended our first conversation with, “Well, I’ve got to take a piss, but it was really nice meeting you.” Then I went to the bathroom and bashed my head against the stall door for ten minutes. By the time I returned to the lobby, Amy was nowhere to be found and my head was bleeding. (Just joking, guys. My head was fine.)
I knew then that I needed to get into the after party. I just didn’t know how. I didn’t even know where it was.
An hour or so at a nearby bar and a few DMs on Twitter with my most recent improv instructor got me the address of the party space.
I stood in the entryway of a building two doors down from the party space to avoid the downpour that was going on outside. I watched a lot of NYC improvisers I knew, but wasn’t friends with, walk by and didn’t ask any of them for a helping hand. I just didn’t have the balls to do it.
Finally, some guy who ran an improv news website approached me to tell me that the party was two doors down. I told him I knew that, but I couldn’t get in because I had the wrong wristband. He spoke to me for 15 minutes about improv in NYC and then said he was heading home. I asked him for his wristband, helped him rip it off and put it around my own wrist with a piece of gum I’d been chewing.
After ditching my old wristband, I walked right in the party space with a valid pass and only one thing that I really wanted to do: find Amy and ask her out.
It wasn’t hard to find her, but it was hard to ask her on a date. I bumped into her and as I had done earlier in the day, totally failed to mention OHD or ask her out. I got myself another beer and milled around a bit longer. When I struck up another conversation with her about an hour later, I dropped the ball again. It was so scary to ask her out at this party I’d snuck into only so I could ask her out. I felt like I’d be dropping all this pressure on her and in general, it was a pretty awkward thing to do at an after-party.
Finally, on my third beer and our third conversation, I told her that I’d been working on “writing” recently and she asked, “Oh yeah, don’t you have a tumblr?” OH MY GOD. She knew the whole time, all day long, that I was trying to ask her out. HAH. And she had let me suffer through my own awkwardness and doubt, as she should have. I told her that I did indeed have a tumblr and then explained the whole project to her. She said it sounded cool and I knew I wouldn’t have a better chance, so I asked her out.
The cool part was that she didn’t say no, but she certainly didn’t say yes either.
Amy told me, “Well, I don’t really date.” To stop her from listing any more reasons why she’d say no to me, I took out my card and told her to read the site. It would do a much better job of explaining it than I’d just done. She said she’d check it out and get in touch with me if she was interested.
When I got home around 2:30 a.m that night, I did what anyone who is drunk and hoping to be loved does — I friended her on Facebook.
In the middle of the next day, while I was enjoying one of the worst Monday’s at work that I’d had in ages, I got a simple, but very meaningful message from Amy.
“I’ll go on a date with you,” it read.
I sat at my desk and threw my hands up into the air in victory. Hardly anyone noticed.
Two and a half months later, we were meeting up at Westside Tavern before a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and I was once again nervous to greet her.
I chose this bar based on its proximity to the theater we were going to but I really didn’t like it very much. It was one of those loud, jock-filled places that I tried to avoid on dates. I suppose I avoided them under most circumstances though. Such bars were great for watching sports, reunions with high school friends and making tough guys uncomfortable with the tightness of my pants, but other than that, they were not really my jam. Plus, the MLB playoffs were on and it was a mob scene.
Debating whether or not I should seek out a different bar, I decided it would be odd and confusing to text Amy with a new location while she was already on her way. Maybe when she got there, I would suggest someplace else. Maybe I was over-thinking it.
Amy arrived a little after me and fought through the crowd to where I was at the bar. I greeted her with a hug and we took our seats.
She was just come from a coaching gig, hence the 10:30 p.m. meeting time, and she told me that it had gone well. I asked her about the coaching gigs she did and she said that she coached many all-female groups from the UCB community, which was good, because she liked them.
I had actually been at a UCB open house earlier that night, I told her. Apparently, they held them more often before my time, but I didn’t know much about that since I’d only been a student there for about a year. Amy asked if I was in a class at the time and so I told her about my 401 class with John Murray. It was supposed to be with Porter Mason but between illness and scheduling problems, we ended up with John. He was great though — I really liked him.
Amy had a fairly new weekly show at UCBeast and she told me that it was going well thus far but the lineups and theater were new, so there were still kinks to work out. It was awesome though, that her team had a weekly show. I had looked up to them as a group that was always able to command a stage and had gained recognition based on their own hard work, so I was really happy when I heard they were given a steady gig.
“Yeah, I have a team. We’re called SCORESBY and we’ve been doing shows since July,” I said in response to Amy’s question about my own performances. More improv talk ensued. I told her about our style and our monthly show at Triple Crown. Coincidentally, TC was the venue where I first saw Amy, and it was only a few months after I moved to NYC. I think it was actually the first show where I performed in NYC. I told her all of this but I left out the part where I had been dumbstruck by how fashionable and cute I thought she was. Once again — I didn’t want to be a fanboy.
If only I had talked to her then and maybe asked her out at that time. Maybe I wouldn’t have been so nervous. After all, she was just an improv student then and hadn’t risen up the ranks yet. I wasn’t that brave though. Like Rocky Horror, I saw something I liked, but I didn’t participate because of my own self-doubt. By the time I did, everyone already knew her and I was probably just another dude chatting her up after a show.
After making mention of my connection to ImprovBoston, Amy launched into a story about how she had recently gone up to Boston to do a show with her team and how the trip home had been a disaster. She had actually told the story at a School Night show already. I had been in the audience, but I didn’t expect her to realize that, so I politely listened to her entertaining story again. I knew that I told the same stories over and over, and I could only pray that people occasionally humored me and resisted telling me to shut it.
With the improv talk pushed aside for a bit, I asked Amy if she was from Indiana. After being carded at the door, she had showed me her Indiana driver’s license when she sat down. But you never know in New York — people are from all over the place and I thought maybe she could have been from just about anywhere. Maybe Indiana was where she went to school, or perhaps she lived there before moving to NYC.
It turned out she was actually mostly from Indiana. Her dad had been in the military, so they moved around when she was young, but she went to the end of middle school and high school in Indiana, which was when she would’ve learned to drive, so her story checked out. This was all before she went to college in Virginia.
We traded stories of growing up and going to college and finding our different ways to NYC. Mine was pretty boring and typical, as making the move from Boston to NY wasn’t that much of a jump, while her journey to get there from Virginia was more interesting. Although we related over our reasons for coming to NYC, mostly comedy and friends, she definitely took the comedy part far more serious than I did.
Amy was, and still is, one of those people who makes me feel like a poseur in the comedy scene. Not out of some kind of ill intent, mind you, but rather, she makes me look bad by comparison. She has always had more guts, more drive and more talent than me. I was distracted and lazy when I arrived in NYC because I already had a job and girlfriend — it was comfortable. Amy has never done anything other than work hard at being a better comedian. She’s self-made, thanks to much hard work and determination, and is well on her way to becoming a star.
I know I’m geeking out right now, but I can’t help it. I have always had a serious comedy crush on her.
One thing we both fondly recounted was the feeling of those first shows we’d each seen at UCB. Amy went to her first shows after moving to NYC and I went to mine while in college, but in both cases there had been an overwhelming sense of, “These people get me. These are my people.” I hated that such a feeling could fade, but I loved being reminded of it.
That must be the same way a fan of anything underground feels. I think it’s the reason why people often grasp onto things. I’m sure not everyone who tried LARP for the first time thinks, “This activity is amazing. I want to do this activity all the time.” They’re probably more apt to think, “These people get me. These are my people. I want to be around them all of the time.” I’m sure the Rocky Horror diehards are the same way, and that was how both Amy and I had felt when we first found improv. It was a common feeling amongst the newly initiated.
Amy went to the bathroom and I ordered two Brooklyn Lagers. They had just changed out the keg and the new one was no good, so the bartender gave us Yuengling instead and placed a shot of Jack Daniels in front of me as an apology. I tried to turn down the shot down but she wouldn’t let me be so kind. Always the pushover, I took the shot so as not to offend her. It was gross. I hated whiskey.
Upon Amy’s return, I told her about the beers and the shot. As expected, she didn’t really care.
I thanked her for coming out with me and she thanked me for inviting her. It seemed like it would be fun, since neither of us had seen Rocky Horror in a theater before. Feeling a bit more comfortable, I mentioned the night that I had asked her out and I asked why she had told me that she didn’t go on dates. Was it an excuse because I was a random guy asking her out, or was it true that she just didn’t date? She reasserted that she really just didn’t date.
As I would have guessed, her first reason was that her schedule was too packed, which I could relate to, but also, that not many men asked her out. Now, this seemed crazy. Amy was a total catch, especially in the improv scene. All those desperate guys? Limited numbers of women? It seemed like she would have to beat them off with a stick.
Then again, those desperate guys in the scene were often in that position because they were shy when it came to romantic dealings. It sounded like the men of the comedy world needed to wake up and take risks not only on stage, but with dating too. If Amy wasn’t getting asked out all the time, there was a definite problem. Maybe I was still getting in on the ground floor!
Additionally, Amy had noticed that men were generally intimidated by funny women and that it sucked for them [the women]. It was true that humor could be intimidating, but I told her it was equally as attractive. Most guys probably thought to themselves, “Oh my god, I want to ask her them so badly, but I know she’ll say no”. I mean, I had been nervous as hell to ask her out, but I had had a kick in the ass to follow through because of the project. Otherwise, I might not have had the balls.
I looked at my phone and realized we had to get moving. By the time we exited the bar, we only had five minutes to get to the theater.
I was relieved to see that there was still a crowd in the lobby when we arrived. I was no longer worried that the movie would start without us. Plus, we were not the only ones who didn’t dress up, which helped me relax. I didn’t want to stand out like a total virgin. (I will concede though, that in dressing for this date, I tried to channel the uptight and clean-cut Brad Majors.)
Amy went to get popcorn while I watched the Happy Feet trailer on a lobby TV — it looked stupid. When she returned to the line, I jumped out and bought us waters. Back in the line, we talked about animated movies and inched closer to the ticket taker. I managed to drop my ticket on the ground at least twice in the 20 foot span. I guess I was still nervous.
Once we were in the theater, we had a much better idea of what the scene was like. There was a dance party up in front between the first row of seats and the screen. We searched for open seats but we had no luck finding two together. Dammit. It would have been really lame if we had to sit in separate seats. I was starting to get anxious and mad with myself. After all, it had been my job to plan this thing and I should have had us there earlier. I told myself to chill out, since there was nothing to be done about it at that point.
The music stopped and two guys with microphones came out, telling everyone to go find their seats. As people milled about and settled down, two seats appeared as if from nowhere. Not only that, but they were good ones. We put our things down and I ran to use the bathroom as Amy situated herself.
It felt great, the peeing. I really had to go.
Once emptied of urine, I fought back through the crowd near the door and got to my seat as the MC’s were talking. It was kind of a dumb schtick, but it was entertaining nonetheless. They hooted and hollered, making some vulgar and immature jokes, and eventually called up the virgins.
I had heard of this practice before and I knew better than to get involved. Amy and I stayed put, with no real interest in embarrassing ourselves in front of each other on our first date. Plus, having never been to the show before, I think we both just wanted to see what was going to happen.
The virgins (first time Rocky Horror goers) were lined up and made to have a fake orgasm contest. In a completely predictable turn of events, the attractive foreign girl won. It was never even close. The rest of the virgins who did not take part in the contest, put their hands against the wall as to “assume the position” while we, the audience, stood and pelvic thrusted in their direction several times. I was on board with this. We sat back down for some more crappy banter and then the movie began.
Science Fiction, Double Feature played with a spotlight on a lone actress while the giant red lips sang the opening credits’ famous song. I couldn’t tell for sure if she was merely lip-syncing or actually singing along. I guess it didn’t really matter either way. The audience began yelling things almost immediately. This aspect of the show was also something I’d heard about previously. I was a pretty knowledgeable guy.
The live cast entered down the aisles as the opening credits listed each character. It was fun. Amy and I were laughing, which made me think she did not regret the decision to go on a date with me.
After the movie had formally begun, Amy asked me if they were going to do this the entire time — act out the movie in front of us while audience members yelled at them — and I told her that they would. It sounded half-joking but she responded by telling me that she would probably fall asleep during the movie. I could fully understand that sentiment — I was very tired myself.
If you’ve seen the movie, or even if you haven’t, there’s no real reason for me to describe it to you. It’s enough to know that there was a live cast that acted out the entire movie in front of the screen while it played and that the audience yelled things at them occasionally.
It was maybe 45 minutes into the movie when Amy first nodded off. She really hadn’t been joking. Well, I was glad she gave me a heads up. I had a history of falling asleep at the worst times in the worst places, so I understood. There was no reason to hold it against her.
After the movie ended, we gathered our things and exited the theater, straight into the bathrooms. Once again, it felt really good to pee.
Once outside, I asked Amy if she was going back to Greenpoint and she said yes, so I walked with her down to 14th Street to catch the L train. I hugged her goodnight, watched her disappear underground and then hailed a taxi.
I texted her when I got home saying that I had had a good time and it would be nice to see her again. Next time though, without a theater full of crazy people.
As I drifted off into sleepy time, I didn’t worry about whether or not she would reply in the affirmative. I was already pretty amazed that she had gone out with me and that she had enjoyed herself to some degree. It felt like a win. It might have been a one point win, but a win nonetheless.
Plus, I’d finally seen Rocky Horror at midnight, and on Halloween weekend, no less!
I had finally engaged with two things that had always both intrigued me and scared me: Rocky Horror and Amy. And though Rocky Horror’s cult status has likely reached its peak, Amy was a rising star with no end in sight.
Maybe I could finally put my improv crush to bed.