—Wednesday, December 14, 2011—
Madison Square Garden — One of the greatest stages on Earth.
My Morning Jacket — One of my favorite bands in the world.
Me — Eating pizza alone and wondering when exactly I would see my date for that night.
I started my date that night on my own because David had to work until 9:45 p.m. The good news was that I was fairly sure that My Morning Jacket, the headliner at the concert we were attending, wouldn’t go on until 9:30 p.m. at the earliest, so it was going to be fine.
Like just about any date, I was going to take what I could get — even if it was a Man Date.
Many people had asked me to explain exactly what a man date was, as it differed from a gay date. Here was the idea: I had to ask out “man crush,” which was another heterosexual man that I was not already friends with but wanted to be.
David, from my UCB 401 improv class, fit that model perfectly. We had recently finished our class and I had found David to be so entertaining and confident, as both a performer and person, that I was impressed with him immediately. I thought he was cool, and someone that I could really get along with, so I developed a little man crush. It was not too different from a regular crush except that I didn’t want to do wonderful things to his body.
I actually almost had to cancel this date. I was originally supposed to go out with this guy Max, who I knew from my UCB 301 class (scandal), but he told me the day before that he couldn’t make it. So, I was feeling guilty about taking David, since I had promised Max that he would be my man date (double scandal). Unfortunately, the time I had left to reach 50 dates within the first six months of OHD was running short, and with the concert tickets already purchased, I needed to proceed with the date sans Max.
I treated myself to a couple slices of pizza at Pizza Suprema, one of my favorite pizza places in NYC. I then crossed 8th Avenue to MSG to catch that night’s opener,Band of Horses. I saw about half their set, which was somewhat lost on the sparsely populated arena, but they were good.
Texting David, I told him where to meet me to get his ticket, but my phone was in and out of service. I was just as worried about the spotty communication as I would have been on any other date. It was one thing to look like an idiot in front of a woman (USED TO IT), but I wanted Dave to think I was cool and no amount of self-deprecation or cuteness would make up for looking like I didn’t have my act together.
Ruh roh. MMJ began their set right around 9 p.m., much earlier than I had expected. The only reassuring thing was that I knew they would play for at least two hours, so David would see a good amount of MMJ mastery no matter when he arrived.
Man, I loved this band. Really. They kicked so much ass.
I received David’s text just before 10 p.m. and went down to the entrance to get him.
On our way back to the seats, he told me that he had never been to MSG before, not even for sports. I told him that I had been there once for a basketball game — the Knicks versus Warriors. He admitted that he thought the Warriors were a made up team. It was okay — many people had no idea who the Warriors were.
We got to our seats and immediately went into show watching mode. As will happen when two comedians hang out together, and somewhat awkwardly for the first time, we cracked a few jokes here and there during the show. For the most part though, we simply allowed MMJ to melt our faces.
The show included an appearance by Brian Jackson on flute during the late Gil Scott-Heron track, “The Bottle”; frontman Jim James in a cape; a totally dick-ripping rendition of “One Big Holiday”’; and a cover of Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” to close out the night. Dave got there for all the best stuff and it was a great show.
Leaving the arena, Dave seemed to have enjoyed himself. I was worried that he wouldn’t be into MMJ, but he told me that he liked them and would probably even pick up an album now that he had experienced them live. That was great to hear. There were few greater joys than spreading music that I loved. Plus, it made me look decently cool in the eyes of this guy whose approval I was seeking.
At the Herald Square subway stop, we ran into Matt, a UCB performer that Dave was friendly with, and he introduced me to him. We talked improv and comedy all the way back to Astoria, where all three of us lived. We discussed the different theaters in NYC and even, what we considered to be funny. Like, where did humor even come from? It was an interesting conversation and I found our Man Date third-wheel to be a really nice guy, but I couldn’t be window shopping while on a date!
Dave and I decided to go to Sweet Afton because, as he said, “it’s good for people like us.” (In case you’re wondering, we were moderately hip, white twenty-somethings living in a neighborhood of Queens with only a few bars targeted directly at our demographic.) We found a booth all the way in the back and, after some chatter with the group next to us about moving their shit, we were settled in.
There would be no escaping the topic of comedy during our ale-lubricated ramblings over the next couple hours. When I asked him what he did for work, he told me first of the non-comedy job that he maintained to make a living, but about how he had scaled it back in order to take a part-time comedy gig. Dave had to do comedy every day, or otherwise, he considered the day wasted.
That sort of attitude was not something he flat out told everyone about. As a matter of fact, he didn’t like to talk about his drive around other improvisers. He thought it might be off-putting in a community of people who were so communal and seemingly non-competitive. That was what improv bred as an art form, after all — support and cooperation. Never stepping on anyone’s backs in a quest to succeed. But the bottom line was that this was New York, and UCB was a place to be seen — people were competitive.
Though I could understand his hesitation, I loved hearing about his desire to succeed because it let me know that I was not the only one who viewed the improv world that way. It was not that I didn’t also view it as the most supportive and wonderfully nurturing group of artists I’d ever known, it was just that I didn’t think wanting to be loved and wanting to be the best were mutually exclusive.
I asked Dave why he ended up at UCB. Why he had come to NYC, for that matter. It was so simple — they were the best. It was the same reason why he worked his ass off for comedy — he wanted to be the best. And yes, there was selfishness inherent in that, but you had to be a certain amount of selfish in order to succeed in that business
I asked Dave about his family and he said that it was pretty fucked up, complete with a conservative step-dad. He had done some stand up about his family in the past, and he related a couple bits to me. They were funny, but I asked to hear him talk about his family without the blanket of comedy laid over it. His more truthful accounts were far more fascinating.
We talked more about work and I tried to articulate my own desires for comedy and life to Dave. As I got drunk, I became more animated and we both loosened up. He told me not to be worried about getting into Advanced Study (the next level of progression at UCB), and coming from a guy who was out there kicking ass, it was a reassuring vote of confidence.
As we got ready to go, he gushed about his girlfriend, who I had only really met in passing. I don’t think we we good enough friends for him to say it, but he told me that he might be looking for a ring soon. In fact, they got engaged in 2012.
The drive to succeed. The raw talent to do it. The love and devotion to share his life with another person. And he was only 24 years old.
I knew I would like this guy.
We left Sweet Afton later than I would have thought that night, but it was all good. I’d had a great time. I bade Dave farewell and thanked him for spending the evening with me. I floated happily and drunkenly home, enjoying the 15 minute walk, despite the mid-December calendar marking.
When I got home, I attempted to fall asleep, but the spins I experienced from the alcohol wouldn’t allow that to happen. I raced to the bathroom and hugged the toilet for a while.
Resting my dizzy head on my bath mat, I didn’t even consider that the only four hours of sleep I would get that night would be right there on my bathroom floor.
I passed out, drunk and reeking to high heavens, like a goddamn man.