I left footprints in the snow building a path through the grave yard in the middle of a blizzard that was both inspiring and religious. I wonder if anybody followed, or even noticed. Probably not as most fellow travelers are too busy to notice art, and far too concerned about existence to even care about their ignorance to the art that surrounds them.
I love blizzards --they cause such magnificent havoc and beauty. For a few hours everybody respects nature while damning it loudly. The cold, the wind, the snow, the confusion, the clean up; then it’s all forgotten like it never happened. A fresh white coating of soft, fluffy, and cold snow simply blankets everything, creating the most spectacular and breathe taking example of purity. Like an abstract splash from an unknown deity reminding us that he has a sense of humor, and a playful cruelty.
People become so agitated from driving on the slick slippery roads that they wind up coming home tense, and with the need to unwind. Hot chocolate is made, massages are given, bubble baths are taken, and nobody wants to go back outside forcing shared meals and shared conversation forging shared lives. The blizzard is the perfect example of contradiction. Well, that and a hell of an arrow shot from the bow of Cupid creating a lot of summer babies.
Any Sunday night at around nine PM enter the bar known as Schubas on the corner of Southport and Belmont. Ignore the music coming from the back, skip past the fun atmosphere at the bar, and make an immediate right to enter that small back door. Walk up the stairs and try very hard not to make eye contact with anybody. Once at the top, you will find a small upstairs bar with a few tables. Have a drink, and a seat. Do NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH ANYBODY. NOBODY. You’ve been warned.
What you will witness will horrify you, torture you, and give you the most perfect glimpse into who we are as a culture. A live action insane asylum will play just remember the ammunition is live and the bar is fully stocked with liquid courage to calm the nerves of the strange faces surrounding you. They are going to need it, and so are you.
You have stumbled into the breeding grounds of stand up and you are witnessing the birth of many acts. Everybody in that room is a comedian and they have all signed up to perform for one another (very few customers venture up those stairs although everybody is invited). Usually about thirty comedians sign up. Most are traditional comedians, but you find a few story tellers, and even one or two full blow characters who may or may not be lost in the very imagine of themselves they created. It’s tragic and beautiful both at the same time like a comedic blizzard.
Most acts get about 4-6 minutes and most are brutally bad. Those tend to be the college kids who’ve been told their entire privileged lives that they are funny yet really are not. Every now and then you really see a gem with a bright future and it makes all the bad worth the wait. You witness all kinds as every six minutes a new dance dazzles the drinkers with their wit and words trying hard to make us laugh. Some are genius, some are filthy, some are offensive, and some are downright insane. True comedy is born from true pain and if you look past most of these smiling faces you’ll see the horror in the eyes of the comedians.
The night I was there; watching and criticizing and reporting in my little notebook hidden behind my chrome Ray-Bans hiding everything from everybody while gladly telling everybody everything I saw an Indian kid do a joke that used the “N” word. Afterword’s I watched as a few of the older comedians pulled him aside and instructed him on what was right and what wasn’t. One nerdy kid with a weird voice played a keyboard horribly, yet abstractly, it was pure genius to those who got it. The two ladies from the square community didn’t; and immediately everybody knew they were not comedians and they became the center point of the night. Like sharks on a fresh body the comedians swarmed. One veteran tried his damndest to make them as uncomfortable as possible by telling the most twisted and rape filled jokes. He was doing it for his enjoyment and the rest of the comedians and they appreciated it. Just watch the darkness in the eyes.
The younger guys try to find their voices while the older guys test out the new stuff. Most of it fails but everybody has to try something somewhere and this is their nest. It’s a trip everybody should take as jesters have always been the pulse of society. Why not take a peek at the weirdness this world has to offer. Do you really have anything better to do? What these weirdo’s put out as humor is the true journal of our entry into the big book of history. It’s free and it’s all tragically beautiful.