Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A star born and a legend made? Part 1

If this is your first time on my blog, check this out first.

Happy New Year everybody! And thanks for reading and commenting on my blog; that'll help keep me motivated to post often.

I figured it would be a good idea to explain the title of my blog, and at the same time describe what has been by far my most memorable day in New York--so memorable, in fact, that it will probably take me several posts over several days to adequately describe it.

A few weeks before I left for NYC, I decided I wanted to start a blog when I got out here. I wanted my blog to have a theme and a catchy title, something related to Harlem, the area of Manhattan I'm living in (I'll have lots to say about Harlem, including its now-undeserved reputation as a scary place to live, in future posts).

My only experience in Harlem on my previous New York adventure (I did a summer internship at NBC back in 2004) was going to Amateur Night at the Apollo with my friend Natalie. That, combined with my strong interest in live comedy (as most if not all of you know, I've been performing in an improv troupe in Provo for over 5 years now), made the Apollo a natural choice for my blog theme. Long before I started blogging, I chose a name for my blog and decided that the title of each post would be related to the Apollo or performing generally, or perhaps a song lyric or TV/movie quote that is cryptically connected to that post's subject matter. Whatever the title is, you can be assured of one thing: I spent WAY too much time picking it out.

So, my first weekend here, while looking for pictures on the Apollo's website to use on my blog, I saw that there was an open audition for Amateur Night on Dec. 1--just 3 weeks away! I decided to go for it.

The Apollo's slogan is "Where stars are born and legends are made." If you're not familiar with Amateur Night at the Apollo, you should know that it launched the careers of the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Stevie Wonder, and James Brown. They have a lot of comedians on, but it's mostly singers and dancers. Clips like this one should give you a good idea of how into the show the audience gets, and let you know that I don't exactly fit the bill of a typical Apollo performer (I don't think I can avoid discussing race on this blog from time to time; I can probably count on my fingers the number of black people I've known in my life that aren't LDS and/or British, and the "typical" Harlem resident has, in many ways, a VERY different lifestyle than anything I've experienced before. When the topic comes up, I'll try to be sensitive about it).

But if you want to know how the careers of most Amateur Night performers turn out, check out Down to Earth, Chris Rock's remake of Heaven Can Wait (hey you other bloggers out there--do I use italics or quotation marks for movies?), or watch one of these videos. If the crowd doesn't like you, they let you know it, and they keep letting you know it until the Executioner (a role originated by tap dance legend and "Cosby Show" guest star Sandman Sims) comes and chases you off the stage in his costume du jour, wiping your shame off of the Tree of Hope (the golden tree stump that every performer rubs for luck when they come on stage).

So that's what I was up against when I decided to audition. Add to that the fact that I'd only written and performed one 5-minute stand-up routine in my life, and it was very BYU-centric, and I had my work cut out for me. Oh, and auditions started at 8 AM, and the website said only the first 200 acts in line would get to audition. The odds didn't seem to be in my favor. Would I even get to audition? Would my audition flop? Would I get passed through because they wanted a William Hung for each show? Tune in next time for answers to these questions and many more!

In Part 2...Jeff waits in line! Don't worry, it IS as exciting as it sounds!


Larissa said...

I can't wait!!!!!

Natalie said...

Jeff...we lived in New York in 2003..not 2004. I will now have to reread your blog for other historical inacurracies, like the fact you forgot to mention how fabulous this friend Natalie is/was. Have you eaten at Sylvia's yet? I love it there. I ate there once and the table next to us was missionaries having a district meeting.

lori said...

ah, the building anticipation of a story about waiting in line--i can scarcely stand it. by the way, was dani (the girl) singing songs to you beneath the marquee?

p.s. grammar, spelling, and style patrol commander reporting for duty with today's message: most major style guides and common online writing practices dictate that the titles of both movies and TV series should be shown in italics to indicate that they are major works; specific episodes of a TV series are placed within quotation marks to show that they are part of a major work (i.e., "lisa on ice"). enjoy!

Thoroughly Modern Millie said...

You're killing me. Can't wait to hear what happens next. I didn't know you were in New York, how fun!

Anne Johnson said...

So.....what happened?!?!?!?! This is too much to bare. I want to know now!