@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
Generally speaking, I hate large gatherings. Even in my younger years when I lived for getting drunk at bars, I didn’t like crowded or loud bars. There is good reason my friends nicknamed me “old man.”
For one thing, can we stop it with parades? No more parades. It’s over. They’re overrated. In days before you had 18 million viewing options on your television, I get parades. But there’s too many people, the streets get littered, there’s no place to pee, people puke in the street—we need to move on from parades. I’ve been to less than five parades in my life that I really enjoyed.
I miss bars. I miss bars a lot. I miss dive bars, where friends and I would gather, put the same song on the jukebox over and over (my go-to, “Rock Lobster”), where we would drink and laugh and laugh and laugh, and smoke weed outside, before re-entering and laughing again. I even miss going to bars alone. Where I would kill time between shows in Manhattan. Order my drink and read in the midst of load chaos. Or write. Eavesdrop on drunkards and bad dates.
Of course, there’s comedy. I’ve been a comedian for a third of my life. As an adult, I know little else. It’s such a strange life and has led me down winding and weird roads, some of ecstasy, some of existential crisis. I miss the packed comedy clubs. The dank basement rooms of New York City. A theater full of a thousand people. As much as comedy clubs are the heart of stand-up, one of few pure art forms in existence, nothing beats a theater. And any comic that tells you otherwise does not have experience doing theaters. Yes, that’s a brag.
As much as anything, I miss green room hangs. I miss the days of yore in McGuire’s ridiculously small green room with all my boys, the famed tables of the NYC comedy scene, road rooms and long car rides, bitching about our careers, pitching show ideas, and feeling understood only by other comedians. These people were my champions. Oh my friends, all my beloved comics, these are my people. They made everything worth it when it was bad. And it was bad a lot. Still, the good times were so good, there were nights and moments and the discovery of new bits that made you soar to some other level. Fucking hell. I miss that.
But comedy made me miss something else before it all went away. And that’s concerts. Back in my youth, I was a big concert goer. I was and am a huge music junky. I know and listen to a wide variety of genres and music and music makes life worth living. Since I was/am a bit of a hipster, I knew a lot of bands that performed in small venues. These were most excellent concerts. Those intimate venues. Of course I loved famous bands too, but getting a concert ticket for $20-$30, training it to Manhattan from Long Island (getting wasted along the way) made for excellent fun. I had always been a saver, seeing that I never really had any money handed to me, I always had to work for it, but spending it on concerts was well worth it for me. Live music was church. I felt close to god in a half fucked up mind state, jamming out to song.
Once I started in at stand-up, at the young age of 20, my concert going scaled back since I started working nights and comedy became an obsession. I still went to shows, but not as much as I once did.
Still, I consider some concerts the best nights of my life. Probably my favorite was a Red Hot Chili Pepper concert at Giant’s stadium durning their Stadium Arcadium tour. It probably wasn’t the best concert I’ve ever been to, just the most fun. I love the Chili Peppers (obviously) and they put on a hell of a show. I think I may have been 19. A bunch of my friends went. We drank and smoked and I was in that perfect balance of drunk and high, and I knew almost every song. It was just an epic concert.
There’s no band I’ve seen more live than Guster. And some other smaller venue bands I’ve loved seeing were The Shins, Modest Mouse, Jukebox the Ghost, Regina Spektor, Slighlty Stoopid (we went to a bunch of Stoopid concerts when I was younger), Peter Bjorn & John, among others. Jack White at MSG was incredible. As was Billy Joel. Initially, I had turned down the Billy Joel concert. Not that I don’t like Billy Joel… it’s more that I’m from Long Island so I’ve listened to A LOT of Billy Joel in my life, and I’m burnt on it. I could go years without hearing a Billy Joel song and be okay with it. I was also flat broke and had no money for the ticket. But my best friend bought a ticket for me as a Christmas present and threatened me if I dare booked my own gig on that day. And I must admit, that concert rocked. We had a blast.
Last year, I’m super grateful to have gotten to see The Rolling Stones at MetLife Stadium. I went with another comic and his crew. I grew up a Stones fan, and couldn’t believe I was actually going to see them live. Legends. It was the best because, since they are old, you kind of go in expecting to see them… well… past their prime. But they came out like fucking lightening and after the first song Mick Jagger goes, “yeah, we know how you expected this to go, but guess what, we’re still the ROLLING FUCKING STONES.” It was just incredible. I had such a good time. It’s just not a night you’d easily forget, or want to.
Not too long ago, I worked part time for a jazz club in TriBeca, The Django— a venue I’m unsure will survive COVID, unfortunately. It was a beautiful club where jazz musicians from New York fame, the country and world wide performed. The jazz scene is similar to comedy in a lot of ways. I didn’t often stay for shows as I had my own gigs to get to, but I did enjoy the vibes there.
Of course there’s Broadway and the Philharmonic. Both of which, I enjoyed. I figured out a lot of ways to get cheap and/or last minute tickets to shows. I’d spend $30-$40 to see a Broadway show or a classical orchestra, not much more than you’d spend on a movie in New York. I almost always went to shows alone, and on more than one occasions decided to drop acid for it. Hehe. Yeah, I for sure liked to experience things on another level, and I love live performance. I did fall into a live performance art, against all odds.
As a kid I was pretty lucky, because my godfather, Uncle Dennis, and my Aunt Rosanne were really into going to the city for plays and musicals. They very much liked taking me and I also loved it. Fortunately, they were able to afford tickets my parents couldn’t, and I was an exceptionally well behaved child. I was quiet and insightful. I could hold conversation with adults and was deemed “wise beyond my years.” (Old man.) I don’t know that I ever misbehaved in pubic as a kid (this would come later when I was a teen and drank). So I was good company. And I was rewarded for it. Uncle Dennis and Aunt Rosanne took me to a lot of shows and fed my love for live entertainment. My family was already pretty into movies and TV, but I got a well rounded education in entertainment because of them. And stand-up, of course, is 1000x better live than on screen.
The live entertainment industry is hurting and dying. I actually got pretty lucky and had a couple months of a good stand-up run late summer into early fall. It was enough to remind me why I loved it and for me to remember that even though I may not be getting better at stand-up, it will only take a couple weeks for me to get my chops back that I worked a decade for. I miss it. I miss all of it.
I was lamenting to my best friend, Jimmy, about what a squeeze New York put on live entertainment. How clubs couldn’t open, even at lower capacity and regulations. How I was doing illegal outdoor shows in the city. How my friends and myself were hemorrhaging money, and it was becoming impossible to survive. Comedy clubs are closing. A cultural dark age is on the horizon with close downs. Live art is becoming endangered.
Then, I sort of stopped myself. I sounded whiney and privileged.
“I mean, I get it, we’re not essential so I shouldn’t complain so much. At least I got to live my dream for a little while.”
“But you are essential,” Jimmy said, “entertainers are essential. What’s the point of living if we don’t have entertainment to make us happy?”
That made me feel good.
I can’t wait for things to go back to some sort of normalcy. As much as being in crowds gives me anxiety (even pre-COVID), I miss gatherings. I miss performing. I miss being an audience member. I miss the only times I tell my friends that I love them—which is in bars when I’m very drunk, hugging them.
And I know we’re not supposed to gather. We’re not supposed to. But it sure feels like we are, sometimes. It feels like we’re supposed to gather.