@loripalminteriTweets by @loripalminteri
You Made It Worth It
It may be hard for many of you to picture a drunk Lori, in a yellow flowered dress, singing a Celine Dion song to my gay best friend at a wedding table, my 11th or 12th vodka soda in hand. But then others, like the bride, would have no trouble picturing it at all. This wedding was held at a venue my wedding date and I both once worked at. We cautioned the guests at our table to not eat the bread, as when we worked there we used to throw the bread at each other and then put them on the table. Yeah… don’t eat the bread on the table at weddings. Caterers are more than not underage and underpaid idiots with budding addiction problems.
The bride, Marissa, is the best. We first became friends in elementary school, where we played soccer together. We’d grow to be good friends and we both had our first job ever together— at a market on Fire Island.
So, technically it wasn’t my first job, since I’d always been a babysitter, a nanny of four kids to a family whom I adore to this day.
But the job at the Market was the first of many jobs I’d have that I would hate. I was 14 when I started and I’m pretty sure they were breaking child labor laws. My preference was to do bagging of the groceries because ringing them up gave me a ton of anxiety (there were no scanner so everything was punched in manually).
I loathed this job. The bosses were mean and also creepy. I was 14 years old and he would suggest that we’d wear bikini’s to drum up business. Unfortunately for me, this creepy ass old man was the only person wanting to see me in a bikini at the time. An underdeveloped teen with a mouth full of braces, none of the cute surfer dudes noticed I was there.
Often I lamented to Marissa that I couldn’t wait to not have braces anymore so I would be noticeable. Weirdly, I had a crush on one of the deli guys who was at least 10 years older than me and had a pill problem. He kind of looked like Ewan McGregor from Trainspotting. I really know how to pick them, huh? But like anyone I’ve ever fallen for… he made me laugh.
Our bosses eventually banned Marissa and I from working the same register, and then tried to keep us off the same shifts alltogether. Why? Because we laughed too much. That was their words, “you two laugh too much when you’re together.” We did. We were always laughing. In fact, Marissa was one of the few people that made that job not a living hell for me.
I learned an important lesson in those years of my illegal child laboring… jobs suck, life often is hard and sad, but if you have sidekicks who make you laugh, life is better.
When I left the market, I went to work for the Venetian Yacht club as a caterer, a job my sister helped me get (she also worked at the market). Here was a job I was most sexually harassed at, exposed to the worst kind of peer pressure, constantly around toxic addicts and thieves. This was not a good environment.
No doubt I hated this job. Even though I was now without braces, I was dealing with people requesting that I smile when I was just screaming internally. Although that first summer I worked there we did have a good crew, including my sister, my best friend Lauren, later my brother and my cousin would get jobs there as well. It was a crew of derelicts who often got drunk during the parties we worked at.
We all ended up getting money from a settlement many years later because the party planners were stealing money that was supposed to be disbursed. When the lawyer called me, I told him I was surprised the lawsuit wasn’t about sexual harassment. If I were half smart, I would have recorded happenings in that kitchen and been loaded from a lawsuit. Especially considering I was underage.
Despite being a world of fuckedupness, there were a lot of people there that made me belly laugh on the regular. We were rabble-rousers. The lot of us. Most notably, for me, was my friend Chelsea. Chelsea went to my high school and was a couple years older, but I often hung out with kids older than me. She graduated with my sister, but back then my sister and I didn’t have the best relationship, and I greatly admired Chelsea because she was so funny, smart and a ‘take no bullshit type of person.’ There’s no change in who I’m drawn to— funny people who are unapologetically themselves. To be honest, I always thought she would end up a comedian of sorts. Not me. Never me. I was always surrounded by people funnier than me. How I admired them all. How they avoided the allure of comedy as a career is beyond me.
After a couple years I got fed up with the bullshit, alcoholics and sexual harassment that I made a lateral move to work as a caterer at Captain Bills. There wasn’t as much sexual harassment here, but there were an equal amount of addicts, pill poppers and miserable fucks. My best friend didn’t work in catering, he worked in the regular restaurant, so we never got to work directly together.
There weren’t many people here I connected with. And I loathed going there as much as I loathed the other jobs.
From there, I’d get the job working in dietary at the nursing home, an experience that would change my outlook on life forever, for better and worse. For the next four years, I’d get a permanent lesson in what’s coming for us all, why Alzheimer’s is proof that you will die and you will not go anywhere, how we lack compassion, and how living long is worse than dying young. If you’re ever diagnosed with dementia, I know this isn’t a popular decision, but if you love yourself, kill your self. And if you can’t do it to save yourself from certain 9th level of Dante’s circle of Hell that’s in store for you, kill yourself to protect your love ones from watching you decay. This advisement is from the core of compassion. You would know if you worked there too. You would know if you saw what I saw.
There were a number of people I enjoyed working with at the Home. None more than Shannon, coincidentally, who shared the same birthday as me. Shannon was as dry and sarcastic as I am. Despite being the younger people who worked there, we not only avoided petty drama, we sometimes resolved it. We are both “old souls.” In addition to being extremely hard working and blunt as hell, Shannon always cracked me up. When I checked the schedule when I got into work and saw her name there, I was damn near happy to be there. Working there sucked, but even a living purgatory can be alright if you have a partner to mock it with.
I was still at the nursing home when I graduated college and was also working part time for Law and Order: SVU as a production assistant. Being a PA is long hours and grunt work, though I didn’t mind it. I’d discontinue because they were long days that bled into nights and interfered with comedy.
Four years was too long for me to work in that nursing home. I sunk into a low and started having nightmares about being trapped in the nursing home and I would slit my wrists. It’s been years since I’ve worked there and to this day I have nightmares that I’m back in that kitchen.
At this point, I was already a comedian— the start of what would be the best and worst job choice of my life, but we’ll get there later.
Because comedy had stolen my heart and stimulated my mind, the main thing I was looking for in a job after graduating college was something that would allow me to write and perform as much comedy as possible. My Dad’s cousin is a real estate broker and I quit the nursing home rather quickly and got a real estate license.
Real estate is full of so many scum bags and greedy fucks it makes show-business look sane. I had no allies in this universe and I despised every minute of it. Granted, I’m no salesperson. Depression escalated real quick here and I wasn’t making any money, forced into getting a third seasonal job at Toys r’ Us and a housekeeping job.
I really wanted to kill myself at this point of my life. What a fucking losing I am turning out to be. I was not in a good place. But my goals remained. I had to get a job in the city and move there for Comedy. And I did.
The survival job was for a property management company, where I was hired as an administrative assistant and quickly promoted to accounts receivable despite my obvious poor math skills. Here, when I was hired, I’d come to befriend another as sarcastic as myself, Slava. And later, Antonella, a born and bred tough Queens girl who always tells it like she sees it, becoming a rock for me. They were the only two reasons I didn’t want to blow my brains out going there.
After three years there (and when both Slava and Antonella moved on), I was more than over that place. Waking up with so much dread, I couldn’t take it anymore. I quit having landed a short term writing gig that I knew would only last me so long, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. What was left of my rope I was ready to turn into a noose.
The freelance writing gig was fantastic as it was good money and I didn’t have to leave my apartment. But when that ended I was quickly panicking. Sure, I had stand up and was doing some background work for film/tv, but financial stress was high.
That’s when I got a job as an administrative assistant for the Django jazz club in TriBeCa, a swanky spot that is known for drawing rich and famous, though that never really impressed me as much as the musicians themselves did. A new owner took over the club and they didn’t have an office/daytime person so we built the position together. I did everything from answering phones to bookkeeping to accounts payable to editing/making menus to website updates, writing newsletters, etc, including filling in for people when they were out. I didn’t mind this job, as it had some creative elements. There were also a number of fun people there. None more than Eric, who did not work for Django, he worked for the hotel (The Roxy) where the Django lives, though we occupied the same office space. See, I didn’t really converse much with the Django crew because they were there at night so the hotel crew were more my people.
When I met Eric and he found out I was a comedian he said his favorite comics were Gary Gulman and Maria Bamford and this information solidified our friendship instantly. Boy do I love meeting people who love great comedians that aren’t all stars. Like everyone else I’m drawn to, Eric was fluent in sarcasm and we hit it off right away. I miss him.
One of the many things I liked about Eric was his disposition. As a younger man, he was in the army reserves and then much to his surprise he was deployed overseas. He said he was terrified and thoroughly convinced he was not ever coming back. So when he did, it felt like a new chance at life again. Eric is one of those bigger than life people, and I just like knowing people like him exist.
After a little over a year, my boss at Django wanted to shift my position to later hours to overlap with their first show, which would also conflict with my shows. I was given an ultimatum. The choice wasn’t hard. I was always going to be faithful to comedy.
Again, I was back as a freelancer, which is a terrifying way to live your life. Between stand up and these radio packets I write, I was pulling in some money but I was in danger. Though things do usually work out in some form. The job I’m now at is a job I’m honing web coding and website design skills which is both interesting and a challenge for me. Furthermore my boss is super kind, a rarity from my previous work experience. I have yet to find my cynical allies in that office but I’m sure they are there.
Of course, in all these jobs, there are two important lessons I’ve learned and absorbed them at a young age. The first is that I would never do a job just for a paycheck. It would be certain death for me. I could never go to a 9-5 if it didn’t mean anything to me beyond money. I would kill myself. I’m not trying to be dramatic or exaggerating, rather I’m being as forthright as possible. I do not have it in me. Your dollars are so meaningless.
The other lesson, however, is probably more important. That no matter how much any job sucks, or situation, or life— if you have good company, partners in crime, people who will be on your team to fight the man, the world, or even sometimes yourself— life is infinitely better. All paths are scary, hard, more than not dead ends with strange if not bad happenings… but if you have good characters in your life, it’s the only thing that consistently makes everything worthwhile. That’s what you do.
As for comedy, here in my 10 year anniversary, it’s the longest job/commitment/relationship I’ve ever had (or wanted). I’m scared a lot. Not of going on stage but of everything else. The certain doom. The imminent depression. The rejection. The watching your friends and heroes sink, wanting to do something to help but drowning in your own ship filling with water. I LOVE comedy. You have to. You have to be head over heels, batshit insane in love or you will quit. I’d caution anyone thinking of pursuing such a route. You have to love it so much you don’t care if you fail. Because not doing it and letting fear dictate your life is a worse certain road to unhappiness.
It’s so hard. I couldn’t emphasize this enough. And it’s so discouraging. For every time you feel like you’re on top of the world there are 30x where you feel small, useless and want to crawl into the fetal position and disappear.
But I’m still here.
And a lot of this is because of you. You guys who always make me laugh and make me proud and make me want to be better. You guys who make me feel special in the sense that you’re so special to me, I’m so honored to be valued by those valuable to me.
Comedy is flooded with people I’m drawn to, just like in my previous jobs: sarcastic, smart, creative, brazen and brave. While some of the best moments of being a stand-up is experienced alone on stage, those moments are still outweighed by green room hang outs, drives to gigs, pitch sessions and endless mockery of ourselves and the world. My comedians, both peers and heroes, are the reason I’m still here, writing this dumb-ass blog, continuing on not just because I love comedy, but I love comedians. This is risky because I know without a doubt I’m missing a couple people on this below list and I don’t want people butt hurt, but these are people that make doing comedy worth it to me when everything else seems like it’s falling apart. No order or rank, though topping this list would likely be my writing partner, Nick Griffin, who’s creative collaboration is worth so much to me that if (when?) we sell a script, I’d be happy just to give him all the money so that he could do the road less and be happier. I think I could die content if I get to see “written by Nick Griffin and Lori Palminteri” scroll down a screen someday. Also, there’s Dennis Rooney (headlining Brokerage comedy club this weekend, Aug 30/31!) who has to put up with all the times I’m on the ledge and is probably one of the few people I know who actually loves comedy more than I do.
No matter happens. No matter where it goes. How rough it goes when it’s tough. You made it worth it.
[Not limited to but especially]
Adam Ferrara Andy Fiori Andy Pitz Anthony DiDomenico Brian Scott McFadden Bryan McKenna Carmen Lynch Chris Roach Colin Quinn Dan Barry Dan Naturman Dennis Rooney Gary Gulman Goumba Johnny Greg Stone Jared Waters Jason Salmon Jim Breuer Jim Florentine Joe DeVito Joe Giarratano Joe Pontillo Joe Starr Joey Kola John Trueson John Ziegler Katrina Reese Lenny Marcus Liz Barrett Matt Burke Michael Somerville Mick Thomas Mike Toohey Mike Vecchione Mike Yard Nick DiPaolo Nick Griffin Ryan Brooke Ryan Hamilton Sean Donnelly Tim Gage Tim Krompier Tony Deyo Wendy Liebman