manhattan

Christmas in New York

Last month Sarah got me a really cool birthday present: tickets to see Jim Gaffigan perform at the Best Buy Theater in New York City. Since Sarah’s birthday is only a couple of days before mine, we decided to make it a month-late joint birthday celebration and go up for the entire weekend. Sarah had never seen the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza, she had never seen Jim Gaffigan live, I was itching to get back to the National Comedy Theatre and watch a show, and neither of us had seen our pal Adi perform her stand-up live. What a great way to kill 4 birds with one stone. Or at least a couple of turtle doves.

We booked our train and hotel tickets and made yet another trek to our favorite city within a reasonable train-riding distance. We arrived without incident at our hotel and walked down to the comedy theater on 36th street where I knew our reservations were waiting for us. I had contacted my pal Kevin at NCT and let him know we were coming. There was a bit of a mix-up in our pre-NYC conversation. I thought I was letting him know we would be there to watch the show; Kevin thought I was letting him know I would be there to be in the show. As we got to the NCT doors, which hadn’t opened yet to the public, we had this entertaining text message exchange:

Fri Dec 17 6:45pm. Me to Kevin:
Hey dude. What time are you at the theater tonight? Sarah and I have tix for the early

Fri Dec 17 6:45pm. Kevin to Me:
You are playing the early show dude

Fri Dec 17 6:46pm. Me to Kevin:
Dude you are so mistaken

Fri Dec 17 6:48pm. Kevin to Me:
We saved a spot for you to play and you have to play

Fri Dec 17 6:51pm. Me to Kevin:
Dude I already paid for my ticket

Fri Dec 17 6:51pm. Kevin to Me:
Refund and you are playing

Fri Dec 17 6:53pm. Me to Kevin:
Dude who else is playing? I think most of the gang I knew is gone. Improv + strangers = awkward improv.

Fri Dec 17 6:54pm. Kevin to Me:
Dave and me and Andrew is all you need to know. You are playing.

Shortly after, Kevin came to the front entrance and let us in. As we made our way down to the green room Kevin continued to insist I was playing while I continued to give him reasons why I shouldn’t. Not only had I not played for nearly a year and a half, I also wasn’t wearing the proper NCT-approved improv attire, which included black track pants and gym shoes.

It wasn’t long before I realized my arguments were falling on deaf ears and I knew I would be playing. I was introduced to Stephanie and Zoe who were also in the show that night and Kevin found me a pair of pants and gym shoes I could borrow. Why they had so many spare pairs of pants and shoes – and whose they were – I tried not to think about.

The show went on and I had a blast. Although it had been so long since I did improv in front of a crowd, it felt like no time had passed at all. It was like putting on my favorite sweatshirt. Just right. In fact, if I hadn’t mis-identified a Justin Bieber song as Ke$ha, it would have been darn near flawless.

After the show – and lots of hugs and promises that it wouldn’t be so long until my next trek to The City – Sarah and I headed down to the West Village to see a night of comedy at the Humor Haus as hosted by another NCT alum, Adi Blotman. My good pal Paul – yet another NCT pal – was our tour guide and we grabbed a bite to eat at Joe’s Pizza on the way there. Paulie promised us it was “the best slice in the city” and I’ll be darned if Paulie wasn’t dead on. He shot some video of us experiencing our first slice of Joe’s and I’ll post a link to the footage as soon as we get it.

We headed down to Bleecker Street in plenty of time for the 11pm start. Adi did a great job hosting and introducing the other comics she’d hand-picked and we enjoyed ourselves and shared a lot of laughs. Although the room was a small one they all took to the stage like pros and it was a great time.

After the show was over, Paulie led our little group – which now included Adi – to what he promised to be “the best place to get pastries” and again Paulie was right on. Where else but New York City can you experience the world’s best cream puffs at 1 in the morning?

Sarah and I were standing on the subway platform waiting to take the A train back up to Penn Station and couldn’t believe it was 1:30am. It felt like 8:00pm and it was a refreshing reminder of why we love that city so much.

We got to our hotel room and immediately crashed. It’d been a few years since I was in the city during the winter and had forgotten some of the city’s nuances. How could I forget the sound of clanging radiator pipes that heated so many buildings and how, because many buildings are heated by radiator pipes with no individual thermostats for each room, you can sleep in the city in the midst of winter with a window open. Little details I forgot I loved.

We didn’t leave the hotel room again until noon the following day. We took to the streets and walked up to 51st to grab a bite at Mars 2112, a space-themed restaurant Sarah had been to when she visited New York with her family a few years ago.

From there we headed to FAO Schwarz, the world-famous toy store neither of us had ever been to. Unfortunately, we decided to make our first visit on the Saturday before Christmas and there was a line to get into the store that wrapped around the entire block. It was quite a daunting line upon first glance, but it moved quickly and we got in some great people watching.

A Santa made entirely of Legos inside FAO Schwarz. Why WOULDN’T we get our picture with it?

We walked back down to our hotel on 32nd Street to rest for about an hour, and then headed back up to Times Square to see Jim Gaffigan at the Best Buy Theater. Todd Glass was the opener and he was just as good as he’s ever been. Poor Jim was suffering from the flu and his voice was nearly gone, but he powered through and put on an amazing show. I’d never seen a show in that venue before, and I liked it a lot.

We headed down to Rockefeller Plaza after the show and somehow managed to make our way through the throng of spectators. We saw the tree, took about 3 photos, and Sarah declared, “OK, I’m over it.”

After that, we decided to brave the middle of Times Square to take some more pictures and grab a couple of quick video shots.

On the way back to the hotel, we happened to walk by a comedy club that was advertising dueling pianos. With a what-the-heck shrug we decided to catch the show. The two pianists – and one drummer – served as human jukeboxes as they took requests from the audience and managed to play each one of them masterfully, much to the mostly-drunk crowd’s delight. We especially enjoyed the show that wasn’t on the marquee: a big guy who looked like Biff from Back to the Future who was getting totally trashed. We watched him throw back bottle after bottle after bottle, wondering why the bartender wasn’t cutting off someone who was obviously as drunk as he was. If his forward-leaning barely-balanced walk to the bar wasn’t a dead giveaway, I didn’t know what was.

Oh wait, I know what the giveaway was. It was when he left the room to go out and throw up not once, but twice, all over the stairs that were the only exit.

I love this city.

We made it back to the hotel, caught a bit of the back end of Saturday Night Live, and then zonked out. We checked out of our room at noon the next day and headed back to Penn Station for the return trip home.

It was a nice weekend; a great weekend. It reminded us both of how much we love the city and also how much we love traveling with each other. We laughed a lot and traded a lot of goofy looks and by the end of our weekend, Sarah was zipping around others on the sidewalk like she’d lived in New York all her life. She made me proud. :)

As our train sped us back home to Lancaster County, I held Sarah’s hand while she slept, a goofy smile on my face. This weekend was my best birthday present ever.

What is Improv?

What is comedy? What makes something funny? What the heck is the “rule of three?” These are just some of the topics scholars have discussed – and debated – since the dawn of time.

And when improv was discovered (right around the dusk of time) it spurred on deeper queries. My pals up in Manhattan at the National Comedy Theatre shed some light on the topic. Enjoy.

And discuss.

A Kick in the Pants

About a week and a half ago Sarah was in town and I have yet to blog about it. Why? To tell you the truth it seems a little intimidating. Mostly because there’s so much to write. We did so much, I experienced so much, I felt so much, I know that once I start writing it’s going to be quite the tome and I haven’t been able to bring myself to tackle the sequel to “War and Peace” (not that I see our relationship as “War and Peace”, quite the opposite, but that’s the longest book I could think of off-hand. Maybe I should have used “The Borthers Karamazov”).

But I digress. Big time.

While Sarah was here we went up to New York City for the day. Her friend Courtney was going to be in town visiting from Scotland and so we hopped on a train and made the journey. We got off the train at Penn Station in the middle of Manhattan. Because we were only a couple of blocks from the improv theater I was part of while I lived in the city we decided to stop by the National Comedy Theatre as we made our way to Central Park and see if anybody was home.

I had so much fun performing at NCT and the people there are like family to me and, in many ways, they’re like home. If you’ve read any of my old blogs you’re used to me gushing about them. When I found I would be returning to Pennsylvania I was excited because I had visions in my head of returning to NYC on the weekends to perform.

It hasn’t happened yet.

I’ll try to explain why, but I’m not a Master Wordsmith so bear with me.

To be honest, I hadn’t felt that tug, that pull, to  get back to the city. I just didn’t have the motivation. And I think it’s because of my job.

Nothing against my job and nothing against NCT, but I’m doing what I love to do at WJTL. I’m making movies. I’m filming, editing, tweaking, writing, storyboarding…I love it. And I think because I have that creative outlet I was missing that hunger to perform I might have if I had a run-of-the-mill 9 to 5 office job. Does that make sense? Because my creativity had an outlet, I never had a chance, I never built up that yearning, to perform.

Not that I didn’t want to. I just didn’t have that drive. I don’t know if I’m correctly explaining myself or not, but I don’t have the energy to go back and do it better.

But all that changed last week.

As soon as Sarah and I stepped in front of the theatre, it was back. I could feel the energy and the excitement,  and when I saw my friend JT inside it was a little overwhelming. I knew I had been away too long.

Kramer and Jeff were also there and the three of them were downstairs in the green room putting down new flooring. It immediately took me back to my time there, painting the green room, putting all this work into the theatre we loved so much and I missed it.

It was so good seeing those guys again, I wished I would have seen some of the rest of the gang too, and that fire is back. I can’t wait to get back there.

And you know the best part of it? Sarah was happy to be there, too. After we left she was so excited for me. It was encouraging and such a great feeling (and quite frankly, a new feeling for me) to be with someone who was genuinely supportive and eager for me to get back there. Sarah told me she wants to go back soon, and often, so she can watch me in the shows.

I didn’t have that support and encouragement in my last relationship. And now that I do, I can’t believe I lasted as long as I did without it.

In Support of My Non-Flakes

My friend Rachael recently posted a blog venting her frustration about her flaky friends…people who just kind of come and go and are there one minute and gone the next. Granted, she lives in Nashville and a lot of people there are part of the CCM music machine, so that’s most of the problem right there. ;) I think we all have friends like that (I’m sure I’ve been that person more than once) but it made me even more grateful for my friends who have always been there.

Yesterday I spoke with Amy on the phone, one of the many talented people I worked with at the National Comedy Theatre in Manhattan. It’d been too long since we last talked and it was great to catch up with her. One of my favorite memories of New York is with Amy. We went to a karaoke bar one night where she entered the big contest and won first prize (an Easy button from Staples). After that we walked through Central Park, despite the fact it was too late to safely do so and then went to a Chinese restaurant. We talked about everything from parents to God and Jesus to relationships. It was one of those times that made you grateful for the people in your life.

Talking with Amy yesterday also reminded me of the rest of the NY gang. Usually when one moves away from somewhere you keep in touch with everyone for a certain amount of time and then that kind of wanes and you end up maybe hearing from one or two of them. Not so with my fellow improvers. Adi keeps me filled in on her voice-over work, Chris loves to leave me random video clips, I love hearing what JT is working on, Virginia lets me know how she’s doing, Jeff keeps me in check, Jason keeps me laughing, Jacob shares his adventures, Paulie shares his passion for comedy…I’m going to stop listing individuals because I’m going to forget someone but you get the point.

I have one or two people from each city I’ve lived in that I still keep in touch with and still feel really close to, but New York definitely has the highest ratio. Weird.

And I can’t think of my New York friends without thinking of my friends next door in Pennsylvania. I worked at WJTL there and can safely say I still hear from pretty much everyone on a regular basis. Fred, Stacey, John, Lisa, Ethan, Aubrey, Tim, Tom, Mel, and Jen to name a few. I don’t deserve to be so lucky.

If you’re a friend that doesn’t live in one of those two places, don’t think I’m saying I like my NY and PA friends more than you…it’s just funny to me that there’s this huge block of people all within 3 hours of each other that I am still fortunate enough to hear from pretty regularly.

So although it does stink to think of friends that have gone missing or AWOL, it’s more than comforting to be reminded of those who haven’t.

2006 – YEAR IN REVIEW

It’s that time again to bore my friends and loved ones with a capsulated look at 2006. Enjoy. I’ll wake you when it’s over.

2006 – YEAR IN REVIEW
A Timeline by Ed Placencia

JANUARY
As the year began I was living in New York City. I was a regular performer at the National Comedy Theatre (which I will heretofore refer to as NCT) and the ink on my divorce papers still hadn’t dried. My first year as The Single Guy. Let’s do this.
January 1 I ring in the new year by performing at a special New Year’s show at the NCT. We had a blast and it was a great time.
January 12 My digital camera breaks. No one has seen a picture of me since.
January 31 At the NCT banquet in a weird moment of ironic foreshadowing I was awarded “Most likely to be available for 208 shows/year.”

FEBRUARY
February 19 A reporter from The Daily News does a story on the National Comedy Theatre. A lot of pictures are taken and the cast is saddened when the article comes out and they use a picture with none of us in it.
February 28 In a stunt of unparalleled proportions, JT and I went to pick up some used carpet to put in the green room of the NCT. Because we don’t have a vehicle, we carry this huge roll of carpeting. From the corner of 3rd & 11th to the theater at 36th & 9th we maneuvered through the busy streets of Manhattan and didn’t bump into anything. And we only stopped to rest once. How manly are we?

MARCH
March 8 My good friends John and Lisa come up to visit from Pennsylvania. We checked out a Mountain Dew snowboarding ramp in the middle of Times Square and interview a ukulele expert at a music store for Lisa’s radio show, The Kids Cookie Break. So, it was a usual day for me.

APRIL
April 2 Worked on the set of a new FOX show, The Wedding Album. It was slated to come out this year, but haven’t heard anything on it since.
April 10-13 For four days straight I work from 6:30pm to 5am as an extra on the set of August Rush, starring Robin Williams, Keri Russell, and Jonathan Rhys Myers. We spent four nights in the middle of Central Park pretending it wasn’t freezing cold as we watched a performance by a symphony. Right now it is slated to release in February 2007. If it’s anything like my last work as an extra, be sure to have your freeze frame remotes ready so you can see me.
April 22 My sister Jaime comes up for a visit and we see and do everything in Manhattan in a span of 7 hours. We are, in a word, amazing. And tired.
April 27 Fellow NCT comedian Virginia and I witness someone trying to base jump off of the Empire State Building. A crowd gathers. The jumper is arrested. Everyone seems slightly depressed they didn’t get to see someone splat.
April 30 Worked on the set of Without A Trace playing an FBI employee. The episode airs the following month and I was nowhere to be seen. So far, no proof of the fact I’ve ever done any extra work exists.

MAY
May 4 Realizing a lifelong dream, I get to attend a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. Even though the guests are Rosie Perez and Danika Patrick I still manage to somehow enjoy the experience.
May 13 My final show at the NCT for 2006. I have 81 performances with them under my belt, and all of them were a blast. The rest of the gang is still there putting on great shows so if you’re in Manhattan, be sure to stop by and see a show.
May 14 Left NYC for Pennsylvania, where I will hang out for a week before my departure for Indiana. My buddy Ethan volunteers to drive me to PA and while there I stay with him and his wife Aubrey, and also with Jon & Lisa. I get a chance to connect with all of my dear friends from the radio station I worked at in Lancaster, WJTL. Good people. Good, good people.
May 21 Dad arrives in Pennsylvania with his truck and we load up the small amount of junk I have and head for Indiana.

JUNE
June 2 Almost a year after doing extra work on The Break-Up with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, it is released in theaters. None of my scenes make the final cut. I am not disappointed as there’s always the DVD deleted scenes. And I got to roller blade behind Jennifer Aniston for half a day. And the check cleared.
June 4 Fifteen years after its first conception, my brother Ray and I begin production on the long-awaited sequel to Terocus. We film four episodes and post them all on YouTube. The internet community is collectively confused.

JULY
July 15 I film an entry for a contest NBC is having to make a promo for the TV show The Office with Ray, Piper, Dad, and cousin Rich. Even though we don’t win, we have fun filming it and putting it on YouTube to further confuse the internet people.
July 16 The Placencia family reunion. Or, The Largest Gathering Of Minorities In Indiana Since The Last Placencia Family Reunion.

AUGUST
August 3 I am legally a Hoosier again when I get my driver’s license. After finally making it through the DMV line, a week later my money clip is stolen and I have to go through all of it again.

SEPTEMBER
September 30 The county fair comes to town and all of Indiana’s finest are in attendance. Mullets and poofy hairsprayed bangs abound. I get together with my friend Amy to hang out at the local coffee shop as they walk by and poke fun. Without recognizing him, I inadvertently end up making fun of my uncle.

OCTOBER
October 14 I killed a bird with a ladder.
October 17 The Break-Up is released on DVD. Although the packaging boasts “17 extra minutes!” I still have not made the film. Nor did I make the deleted scenes. Even my deleted scenes were deleted. But still, at least I got to roller blade behind Jennifer Aniston for half a day.

NOVEMBER
November 1 Awarded “Boxer of the Month” for the month of October at the Dekalb County Boxing Club. I celebrate by not going down for the rest of the month.
November 9 Itching to get back into comedy, I perform stand-up in front of a crowd of about 350 people at Snickerz in Ft Wayne and it goes well and the crowd goes wild.

DECEMBER
I’m working with Dad and still doing production for WJTL. I’ve been writing a lot of short stories recently and I’ll be back at Snickerz doing stand-up on December 21.It’s been a fun fun year and am eager to see what 2007 has in store.

To keep updated on what I’m doing, I keep a pretty consistent blog online. It’s the easiest way to see what I’m up to and going through. You can also visit that link to get all of the details on the highlights I mentioned above.

Goals for 2007:
*Return to NYC to perform again at NCT.
*Visit London.
*Kiss a girl.

It’s my prediction that the first two goals will be the easiest to accomplish.

Thanks for reading. I look forward to hearing from you to find out how you’re doing.

Keep in touch!

Ed

Walking: Depends On How You Look At It

Funny how something as simple as walking can carry a different stigma depending on where you’re at.

In New York City, everyone walks everywhere. There’s a very small percentage of Manhattanites who have cars and since everything you need is within walking distance (or subway distance), having a car in the city isn’t a real necessity. It’s nothing to walk 10 or 15 blocks somewhere. Because there are so many people always walking around on the street one would never give it a second thought.

But here in Indiana (where walking 10 blocks seems ludicrous) if you see someone walking without an exercise track suit on, you think hey look at that homeless guy.

This blog brought to you by The People Who Talk Without Having A Point.

Have Carpet, Will Travel

I don’t think I mentioned it earlier, but JT and I had quite an adventure the other day. The gang at the National Comedy Theatre has been steadily working to improve the basement/green room at the theater. We were able to snag another piece of carpet from someone off of Craig’s List and last Friday we went to pick it up.

And when I say pick it up, I mean it in every literal meaning. It was a fairly large piece of carpet (I believe 10′ x 12′) and after lugging it down 4 flights of stairs, we then proceeded to carry it from the corner of 3rd & 11th to the theater at 36th and 9th.

I don’t know how I don’t have a huge red rug-burn on my shoulder, but I escaped without any physical marks of our journey through midtown Manhattan (but it’s still a little bit sore). Surprisingly enough we were able to make it the whole way without bumping into anyone or causing a huge ruckus.

Why? Because we freakin rock.