Self-Hailed as "The Hottest Weekly Comedy Show in the East Village," "Greatest Show Ever" Goes on Every Friday at 8:00 and 10:15 PM at Original Barbershop, 174 East Second Street, Lower East Side
There's a crowd forming outside "Original Barbershop" every Friday night, and for good reason.
Although the first show hasn't let out yet, over a dozen young professionals gather outside the dimly-lit, vintage-style barber shop in anticipation for the second show. Given the prime time and location for going out – 10:00 PM on a Friday, smack in the middle of the East Village – the fact that this show is such a popular choice speaks volumes about its draw.
Before the last of the 8 PM crowd even trickles out, the impatient bystanders try to push their way in to grab a seat on a rickety chair, a sunken bench dragged in from the sidewalk, a counter-top, anything that works. A few lights, a solitary microphone, and rearranged chairs transform the barbershop into a intimate, cozy performance space. I can't help but feel out of place in an audience that looks like I walked into the cast party of every CW show ever made; this does not look like the comedy scene that I am accustomed to, and yet "Greatest Show Ever" has much to brag about.
NYC stand up comedy is legendary in general:
But Greatest Show Ever is building something truly special, with comedians like Judah Friedlander (30 Rock) and Roy Wood Jr. (The Daily Show).
RESERVE TICKETS FOR NEXT FRIDAY NIGHT! HERE
A crowd forms outside before the 10:15 showPhoto by Mike Lavin
The true gem of this show is producer and host Lev Fer's ability to pull together a stellar group of performers. I have rarely been to a show that highlighted so much diversity without having a specific "diversity" theme – diversity in background, content, and performance style. Molly Austin took us back to the embarrassment of childhood with a spur-of-the-moment tale about a distinctly embarrassing dental mishap, which she delivered perfectly with a blend of awkward-coy.
Jared Waters brought such warmth and reality to his stories about being the only black teacher at a Jewish Prep School; his fondness for his wife and his prank-prone students can't help but shine through. We got the Irish immigrant's perspective of America from Sean Finnerty, complete with a very strict lecture on the legal difference between loitering and prowling.
Jamar NeighborsPhoto by Mike Lavin
Ashley Hesseltine breathed new life to jokes about basic white womanhood; she could've easily given us ten minutes of "wine and bad boyfriends, amirite LADIES?", and instead she gave us vulnerability and raw honesty (who among us DOESN'T relate to stalking the ex that they dumped?). Jamar Neighbors ( Keanu, Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle) takes home the gold in terms of showmanship; his physicality (at one point an updated homage to Monty Python's "Ministry of Silly Walks") made him a standout performer, challenging the reserved poise of the audience with his wild command of the stage.
Host and Co-Producer Lev FerPhoto by Mike Lavin
Fer, as host, has the necessary gift of improvisation; the middle of his opening set was interrupted when the barbershop phone rang loudly next to the stage – it was an audience member from the previous show, wondering if he could stop and look for her keys. A hilarious three minutes or so of riffing ensued before he hung up on her. To this day, who knows what became of her keys?
The show's co-producer, Ronnie Lordi, closed out the night with a solid set – if West Virginia was on my list of honeymoon destinations, I would've crossed it off immediately after hearing his wild bachelor party tale. Fer and Lordi clearly exhibit a knack for crowd work, and an even greater talent for producing.
Co-producer Ronnie LordiPhoto by Mike Lavin
If anything needs to change, it's this: if most of the shows are as successful as the one I saw, then it's time for "GSE" to expand. Admittedly, the atmosphere of a small vintage barber shop in the East Village offers a uniquely charming "comedy pop-up" experience that larger comedy clubs cannot offer. However, performers like these deserve a larger audience, and a larger audience deserves to see them, preferably seated in real chairs, ones that don't feel like they could give at any second. That being said, should Fer and Lordi opt to keep their current location, I will wholeheartedly testify that the jokes outweigh everything else.
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Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.