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One Photo; One Story: Comedy and Gas.

8pm, Wednesday, March 8th, 1999. My cell phone rang. My five year old son Devin was on the line. He was crying. His mom and I were recently divorced, I was used to him being emotional during certain phone calls.

This time it was different. He sounded terrified. In a staccato whine he pleaded: “ I wantttttt ssssomeonee to come seeeee me right nnnoooowww!”

So, I packed my notes and decided to skip my five-minute spot at the comedy club and catch the next bus home.

In the 1996 book by James Campion, “deep tank jersey: one mans journey into the soul of a new jersey club band”. I admitted to the author on page 102 that I wanted to be a stand up comedian but didn’t have the balls. I would occasionally open the page and read; “DIDN’T HAVE THE BALLS”.

In October of 1998, I enrolled in Jim Mendrinos’ stand up comedy class at Gotham Comedy Club on West 23rd Street in New York City.

We met every Sunday evening where Jim put us through a boot camp of writing and performing. It was hard work and gut wrenching. Every week we would write and perform and tear apart each other’s material to shreds. It was a great exercise and necessary if you planned on ever going on stage to perform.

When you mix comedy, alcohol, and the stage, your job is to make people laugh. If you don’t, it’s brutal, and that’s what Jim was preparing us for.

After a few weeks we went out into the comedy world, I signed up for five-minute slots at Spin Cycle at the Laundry Mat, Stand Up NY, and Gladys Comedy Club at Hamburger Harrys on West 45th Street.

This went on for many weeks; we’d perform and meet back at Gotham for review. On February 26, 1999, my classmates and I did twenty-minute sets at Gotham Comedy Club in New York. We were slowly moving forward.

That next Wednesday while waiting for my five-minute set at Gladys, my cell phone rang, my comedy career was over.

I was shaken by the fear in my son’s voice. I arrived at his door an hour later. He and his mom answered the door in pajamas.

When I walked in the door to comfort my son, I was hit by the smell of natural gas. The aging furnace was leaking. I opened the windows, sent them to the neighbor’s house, and called the gas company.

I’m not sure what would have happened had I not listened to my son or the inner voice inside me that told me to GO. Wait, I do know and I would have never been able to live with myself had I not.

I was ten years into a radio career in New York and I knew the investment I would have to make to be a success at stand up comedy.

As I made my way to my small apartment that night, It wasn’t funny anymore. It was time to use my free time to concentrate on my young boy, keep him safe, and help him along on his journey.

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