Feeding the homeless

homeless-woman

I fed the homeless on Saturday night. It makes you feel exactly as smug and self-satisfied as you’d think. I highly recommend it for that reason alone. Afterwards, you walk around with this love for your fellow man, and most importantly, for yourself. You feel so good, it’s like you single-handedly ended homelessness.

Also, feeding the homeless in New York is very… New York. In the best way. All New Yorkers, be they rich or poor, homed or homeless, understand that the worst part of living here is unwanted social interaction. You need everything to happen quickly, efficiently, and with an absolute minimum of chitchat. And that’s exactly how we fed the homeless (whom the service I worked for insisted on calling “guests”). The guests know exactly when and where we’re coming. So they arrive with a few minutes to spare and form an orderly line. We show up in a Dodge Sprinter van full of food and volunteers, and feed that line with military precision. One volunteer hands out plastic bags. Each guest then approaches the back of the van. Into the bag, volunteers place two sandwiches, an orange, a carton of milk, and a juice box. The guest then walks away. When the line is done, we close the doors and drive to the next stop. That’s it. Done. No fuss, no BS. There were stops where we “fed” fifty guests in about three minutes.

And it’s genuinely fun. 99% of the homeless people you give food to are extremely nice. Unnervingly nice. You find yourself asking the question, in your own head: “why are you so nice? And if you’re capable of being this nice, why are you homeless? I know lots of people who own homes but are giant dickheads. Where’s the fairness here?”

Having said that, people behaving well is not funny. People behaving badly are funny. So let’s talk about the homeless people who were jerks.

First of all, entitlement is still alive and well, even at the bottom of the ladder. One guy grunted at me, on our first stop: “where were you last week?” This was my first time volunteering, so I stuttered and sputtered. I had no idea what to say. I also had no idea what he wanted to hear. I doubt any of my answers would have satisfied him. I mean, how do you answer that question? “Well, I didn’t volunteer last week because, I was enjoying my job and house and money and family. You know, all the things you don’t have.”

Some people are weirdly confident. I was wearing a Philadelphia Phillies jacket, and a guy started busting my chops about it: “this doofus, rooting for a terrible team like the Phillies”. And it was a tough spot to be in, because breaking balls is all about “you insult me, then I insult you back”. But he made fun of my sports team, and all I had to make fun of him was… “well, you live under a bridge”. I didn’t say that but I wanted to.

Not knowing what to say is a recurrent theme when you feed the homeless. I was one of the guys actually handing out the food, and I struggled to work out what to say after I’d handed the grub out. What do you say? “Have a good night!” That seems insulting. “God bless you” didn’t work, because I’m not sure if I believe in God. And God hasn’t done a whole lot of blessing on these people lately. So best to leave him out of it. I defaulted to “take care”.

Finally, there was one stop that I was warned about several times: Chinatown. Chinatown was the volunteers’ least favorite stop. Everywhere else, the guests formed a polite queue. Not in Chinatown. It was just a mass mob, crowding around the back of the van. One volunteer had to yell at everybody in broken Cantonese to make them form a line. And remember: this happens every week. Every week the guests are told no food without forming a line, and every week, they start off in riot mode. And there was zero benefit to cutting in line. Everyone got fed, and everyone got exactly the same amount of food. And they always do: every single time.

Must be a cultural thing.

Please share ‘Pure Joy’ with me

PURE JOY_7.2.15Kyle Ayers, Will Winner and I are back in the saddle, baby. We have a new show called PURE JOY. We’re bringing funny back weekly to THE FLAT in Williamsburg. Thursday. Delightful people. BE ONE OF THEM.

(Plus you probably have the day off Friday… make the most of yr Thurs. nite). Here is the Facebook invite.

Nightly Show jokes 6.15.15

THE PRESIDENT OF A LOCAL NAACP CHAPTER IS A WHITE WOMAN WHO PRETENDS TO BE BLACK.
IT’S ALL VERY STRANGE, BUT LET’S SALUTE THE ONE HERO IN THIS STORY: HER HAIR STYLIST.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE SPOKANE NAACP IS A WHITE WOMAN PRETENDING TO BE BLACK.
THE WIDER BLACK COMMUNITY IN SPOKANE SAID HE WAS OUTRAGED.

THE CASE OF THE NAACP PRESIDENT WHO PRETENDS TO BE BLACK.
IS SHE REALLY WHITE, OR IS THIS JUST THE WORST CASE OF ASHINESS WE’VE EVER SEEN?

JEB BUSH HAS A NEW CAMPAIGN LOGO, BUT IT DOESN’T FEATURE HIS LAST NAME.
HIS TEAM MUST FEEL LIKE BIKINI WAXERS. THEY’RE REMOVING ALL TRACE OF BUSH.

I handed over ‘Cheap Laughs’ to a great writer

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 8.28.49 PMTwo years ago I started a weekly comedy round-up in the Village Voice. I wrote over 100 ‘Cheap Laughs’ posts. Former Voice section editor Brian McManus deserves crazy credit for letting me create it. Current Voice supremos Nick Lucchesi and Hilary Hughes showed me mad love when he left. They get mad love from me right back. Cheap Laughs let me give a lot of people and places I love a fraction of the ink and recognition they deserve. I’m proud to hand it over to a fine human being who loves comedy and comedians, and will champion great shows and great ideas. Take it away, Amy E Hawthorne.