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Thursday, August 14, 2008

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It's Free

My editor has not bought this piece yet so I decided to give it a proper public burial. I enjoyed doing the research and meeting all those involved. especially Leighann Lord

A real treat.

As we navigate through this existence, growing older everyday, it is a blessing to be able to draw from great experiences and share them with total strangers. In this case, I was able to make a third party connection with Lord who performed with another comic that I knew rather well (Godfrey) in Chicago during the 90's.

They performed together recently.

It was refreshing that Godfrey (7up guy) remembered me when I asked her to say hello. He should have because I saw him in person at Hamilton College in 06'.

"Dave is that you? What the fuck are you doing here"?

The last time Godfrey saw me was during the mid nineties at All jokes Aside in Chicago. We hung quite bit, but I never managed to smoke a blunt with him.

Before All jokes I knew him from kickin the hacky-sack at Oak St. beach on Chicago's Gold Coast. At the time I did not know he was a comic but I loved his dead on impression of Marv Albert- Yessss! Plus , we were the only brothas who regularly joined the circle.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot he used to peruse Columbia College campus as well. I was a student so our universes were always colliding.

Life is weird but it is obvious I am in a cool circle of the Universe.

But I have to ask myself. How do I know all these people and still be broke?

Leighann Lord has been doing standup for sixteen years. On July 30th she performed at The Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona as part of their popular Wednesday night Comedy series.

Comedy at the casino is good a experiment, a proven experiment. The mid-week show regularly attracts local fans of stand-up and simultaneusly attracts a welcome rest for visiting gamblers.

The nightclub atmosphere that The Turning Stone provides is authentic.

Everyone knows that comedy and casinos go together like peanut butter and jelly. Winners and losers enjoy a good joke. After all, what better way to get over losing the mortgage payment than a few laughs.

The July 30th card featured local host Dave Goldstein who performed M.C., duties for New York City based headliner Jim Medrinos and opening act Leighann Lord.

I am strategically posing next to Leighann, quit would too.

The Life and Times of Utica was curious about Leighann (very curious) and the ambitous T-Stone venture into the comedy business. We caught up with The NYC based comic between shows.

For those who do not know : comics are always between shows.

L&T:"Did you find comedy early...plan on being a comic"?

Lord: "Well yeah, I graduated from college with a major in humor. For real? No. I had no concrete plans on being a comic. I am actually a graduate of Baruch College...I majored in journalism and creative writing and minored in theatre"

L&T: From theatre to stand-up?

Lord: Not exactly.

Throughout college Lord honed her acting skills in the drama department. "I did everthing under the sun...I originally stumbled into an audition and I got the part".

Her career did not exactly take off there. In fact, there was not even a hint that she would eventually make a living by telling jokes. But she loved it. "I was hooked on theatre , I got involved with every aspect of the drama department".

After talking with Lord, I felt a bit of the energy and irony that is a part of every comic's personality.

A structured, practical, forward thinking woman taking a confident 16 year leap of faith into the whirlwind that is stand-up.

L&T: You graduated. So what gives?

Lord: "After graduation I got a job in Corporate Communications...for who, it doesn't matter, but after a while, I was not seeing 'the job' in my future"

Lord decided to take a course on stand-up comedy.

L&T: How'd that work out"?

Lord: "The biggest challenge in stand-up is fear...don't get me wrong there are time honored techniques, but the main obstacle is fear, that was my first real lesson."

She also explained the grim prospects for all the people that took the course with her. "Hardly anyone makes it in this business by taking a class".

After she completed her class Lord staked out some of the finer comedy establishments in the NYC area. "I hung out in the Comic Strip for like a month before I finally got on stage".

Leighann described the feeling her first time on stage "I was terrified I got on stage and just talked. I don't even remember what I said I just remember laughter...lot's of laughter. March 31st 1992 I'll always remember the date but I'll never remember the jokes"

Good for her and good for us because Lord is funny enough to make a fulltime living doing what she loves, telling jokes. In the meantime she does commercials and guest appearances all over the airwaves.

Sixteen years later she is still at it and the hundred plus assembled in the T-Stone showroom had a bird's eye view of the action. The dim lights with a strong spotlight on the act. The stage, which looms large over a regular crowd, had a catwalk addition, bringing the weekly perfomers down to earth.

The cavernous venue was transformed to add an element of closeness. A true cosmopolitan atmosphere.Venues like the Showroom are where the 'comic' rubber meets the road. This is a place where comics can bomb. To make it tougher there is no alcohol.Which means cheap laughs are not available.

At the T-Stone, veterans need to bring their a-game or risk being forgotten...forever. Or even worse-laughed at, not with.

To get things started, Goldstein manned the mic like a seasoned pro, warming up each act with his timely delivery. His local flavor was apparent in his subject matter. "On an upstate rural route you can find everything that is NOT at Wal-Mart".

He effectively paced the crowd and handed the mic to Leighann.

The stage, the mic, a crowd and ready made jokes; Lord was in her element. Her warm reception was followed by warm anecdotal humor. Lord is a safe comic, she works around a minefield of perceptions with warm stories from her childhood. "Food clothes and shelter...sounds like jail".

Adorned with a nuanced earthly style, dreadlocked comic delivered her material into the glaring spotlight capturing a consistent smattering of laughs.

The prohibition of alcohol is a proven factor against any and all comics that want to avoid bombing. In other words, if you can make a dry crowd laugh you are either funny or lucky. Lucky for her there was the obligitory, 'bring your own alcohol' crowd and fans of comedy (like me) in the crowd that added merciful laughter to honor a joke that flew over the heads of most.

Leighann has cerebral jokes reserved for college grads and people who pay their bills. "I am approaching the age when cops are starting to look young". That joke brought laughter that rippled through the room like a wave, especially me (39 yrs 8/5/08).

Lord also expounded on the many ironies she has experienced as an adult. " you ever had a Freaky Friday moment? If you haven't, get your mom a cellphone" Her trip down the technological divide that has plagued the children of the elderly was hilarious. "When I got her phone my neice was texting her, she said 'Someone keeps sending me messages on my phone...the lord is talkin to me".

Next up was Jim Medrinos, another veteran from NYC. Medrinos immediately launched into his act. He was merciless.

About Utica: "I thought I stepped into the fifties when I came to downtown Utica. Do you guys still use steam or coal?

Overall the show was entetainig and worth the trip. If you like comedy check it out. Tell them the Life and Times of Utica sent you.

Oh yeah, now I know Medrinos and Goldstein..see ya down the road.