|BY ARIEL ELIAS|
Most comedians lead a double life. At night we are out, speaking publicly into a microphone as we (try to) make you laugh. By day, though, it's a different story. We wake up groggy, tired from the previous evening of open mics, hanging out at comedy clubs, and maybe, if we're lucky, performing in front of an audience. We get out of our beds and blend into the everyday, and more often than not, we go to our day jobs. You can listen to just about any podcast and find out a comedian's process, how and when they write, how often they get on stage. But the daytime remains a mystery, even though we're everywhere. We're all around you, in your offices, restaurants, hospitals, schools. We come from various backgrounds and bring a wide array of skills (and lack thereof). So let's find out how comedians spend their days.
Dan Shaki quit his job as an engineer to focus on stand-up, and ended up working as a tour guide atop a double decker bus in New York City for six years. “It was chaotic,” Shaki explains. “I would give two tours a day, but they were so disorganized, I would go in at noon and do nothing until 6:00pm. Then they’d send me out to Time Square where I would wait a couple hours for a bus, and then do a two hour tour. So I would work ten hours but barely did anything. In the winters, I would get laid off and collect unemployment. The company was so poorly run, it was a big corporation that took advantage of one-time customers. They didn’t care about their employees and they didn’t care about their customers.”
People on the tours started to blend together, but what really stuck out for Shaki was the tour guides themselves. “You would think it was a bunch of college kids giving these tours, but it was mostly older people who, like comedians, were very smart but somehow couldn’t quite function in regular society. It was people who would go to Starbucks in the early evening because that’s when they would throw out the old pastries. A lot of people would show up kind of dirty or smelly. It was surprising to learn about the people who actually inhabit this city and give these tours.”
There is one person from a tour who stands out, though. “I dated a girl who was on my bus tour. She was a cute girl, so I would ham up my jokes more and direct them at her. You know, just like how you hit on people in stand-up,” he laughs, but it’s not really a joke. At least half the comedians you see on a show are trying to get laid by the audience. “After the tour I told her I knew she was wanted to f*ck me because she was laughing. And she goes, ‘everyone was laughing.’ And I said, ‘I assume everyone wants to f*ck me.’” I laugh.
Giving tours did help with stand-up, though. “My tours, I would say everything just to get to the punchline. I had jokes, and it definitely helped with crowd work. I would go down the line and ask people where they were from, trying to get a laugh. I tried to have a funny story for different areas. Every neighborhood was a bit to me. If I was a better business person, I would have run my own show and used the tours as self-promotion, but I’m not a good business person.”
Today Dan Shaki runs his own business, Streetwise NY. He gives walking tours around New York City, but remains hesitant to use that to promote his stand-up. “I worry about mixing these things (comedy and tours). I worry about people getting offended, but I refuse to tell comedians that they can’t do certain material.” Check out Dan Shaki’s material here and help him quit his day job: Dan Shaki on AXS-TV Gotham Comedy Live
ariel elias is a writer, comedian, and producer living in nyc.
follow her on twitter @arielselias