Sunday, January 24, 2010

hellooooooooo, anonymous commenting jerk!

I haven't heard from you in quite some time. I miss you. You are great comic relief.

This was in the NY Post today:
Liskula in the news

The last I heard from you, you had sent me this:

"Anonymous said...
Shit or get off the pot already. If there was any way you could determine my identity you would have done so by now.
Liskula's case in no way resembles yours. She's a successful model who did nothing to encourage the online attacks against her. You're a pathetic old loon who has begged me -- over and over again -- to continue commenting because it is the only attention you receive in your miserable lonely life."

And so that is your dopey excuse for trying to insult me in jerky jerk comments? If you think I was begging for attention in my lonely and pathetic life, why not write, "Good job." I know why. Because you are ANGRY. I have rachmanus.

Like I would waste a dime on legal fees exposing YOUR identity. LMAO, scram. I have an interview to do today...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wayno Draino, artist/actor/stand-up comic

I had a late lunch today today with Wayno Draino at a diner in Manhattan. We spoke for a long time and there is much to write so this interview will be put up in parts.

Wayno was born in Bayonne, NJ. He declares: "I was born under the smokestacks of Bayonne, and that is why most people think I have brain damage now. At the hospital, the birthing room is underneath the smokestacks and when the babies are born they get that toxic injection of smoke to prepare them for living in Bayonne. If they don't, they can die within a month." Wayno says the air in Bayonne is 60% nicotine. He grew up on a cul-de-sac, 75 feet from a chemical container. When he was a kid, he used to play "hide and go seek" and hide on top of the tank. But, "it is really tough to hide when you are glowing."

Wayno was an illustrator who did not really play with other kids because he was very introverted. He says in Bayonne everybody was beating each other up all day long. He learned to play hockey and football not because he wanted to be a great sports man. He liked tackling and punching the other kids.

He always was looking for friends... so when he was a teenager he was sitting around on the docks at his Long Beach Island summer home and everybody was real quiet. You could hear the crickets. He was introverted, but he started talking. The more he talked, the more the girls liked him. He would tell stories about his life; his wild and crazy days. He was overly animated and added punchlines and would "crack everybody up." It was an amazing feeling getting everybody in the group to laugh. He felt "connected to humanity" which is a feeling he almost never had. He was truly happy when he saw people around him laughing and that is why he began doing stand-up. And comedy is also a defense mechanism that helps him get through miserable days. It was very dark and industrial in the part of town in which he grew up and Bayonne was "not a very happy place."

Wayno said his whole family was in the TV business. His father was a film editor for CBS and at the end of his career he had his own film editing company that edited TV commercials. Early in his career, Wayno was a "shock" comic to get the attention of the audience. I met Wayno in about 1988 at the Eagle Tavern, which was located on West 14th Street in NYC. The pub had great comedy open mic nights for beginners, and this is Wayno from 20 years ago doing stand-up. We got along and became friends, and Wayne cast me as his mother in his film, which he said I could call "Challenged Superheroes." It actually had another name.... and Wayne laughed when I told him I was changing the name of the film for this blog. Anthony Ribustello was also in the film. Wayno told me the film in which I appear will soon be up on YouTube. I still can remember my first line: "Hey everybody, Wayne's here." And Wayno reminded me that I was in the illustration of the film for his "New Underground Magazine."

We went on to discuss Dan Aykroyd's "Out There" show. Wayno Draino worked for the show as a graphics and animation producer for 6 weeks. After 60 shows were recorded, the show was cancelled.

Wayno is indeed outrageous and he went on to tell me how his "doodling" got him into some recent trouble on a plane. I was really laughing. He certainly has a way of telling a great story.

Wayno Draino has given written permission for all of his art work (posted below) to appear at this blog.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Alan Berliner, filmmaker and media artist

an encore, from last October:

My interview today with Alan Berliner was different from any other that came before. Alan Berliner is the filmmaker who two years ago invited me to join an NYU class on film archiving that was visiting his lower Manhattan studio. The specific purpose of my visit was to discuss a possible solution for the preservation of my old family photos. During the class discussion, Alan suggested I post the photos to the internet where they would be saved and available to any viewers who might discover the site. And shortly thereafter my memoir in a blog, marjorie-pentimentos, began. Today, Alan called my visit to the class an "intervention."

Many months ago when I began marjorie-digest, I asked Alan if he would be interviewed by me for this blog. He thought it would be worthwhile if I again joined another class from NYU and talked about my experience of two years ago and how the process was suggested in a concept during the first visit. Alan requested that I arrive early and that would give us a chance to talk. I was excited and I looked forward to today. I had no idea that the interview that I had intended to be about Alan would somehow morph into an interview about me!

We began and I told Alan that on Sunday many of the descendants of my great-grandparents, Abraham Levine and Goldie Benjamin, gathered at a restaurant in Manhattan for a family reunion. I told Alan that I expecially loved watching the family home movies from around 1952 that were brought by my cousin, Allen. As I talked about Sunday, I slowly began a stream-of-consciousness about so many different topics I felt somehow as if I was going to places that should never have left the imaginative confines of my own head.

And Alan sat there taking notes. He asked just the right questions to bring me to these personal places that were bittersweet and emotional. I talked and talked... about reincarnation, and quantum physics, and consciousness, and past lives, and memories. When I talked about time travel, I think my mind was on that train longing for "Willoughby" where I could enjoy the comforts of the past.

I talked about my life in retirement and my life... and I even spoke about my OCD. I just kept talking and talking... and dialogue flowed (probably from my subconscious) about personal feelings, old family photos, and home movies. I told Alan I love home movies because they are the closest thing to time travel we will ever get. The conversation was layered at times with fantasy, and imagination, and wishful thinking. And Alan kept writing.

He was able to somehow make me want to become nostalgic and share thoughts on so many things... when I was there to be the listener and learn more about him! I was embarrassed and I apologized to Alan that the interview became about me. He waved his hand and seemed to not care and said something like "Maybe I wanted to do that."

And this must be why he is a phenomenal filmmaker. He has this uncanny and kind ability to inspire people to be real and in a defenseless and very unguarded way to discover meaningful feelings.

Well, I had to temporarily shut-up because the class arrived and Alan played some very interesting and engaging sound effects for them and then they sat in a circle while I was asked to speak about the birth of my blog. And I did.

Alan inspires me to want to be a better "keeper of the memories." If after I contacted him two years ago Alan had not graciously invited me to meet with him, all my "stuff" probably would have one day been lost forever in a Staten Island landfill. That makes me sad. It makes me sad because one of my personal treasures is a letter that was written by my grandmother to my mother in about 1929. It appears in my memoir in this entry with a poem I wrote in 1992 which developed from some of my feelings about that letter... maybe sentimental memorabilia is in a sense a "madeleine."

In "Synecdoche, New York," the writer Charlie Kaufman ends the film with a monologue: "Now, it is waiting, and nobody cares. And when your wait is over, this room will still exist, and it will continue to hold shoes, and dresses, and boxes. And maybe someday, another waiting person. And maybe not. The room doesn't care either..."

Alan cares and I am on Alan's wave-length. And maybe there is a large group of total strangers who share these thoughts about time and the passing of time and the importance of, as Alan said, "saving pieces of individual lives" even in small scale ways.

At his website Alan has a link to his articles, essays, and journals. Please read his essay, "Gathering Stones." Alan showed me the way to help my own "orphaned photos" find a home.
And in his journal piece "Nobody's Business," Alan writes: "But yes, it is me who returns to visit -- not any of their children, their grandchildren, or any (other) of their great-grandchildren. Just me."

And so I realize that I had forgotten to tell Alan that on infrequent down days when I have little to do, I ride to the still-standing buildings in Brooklyn where I once lived. It seems to be always gloomy and raining on those days. But even on bright sunny days, I think about the homes and the times inside those homes. My mind wanders and I can still hear my mother calling me, at 5:30 PM, for "supper." Sometimes, when I arrive at one house... I park my car slightly down the street, and look at the outside of the window in the room where I once lay in bed at night, so long ago, listening to the sounds of whooshing cars as they passed while I watched their shadows dancing on my bedroom wall. And I still visit my grandmother's house in Bensonhurst.

Alan Berliner is a creative award-winning filmmaker. You can learn more about him and his work by clicking on the links below.


The Sweetest Sound

Nobody's Business

Intimate Stranger

The Family Album

Wide Awake

Short Films

online Interviews:
POV - The Sweetest Sound

San Francisco Film Festival: Wide Awake

Friday, January 8, 2010

Robert Siegel, writer/director

an encore, from last May:

This interview with Robert began on a Thursday evening at a Chelsea diner. And we concluded the interview the following day, on a muggy Friday Manhattan night in the same diner. So, this was my first two-part interview. I was excited and happy.

Robert was editor-in-chief of "The Onion" from 1996 to 2003... when it was in it's original phase as a Madison, Wisconsin publication. The editor of "The Onion" when Robert arrrived was Ben Karlin, who later left to join "The Daily Show" as executive producer. He was followed by David Javerbaum, who is still the executive producer of "The Onion" and he wrote the music for the Broadway show, "Crybaby."

In 2001, "The Onion" moved to new headquarters in New York City. And shortly thereafter Robert began writing "The Wrestler." Robert explained that the process of creating a film is a long one. It can sometimes take five years from "script to screen." But Robert knew from the beginning that Mickey Rourke was "ideal" for this film and he wrote "The Wrestler" with Mickey Rourke in mind. Robert knew he would be just perfect for this part. Robert wanted to create a compelling character and story. Yet, he realizes the story is both sad and emotional. And throughout, there are many scenes in the film that show the character's great and extreme loneliness with moments of so much sweetness.

The audience knows at the end of the film that "The Ram" will not last long after he makes a decision to go back into the ring. He has made a decision to die. It was the director's decision to end the film with a freeze frame... to perhaps leave the final moments without a closure.

I think there are huge emotional moments in "The Wrestler" and it was Robert Siegel from whose fingers this heartbreaking film began and... he indeed created the film which gave Mickey Rourke his "comeback." Robert was nominated for a WGA award in the category of "original screenplay" for the film.

We moved on to a discussion of "Big Fan," the film which Robert wrote and directed and which will premiere at BAM on June 19th as part of the Next Wave Festival. In the film, Patton Oswalt plays Paul Aufiero, a loner who is obsessed with the Giants and he spends much of his time calling in to a sports radio show. For this role, Patton Oswalt won the award for "Best Actor" at the Method Festival. Robert describes Paul as a "Marty" or "Rupert Pupkin"... and perhaps "Big Fan" is the "King of Comedy" of sports movies. I asked Robert if he personally knows any of these "obsessive nerds" and he said he based the character on his imagination. But we have all had experiences which make us lonely and we all share basic human emotions and it is those feelings which Robert hopes to bring to film. "Big Fan" will open on August 28th.

Well, another interview had ended. As darkness was falling, the sidewalks were still packed with people and the streets were crowded with busy traffic congestion. I started thinking as I began the walk home. People weave in and out of our lives.... but I have known Robert for several years, and tonight I continued to be impressed by Robert's sincerity, integrity, openness, and warmth.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Jerry, the "Marble Faun"

an encore:

I was more than elated when Jerry Torre agreed to be interviewed for this blog. Don't you know who Jerry Torre is? He's featured in the great documentary, "Grey Gardens," by Albert and David Maysles. You've seen it, haven't you?

Jerry is who Little Edie Beale called the "Marble Faun," in that "artistic smash." I always loved Edie Beale. I never thought of her as an "acquired taste," as Big Edie describes her in the recent HBO film, "Grey Gardens." She seemed to be filled with excellent wit and humor and she had such a great spirit. She actually is one of the people I miss who I never met. And I was thrilled when Jerry Torre met me for a late lunch on this Friday afternoon. I recognized him immediately as he crossed the street.

Jerry found his way to East Hampton from Brooklyn one summer when he ran away from home and was looking for adventure. He became an assistant gardener for Mr. Gerald Geddes, and he had his own little room over the kitchen in that home. And when he was on his bicycle wandering around one day, he found Grey Gardens.

We started talking about the mansion, Grey Gardens. Grey Gardens was quite dilapidated and Jerry said raccoons would watch from the rafters, cats would jump all over the room, and cobwebs draped the staircase... and on rainy days water would seep into the house through cracks. Jerry says "Mrs. Beale was very comfortable with the untidy conditions of the house." He never questioned the conditions because he did not want to be impolite. But one day, when a kitten died it took some time to convince Mrs. Beale that the kitten needed to be buried.

Then I asked Jerry what the Beales did all day. Jerry said that Little Edie dedicated her life to her mother and she was always in the house. He told me they had no television and just a small radio. Jerry said they would sing, and Little Edie would recite poetry and read to her mother. She would entertain Big Edie with little costumes that she created and run in and out of her dressing area. And they challenged each other in great debates about everything and that kept them going because they bickered all through the day and night. "They were like lawyers." The topics included the Kennedy clan and how to get through the winter. They would discuss men, etiquette, and have endless discussions about the environment. They often discussed the social politics of their East Hampton town. They "stayed occupied with their minds." Little Edie was an interesting woman filled with ideas. She was a very "complete human being" and she very much wanted to express all of herself. Jerry told me that Little Edie would often sit in the "forgotten chair" when she wanted to escape from "the scene." It was red leather and in a garden surrounded by overgrowth in the back of the house.

Jerry had great concern for the Beales and he fell in love with them and felt a huge sense of responsibility for their safety. He explained that Big Edie used a Sterno (which was next to her bed) to prepare the corn, and he wanted to be called over every time the Sterno was used. He had great fear that somehow that dangerous Sterno would cause a fire. During the interview, the deep love that Jerry had for the Beales was always very apparent and revealed in his thoughtful and kind demeanor.

Jerry lost touch with Little Edie after Big Edie passed away. While Edie was a very strong woman, she very much missed her mother. Edie stayed to herself and lived for about two years alone in Grey Gardens until it was sold. I felt overwhelming sadness as Jerry spoke because I believe that Edie had to be very lonely during that time.

We then moved on to discuss what Jerry has been doing all these years since his appearance as the "Marble Faun" in the great documentary "Grey Gardens." Jerry explained he has kept to himself because he wanted to own the relationship with the Beales and keep it private. Only in the last few years has interest in him and his time in the house become mainstream and at first he was not sure he wanted to share his memories. This is a renewed "avalanche of interest" in what Jerry calls a magical time in his life. He said, "after all, it is 33 years old." He asked me if that made sense.

In the years that have passed Jerry has lived and experienced so much. He is now a sculptor at The Art Students League of New York and one of his awarded works is "Confetti."

Jerry did openly speak about and share his memories and feelings with me during this interview and I was very moved. I felt an almost overwhelming general nostalgia and a longing for a time gone by. I was overjoyed to meet Jerry and very happy that he allowed me a glimpse into those few years of his life.

We left the restaurant and we promised to stay in touch. Jerry, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Henriette Mantel, actor/writer/director

an encore:

Henriette at IMDb

Henriette is a morning person. I am a night owl. So this interview took several months to coordinate... but, it finally happened in a diner on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at about noon today.

I have known Henriette probably since 1986. I met her at a comedy club called The Eagle Tavern, which was on Ninth Avenue and West 14th Street. It was right next door to where Comix is now located. We were a group of comics that performed on all different levels. Jon Stewart and Henriette "killed" on Thursday nights and I plodded along mostly bombing but nevertheless enjoying myself and receiving great encouragement from the club's booker, Tim Davis. I thought Henriette was an amazing comic, and I went to see her at Caroline's... which back then was a small club on Eighth Avenue. I also saw her at a club on Grand Street called Comedy U. I remember seeing Sue Kolinsky, Susie Essman, and Joy Behar do short sets at many of the same shows. Henriette impressed me with her sharp and topical wit and she was smart, clever, and always very funny. In the years that followed, I would bump into Henriette in the neighborhood and in places like Whole Foods... where we would stand by the hot prepared foods and schmooze about life and stuff. Today, I had a chance to really catch up with Henriette and hear her talk about her work.

In 1978, Henriette was 21 and working for Ralph Nader. Years later, in about 1987, when Henriette was working in comedy clubs... she met the comic Steve Skrovan who was fascinated with Ralph Nader. He was always asking about Ralph Nader. Henriette was so happy that a comic was smart enough to ask about something other than himself and they started to talk.

In 1999, Steve had a deal for a sitcom and he wanted to write one about a consumer advocate's office. So Henriette introduced Steve to all her "old cronies" and Steve wrote a pilot but no network bought it. They discussed Ralph Nader and the presidential election of 2000, and they decided the story had to be told because it was so convoluted and people had no idea what really happened.

They decided to make a documentary. Henriette had worked with Michael Moore and on the reality TV show "The Osbournes," so she had some experience in filmmaking. The documentary, "An Unreasonable Man," was made and screened at Sundance... and they were short-listed for an Academy Award.

Henriette is very proud of this film because it tells both sides of the Ralph Nader story. She feels the movie educates people and this makes her feel very good. Henriette says, "Two comics made a very serious documentary." And what an excellent documentary it is!

"An Unreasonable Man" was reviewed on January 31, 2007 in the NY Times. It was called, by a viewer at IMDb, a "brilliant, in-depth examination of Nader and his societal interactions" and you can read that review here.

Henriette talked a little about her "great experience" working for Michael Moore. Since she worked with Ralph Nader and coming from a background in politics and comedy... Michael Moore was perfect for her. She wrote for his series, "The Awful Truth," and she really enjoyed writing for the segments. Her work included writing voiceovers and structuring the pieces.

I asked Henriette what she is doing now. Henriette wrote a book with Teri Garr called "Speed Bumps" which is about Teri Garr's life and multiple sclerosis. She told me she just wrote a children's book, and she is working on another docmentary, and she just wrote and directed a "short" film called "Pink and Blue." It is about a policeman who had to make a call on a woman because all the neighbors heard screams coming from the apartment. And Henriette looks forward to writing and directing a feature film.

Henriette sort of phased out of stand-up because she is "tired at night." If she could "do stand up at 11 in the morning," she would "really like it..." She loves writing and no longer has that mad desire to go on stage at midnight and make people laugh anymore. I laughed to myself because there is that morning person surfacing again.

So, the interview ended and I left the diner and walked down Broadway to the subway to take the #1 train back to Chelsea. I walked and wondered if as we grow older do we become defined by whether we are either morning or night people. I was very glad I got up early and met Henriette for this interview. She is an interesting and talented woman whose intelligence and eclectic career I very much admire.

Several hours after the interview ended, I realized I had forgotten to tell Henriette that my first car was a 1962 light beige almost gold Chevy Corvair...

Friday, January 1, 2010

Brian Gari, songwriter/performer/author

an encore:

I first saw Brian Gari on October 24, 2008 at the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention held in Newark, NJ. He moderated a very interesting panel discussion with guests such as Lucie Arnaz, Betty Rose, and Ervin Drake. Joe Franklin was there, too. Brian presented a loving tribute to his father, Roberto Gari, who passed away in January 2008. I was very impressed with Brian's participation, so I went to the Drama Book Shop and I bought his book, "We Bombed In New London," to learn more about him and his career.

I sent this on April 15, 2009:
I am almost finished reading "We Bombed In New London," and I am loving it so much I am not wanting it to end. This is a fascinating story of a true journey... and I think what is so amazing is how the narrative is factually presented with visual memorabilia and is also written with layers of extemely dark wit and humor. It is hilarious! I am just astounded by so many parts. And it is so well presented that I feel as if I am actually watching the "vignettes" unfold.
The book has sort of Larry David "Curb Your Enthusiasm" moments:
p. 47: "(David Susskind) wasn't on the phone more than ten seconds when he screamed, "I'll never get involved in musicals again!" I guess he was right; he died a very short time after my phone call."
p. 115: "He didn't give a shit. He would report me. Imagine continuing to ride with this obstinate jerk."
p. 116 "I was flattered. My songs being bootlegged? What fun!"
p. 182 "Gee. I was shaking in my boots. I had incurred the wrath of the great Cindy Adams."
I think you did a great job showing in subtle ways how people interact and relate to each other. Brian, your book is just wonderful. Let me put it this way: it's a book that is the best independent film I have ever read.

Shortly after I sent the above E-mail to Brian, I wrote to him again and asked if he would be interviewed for this blog. He immediately replied, "sure," and we met on Thursday, April 30th, at noon... in the Key West Diner on upper Broadway. We started to talk, and right away I was impressed with Brian's straightforward, honest, and down-to-earth manner. He spoke about his musical, "Late Nite Comic," and he said he realized the show's "time (on Broadway) was short." He discussed, in a very forthright manner, how the last few days of the show turned into a "free-for-all" because the perfomers were not getting the response they expected. He wrote "Late Nite Comic" based on his relationship with his girlfriend at the time, named Janet. Janet never saw the show. Brian says in his book she blocked all communication with him. This was a huge disappointment to him that he lives with to this day.

We then discussed Brian's "Love Online," which is based on his real-life experience about finding love on the internet. He met a woman on AOL who answered his written ad. They had many E-mail exchanges and telephone conversations... and he fell in love with her "through her words." He fell in love with her phrasing, the depth of her conversations, and her life story. And after they finally met, the romantic relationship lasted two and a half years. He was strongly emotionally involved and their connection was deep. Brian insists it is possible to fall in love before meeting because... he "lived it."

Brian has an extensive list of accomplishments. He has a salute to Brian Wilson, which he will be performing at Don't Tell Mama and he has done a Christmas album as well as a Brazilian album. He did a salute to the music of Roger Nichols and Paul Wiilliams. Brian is still writing songs and doing speeches with his mother about his grandfather, Eddie Cantor. He is also working on a musical about his grandfather.
This was an enjoyable interview for me and I thank Brian very much for sharing his insights and pieces of his personal experiences. He is an extremely talented man and he is as heartfelt in person as he is in his writing.

Eva Deutsch Costabel, painter/author

an encore:

I first met Eva Deutsch Costabel on the evening of Wednesday, April 27th, at a 10th police precinct community meeting. I was there to speak about bicycles and pedestrian safety. As I spoke, Eva cheered me on, and after the meeting she approached me and said she wanted to "team up" with me to call the issue to the attention of Mayor Bloomberg. I gave Eva my contact information and she called me the next morning. We spoke and discussed a plan regarding how to have the matter effectively addressed... and during that conversation she invited me to visit her on a Saturday afternoon. I had no idea I would become a community activist with such a talented and accomplished woman who has been the subject of so many interviews.

Eva Deutsch Costabel was born in Yugoslavia and she grew up in an upper middle class Viennese family. Her mother was a liberated woman who owned a children's store and her father was in the chemical business. In 1941, the Nazis invaded Yugoslavia. Eva's father was arrested and he was accused of sabotage and he was killed at Treblinka in Poland. Later, the Nazis came and Eva and her mother and sister had half an hour to leave their home. Eva told me that when the Nazis were in her home she accidentally knocked over a vase and a Nazi wanted to shoot her. She had to beg for her life because the Nazi told her that "broken glass brings bad luck." Eva felt like a helpless victim and this was the first experience that motivated her to later become an activist. Eva and her mother and sister were sent to an Italian concentration camp in Croatia. Eva told me that none of the Jews in that camp were killed because "Italians don't kill Jews." During WW II, Eva did drawings of peasants. After the camp was closed, she joined the partisan army and after the war her family lived in one room in Rome. Eventually, they came to the United States in 1949.

In America, Eva got a job painting roses on make-up compacts.... for one penny a rose. And she learned English. She worked on window displays and became a package designer, which was her career for thirty-four years. And years later, she taught graphics at FIT and at the Parsons School of Design.

Eva has written many children's books and they are in libraries in schools because they are historically accurate as Eva is an impeccable researcher. Her books include "New England Village," published by Scribner in 1981, "The Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers and Craftsman," published by MacMillan in 1983, "The Jews of New Amsterdam," published by MacMillan in 1986, and "The Early People of Florida," published by MacMillan in 1993. Eva has visited all of the places she has written about. She did the cover art, the stories, and all of the inside illustrations for her books.

Eva is an ardent supporter of Israel and she is involved in many projects. She balances her literary career with her paintings and projects and she has written a memoir. This article appeared in "Chelsea Now".

I took Eva's photo, but she kept asking to take mine... telling me she is an excellent photographer. Well, it came time to say "good-bye" and Eva kissed me and said "Shalom." Yes, "hello" Eva and thank-you for sharing part of your Saturday afternoon with me. You are an inspiration.

The above painting, "Self Portrait after Klimt," by Eva Deutsch Costabel appears at this blog with her written permission.

Howard Feller, actor/comic

an encore:

I have known Howard Feller for over twenty years. What can I say about Howard? Plenty. He is one of the dearest and sweetest people I know. I met him for lunch on this Tuesday, and he spoke in a very direct and open manner about his comedy career.

He calls himself a "movie and comedy freak" who enjoyed listening to Lenny Bruce, Bob Newhart, and Robert Klein. He liked "old comedy." In about 1982, Howard took a comedy class with Mark Jacobs that was given on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and soon after he started doing clubs with open mic nights. He says he "looked weird" and on stage he played off that. Silver, the owner of the Improv, passed Howard in an audition during those early 80s. He did stand-up three or four times a week and he kept getting better. He began to get many opportunities and consistent work. He played in diners and places where he began to make money. At that time, comedy was "hot" and he got road work and Jersey gigs in late night spots.

He worked at the Boston Comedy Club and met Barry Katz. He worked in the Comedy Cellar and at Stand-up NY and these spots led to a "Caroline's Comedy Hour" on A & E and as he built credentials he got better spots and this led to an "MTV Half Hour" comedy show. And when the MTV "Jon Stewart Show" was looking for a "weird geeky guy" as a sidekick for Jon, Howard got the job. Jon sat at a bicycle bar and Howard sat in a tractor chair and the show became an off-beat talk show with a small but very devoted fan following. That original "Jon Stewart Show" ran for one year on MTV and it ran for another year in syndication throughout the country. It was a "work in progress," as Howard describes it.

Howard has appeared in several films. Penny Marshall gave Howard a line in "Awakenings" because Howard says he "looked crazy." Howard recently appeared on "30 Rock" as the super in Tina Fey's building and in a "Law and Order" episode he played a homeless guy who brings a dead guy into a check cashing place as part of some scam... which was based on a real NYC incident. Howard will be on Howard (Stern) TV in an episode of "Show in the Hall." And he is also in the upcoming Nia Vardalos film, "I Hate Valentine's Day." In that film, he plays a homeless guy who lives outside her building. He says he is always called to play "the homeless guy" and he has no idea why.

Howard recently filmed an NBC pilot called "off Duty" in which he plays a junkie. I am wondering if he plays a homeless junkie. And he is up for several other parts... in which he plays a homeless guy.

Howard invited me to visit him in his brand new apartment with "a great view of the Manhattan skyline." He told me it was a basement apartment. I am still wondering about that.