Colin Quinn: The New York Story (2016) – Full Transcript

Colin Quinn discusses the origins of New York and how it got its unique personality.

[disco music playing]

[horn blows]

♪ Young and pretty New York City girl ♪
♪ Twenty-five, 35, hello, baby, New York City girl ♪
♪ You grew up ridin’ the subways, running with people ♪
♪ Up in Harlem, down on Broadway ♪
♪ You’re no tramp, but you’re no lady ♪
♪ Talkin’ that street talk ♪
♪ You’re the heart and soul of New York City ♪
♪ And love ♪
♪ Love is just a passing word ♪
♪ It’s the thought you had ♪
♪ In a taxi cab that got left on the curb ♪

[music continues]


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, folks. Folks, thank you. Thank you.

[music, applause continue]

All right. Stop, folks. Stop! Stop it, folks. Folks.

[cheering continues]

Enough. I’m not kidding. I’ll stop the show. I’ll stop the show.

[cheering continues]

Folks, I’m not playing games. I’ll stop the show. Enough applause. If you want exuberance… This is a New York show. It’s not… Exuberance is the West Coast. That’s my whole point. Applause is killin’ this city. Understand me? The West Coast… Exuberant, enthusiastic people… That’s what they’re supposed to be, ’cause it’s paradise on earth. So they’re happy and enthusiastic, perpetually surprised by everything that goes on. Oh. “The mountains, the beach.” Ah. Everything they do, they’ve done it a hundred times. It’s like the first time. “You wanna go to the store?” “Yeah!” Midwest… Humble, hard workin’. They had to farm. So they got that personality. The South. Very hot. Very polite. Overly polite because, you know, could get a little violent if you’re not careful. I don’t know about you, but I got a concealed carry permit myself. New England, it’s like they’re always gettin’ hit by mist from the water. New York is New York. We’re what everybody says we are. Rude, opinionated, pushy, loud, fast-talking, sarcastic, wiseass. But what people don’t understand is, what’s rude to the rest of the country is polite to us and vice versa. Because, if I go to a pizza place, and like, “Gimme a slice.” – That’s polite. Because… – [laughter] you’re not tryin’ to hold the line. There’s a line. You’re not tryin’ to slow… If you go into a pizza place like, “Hi, how are you? You must be hot.” That’s rude. You know what I’m sayin’? There’s no stools. They want you to walk and eat your food. You have to fold your food and walk.

I remember once, when I was little kid, we went to Maine. On, like, a family vacation to Maine. We go to the general store. I wanted to kill myself in five minutes. I was like… You walk in, the guy’s like, “Oh, haven’t seen you around.” Sir, who cares? Gimme my… What do you care? Give me my soda. “You… visiting?” “No, I live here. I’m just very shy. It’s my first day out of the house.” “You new in town?” “No, I’m the mayor. I just got elected actually.” But, um, yeah. New York, it’s always like somebody’s hurrying you somehow. It’s just a rushed kind of vibe. But the thing is it’s a pedestrian city too. It’s a city for walkers, not cars. That’s why you’ll notice every car acts like a person, and every person acts like a car. Pedestrians are in charge. They walk like they… You’ve seen it a hundred times. They walk in the street, the cars just stop. The driver’s like, “Ooh, I almost got hit by that person. That was close.” It’s just a rushed and hurried thing. Even as a kid, in church: “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We know. Come on. Hurry up.” Yeah, the New York personality, that’s us. So where… Why did the New York personality form? How did all these cultures come together to make the New York attitude? Well, first of all, you have to realize, all the people that came here came here ’cause they were miserable wherever they were. So now, you know, you got a city filled with miserable people, to begin with. The first people were Lenape Indians. The first people on Manhattan. That’s according to them. You’re takin’ their word, which is… You know, they said they were first, but what are you gonna do? Say, “We killed the people here before us”? Of course you’re gonna say you were the first. And, um… But let’s just assume they were the first people here. Already, they had an attitude to the other tribal people ’cause they had all the seafood. This was headquarters for all the seafood. All the waterways. Give ’em five bushels of clams, give us 40 cartons of American Spirits. You know… Give ’em some beads, but get outta here. Canarsies are like, “Don’t push me.” Canarsie Indians. And Ramapough comin’ in from Jersey on the weekend for some seafood. And… The Lenapes were kinda… They smoked. The only place to get tobacco in the whole world was North America. They invented smoking. Already a New York vibe. They’re smoking. Standin’ up there. Henry Hudson sees them standing there, lookin’ at him over the cliffs. Northern Manhattan. Lookin’ at him. Smokin’, shirtless. A little homoerotic. You’re not imagining that. It’s kind of like… Right away, it’s not a friendly… When you think of the Dutch comin’… The Dutch… pot, prostitution, Amsterdam. This is not those Dutch. This is, like, 1600s Dutch. Everywhere they go, they take it. And they show up with the navy, so it’s already not… When you showed up with the navy, that was a statement back then. ’Cause there’s only four navies in the whole world. And the Lenape Indians don’t have a navy. Their navies are a couple of strong swimmers, a couple of canoes. So when Holland’s like, “This is a beautiful place you got here.” “Oh. Here it comes. It’s not for sale. It’s not for sale.” “I didn’t say if it was for sale. I’m just sayin’ it’s beautiful. How about $26?” They’re like, “No.” “Twenty-five.” “The guy doesn’t understand… No.” “How about 24?” We better say yes. ’Cause it’s gonna get lower than 24 soon. The Dutch just took it. They branded in those… All those names are Dutch names. “Bronx” is a Dutch word. “Harlem,” Dutch word. “Bushwick,” Dutch word. “Brooklyn” is a Dutch word. “Stoop,” Dutch word. “Yankees” is a Dutch word. The word “fuck” is a Dutch word. I swear to God. So if you see anyone on a stoop in Brooklyn going, “Fucking Yankees,” they’re speaking Dutch. So. Now, you know… You know, it’s true. It’s true as anything. Right? Um… It’s New York. So now you got the smoking. You got people saying “fuck.” You’re starting to get a formation of a New York personality. The surface, you know. But still… But you still don’t have that attitude that we all… Everybody from New York thinks they’re better than everybody else. Everybody, we think we’re smarter. Not just rich people. Poor people, middle-class… This is the only city that has blue-collar snobs. You know. Take somebody, two years of high school, put ’em in a room with MIT professors, after an hour, you’re like, “What’d you think of them?” “They’re not New York. They don’t”… You know. “They’re… They’re educated. I give ’em that. You know. They’re smart, but they don’t get it. They got their head up their ass. No common sense, you know.” Yeah, we just think… We go on vacation. Everybody else goes on vacation to say, “Can you imagine if we lived here?” We go on vacation to tell people, “Can you imagine if you lived in New York?” What do you do? “Give me a slice of the pizza. That’s not New York pizza.” The guy’s like, “I know. It’s Italy.” “I don’t give a shit what it is. It’s not New York pizza.” “Gimme that bagel. That’s not a New York bagel. You don’t know… You have the wrong water.” We tell people they have the wrong water. It’s not like we live in Minnesota with beautiful lakes. It’s our water. We act like, “Oh, this is the water.”

But you still don’t have the psychological… the attitude. The superior attitude that we all… That came from the British, you know. ’Cause the British showed up, and the British in those days, they showed up, it was theirs. Nobody even fought. They’re just, like, “You know the drill. It’s the British Empire.” They brought the real navy. They had the Royal Navy, the biggest navy in the world. Peter Stuyvesant is walkin’ around. Looks in the harbor one day. With his wooden leg, you know. He just turns to his Dutch friends and speaks in Dutch, “We’re fucked. You understand me?” I don’t know. And the British were like, “You can keep the names of the towns. They’re quaint. But lose the shoes.” They’re the British Empire. “Get rid of the windmills, please.” “What are you calling it, by the way?” “New Amsterdam.” ’Cause the Dutch named it after their most prized possession. Amsterdam is beautiful. The British rename it after the sixth shittiest city in Northern England. York was always a shithole. Like, we should have been named New London, right? But there already was a New London, Connecticut. But if you’ve been to New London, Connecticut, you realize they should be called New York, and we should be called New London. So the British ran it, like I said, all those Protestant churches in Lower Manhattan were Brit… And they just ruled, you know, British style. And they ran until… Revolutionary War, this was still British headquarters. Manhattan was British headquarters throughout the Revolutionary War. So all the… Nathan Hale hung to death on 66th Street and 3rd Avenue, where there’s now a Starbucks, of course, on the corner. That doesn’t say at all… That ruins the glamour of their death, you know, the martyr. “I regret I have but one life to lose for your reduced-fat raspberry scone and your caramel macchiato.” You know.

So the British ran it. Finally, they’re out. Then it became the transshipment point. All kinds of stuff, but smaller groups of people. There was no main group until the Germans. Germans came in in the early 1800s, and they brought that German personality, which is still a part of us. First of all, they brought the delicatessen, which is a German word. And it’s the German personality that’s still here today, where the customer’s not always right. They yell at you. They hurry you. They bully you. Efficiency over humanity. “Come on. What do you want? While we’re young. Let’s go. What do you want? You don’t know? Get over there.” We’re still… We’re still the only city that has two lines. One’s for people that know what they want. One’s for people who don’t. And if you get on… If you get on the line that doesn’t know what they want, you never get back. It’s impossible. Yeah, and that German personality is still there. The abrupt, rude-polite. Where people, like, people from out of town… They ask directions. They’re smiling. You’re giving them information. “Excuse me. Where’s the museum?” “Excuse me. Where’s the subway?” People from New York accuse you of information. Like you owe them the information. They don’t say, “Excuse me,” just block you. “Where’d you get the ice cream?” You’re like, “Holy shit.” Then if you tell ’em, they want a review. “Over there.” “Is it good?” If you say it’s good, you have to leave, or they might come back. “Where’s that guy that said this was good?” Yeah, that abrupt, accusatory, Germanic, you know.

But most of them left. There’s still some Germans… in Ridgewood, compulsively washing their stoops right now. For the most part, they moved to Pennsylvania, Ohio, ’cause they wanted order, symmetry. The city had no symmetry. All the streets are, like, on top… It was just back… It was… Shantytowns on top of sh… The water was so polluted, people had to drink grog. They couldn’t even drink water. Have to drink beer instead of water. Who’s gonna move there? The Irish. Yeah. Irish people. The Irish came and they brought the wiseass. When people say, “Why do you talk out of the side of your mouth?” That came from the Irish people. ’Cause that’s an Irish quality from trying not to get slapped in church, they talk out the side of their mouth. ’Cause we came here, and we were cynical to begin with. And we’re cynical we got here ’cause there’s no Statue of Liberty yet. There was never that poetic moment that the Italians and Jews had. The Italians came. They see New York City. They’re already cryin’, emotional. And then they look up, and welcoming them is a hundred-foot mother. You know? They’re like, “Oh, Mama.” – So… – [applause] They’re like… [speaks Italian] [mock Italian] The Jews were like, “Look at this. It’s beautiful. The quality’s not necessarily… It’s obviously copper. It’s not bronze. But, uh… They’re welcoming you. That’s the important thing. The message they’re trying to get across comes across.”

Irish showed up. It was the same docks they just left. [Irish accent] “Look at this fuckin’… Streets are paved with gold? They’re paved with shite.” Yeah. We just did what every group did. We brought our history and put that onto it to make sense to us. So we brought it. We made it into parishes. ’Cause parishes make sense to us. And a parish is just, you know, a church, some Irish people and a bar. Basically. The bar and the church are very similar. There’s a lot of stained glass in both. A lot of kneeling going on. There used to be a lot of smoke. You’re waiting for the one person to tell you, “The mass has ended. Go in peace.” Or, “Hey, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” And, yeah, that’s what happened. The Irish showed up, went to the church. “What should we do, Father?” “You go to the bar. Tell them I sent you, and they’ll set you up with you a job.” That was Tammany Hall, basically, in a nutshell. The church was the Internet, bartender was the search engine and whatever web site he sent you to, that was your job. You didn’t turn it down.
They were all Irish Catholic jobs of course. Because they’re like, “We need a thousand carpenters.” If you turned it down: “Are you too good to do what Joseph and Jesus did?” “No, okay. I’ll take it.” The fire department started in 1845. They said, “We need guys that are willing to run into flames and drag souls out of the torments of hell, and then sit around, 12 of you, and have supper together every night.” They’re like, “I’ve seen that picture my whole life. I’d love to do it.”
The police department started the same time. They said, “We need you to find people, drag ’em to a small, dark room, smack ’em into confession… until they absolve themselves of punishment.” They’re like, “They did that to me my whole life. I’ll do that to people.” When people say, “Why were all the New York cops Irish?” ’Cause the police academy was Catholic school. Nobody likes to admit it, but a good cop should have the listening skills of a good bartender and the unpredictable violence of a nun. – Now… So… – [applause] The Irish… There’s still an Irish vibe. Like, you can tell when you compliment somebody from New York, the Irish influence. You’re like, “Nice haircut. They’re like, “Fuck you, what’s wrong with it?” You’re like, “No.” “I said it was nice.” “I know what you meant.”

So the Irish ran New York for about 40 years. Then 1880, the Jews show up. [groans] And… I think it’s safe to say most of the Jews have not physically recovered from their boat trip. They’re still… Somethin’ about that boat. They’re still kind of seasick if you talk to them. It’s genetically passed down over the generations. A little nauseous. “How was the trip?” “It was hot. That’s how it was.”
The Jews were the only immigrant group that wanted to be checked for tuberculosis at Ellis Island. Every other group’s like, “Don’t let ’em touch me with a stethoscope. They’ll send me home.” The Jews are like, “Excuse me. You missed this whole section. I’m wondering why. You’re supposed to be a doctor.” They love their doctor.
They came and they worked the sweatshops when they came over. They had to work… All the sweatshops were all Jews. They were the earliest union organizers. They started all the unions. ’Cause I guarantee somebody must have said, ““We need volunteers to complain about conditions. Is there any…” Every hand shot up. “I was gonna do it anyway. Make it official.” And… The Jews don’t even consider it complaint. They’re just inquiring why you would do it that way when there might be an alternative. ’Cause they… They came here to not talk. Remember, they’re like, “Don’t talk.” The pogroms of Europe traumatized… But after a couple of months, it drove them crazy. “I just wanna ask one question. If they tell me to shut up, I’ll shut up.” And they looked around, you know. “We’re not gonna get civil servant jobs. The Irish have those locked down.” What about what doesn’t exist? What about those abandoned buildings? They saved their money from the sweatshops. Show up, Department of Buildings, Irish civil servant. Nobody’s asked him a question in 12 years. He loves his job. He’ll take a three-hour liquid lunch whenever he feels like it. Then, these two cultures never met. The Jewish guy’s like, “Excuse me. I’m wondering about… We want to buy the abandoned building.” He’s like, “That’s the city’s. It’s not for sale.” So, other people just walk away. Irish people are like, “Oh.” “Just curious. When you say that’s the city, is that you? Is there somebody I should talk to?” The Irish guy’s like, “Pushy bastard. Do you believe the pushy fuck?” Irish guy tries to scare him. “Trust me. You don’t want to deal with the city. Paperwork, inspectors, licenses, Department of Sanitation, Department of Health, permits.” He thinks he’s scaring the guy. He doesn’t realize he’s turning him on right now. The Jews aren’t scared of the paperwork. Everybody else: “Get the paperwork done quick. Just sign it.” The Jews are like, “Whoa, whoa. Don’t rush me on this paperwork. Now I am a little suspicious that you’re trying to get me past this paperwork. I want my nephew… He’s an accountant. I’d like him to look at it, too.” That’s what the Jews did. They came and they saw what didn’t… “What about that? What about the fish market? You wanna be partners? “If you don’t, tell me.” “I’ll be in.” “I’m doin’ it.” “What about the, uh, vaudeville? That’s puppet shows. It’s fine for cowboys in Montana. We’re supposed to be civilized people here.”

You know. Cultural Center, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, City Center, all Jews. Not just the people that started. I mean, look on the chairs. “Melvin Tannenbaum.” Even out here. The Michael and Lenore Schimmel Center. That’s where we are right now. “You know Lenore was like, “You said we were gonna do the thea…” “Okay, okay. I’ll do it.” And the audience is all Jews every night. Right now. The whole audience… No, wait. Wait. Once in a while, a couple of young Asians. Their cousin’s a cellist. Otherwise, the whole audience are Jews. So… They like the culture, the intelligen… The New York Times. Eskimos have 30 words for snow. Jews have twice that many for stupid. “Schmuck, schmo, schlub, schmendrick.” We could be here all day on the sch’s alone. And they brought that linguistic thing that we still speak to this day. All of us still speak that, uh, art of complaint. A minor inconvenience in apocalyptic terminology came from the Jews. Like, “How was traffic? Bad?” “Murder.” “How’s the line in there?” “A bloodbath. I’ll be honest with you.” “You look hungry.” “I’m starving to death.” “I’m dying of thirst right now.” “Are you uncomfortable?” “I’m in agony. I’m not uncomfortable.” So now you got this Irish and Jewish kind of vibe goin’ on.

Then these Italians are comin’ ten years after that. They came like everybody else, where they’re like, “Hey, where you goin’ tomorrow?” “America.” “Really? What part?” “Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s called none of your fuckin’ business. ‘What part?’ Mind your business.” And… The Italians, they brought the volume. Because the Irish and Jews were still, in the house: “Get in here. I’m gonna fuckin’ talk to you.” The Italians, no. I’d be out playin’, my friend, Anthony… Little kids. His father would lean out the window. “Anthony. Get in. Dinner.” He’s like, “No, Dad.” “No?” Shut the window. We all knew what was gonna happen except for Anthony. He’d be playin’. You know. Every time. His father’d come out. “You wanna play? Let’s play. Let’s play for awhile.” Beat him down the block. Just beating him. Just knocking him into every car on the block. All the adults are watching. Nobody would do anything. There was no child abuse in those days. People would be like, “Hey, watch my antenna.” You know. “Watch the mirror.” Finally, Anthony’s laid out like Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. [crying] His father starts cryin’. “Anthony, look what you made me do!” Anthony’s like, “I know, Dad.” “What are you doin’ to me?” Finally, kiss, hug, walk in. Make up. A mini opera just played out before your eyes. That’s the Italians. They’re operatic. It’s good or bad, high or low. There’s no in-between. There’s no, “The guy’s passive aggressive.” No. “He spit in my eye, basically.” You’re either the nicest or the worst. Either you’re the be… I always use whatever’s in the street as the example. “He’s the most honest… You see them ants eatin’ that bread? He wouldn’t take the bread from them if he was starvin’ to death. “’cause it belongs to them.” Or: “The biggest piece of shit. He’d step over his mother’s body for the love of a dollar. This fuckin’… ” And they always gotta have the cash out to show you… They’re very… No wallet. No credit card. Cash. “Fuck, this is what it is.”

They looked at it like a Sicilian village. Like they invented their neighborhood. I mean, they respected the parish to a degree, I guess. But at some point, they try to make the priest a frontman for their bazaar. “Hey, Father, we’re havin’ a thing on Saturday down in the basement. We need some foldin’ chairs. But you don’t gotta be around. Leave him alone, stupid. He’s gotta get up Sunday mornin’. He needs to get to bed early. Here’s a few dollars for the collection. Take care.” Everything’s the collection plate. It’s a psychological thing with them because, you know… Milkman, give him a stick of butter. Twenty bucks. They’re not makin’ money off it. They’re losing money. Twenty bucks for a stick of butter. It’s some psychological thing. They consider it, like, “Take care of the guy.” Take care. It’s money, but it’s… Take care. Mailman, take care of him. But then you have to reciprocate. So, if the mailman takes the 20, then he has to treat you a little special. He can’t throw your mail in the puddle like every other jerk-off on the block. He’ll ring the bell. “I took care of your letters.” “Thank you.” Know what I mean? ’Cause if he doesn’t do that, then… enemy for life. Then, that’s it. Thirty years he can work. They’re like, “There’s that mailman. See how he likes deliverin’ letters with broken fingers, this fuckin’ mailman.” Never forgive. That’s it. For the rest of your… Guy’s lived on the block 40 years. “Hey. Hear the guy across the street died.” “Yeah, he’s the one that stepped on my wife’s foot. What goes around comes around. Drunken Irish bastard that he was.” “Hear the guy on the corner passed. He suffered.” “He’s the one who used to comb his hair in the meat market. Let him rot.”

Yeah, always vendetta. They like the vendetta. When there’s nobody to fight, they turn on the son. The son’s too big to fight now. He’s grown up. He can’t fight him. They’re heckling him, still trying to embarrass him in front of the block. Kid’s out washin’ the car. He’s like, “Look at him, washin’ the car. Can’t even wash his own ass yet, this fuckin’ ciuccio. You missed the right rear hubcap, you fuckin’ meatball. Look at this kid. Wash the car, fuckin’ jamoke over here. Fuckin’ ciuccio. Half a momo I got for a son.” “Half a momo.” Which, I still… I still don’t know what that is. Half a momo… If it’s half a mamaluke, which is an idiot. Or half a homosexual, or some combination of a… It doesn’t even matter. ‘Cause the insult… The fraction is the insult. That… It’s whatever they say about you, I’m sayin’ you’re half of that. How do you like that? They’re scared of shit that doesn’t scare other people, not scared of shit that… Come to the block beat up. “Get the bats. We’re goin’ there now. Everybody get the bats, ’cause we’re going.” By the way, notice: “Get the bats.” Not, “Get some bats,” or, “Do you have any bats around?” The bats. They’re already pre-positioned, under the stoop. One’s behind the door. One’s under the tree. On the curb. Back of the guy’s trunk. But they don’t like new things. Like when ’70s yogurt started. “Hey, try this.” “What is that? What is that?” “No, it’s yogurt.” “Is it all right? Get the fuck out. Fuckin’ yogurts. Fuckin’ sick bastard.” Yeah. When they like you, you know they like you. They kiss you, hug you, smack you in the face. Punch you in the stomach. When they don’t like you, they don’t touch you. They touch themselves. Right down the body. “He thinks… Let’s see what’s goin’ on. I don’t say nothin’ to nobody. [mutters] Che palle.” The balls on the fuckin’… [imitates spitting] That was always the period. [spits] When they spit. Oh, they came, just about 1930.

Then the Puerto Ricans came and brought the pace. When I was a kid, I thought Puerto Ricans were just speaking Spanish because they speak so quickly. But when you get to know Puerto Ricans, you realize they don’t speak Spanish. They only speak English… with a Spanish accent very quickly. That’s New Yorican. And they understand Spanish ’cause their parents speak it. But they don’t speak a word of it, but… The Puerto Ricans came. In those days, a Puerto Rican building on the corner… Now, people would be horrified. We used to give directions based on ethnicity. Make a lef… Irish bar, the Greeks, the Chinese laundry. The Puerto Rican building on the corner. Now people go, “Whoa. How do you know it’s a Puerto Rican building?” “There are Puerto Ricans outside.” They say… They say, “What if they’re not outside?” “Don’t worry. They’re gonna be outside.” The Puerto Ricans… They brought the kind of communal food festival, kind of outside, inside, no real distinction. Outside, inside. The TV’s in the windowsill. It’s half inside, half outside. The old lady’s leaning. Half her body’s there. The music’s inside, but it’s blasting outside. They’re pulling a chair down on the rope for the uncle to sit on outside. The ironing board’s inside. It comes out. Now it’s a card table. There’s a fluidity. All together all the time. Just social. Everybody. Multigenerational. Little kids. Old people. Everybody hangs out together. I never saw one Puerto Rican. Just everybody together. Goin’ up to the… They’re goin’ up to the park like a carnival atmosphere. They got the radio, the grill. They got ice and chicken on sticks. The bandanas and the flags and the little kids dancing. The old lady is dancin’. They got the mix of Catholicism and sexuality. A lot of cleavage with a lot of crosses. They got the little girl in the Communion dress holdin’ hands with the aunt in the halter top. The cousin’s driving next to them. Six saints on the dashboard, decal of a naked woman, right next to each other. The door’s half open. He’s half inside, half outside driving.

Yeah. It’s all a continuity with them, know what I mean? You go to their house. You think you’re there as a guest for a party. They put you to work. They give you assignments. “Good. You’re here early. Check the stove. Then… go see what’s wrong with Grandpa. He won’t leave the room. We can’t get him out of the room. Then walk the most frightening dog you’ve ever met in your life. Then change the baby. Change the baby.” Always the baby. Change the baby. The baby… Always baby… “She’s pregnant. “Her face is gettin’ fat. I think her cheeks…” People walk by. They’re like sonograms. “Look, that’s a boy. She’s carryin’ high.” They heckle you if you have one kid. “Where’s her brothers? Her sisters? I don’t understand what’s goin’ on.” The baby’s the star of the family. By the time you’re eight, in the Puerto Rican family, you’re washed up. It’s over. Eighth birthday, you’re like, “Hey, happy birthday. Okay. Change the baby.” It’s the circle of life.

Then the black people came back in the 1950s. There were black people at the time in Harlem, believe it or not. There used to be black people in Harlem. And… I know it’s a shock. Listen to me. 1950s, black people came from down South. Called the Great Migration. Came from down South. So the black kids, we’d meet ’em early ’60s. And you could tell right away they had a New York attitude. First of all, they would talk back to the adults. They would talk to the adults like they were the same age. Store owner’d be chasing us. He’s like, “I’ll tell your mother.” We’re like, “Oh, shit. Tell my mother?” Black girl’s like, “Tell my mother. I don’t care. Get my mother here.” Talk back to the cops. The cops would talk like black kids. And the black kids would talk like cops. They’d reverse. All the cops, it’s, like, the late six… ’71. Like, “Oh, slick. My man, come here. I wanna talk to you. That’s right. I’m not jivin’ you.” All the black kids spoke police procedural. “Nah, that’s a class-D misdemeanor. He ain’t gonna get out of the car. That’s a 522. Nah. No, that’s a Fugitive Task Force. See his insignia?” When it’s cold… “That’s the lieutenant. He don’t get out. He make the sergeant go out. It’s too cold. Yo, Sarge. They’re making you get out.” And, um, talk back to the teachers? We go to class. Black girls come into class. Eatin’ SweeTarts, six kinds of candy, like they’re at the movies. They come in with candy. They’re talkin’. Teacher’s like, “Sit down, Josephine. Be quiet.” “Lincoln freed the slaves. Don’t tell me to sit down. I wasn’t talkin’ anyway. I was done talkin’. I was tryin’ to listen.” The black guys come in five minutes late. The black guys come… When I came in late for class, I’d adopt a posture of penance. Like, “I know I’m late.” I don’t wanna get called out. Black guys come in like the Medicis comin’ to check on Michelangelo’s progress. Lookin’ around like… No books, just a No. 2 pencil in the Afro, like, you know… If there’s a test, break it out, borrow a piece of paper. Heckling each other. They can’t let one physical flaw go uncommented upon. They walk into class heckling. “Yo, he got old lady ears.” You know. “She got a varicose neck right there.” “Your glasses is fogged. Better clean off your glasses.” “He live in the back of the hardware store, come in smellin’ like cut keys.” “Yo, your book bag is dusty. His book bag. Get it off the floor.” “He wear the same shirt every Tuesday. That’s your Tuesday shirt, right?” Then the teacher’d go, “Sit down, Antoine.” “Tell him to stop wearin’ the same shirt, and I’ll sit down. Shit.” Then they’d put themselves in whatever the teacher was talkin’ about. Sit there, like, “Shit, if I was Tesla, I’d beat Thomas Edison’s ass if he steal my idea.” Then the girl leader would shut… It would be, “Be quiet.” “Don’t tell me to be quiet, bitch.” In those days, they’re fightin’ words. “My brother’s gonna wait outside and fuck you up at 3:00.” And here’s the thing. Her brother didn’t go to the school. There’s no cell phone. You couldn’t text anybody. Somehow, at 3:00, her brother’d be outside waitin’. With, like, a… The kid with muscles over a dashiki. So he was a badass. But that girl was, like, the leader. She’d get ’em all quiet. “Shut up! Let the teacher teach. Go ahead, teacher. Teach.” She was just over it all, like… Unless the teacher said something they didn’t like. They’d all hiss. “Then we became the land of the free.” “Sss, land of the free.”

Yeah. So that’s the original… The people I was talking about till 1965. Black, Puerto Rican, Italian, Jewish, I… Like, that’s the original New York personality till 1965, whatever. And it’s opinionated, loud, pushy, cynical, fast, you know… And, of course, politically incorrect. In those days, people spoke ethnically. A little, you know… Obviously, it’s better today. There’s a lot less racial tension now. – [loud laughter] – But, what I’m saying… In those days, the first thing people said was racial. The first question they’d ask you… “What are you?” And you’d have to answer. They’d ask your ethnicity first. Forget about avoiding… Now, try to get a white person to say “black.” “What race was he?” They’re like, “Oh, God. Oh, shit.” This is bad. This is bad. This is bad, huh? In those days people would go, “What are you?” You could only be four things at that time. Black, white, Puerto Rican or Chinese. That was it. If you tried to be something else, people would dismiss it. You’re like, “Well, I’m half Honduran and half Filipino.” “You can be Puerto Rican or Chinese. So make a decision.” In those days, first of all, prejudice and racist, two different things. Racist, systemic. Prejudice, individual. Some people would be prejudiced, but systemically, they were fair. The store owner would be, “Hey, wait your turn. You’re not next. Get in the back of the line. The colored lady was next.” So… Individually, he was prejudiced. Systemically, he was fair. We had the black bus driver, hated white people. And, like I say, New York characters, the point of those New York characters, is that most of them are prejudiced. That’s part of the charm… Nice people are very nice people. Sincere, like I said. They’re supposed to be sincere. Boring. Not the most exciting people you’re ever gonna meet. You gotta have a little bit of a crummy at… We had a black bus driver, hated white kids. We rode public busses to school. Sometimes you’d get him. You were excited. Everybody on the bus liked it ’cause it was a little bit of a story instead of the usual nice driver: “Hi, come on on.” I’d get on, try to make my friends laugh, pretend I couldn’t find my bus pass. “Sir, I know I have it here somewhere.” “You better have it. You ain’t gettin’ on this goddamn bus without it. You white people run this country. You don’t run this bus, unfortunately for you. I know you think you do, but you don’t.” I’m like, “Sir, it’s here.” “You little cracker, I know what you’re doin’. I recognize you.” “Sir, it’s here.” “You goddamn devil. Get in the back of the bus.” And he’d be yelling, “White devils! I know what you do!” Everyone’s like, “Whoa.” Laughin’. It wasn’t a commission-forming moment back then. But now, even nonethnic thing… People are very touchy. The New York characters. The obnoxious fan at the game. You can tell they’re influenced by society now. “Hey, ump! You’re crazy! No offense to anyone with mental illness in their family, obviously. Obviously, it’s a serious issue. We need more funding for research. Hey, ump! Why isn’t there more funding for research for mental illness?” Cranky old ladies. “Turn that music down, you little bastards. Unless it’s a legitimate form of social protest, in which case, I understand.” The construction workers… girls walk by. Now they’re like, “Whoa. Look at that strong, independent woman.” Nah. I know girls are like, “Bullshit. They still harass us.” Okay, fine, ladies. Yeah, because all those pe…

It’s also the Internet, obviously, took away a lot of New York characters. Because, like, Yelp, perfect example. Yelp was a person. Now you read: “I didn’t like this place.” In those days, you wanted to find out if the deli was good, some guy was human Yelp. He’d come in. “Gimme a sandwich. Whoa. He’s not makin’ my sandwich anymore. This kid, he’s stingy with the relish. This little… You make it.” Like he’s givin’ the guy a treat. “You make it from now on.” Directions, you know. Now you got Google Maps, Waze. Five… It’s dispassionate. “Make a left. Go 500 feet.” “Stop. Make a U-turn.” “Congratulations, you’ve reached your destination.” In the old days, you had to find directions guy. Every couple of blocks, there was a guy, pretty effective, be out there. Miserable. Didn’t get along with his wife. So he was always standing outside, waiting… for somebody. You pull up. “Hey, this guy looks like he knows where he”… “Where you tryin’ to get to?” He had to shame you. Part of the ritual. You’re like, “The Van Wyck.” “The Van Wyck?” “How’d you get here if you’re tryin’ to get to the Van Wyck?” You can’t even answer that question. He starts tellin’ other people. “This guy’s tryin’ to get to the Van Wyck.” This guy’s not helpful. “Where’s he comin’ from?” What does that have to do with it? “The Van Wyck.” The whole block’s embarrassed. Then he starts grandstanding ’cause he’s got you now. The kids are in the back. “You kids okay with this guy drivin’?” Shut up. And, yeah. The difference was, like I said, negativity. That’s what makes humorous characters. New York was supposed to be a negative town. A city of misery and complaint. That’s the whole point. And the positive people were the psychopaths back then. ’Cause they just came out of some program. You’d see them on the streets. “How you doin’?” “I’m doin’ great. How are you?” I should’ve crossed the street. I forgot this… “I heard your girlfriend left you.” “Blessing in disguise.” [groans] “Heard you lost your job.” “Best thing that ever happened to me.” Oh, Jesus. Now people try to be positive. I see them all the time. They come, move here. My building… Guys get in the elevator, fuckin’ lacrosse equipment. “What’s up, man?” “Nothin’.” “So what’s goin’ on?” “Same thing that’s up, coincidentally. Nothing.” This guy goes to me the other day, I swear to God, in New York City… It was sunny. “How much are you lovin’ this sun?” “Not as much as you are apparently, ’cause… you seem to be loving it like an Aztec priest after an eclipse. Calm down.” I’ve seen the sun, like, 2,000 times. I’m over it. I’ll be honest with you. I got it when I was young. The sun. The only thing that does create New Yorkers out of all the people that move here, thank God for the true misery creator, right here, this makes… You take… if you can’t see it. This… takes nice, Midwestern girls, peppy, life coach, motivational speaker personalities… Nine months, you’re walkin’, that hits your hips, like eight times a… Like six times a month, you’re like, “Shit. Oh, yeah. I’m rat in a rat race. I forgot.” ’Cause you can take the nicest girls. They’re all chirpy, happy. After nine months on that subway… One day, you’re on the subway, they’re on the subway, you hear the announcement. “Sorry for the delay. Someone jumped on the tracks and killed themselves.” And they’re like, “You gotta be shittin’ me right now. What the hell?” ’Cause it’s ugly. That turnstile… First of all, no one ever lets you in. They’re off the train. They don’t need to hurry, and they still won’t let you go in when you’re tryin’ to catch the train. You have to wait for somebody whose eyes look weak and vulnerable enough. You have to make ’em… Some middle-aged Canadian tourist lady, and you’re like… [grunts] Yeah. That’s not nice. She’s like, “Sorry. Oh, my God.” Yeah, you’re sorry. And you go down to the train. The train closes in your face. I hate… The train close… Movin’ away. People just look at you. They don’t even look like, “Sorry.” They just look at you like… Or if you’re on the local and the express is there, and it just pulls away. Instead of waiting the extra 30 seconds till people can get off. Come on. Unless I’m on the express. Then I’m like, “Let’s go! Quick, before… ” You hope the conductor doesn’t see the local comin’ for some reason. Like, “Eh, let’s go.” Yeah, ’cause I think I’m better than people if I’m on the express. I think I’m better than the people on… I mean, literally, they walk across the platform tryin’ to catch… They look like suckers, like this. Fuckin’ idiots. [grunts] Pleading eyes. Weak. And the subway in the old days, it was so psychotic. There was more of a bond. It was more of a community. Like, no guy would ever sit if a woman was standing. ’Cause, you know. The guy could be 103 years old, just got out of the emergency room, still got the hospital bracelet on. Female Olympic athlete. Everybody’s like, “Get up. Give her your seat.” Now, guys, because of the iPad, they can pretend they don’t see. Got the headphones, sitting there. A woman’s nine months pregnant. The fetus is kickin’ me in the forehead. He’s like, “I didn’t feel it.” “You don’t feel that, you son of a bitch?” Here’s the difference. The subway now… There are poems on the subway. The MTA puts up “the darling buds of May.” “The city awakens from its slumber of winter.” In those days, the MTA put up signs all over. Saw them a hundred times. “Remember, it’s chain-snatching season. So… So tuck your jewelry into your clothing and turn your rings around so the stones don’t show.” That’s the mentality. It wasn’t: “It’s chain-snatching season, so if you see something, yell for a transit cop, the conductor.” No. It’s: “It’s chain-snatching season. Somebody’s about to get robbed. Make it not be you. Better them than you. Tuck your shit in so it’s not you. It’s gonna happen, but it might not happen to you if you tuck shit.” The subway was so bad, people would blame you if you got jumped. You’d come back, cut. “I got jumped on the subway.” “What happened?” “I was on the last car.” “Last car? You deserved what you got.” Only an idiot would go on the last car. Even the transit cops wouldn’t go on the last car. They’d be like, “Is that the last car? I’m not going in.” The whole city had, like, this other vibe. All the things you say now, the associations then were… A talk show host would be like, “I was in Central Park.” Everybody would be like, “Oh-ho.” That was a joke that you got mugged. Not at night. Like, anytime. Central Park. If you told somebody, “I saw your mother on 42nd Street,” they would physically try to kill you. That was the biggest insult you could say. “Your mother was on 42nd Street.” People would fight all the time over that. Now, they’d be like, “Yeah. She works”… The New York Times building is there. They got the Graduate Center. She’s doin’ something with Playwrights Horizons. I don’t know. Times Square was freakin’… Times Square, you’d get off the train. Port Authority, walk outside. The pimps would be lined up like Citi Bikes. They’d be lined up where the Citi Bikes are now. All of them just standing there. A couple of empty slots. 42nd Street was porno, drug dealers, and then, like, 20 shirtless guys with nunchakus. ’Cause there were five martial arts stores on 42nd Street. Guys standing’ there swingin’ nunchakus. Everybody’s just watchin’. People go to a play. Nobody went out to dinner after the theater in New York. Nobody stayed in Times Square. People wouldn’t even applaud. They’re like, “That’s the end of the show. Let’s go. Come on.” Yeah, it was psychotic. I mean, people started to accommodate criminals. People told you, “Bring 20 bucks with you.” “Why? What if I get jumped?” Because the mugger started to know. “People aren’t gonna bring money? We’ll kill a few people.” They started killin’ people for havin’ no money. So you’d bring mugger money. That’s what they’d call it. The muggers knew about it too. “Gimme your money.” “I left my wallet home.” “You got your mugger money, right?” “Of course I do.” I mean, I’m not… Yeah, people started writing notes to the car thieves. You’re writing “no radio” and putting it in the car. I’m not sayin’ one day. I’m sayin’ the whole city did for 20 years. “No radio.” “Who’s that for?” “The car thief.” I corres… Puttin’ correspondence with the car thief. Could have had their own stationery. Would’ve made a lot of money. The car thieves would read it. They’d be like, “Come on, man. It says ‘no radio.’ Can’t you read? Let’s go” The city was a hellhole, but it seemed more authentic. The people were more down to earth. Like, the difference between Mayor de Blasio and Mayor Koch. Two mayors of New York. Mayor de Blasio gets up there. And just… “We need crucial, critical, fundamental steps to remedy and measures to address some “of the challenges and the obstacles that we face.” Once in a while, he’ll throw a little New York thing in. “As we New Yorkers say, ‘Forget about it.’” [groans] Koch was always in a wrinkled shirt. He just got out of… He’d be at the Kew Gardens Senior Center. You know. Some old lady’s yelling at him. “You promised us last year there’d be a stoplight on Parsons Boulevard. Well, I haven’t seen anything.” He’d just start yelling at you. “Lady, you oughta get your head examined.” “You have a screw loose. There’s no money. You’re not getting that. You wanna cross Parsons Boulevard? Run. I’m running across right now to get the hell outta here.” He had no bodyguards. Just get on the E train by himself. “These ladies make me sick. I’ll never go back to Kew Gardens again.” Yeah. The New York personality. The cynical, opinionated, brutal, loud… You’d think it was gone. No. That’s the only immigrants that make it here, if you’ll notice, are the ones that have all those qualities. They’re not, “Hey, tired, poor.” They got a shit attitude. That’s how you make it. Starting with the Greeks. They came in the ’60s. Rude-polite, that’s what they do. They were rude-po… Turnover. Their whole business in their diners was turnover. So they’re welcoming you in, but kicking you out at the same time. They’re like, “My friend, I love it. I know. Eggs, bacon, home fries. You like the French fries better. Give him the home fries. Give him the check. “Come on, let’s get him out of here. The fuck outta… Come on. Kick him.” They loom over the stool. Send him to the cashier. They always blame the cashier. She’s the only non-Greek in the place. She’d have the bouffant hairdo and the cat glasses. You know. You think she’s just some old lady. She was an Instagram star today back in the ’50s. Like a real hottie. Like a Miss Subways runner-up. The hand job queen of Ebbets Field or some shit. She went to high school with everybody from… the real goodfellas. She’s like, “Yeah, they were cowards. My boyfriend beat the shit outta half of those guys.” You can’t be nice and last in the city. I witnessed it. Haitians and Jamaicans got to New York in the early ’70s. Right away they had to be tough. The Haitians, first of all, they were fearless. They weren’t tough, just fearless. Nobody could hit them harder than their father. Their father would come up to school and beat them in the middle of class. [Haitian accent] “Who are you to disrespect these teachers?” They weren’t scared of any kids. They’d just quote the New Testament. ““By scribe and Pharisee, you do not intimidate.” The Jamaicans would quote the Old Testament. [Jamaican accent] “Abraham and Jacob.” And Jamaicans… Fun historical fact. Jamaicans were the first black guys it was socially acceptable for white girls to date. Before it was okay to date black Americans, I heard it all the time: “She’s goin’ out with a black guy.” “He’s Jamaican.” “Oh.” I don’t know why. Pot. Bob Marley. I don’t know, folks. I just report it. Then, um… the Chinese and Koreans came. Notice, the Japanese had to go to Fort Lee. They couldn’t stay in the city. ’Cause they were polite, tryin’ to be friendly. Chinese are not on a charm offensive, to put it mildly. First of all, they kept the Lenape Indian’s cigarette thing going. When the rest of the city abandoned smoking… You go to any one of the four Chinatowns in New York, it’s like they never heard of Mayor Bloomberg. “Yeah. There was Giuliani and then this guy de Blasio.” “There was a guy in the middle.” “Don’t worry about it.” Not friendly. They’re workaholics. Workaholics aren’t frie… Koreans. They tried to make Koreans… Remember in the ’90s? Koreans are unfriendly. They gotta be friendly. They tried. They had classes to try to be friendly. But it’s just not what they do. They try. “Hot enough for y… I can’t do this. I can’t. I got four hand trucks to unload.” They just wanna work the whole time. No one’s ever leaning at the Korean deli. Nobody’s ever leaning. You got a 40-year-old guy stocking the shelves. Twelve-year-old girl’s working the register doin’ her homework. The 100-year-old grandfather sittin’ on a crate, pickin’ snow peas at 2:00 in the mornin’ by himself. Once in a while the manager… here’s the vacation… after a 20-hour shift, walks out and leans on his own body weight for ten seconds. Then they’re like, “Break’s over.” “I know.” The only friendly thing they did, they brought flowers. There were no flowers at the bodegas before… The Koreans just showed up with flowers in the ’80s. They must’ve thought that was enough. But they don’t go near them. They make the Mexican guy guard them. Mexicans do every job nobody else will. Even among the immigrants, I’m sayin’. Like, all the immigrants make fun of how lazy we are as Americans. Like, “Oh, I hurt my foot. I need a vacation. I’m American.” Mexicans make fun of how lazy the other immigrants are. That’s how much they work. They’re like, “I only put 18 hours in. I’m Korean.” Dominicans. Dominicans came over. First of all, Dominicans came over 1980, ’81. They had the Puerto Ricans goin’, “Who are these people blasting music, staying up all night? I’m tryin’ to sleep. I like a party. A party’s a party. There’s a time and a place for a party. And they’re speaking Spanish. I understand it, but I don’t speak it.” The Dominicans, they made themselves right at home when they came here. Because the first non-Lenape Indian… The first immigrant resident of Manhattan was a Dominican, a Dominican trader named Juan Rodriguez. That’s a true thing. Some trader who’s like, [Dominican accent] “I come to trade. You don’t wanna trade. I don’t wanna argue with you, but I came here. I bring sugar. And you wanna hand me… I don’t want beads. I go home and then… They’re gonna think it’s gang-related. I don’t fuck around.” Some Dominican, he was the first Manhattan resident, basically, except for the Lenape Indians, was a Dominican trader.

Russia… How do you think Russians lasted here? They’re more sarcastic than all of us. You ever try to small talk a Russian? I’m at the Sheep’s Head Bay train station. Beautiful Russian girl. “Boy, this train is late.” “Yes, and mindless chatter will not accelerate.” Yeah. Albanians? Albanians, big part of New York. I’m not even gonna say anything about Albanians. And that should say everything you need to know about Albanians. You know. East Indians? East Indians. Friendly everywhere else. New York? They had to learn how to fight. And I’m saying… They fight. They’ll never raise their voice. But they always gotta get the last word. The guy’s outta the store. The trouble’s over. They gotta get a shot. It brings them back. The guy’s drunk. He’s like, “Fuck you, Bin Laden.” He’s like, “Okay, sir. Go and smoke crack. I don’t know where you’re gonna… ” The guy’s like, “What did you just fuckin’ say to me?” “Nothing, sir. Please leave. I don’t want trouble.” “Just shut up.” “All right. You are uneducated person. I understand. Even you go in jail, your family happy and relieved too.” Arabs. When I was growing up, there were a lot of Arab candy store, grocery stores in Park Slope. And all the Arab stores… Even as kids, we knew, don’t rob the Arab store unless you absolutely… The other stores banned you or something. All the other stores, you run out with the candy. You shopli… The owner runs three feet. He’s out of breath. “I’m callin’ the cops.” Arab guy… First, you go in the store, there was never anybody else in there. It’s always deserted. He’s 130 pounds, lookin’ at you. And then he realizes, these kids aren’t buyin’ anything. They’re here to shoplift. You see a look come over his face. It wasn’t fear. It wasn’t anger. It was, like, calm. Just like, “I see. Now, my destiny is this.” Usually, I’d chicken out right then. Once in a while you’re like, “Aw, screw that,” and run. He starts chasing you. You turn around two blocks later, still chasin’. You drop the candy. He doesn’t stop for his own candy. ’Cause now it’s not even about that. It’s about a principle. You know, like a… Code of Hammurabi. Like, his store… It’s like eye for an eye. Tooth for a Three Musketeers bar. You know. But that was the beauty of New York was… It still is. You can go into a store, you’re in another country. You walk in. The guy’s Pakistani, got a beard down to here. In the back, the uncle. Everyone’s sittin’ on crates playin’ a card game that was outlawed during the Crimean War or some shit. You know? And, gettin’ a cab… Before stupid Taxi TV… Every time I’d go in a cab, you’re in a different country. The guy’s, like, on the phone to Senegal. There’s some music playin’ from Central African Republic. There’s a little amulet from, like, his village when he left. They’re like, “Good luck.” It’s a big deal. It’s a drama… To him… Like, you see him, he’s livin’, like, five people sleeping in shifts. But he goes home once a year, Senegal. He’s like LeBron when he went back to Cleveland. He’s the star of the village. They’re like, “I told you he was gonna come back. You said he wasn’t, see?” The amazing thing is everybody from every country packed in a little city. One-hundred-sixty languages in Queens alone. But you’re not supposed to mention ethnicity of course. That’s the other problem. You just have to vaguely look around and golf clap. If you see something, you’re not supposed to have a reaction to it. Even if it’s another culture and it shocks you at the beginning. Forgive me. If I’m walking on Roosevelt Avenue, and I see a couple of Ecuadorean guys in cowboy boots, carryin’ 50 slaughtered guinea pigs on Sixth… I’ve seen it. Like Apocalypse Now. Just all these skulls of guinea pigs. I reel back, almost knock over the guy on his prayer mat, doing his call to Mecca next to the food cart. If I go, “Oh, my God,” a well-intentioned white person scurries over to explain cultural relativity to me. “You know… hillbillies also cure their food, and they’re hyper-religious. I don’t know if you realize. So you shouldn’t say”… I’m like, “Thank you. Where once I was blind, now I can see. Thank you. “Until you came along, I don’t know what…” Because they want, you know, everything to be authentic, artisanal, vinyl, but when it comes to ethnicity, go generic-speak at all times. I was in Brooklyn once. This kid got mad at me. He’s like, “You see somebody pass here?” “What’d he look like?” “What’d he look like? He had a green shirt, a brown tie, blue jacket.” “What color was he?” “I don’t see color, all right?” I mean, if you don’t want to see color, go to Brooklyn. It’s 100% white now. When did that happen? I mean… Brooklyn’s so white, they have Black Lives Matter protests, half the protesters are white, in Brooklyn. I’ve seen white kids yelling, “Black lives matter,” at black cops. And they’re tryin’ to… They’re tryin’ to say… They’re tryin’ to say, “I’m tryin’ to protect you from yourself.” I go on the L… When I was a kid, L train… Wouldn’t go near the L train. You couldn’t catch me on the L train. You know… I go on the L train now, 2:00 in the morning, it looks like a ski lift. Kids with iPads out. IPads, cell phones. Like, $400, in their hands. When I was growing up, any train, immediately, your money in your underwear, your bus pass in your… Now, they’re sittin’ there, $400 basically. A train full of kids. And you know there’s gotta be one guy who was in jail since 1979. Just got out. He’s on the L train goin’ to stay at his mother’s. And he was, like, the hardcore gangbanger. He’s, like, the guy that killed Mike Tyson’s pigeons. He’s just half asleep and wakes up and sees a car full of white kids holding $400 in their hand. He probably just starts crying. “This is all I ever wanted when I was a… I had to go to the Upper East Side to find white people.”

In those days, there were no blond people. The only blond people were… Greenpoint was all Polish. But nobody ever saw it. You just heard about this place called Greenpoint. Nobody would be on the G train. That was like, “What are you doin’? G train?” It’s packed now. In those days, it was deserted. And Polish people, who also contributed a lot… They were big immigrants. They contributed a lot to New York. I didn’t talk about them. In those days, people would make Polish jokes. Talk about stereotype. They used to say Polish people are stupid. That was the big joke. Polish people are stupid. Cruel. And why? There’s not even a reason for it. Why? Because they said, “We want to live in the neighborhood that’s so close you can almost touch Manhattan, but by train it takes two and a half hours?” I don’t know. I’m sure they have their reasons. They have their reasons, folks. It’s not for us to say why they did. They have their thing. I’ll tell you a Polish joke right now. It won’t be the same, but it’ll still be funny. Times change. You wanna be sensitive. Here’s the Polish joke. A Polish guy… See right away, even that seems tone-deaf to me. No because there’s gotta be a guy in the joke. Like, a Polish guy… Could be a girl. Let’s say it’s a girl. A Polish girl. A Polish girl. Hey. Hey. Let’s open it up for that matter. A Polish member of the LGBTQ community. A Polish member of the LGBTQ. No. I tell you what. We’ll bring it back. This’ll cover… A Polish guy, but he self-identifies as a Polish girl. All right? Forget it. We’ll start… A person of Polish extraction. It has nothin’ to do with the punch line anyway. If I have to rely on that for the punch line, where’s the… A person of Polish… And when I say Polish, obviously, it’s a little reductive to the rest of Eastern Europe to say Polish. No, because Eastern Europe, there’s a… I don’t want to marginalize the rest of Eastern Europe. ’Cause that’s punching down. And comedy never punches down. It only punches up. I’ve read that from 50 people that never did comedy. They all said… [laughter] What? All right. Listen. Here’s the joke. I’m not telling this again, but you can tell this on the way home. A featureless, colorless, nonsectarian… non-gender specific… person… of indeterminate origin… walks into a bar. Um… When you’re careful and nice and sincere, that’s fine. It’s not funny. Funny. New York was clumsy. New York’s, like, the city… It’s just reckless. It’s impulsive. It’s accidental. The whole city is an accident. This whole city was an accident. It wasn’t even supposed to… Henry Hudson, the explorer that started this whole… He was on his way to China. He was tryin’ to find China. I swear to God. He got lost. He’s comin’ down the river. Here’s the Lenapes lookin’ at him. “What’s this?” He comes over. They’re like, “What’s up?” He’s like, “I’m lost. I don’t know where I’m goin’.” “You’re lost? Where you tryin’ to go?” He goes… He goes, “China.” “You’re tryin’ to go to China.”



[rock music playing]

♪ To the left and to the right, buildings towering to the sky ♪
♪ It’s outta sight ♪

Thank you. Thank you.

 ♪ In the dead of night ♪

Good night, guys.

♪ Ooh ♪
♪ Here I am, and in this city ♪

Thank you.


♪ With a fistful of dollars ♪
♪ And, baby, you’d better believe ♪
♪ I’m back, back in the New York groove ♪

Thank you.

♪ I’m back, back in the New York groove ♪

Good night. Thank you, upstairs. Thank you. Thank you. ‘Night, guys.

♪ I’m back, back in the New York groove ♪

Thank you, folks.

♪ Back in the New York groove ♪
♪ In the New York groove ♪
♪ In the back of my Cadillac ♪
♪ A wicked lady, sittin’ by my side, sayin’ “Where are we?” ♪
♪ Stopped at Third and 43, exit to the night ♪


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read More

Ramy Youssef Monologue SNL March 2024

Ramy Youssef Monologue – SNL | Transcript

Host Ramy Youssef performs stand-up about the holy month of Ramadan, getting a call from the Biden campaign and ends with a prayer for the end of suffering in Gaza and for the liberation of all hostages.

Tig Notaro: Hello Again (2024)

Tig Notaro: Hello Again (2024) | Transcript

Notaro faces absurdities, from hallucinatory texts to a surreal Hollywood meeting. Her life provides fodder for standup routines, including a late night encounter with a mustachioed fireman that makes her rethink things.

Access Our Archive
of Stand-Up Transcripts

Weekly Magazine

Get the best articles once a week directly to your inbox!