Hump day. I remember when I first learned what this term meant (I was an innocent, bright-eyed intern during my sophomore year of college), and despite the glaring double entendre, it’s not as dirty as you think (oh wait, did you not think it was dirty?). Wednesday: That annoying day in the middle of the week when you have to get over the hump of already having dragged yourself into work a couple times that week, but the weekend’s still a couple days away. And since it’s not quite Thursday yet, it’s not necessarily appropriate to round up your friends to drink after work for happy hour. (Unless you work for the government. Then every day is appropriate for happy hour.)
But! Not to worry, the perfect remedy to your hump day blues comes in the form of free comedy and free live samba music. (I know, I know, almost too good to be true!) Having tested this Wednesday night itinerary myself, I can confidently give it my “good times” seal of approval. Although I’m not one to readily leave lower Manhattan, I’d read about The Big Terrific comedy show in Williamsburg and had been wanting to go. Luckily, the show’s venue, Cameo Gallery, is right off the Bedford L stop, and I’m always willing to explore the city in search of hilariousness (…or delicious food or culture appreciating or socializing or general fun times–okay, so I’m a fun times whore and my criteria is pretty broad… the truth is, I’ll go anywhere you want me to–except for Jersey).
So I assured a fellow Manhattanite that no, we would not need visas to go to Brooklyn (heh), and we braved the trip to Sixth Street in Williamsburg. Our first stop was the aforementioned Big Terrific comedy showcase, hosted by Internet comedy darling Max Silvestri, and his two friends Gabe Liedman and Jenny Slate. The weekly Wednesday night show is completely free, and–despite its lack of a cover charge–actually totally funny. Held in Cameo Gallery, a nondescript stage in the back of the Lovin’ Cup Cafe (which is presumably a bar, and not a cafe), you might never guess the hilarity that occurs here every week–except for the glittering streamers hung from the ceiling that, upon second glance, is arranged in the shape of what could only be a large fluttering penis. (Appropriate. Of course.) Max Silvestri starts the show with his nerdy/pseudo-intellectual/awkward/hilarious brand of stand-up, and Gabe and Jenny do a ridiculous but side-splitting tag-team bit at the end, and in between are a rotating lineup of guest comedians, which have included Aziz Ansari, Zach Galifianakis, Sarah Silverman, and (fellow Georgetown alum–what up Hoyas!) Mike Birbiglia. Ever heard of ’em? A bar in the back of the room serves cheap drinks, which for a lesser show could help facilitate the laughter–not that they’re necessary here. Cracking up is the norm; cringing at bad jokes the rarity. Arrive just before 8pm to get a seat, but there’s standing room aplenty. For all the awesomeness that is free, genuinely funny comedy, the show still hasn’t become overly crowded or hyped.
After you’ve laughed it up, and thought to yourself, “Thanks, Karen, for the tip!” (any time, guys : )) you’ll probably find yourself wanting to continue the fun with Brazilian drinks, music, and people. (This may apply to only a very small subsection of my readers… perhaps even none… but… just roll with it.) Surf Bar, just a few doors down from where The Big Terrific takes place, looks like a Hawaiian tourist shop exploded, took a hit of acid, and rearranged itself in the form of a bar in Williamsburg. As one Yelper put it, “Conceptually this place is ridiculous–in an awesome way.” All sorts of surfing paraphernalia and kitsch–leis, surf boards, Hawaiian shirts, hula dancing dolls, old pictures of surfers, newspaper clippings, neon lights–adorn the walls. Four inches of sand covers the floors! It’s certainly not the hippest bar in Williamsburg, but my friend happened to see written on the chalkboard outside that Wednesday nights just also happen to be Brazilian night. And in case you didn’t know, it is actually a fact that all Brazilians know how to have a good time. We entered the bar just as the samba band was about to start up again. And at the first beats of the music I knew we had to stay.
This was a perfect dose of nostalgia for me, as I listened to the guitar notes gliding quickly and fluidly with the tambourine in syncopation, watched the dancers’ feet keeping time with the beat of the drum, and let the singer’s voice lull me back into my love affair with the Portuguese language. Ai que lingua e musica lindissima! (Another fact: Brazilian Portuguese sung is one of the more beautiful things that exists in the world.) The Brazilians I met at this bar drive in every week from Queens to dance the night away as the band plays samba and forro classics. And of course, no Brazilian night would be complete without caipirinhas, Brazil’s national drink. Not all caipirinhas are made equal and the ones at Surf Bar are strong, large, and smack of the real thing from Brazil–and also pack a mean hangover like the ones in Brazil. Drinking cachaca, having sand beneath my feet for the first time in much too long, the heady samba music coursing through me, being a smart-alecky little Asian girl busting these Brazilian guys’ chops in Portuguese–it was surreal and wonderful at the same time, and stirred up a lot of saudades for Brazil. Happening upon this place was the frosting on my metaphorical (penis-shaped) funfetti comedy cake.
Now, how’s that for a Wednesday night lineup? If you’re looking for more ideas, I’ll hit you up with yet another Wednesday night event, the Moth, in a later post.