‘…now i don’t know if you all knew this or not, but since silvio berlusconi took over italy there have been many cultural changes. he owns the television stations, the newspapers…all the radio. so he has been able to enact an agenda aimed at keeping rap music, which he deemed subversive and dangerous to the preservation of the classical italian language, off the airwaves and out of record stores. so, a whole generation of young italians don’t even know what rap sounds like. just what it looks like because the italians are always current on the latest fashion trends…’
it was another tuesday nite at the rockwood and i was about halfway through my act when a great italian drummer friend walked in with another guy. it was his arrival that had inspired this little monologue. it was about at this point when this guy sitting there with my friend enzo began to interrupt me.
‘yes…..but….’ yelling out.
‘so what we’re going to do for you folks tonite here live at the rockwood music hall……a never before attempted experiment.’
‘no!!……..wait!….’ his voice trailing off.
i was doing my best to ignore him.
‘we have american rapper mc extra cheese who’s going to sit in. and a great italian drummer, my friend, enzo, who’s never heard rap music in his entire life. and they’re going to play together!’
amid cheers and laughter i heard him. like a gnat that won’t stop buzzing in my ear.’
‘i’m telling you…..there’s a (something, something)…….listen!!’
i couldn’t even concentrate on my stupid joke. so in a fit of irritation i addressed him directly for the first time.
‘ok! who the fuck are you and what do you want?’
silence. he was silent. the room was silent. tension suddenly palpable. he was completely flabbergasted. i was mad so i ripped him a little.
‘what’s the matter? you wanted to be in the act. you’re in the act. we’re all listening and waiting to find out what was so goddamn important you just had to fuck up my flow and kill my gag………..well?’
‘i……i just wanted to say there IS italian rap. there was an italian rap group performing in new york city tonite.’
‘really. that’s it? that’s what you wanted to tell us? that i’m mistaken? that actually italians do know about rap. well thanks for settling that. can i go on with my act now or do you want to tell us something else like, i don’t know, that italians use computers, too? or that they are also hooked on sodoku?’
he stood up. infuriated. i had gone too far.
‘in my jazz club the musicians NEVER talk to the audience like that.’
‘you own a jazz club? do you heckle the bands when they are trying to introduce guests?’
‘no…..i just……i didn’t know this was going to be a comedy act.’
‘well i’m sorry. one of the things about comedy is it should be funny. and i can see your not laughing so c’mon everybody let’s give this gentleman a big hand. he’s been a great sport. ann could you please get this man a couple of drinks on me? thanks.’
he put his scarf on in that italian way they do and draped his coat over his forearm. he was leaving.
‘c’mon sir. please don’t go. i was only kidding around. it’s all part of the act. right folks?’
‘no!! i am going. CIAO!!’
and he walked out as the crowd moaned and shouted,
‘no, no. don’t go.’
but fuck it. he left.
i felt pretty bad about it. matt at the bar thought i had gone a little overboard and maybe should’ve let him up sooner. he was good and mad alright. so upset he wrote a long letter to the club demanding i be banned from playing anymore. in new york city. ever. and that he was going to tell everyone he knew not to patronize the club and so on. well i didn’t want to make trouble for my great friends at the rockwood who have been so incredibly good to me. so i waited a few days and called him at his jazz club in jersey.
it didn’t go well. each time i tried to apologize (3 times total) he would get worked up all over again.
‘it’s just that i…..’ this or that. you know, the kind of conversation you can only have with an irrational woman. and i kept my cool. became more measured and would start all over.
‘well. yes sir. i just wanted to apologize and say i was sorry for offending you and to invite you to come down anytime with some friends and drink on me.’
‘you know. noone has ever talked to me like that! NOONE!! not ever!! i didn’t know it was going to be a comedy act…….’
i was later told that there probably wasn’t much i could’ve done. this gentleman is calabrian and it seems it is the nature of these people to hold a grudge for a very long time. enzo told me there is an italian saying when it comes to apologizing to calabrians:
if you say you are sorry and walk away, he will shoot you.
if you say you are sorry and stand there, he will stab you.
but if you jump down a well, he will forgive you.
jump down a well. old school.
the next week there were two young girls right next to the stage so involved in a loud conversation that when i stopped talking and the whole room was quitely watching them and listening in, they continued to chatter. i cleared my throat loudly into the mic,
they both stopped. looked up at me. looked around the room at the people watching them and were suddenly mortified. i looked up at matt runnig the sound and he smiled but gently shook his head.
‘hi ladies. you are looking very pretty tonite. thank you for coming.”