Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day 21 - Hi, I’m Jax and I’ll be Your Cruise Director

August 29th, 2009

Today seems to be turning out to be very HOST-CENTRIC themed. Tonight, I’m MC’ing at Gotham Comedy Club and it looks like a bi-weekly show that I’ve been wanting to produce and host (consisting of comedic and musical talent) has finally found a home at Meades Bar at the South Street Seaport. I truly enjoy (and if dare say, have a l’il natural ability for) hosting, Mc’ing and warming up audiences. Looking back, I think this is a skill that has been ingrained in me for quite some time.

Growing up in the south, children inevitably learn the ins and outs of the fine art of southern hospitality. Warmly welcoming visitors into our homes was an essential fabric to our upbringing. Plus OUR house had a swimming pool(although kind of not in tip top condition) and a giant basement(equipped with foosball table dartboard and bar.) What went "down" in the downstairs included the following; turning the space into a comedy club for my dad’s 40th birthday(a little foreshadowing perhaps?), having innocent pre-teen “rites of passage” moments and on the day of Super Bowl Sunday 1986 (while watching Space Camp on Beta Max) witnessing my older brother tackle Danny Silvers (resulting in a few stitches in Danny’s head. ) So yes, come to the Kabat’s basement. If you’re lucky, “There Will be Blood.”

My love for hosting continued into high school and to this day friends from my teenage years still shower me with accolades. “I don’t know what it was..but your parties were just the best.” One of my gathering’s success can be credited to throwing the party right after our school’s annual blood drive. Get it? Blood alcohol level works in the favor of getting wasted. Just wanted to be sure. I'm a giver. Memories include people hiking to my house during the snowstorm of 1993 to get to the good times, the stoners introducing marijuana to our yellow lab Honey and some drunk poor soul nibbling on cat food(Tender Fiddles.) The only negative recollection was when someone maliciously got hold of my mom’s CD’s and the horrific sound of Michael Bolton belting “Time, Love and Tenderness” made the party come to an awkward stand still. I think I had one of those slow motion cinema moments where I ran through the house(gracefully leaping over coffee tables and people hooking up) to turn off the music all while screaming that slow mo low muffled “Nooooooo.”

Similar successful parties followed in college and when I moved to New York. Sometime it’s fun to answer the door smiling wearing an oven mitt even when there are no baked goods to offer. It’s just a nice visual. My New York parties(that I threw at my Upper West Side apartment in my early years and later at venues for my annual Halloween Gilda’s Club Halloween party fundraiser) just seem to work. I think it comes down to having a random mix of friends who are all decent individuals. Good people get along with other good people. I get off on seeing my corporate lawyer friend hitting it off with my heavy metal friend. If I can set the tone of making them feel comfortable.. the bonding and good times seem to take care of itself.

What’s interesting is “making people look and feel good” is the essential rule to comedy improvisation(and in my opinion, it is also crucial to stand up and Mc’ing.) When I perform, host and teach, it kind of feels like my party. But it really isn’t about me. It’s about my audience and my students and making them feel like they are as comfortable as a Yankee in Dixie. Perhaps I should start handing out Mint Juleps. So it seems helping people have some fun while also providing some degree of comfort is in my genes. Most recently, this knack took me to the Good Morning America Studios. Here is 2 ½ minute clip of when I MC'd for a marketing campaign for eBay. At the ABC studios, I warmed up 15 audiences for a live game show called "LET'S MAKE A DAILY DEAL" that was hosted by Mario Cantone and Monty Hall.

As much as I struggle to praise Miss Oprah Winfrey, she did(at some point pre-Tom Cruise destroying a perfectly good couch incident) say something rather astute.

“Find out who you are and do it on purpose”

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