Off the Rails: A Brief Recounting of a Particularly Rocky Set from NYC’s Beloved Transit Comic
You will not find this up-and-coming comedian on any best of 2016 lists, he hasn’t yet acquired the coveted Comedy Central half hour—hell, I doubt he’s ever been on any comedy club stage.
But if you’re a regular rider of the 2/3 train, you’ve come across The Transit Comic.
Needing no host’s introduction, this homeless stand-up comedian delivers jokes not even Carlos Mencia would steal. Not because they’re poorly crafted but because they’re utterly his own.
No dick jokes, nothing about Trump (thank god), this act is an argument for socioeconomic diversity in the arts, lest I hear one more joke about broken indoor pool heaters, however ironic.
Whether chastising us for making a mess of his home (the subway car, of which we are his guests) or revealing the recipe for a poor man’s champagne (a water with two Alka-Seltzer tablets), I am at once amused and educated every time I hear him speak.
Never straying far from the same five-minute set, he performs for the full spectrum of humanity from morning commuters, infuriated at the interruption, to Saturday night partiers, delighted for the entertainment nightcap.
I recall one time with the latter group he even got a standing ovation! Although maybe it was just people applauding while getting off at the next stop…
An amateur comic myself, I’ve had the same set bomb at a 3 p.m. open mic and kill at a 10 p.m. bar show, so I feel a perhaps inappropriate kinship with this man who, despite the emotionally disparate crowds, has never once blamed the audience.
Never once… until the night of [insert random night because it’s not like I remember although I swear the following is mostly true]…
It was definitely the evening of a school night, which is what I still call Monday-Thursdays, despite being in my late 20’s.
I was that asshole on the subway on his laptop, working on my own five-minute set for an upcoming gig at Carolines Comedy Club, when who should enter at the Times Square stop but The Transit Comic (I really have to ask him his name next time we cross paths).
He launched into his tried and true set, which had grown so familiar I found myself mouthing along at my favorite parts. But this time, something was different.
On the other side of the train, a man, hereafter The Transit Heckler, whose name I will never nor never want to know, lost his goddamn mind.
“SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT THE FUCK UP! [repeat]”, he bellowed.
Our train’s brave headliner, however, did not waver, able to maintain his comedic rhythm despite the atonal chorus of expletives.
Then the heckler went after his material.
“THIS SHIT ISN’T FUNNY! WRITE SOME NEW JOKES, MOTHERFUCKER! A WATER WITH TWO ALKA-SELTZER TABLETS!” he delivered the punchline in the middle of the set up, having probably heard the joke just as many times as me.
That’s when The Transit Comic lost his goddamn mind.
What followed could have aired on truTV’s Comedy Knockout, however, they censor curse words so it would have been utterly unintelligible.
One line that I’ll never forget though, from the homeless humorist himself, “This rich ass motherfucker thinks ‘cause he got a goddamn apartment he can come up in my home and treat me like garbage!”
Fortunately for any lingual prudes, we soon arrived at 72nd street, where The Transit Comic made his grand exit, returning only seven times to stop the doors from closing so as to shout just a few more fuck you’s.
Finally, the doors closed.
But the hecklers mouth remained open.
“Fuckin’ motherfucker running his godamn fucking mouth. I work three fuckin’ jobs, I don’t need to hear that fuckin’ bullshit on my way home. Unfunny ass motherfucker! [repeat]”
That’s when a third passenger lost his goddamn mind, me.
“Hey! He’s gone, so why don’t you shut the fuck up!”
“WHO THE FUCK SAID THAT!?”
My first thought? Save my laptop. I knew I should have set up that Dropbox account. Nowhere have I backed up the priceless comedic gold contained in my wittily titled word document, “Jokes 2016.” If anything happens to that hard drive, the world may never see my insight into Jewish Birthright Requirements, Comparing Politiciansto Nazi’s, or the tale of the Sloppy Vampire!
Laptop safely tucked into my rucksack, which is just a backpack who am I kidding, I then ask myself WWJD. Not Jesus, no; a different JC: Jackie. Fucking. Chan.
ladylinette One of the best subway comedians ever. Never seen him sitting down or so sad. Sat across from him last night. Smiled at him and he smiled back. #ayquehoya #leanback #train #subwaycomedian
I analyze my surroundings, how could I use the poles to deliver a surprisingly high kick? Perhaps a commuter’s Trader Joe’s purchase included linked sausages I could use as impromptu nunchucks? What about my own backpack? I had a bag of baby carrots in there; ninja stars? But they were also my only means of consuming a container of soon-to-expire hummus back home.
Oh! I could roll up my New Yorker magazine and… I’m screwed.
“WHO THE FUCK SAID THAT!?!?” he repeated, louder than the first time (which I’ve tried to indicate with two ‘!?’s’). Now he’s making his way down the aisle, sure to realize the fuck who said that was not any of the exclusively elderly women who occupied my bench.
That’s when I spotted a beefy man across the way who looked on his way home from several CrossFit classes. I knew not this man’s name, but I was fine with, “my hero!”
We lock eyes, and with a small, simple, swift chopping motion over his chiseled throat, he assures me, in no uncertain terms, he is in no way going to help and is, in fact, just as scared as me.
“WHO THE FUCK SAID THAT?”, at this point rhetorical as he’s now standing right in front of me when-
DING! 96th street.
I run out onto the platform.
I loop back onto the train.
I run back out and onto a 1 train across the platform.
He follows but not before the doors close, our faces inches yet miles apart.
“Stand clear of the closing doors, biatch!” I exclaim (in my head, lest the doors reopen), and off I go, simultaneously relieved to be safe and annoyed that the 1 train takes me, like, seven avenues away from my apartment.
I’m loathe to learn lessons from my experiences, lest history fail to repeat itself and I run out of stories to tell.
However, the moral of this story seems too clear to ignore: maybe I should shut the fuck up.
Also, if you ever see this comedian, even if it’s the tenth time you’ve heard the same set and the jokes feel stale, give him a buck or two. The only difference between him and those with Netflix specials are circumstances.
God bless the buskers, even when we’re not in the mood.
Lastly, I’m happy to say this incident, while quieting me, has had no effect on the Transit Comic as I saw him quite recently, reminding me to clean up before I left his home.
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[Feature Image Courtesy Instagram]