Benny’s Eulogy to Grandma’s Basement: It Was Amongst the Comedians, It Was Real Borschtbelt Shit

It Was Amongst the Comedians, It Was Real Borschtbelt Shit
– by Benny Bosh
One of our favorite comedy clubs has just closed its doors. Here’s a eulogy by the man that started it all, Benny Boshnack

 

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a comedian.  To me, being a comedian was better than being President of the United States.  Even before I got an after school job at the Hojos, I knew I wanted to be a part of them.  It was there that I knew I belonged…


Okay. Sorry, that was from Goodfellas.

Sorry about that.  It only seemed natural.  I wanted to do the whole thing, but it kinda stretches on too long. There’s a great part too where I could sub in Gary Peterson instead of Tuddy Cicero because it’s the same number of syllables…Gary ran the Mic and a few other shows for his friend John Pauly.  Or, and my mother was happy when she found out the Petersons came from the same part of Sicily that we did…okay that one makes no sense, but this’ll be my last one…It was amongst the comedians, it was real Borschtbelt Shit.  Actually I’ve just now decided to title the eulogy that.

 

Okay, if you don’t know me, then the opening to this Eulogy doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  If you’ve seen the movie Goodfellas it should make some sense to you.  But if you know me, it makes perfect sense to you.  I think, speak, eat, sleep and breathe movie quotes.  It’s a problem.  I’m not even a real person anymore.  I’m slowly just becoming those quotes, but this isn’t about me, it’s about our friendly neighborhood Comedy Club(that was a Spiderman reference, came outta left field).

I haven’t read everybody’s Eulogy. I read Shawn’s, and a lot of it was about me, so naturally I gushed and loved it.  I read Christa’s. I have a feeling a lot of these things have a similar feel to them so I’m gonna try to make this stand out and unique and tell you THE TRUTH GODDAMMIT, THE TRUTH!
I started Grandma’s Basement back in the fall of 2008, There was Tommy and Pauly and me, and there was Gary Pee Pees who got that name because he peed all over everything…ahem, lemme try this again.

I started Grandma’s Basement back in the fall of 2008, THE TYRELL CORPORATION advanced Robot evolution into the NEXUS phase – a being virtually identical to a human – known as a Comedian…

Sorry.  I’m done now.  Not with the Eulogy, and not even with the subbing in movie quotes for reality in the eulogy, but just that intro.  Anyways, Grandma’s got started, basically, as a way for me to fill time at the bar, and as a way for me to force myself to do more comedy.  It’s not all that romantic.  That’s it.  Just another stupid comic, who thinks he has something important to say.  Let’s try to keep the origin story short and sweet.

 

I was bartending and managing the bar then, as I did(with a few intermittent breaks) for the next 5 years.  I had very little idea as to what an open mic really was. I’d been onstage about 3 times prior to this, two of those times were at one of the all-time horrendous venues for comedy, the All-Asia.  RIP to that place as well, are they closed yet?

 

Anyways, now I feel like all the origin stuff is gonna take too long and it’s boring. Okay, the mic went from 1 to 3 to 5 to 12 to 40 something patrons over the next year, right?  Then I hired Tom, then we started booking more shows.   A year or so passed, all is well.  More shows.  Then I left for a while because I wasn’t feeling well.  Place starts to get even more noticed.  Then I come back, more shows, then Tom leaves, then I don’t feel well, Gary takes over, then I go to China, Sox win the World Series as they had the season before I started working and the Hotel is sold and to be knocked down.  Fenway is minus an amazing historic landmark.
I’m having trouble writing this.  I don’t know if I’ve written the story 50 times before, or if I’ve never written it before,
but I keep thinking of all the things I don’t want to do while writing it.  I don’t want it to sound sappy.  I don’t want metaphors(I think they’re metaphors), I don’t want to romanticize.

 

Okay, I think I’ve found the angle. For me, Grandma’s Basement was never an accomplishment, it wasn’t hard work making it into a great place for comedy.  I mean, for us to live any other way was nuts.


To us those goody-good people who worked shitty jobs for bum paychecks and took the subway to work and worried about bills, were dead.

Benny's going away party

They were suckers, they had no balls…sorry.  Anyways, it’s true.  Gary and Tom may’ve worked hard, but I never once felt like I did.  We would book shows last minute, I’m sure over half the shows had little to no audience, we were all put in there to skim the joint dry….that’s Casino, the count room.  We never stole anything…honestly.  And honestly, yeah, the room saw success not because of hard work, enough people just caught on after a while.  We basically said, awright, we’re gonna have these shows here Wednesday through Sunday, and if people wanna show up that’s fine.  Ya know, that’s how I felt about it.  Seriously.  Again, that’s not necessarily how Tom and Gary feel.  In fact, I’m sure they feel the opposite way.  But for me, it really was about being around friends.

 

Greats shows were a perk, and there were lots and lots of great shows. But I just liked hanging out with friends. There’s a very specific trap, that’s probably fairly new to comedy since the open mic craze took after after all the clubs died out, where people get too comfortable performing in front of their friends all the time and performing to comics and many of us fell deep into that trap at Grandma’s Basement. I fell all the way to the bottom of that pit, dammit, is that a metaphor?  Or maybe I’m okay with metaphors, but I hate analogies.  Okay, yeah, so I’m at the bottom of that pit right?  And I don’t give a fuck.  

Fuck your fuckin’ comedy theories, and your fuckin’ bookers and this idea that you’re doing something wrong when it’s so evident there’s joy in what you’re doing. I had friends.  

 

We became friends and we didn’t need an audience to do that.  At it’s best, Grandma’s Basement was a room full of maybe a dozen or so exhausted, troubled, slightly inebriated, paranoid and anti-social beings known as comics making each other laugh harder than we’d ever laughed before.  Every late Thursday was that.  It was a laugh-off.  Who’s gonna tell a wilder story, or say a meaner thing…who’s gonna burst through the door and everybody cheers that there’s one more comic added to the list?  My favorite place to be on those nights was always sitting behind the bar, watching, laughing my ass off, serving drinks and feeling like, I orchestrated this.  Not out of hard work or talent, but just by being nice and making friends.

the parking lot where everyone knows your name

Friends.That’s what really matters. Not a room. It was a great room. An amazing little place, but how often did you go outside? I used to live just to step outside of those shows.  I couldn’t stand listening to comedy more than half the time.  But I’d go outside, and see 6 or 7 friends, one of them always had a cigarette for me, and if we weren’t making each other laugh outside, we were holding each other up, telling each other we were gonna make it through this life. Honestly, there was a lot of people telling me that.  Because I don’t know how you’re supposed to make it through this life.  It’s a fuckin’ mess.  Friends. I’m pretty sure that’s the answer. I guess we need somewhere to congregate, and Grandma’s Basement became that place.

I could go on for days about all the great comedy at Grandma’s Basement.  It’s useless.  Shitty Movie Sunday was unique.  And could not have been a worse business model.  Hey!  Let’s close the doors and turn the lights off and tell the three random people that come in they have to be quiet…we’re watching the latest Triple H movie in here and we’re trying to be funny during it!  Shawn Donovan’s album recording I will probably always think of as the greatest show that took place at Grandma’s Basement.  A packed out room completely and utterly thinking as one unit, like, this kid has something that needs to be said.

 

Ya see, this is what I don’t want to do, I don’t want to do the whole walk down memory lane thing…but I will say this.  There was some horrendous, horrible comedy that took place there.  For shame.  Things that were said, by myself and others.  I want to apologize for some of those shows.  No harm was ever meant, we were a bunch of dumb kids, learning…

 

I left Grandma’s Basement, that bar, that job…like 3 times.  The first time to just try and get another job, thinking I could do better, I couldn’t.  I went back.  The second time because I started to get really troubled with stuff in my head.  I went back, and dealt with it.  Then I got better. Then the stuff in my head came back with a vengance one night, at Grandma’s Basement, and I had to leave again.  That’s when I made the handoff to Gary and ultimately, after coming back once more mostly to bartend and make some cash, I decided to do something I pondered for years and move to Asia.

 

They talked about knocking that place down for years.  Ever since I took the job they said it, I really didn’t believe it would ever happen.  I still don’t, necessarily think that it will happen, to me that hotel is a historic landmark that can’t die.  But I didn’t always feel that way.  In all fairness, I used to hope for it.  I wanted them to knock it down just so I could move on, because I could never find a better job than that, and as such I spent the better part of 5 years standing in a Hojo’s bar.  I never thought it was a waste of time, I just didn’t like the idea that I was stagnant.  Lemme move on!  I’m addicted to this place!  I fuckin’ despise that line comedians use about, “blah blah blah, and we’re in a hojos!  what the fuck?  how’d I end up here?” Fuck you you dummy.  You’re in a hojos, it was the best place ever.  Who cares if it was in a fallen hotel chain.  Can’t you look around and see that you’re in a special place?  And get past names and preconceptions??  Stop making that fucking joke you idiots!

 

So now I’m in China, Shanghai specifically, and I’m really mental.  Like I definitely came here on an escape route somehow and I’m finding out, oh, this hell in my mind is totally and completely real, and it’s fuckin’ unavoidable.  We are in hell.  And we have to deal with that.  How I came to that conclusion is another story.  But anyways, when I escape I try to swear off comedy.  

I know where this road leads, success isn’t really success it’s just a step closer to Michael Richardsing it someday when your back’s against the wall. But I try to swear off comedy, and I can’t do it.

 

I get frustrated at work or in my personal life and I NEED an outlet.  Maybe it’s not a need, maybe it’s a want, whatever it is, I appreciate that it’s there.  As it turns out, Shanghai has the only comedy club in mainland China.  I have since become a part of the comedy scene and I’m seeing this club(Kung Fu Komedy) rise to it’s power.  It’s amazing to leave one scene and find another, see the differences and similarities.  But again, the shows are great, and I’m loving stand-up again, but it’s not so much that that I needed.  I needed the friends. I needed the bullshitting, the cigarettes(I’ve since cut back), the beers, the philosophizing(is that a word?), the FRIENDS.  I just romanticized again, yeeeesh.  Sorry.

 

I never really watched the TV show Cheers all that much, the line, “You wanna go where everybody knows your name” has since become the ideology of really every bar and pub.  That’s what great bars or restaurants are like.  Friendly, hospitable, they take care of their customers.  

Grandma’s Basement epitomized that line, maybe no more than any other bar or club, but who cares. It was ours. It was a race war every night. And it was all love.

To leave you with two quotes, one, an obscure line from an animated character in a kids english animated program, and two a well known line from a very famous movie and one of my favorite quotes from any movie.  One is Roddy, the main character in the EF learning books and cartoons, one of the first things Roddy says in the video is “Where are my friends?”HIs friends being a bear, a hedgehog, bird and a frog.  He then proceeds to find them, and they’re happy. Me and my boss laugh at this line all the time and say it aloud. But back home, despite whatever was going on with your life, you could come to Grandma’s and be with your friends.  You knew where they were.  Your fucking friends goddammit!  You have friends!  How amazing is that?!  I feel so blessed to have so many friends that I met at Grandma’s Basement.
The other line is from It’s A Wonderful Life, “No man is a failure who has friends”.  Nothing rings more true to me.

You can list accomplishments for ages, but you gotta have friends to share them with.

A picture Benny drew of his going away party. Coincidentally, it resembles the Shanghai skyline.

Friends come in all forms and they accept you in all forms and we have a long life ahead of us.  I hope and pray I never lose ANY of you as friends.  But I don’t mind losing a building that we once hung out.  It is a wonderful life. Try to always remember that.  I love you so much and miss you all.  Thank you for being part of Grandma’s Basement but more importantly thank you for being part of my life.  I realize this turned into something else but I haven’t spoken to any of you in a while, so, whatever.

I’m doin’ the best I can here!!!  What’s Eating Gilbert Grape…it’s in there, go back and watch, any ways, that’s it I think.  Wait. I just went back to re-read this to check for errors and realized I should’ve quoted another Jimmy Stewart movie, Harvey.  There’s a whole monologue from that movie that I may tattoo on myself someday…ya know what?  Fuck it. I’ll type it out and that’ll be that.
We’ve entered as strangers and soon we have friends.  And they come over and sit with us and they drink with us and they talk to us and they tell about the big terrible things they’ve done.  And the big wonderful things they’ll do.  Their hopes, their regrets, their loves and their hates.  All very large, because nobody brings anything small into a bar. – Elwood(Jimmy Stewart in Harvey)

Just got choked up. Love you guys and miss ya.

Come to China or I’ll see ya soon.
Love,
Benny


Benny Bosh

Benny is a contributor for UnSceneComedy.com