Rififi Nights or Reggie Watts vs. The Cockroach
Up until this week I've had pretty normal experiences at Rififi, the popular East Village bar that hosts alternative comedy shows, burlesque acts, and free horror movie screenings. Until this weekend, I only knew the back room at Rififi as the space that hosts Invite Them Up on Wednesdays and various other comedy shows throughout the week. I've spent many a night standing or sitting in that dark room, watching Zach Galifianakis test the limits of the audience, laughing at Demetri Martin as he comments on the absurdities of English colloquialisms, or just sitting patiently through one of David Cross's sets.
But this past Saturday opened my eyes to the other uses of the back room. After taking advantage of an open bar a few blocks away, we strolled over to Rififi, where we were nearly defeated by a strict cover policy.
Guy at door: Hey guys, the cover's gonna be $8 each.
Us: Oh shit, that's alright then. (Turn to walk away)
Guy at door: You know what, just come on in.
Once in, we passed the 10 people in the front room and made our way to the completely dark back room, where one person was dancing to rave-like music that was accompanied with a trippy video featuring seizure inducing flashes and images of Garbage Pail Kids. Before I knew it, the floor was packed with a strange crowd of East Villagers, including a topless, rougher version of Daphne Rubin-Vega, who was wearing a giant Flavor-Flav style "K" necklace and what appeared to be eye black, the greasy, paint-like substance that baseball players use to reduce glare. Only she had it on her whole body.
Just when I thought my Rififi episodes couldn't get any weirder, last night ushered in a whole new level of creepiness. It was the first night of Reggie Watt's June residency at Rififi. Reggie is an amazing comedian/musician who's beatboxing skills make American Idol's Blake Lewis look like, well... Blake Lewis. Not only does Reggie provide his own improvised beats for his music, he lays down vocalized bass lines, melodies, and even three part harmonies that evoke memories of my favorite R&B crooner, Maxwell. Videos on his MySpace page can give you an idea of what he's all about, but until you've seen him live you really can't appreciate his amazingness. Anyway, we arrived a few minutes late to the 10pm show, but Reggie wasn't even there yet. The show started around 10:30, and Reggie apologized for his tardiness. Because there were no guests at last night's show, we got to see Reggie in all his glory, not just speeding through a 10 or 15 minute set. He riffed on everything from the 2008 presidential election to the Mayan calender prediction of the "time of no time" in 2011/2012. He did a ton of songs, all of which were amazing.
But the crazy part of the show came near the end of his 70 minute set. We noticed a huge cockroach creeping up the privacy screen next to the stage. Other audience members noted the presence of the giant bug and laughed. Little did we know the terror we would soon endure. As soon as I took my eye off the cockroach I saw something fly past me in my peripheral vision. People began paying closer attention as the cockroach had now landed on the doors to the backroom. When it flew over our heads and landed on the wall next to us, the panic began. Girls behind me shrieked and I stood up, thinking it was on my chair or something. Reggie commented on the craziness onstage, not yet realizing the magnitude of the situation. When I told him there was a cockroach next to us that was flying around the room, Reggie began to understand the gravity of the situation. Katie and I moved to the row in front of us, knowing the cockroach was creeping its way near our present location. Reggie stopped and asked if we had been hit. We told him we were safe for the time being, but Reggie knew what had to be done. And like Bill Pullman in "Independence Day", he stepped into action and launched the attack we never hoped to witness in our lifetime. "We have to kill this thing," he said. It flew to another part of the wall and the crowd was now in hysterics.
A brave young soldier known only by the name of "Jacob" took his shoe off and sprung up from the front row, ready to go to war with the evil-doer. After a few misses and near-hits, he killed the cockroach and saved the day. The crowd cheered and burst into applause and Reggie remarked, "You don't know how much trouble it was to get an animatronic bug to fly around the room." After the show I apologized for any part I may have played in upstaging the show, but Reggie thought the event added some excitement to the night. We agreed that the events, while harrowing and ultimately tragic, unified the crowd. It was something we all had to get through together, and we did. Reggie was our Giuliani, if you will, remaining cool, calm, and collected, while Jacob fought the enemy front with unsophisticated weaponry and a lack of tactical body armor.
None of the audience members from that fateful night will ever be the same. As we go along in our daily lives we will see things that remind us of the horrors of 6/5: car antennas, leaf shadows on the wall, Tucker Carlson, but we don't have to live in fear. Last night showed us that if we can get through that, we can get through anything. Next Tuesday Reggie will be back with an all new show. This time human guests will join in on the fun, so make sure you check it out.
Reggie displays the dead roach that fell on his keyboard (10th key from the top). The shoe that sealed its fate can be seen resting on Reggie's loop pedal.