Monday, July 27, 2009

When A Grown Man Cries

A couple of weeks ago I went with Fred, the station General Manager, to Teen Haven out in The Middle of Nowhere, PA to put together a video package. Teen Haven is a camp for kids who live in the inner city. It offers them a few days of escape and a chance to get away from what is very often a very rough home environment.

While we were there, we met the Camp Director, Vinny. At first I thought Vinny was a New York Italian, but as it turns out he's a Russian from Philadelphia. I wasn't even close. Vinny is one of those guys who has a million stories, each one of them more fun to listen to than the next. He's been working at the camp for 20+ years and it's obvious he has a heart for these kids the size of a Geno's Cheese Steak.

At one point in the interview, Vinny started telling us a story about a rough patch in his life and he became visibly moved as he retold the account. He's a great storyteller and it's hard not to get caught up in his words. This guy is a public speaker for a reason.

Not only did we speak with Vinny, but we also talked to campers and counselors (all of whom were once campers themselves). At the end of our time there, I had just over 50 minutes of footage to edit which is fine, except we try to keep the final run time of our videos to 5-7 minutes. As I uploaded the footage into the computer, I knew a lot of stuff was going to get left out that I really liked. But hey, what're ya gonna do. Thus is the plight of the editor.

When all was said and done, the final product came in at just over six minutes. I was happy with the way it turned out, but also mindful of what got cut. When you pore over footage it can be easy to lose perspective and know if what you kept tells a cohesive story. I thought it did. Or, more accurately, I hoped it did.

This morning Vinny was on the morning show with some other people from Teen Haven. Although the video had been up on YouTube for a couple of weeks, he hadn't yet seen the final segment. After he was on the air he came back to my office and asked if I would play it for him. I happily obliged. It was a little nerve-wracking watching it with him for the first time. I'll be honest, I wanted him to like it. I never want anyone to look bad (or think they do), especially if it's something I had a hand in putting together. I'm not gonna pretend I'm one of those people who says they don't care what the critics say. I care, and I want everyone to like what I put out there for them. I know that's never going to be the case, but I'm creative and that's what you get from us folk. Jerry Seinfeld put it best when he said he can perform comedy in front of ten thousand people and 9,999 people can be laughing hysterically at his comedy. After the show when he's alone in the dressing room, he said he's only going to remember that 1 person who didn't laugh. And I'm the same way. If I was a perfect Christian, I would only be concerned with what God thought of me, and not anyone else on Earth. But I'm not a perfect Christian. I'm just Ed and I gots flaws.

But I'm off-track a bit. Where was I? Oh yea. I wanted Vinny to like the video.

It begins and as he watches himself introducing the video, he chuckles a bit to himself. And then the kids come on and start telling their stories. And as Vinny watches, this tough Russian guy from Philadelphia starts to tear up. And the more the video plays, the more he wipes his eyes. By the end of the six minutes, his eyes are red, and whether it's from the tears or his big hands constantly wiping them away, I don't know.

The video went black and came to an end. Vinny turned to me and said, "We're all just pieces of the puzzle trying to work together for the greater good. You took our pieces and made them into a big picture, and I thank you."

It was so unexpected, I didn't know what to say. I paused and said, "I just tried to show what you're doing, Vinny. You're the one doing the work, not me."

"We're ALL doing the work," he said without hesitating. Vinny shook my hand and turned to leave. He stopped, looked back, and said, "Thanks again. I'll see ya later and if I don't, I'll see ya there. I love ya."

I'm glad I met Vinny.

Here's a glimpse of the guy. I hope you get something out of meeting him, too.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Can We Get A Volunteer From the Audience....

This is what I love about the internets. Sometimes you come across things you had no idea were there, and sometimes it's actually something that you're pleasantly surprised to stumble across (unlike the horrible midget dressed as Michael Jackson dancing in the subway fiasco).

This weekend I'm heading back up to New York to do some improv comedy at the National Comedy Theatre. I was there performing in May and in one of the games we asked for a volunteer from the audience. A bachelorette party had come to the show and the bride-to-be came up on stage to join in the fun. After we had thoroughly exhausted every hilarious opportunity, we thanked her, took a picture with her, and the show went on.

Today I was surfing NCT's website and came across their show blog, where they have been posting pictures of the volunteers who come on stage during the shows.I started laughing as soon as I saw the picture from that show and memories of me playing her airplane-pilot fiance came flooding back.  So enjoy this little blast from the past I didn't even know was out there.