It is a surprisingly sunny late-afternoon day in Queens. I’m sitting along Shore Drive under the shadow of a large rusted-red bridge the locals dub “Hell Gate”. It’s nice out. I mean really nice. The kind of nice that makes you appreciate New York again. The type that quickly dissolves away any stretch of sobering, depressing earlier city months.
My mind starts to drift.
I’m struggling to stay focused on the immediate task at hand, but failing miserably.
It’s the damn doves again. Every time with these guys. It’s that low-mellowed “cooo-ing” that takes me back to a time or memory I can’t even begin to fully remember from my childhood. Damn doves. Now it’s the trees. These lush, green row of perfect trees…just being their wonderful over-romanticized selves. Off in the distance past the water is a perfectly, unrecognizable view of Manhattan. For a second, and if you frame it right, you can entirely forget what city you’re in. What a scene… and it’s all Ted Alexandro’s. I mean… plus the dozens of other neighboring generations of Greek and culturally diverse families too but – also Ted’s. Just from the way his particular building sits, it could be argued that this whole wonderful scene taking place is his “front yard”.
..Sigh… I want a view…
I snap out of my limbo and start to recall one of his bits where he speculates on the idea that maybe he finally “did it”. “It” being age 44 (at the time), single, never-married and having no kids resulting in an applause break from the audience. Is this what “it” is? Is this whole scene the source from which I deem his infinite wisdom and prospective stem? How do you sum up a man in a few sentences? I’ll give my best shot.
Ted is fine-paced and razor sharp in his delivery. To me, he’s a true working class comic who’s traveled, gained insight from abroad and one who has “seen some things” as grumbling old men like to say. Ted actually “does”. He takes action and knows that an overlapping flag on your Facebook profile is not a end-all solution. Ted’s been an avid activist and voice in everything from the Women’s movement to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign to The Black Lives Matter movement and even to supporting local LIC bakery workers under the threat of unemployment in his community. Ted’s informed and that he’s not easily coaxed by flashy-commissioned-street-mural-type-of-guy mentality is quite admirable.
Ted shares what New York means to him….
I grew up in Queens in a town called Bellerose. So NY has been home pretty much my entire life. But not until I started comedy did I feel more of a sense of ownership or belonging in Manhattan, which is really what most people associate with New York City. Part of growing up in Queens is feeling a bit like a stepchild, just outside the magic kingdom.
But as I got older I appreciated Queens as its own magical place. It’s the most diverse county in the entire world and you feel that, good and bad. Good in the sense that you feel like a global citizen and develop a respect and awe for the wide range of cultures you encounter every day. And bad in the sense that you suspect a lot of people come here fleeing dire circumstances. And now NY is more expensive and unforgiving than ever. I think there’s a palpable sense of heartache just below the surface, all over NY, really, but especially in Queens. There’s a sadness that is somewhat poetic in its hopefulness and/or resolve.
Ted’s answer to… “A Comedian walks into a bar…”
and quickly walks out realizing he or she would rather be at a comedy club.
Asked to re-tell a favorite joke, Ted shares a favorite joke from Jonathan Katz of Dr. Katz fame (this might not be the exact wording):
I was in a crowded elevator in NYC and the elevator operator said “Please call out your floors.” But because of his NY accent, it sounded like “Call out your flaws.” So I said “I’m impatient with the elderly.”
What’s on Ted’s mind…lately.
I’m getting married in October so that has been on my mind. Planning a wedding is a big undertaking. It’s a partnership, but not an equal one. I’m really the Vice-President of the wedding.
Best advice he can give/or has received…
I was a jazz piano major in college. One day this older musician came in to speak to us. He said “Now is the time to be busy. Say ‘yes’ to things. Be busier than you think you can be or maybe even than you want to be. You will look back on this time as a time of growth and building friendships that will last a lifetime.”
I still vividly remember that guy. I took his advice and worked hard and took on a lot. He was right. Now that I’m older, I don’t like being busy all the time, but I do think it’s good to pick your spots and occasionally take on more than feels comfortable.