Two months into 2016, New York City seems even safer than ever — and yet, there’s a curious, crazy uptick in slashing attacks.
That’s not funny. And yet, the first thing I thought of was a comedian, Doug Smith.
Smith has thought of this, too. In 2011, the stand-up comedian stepped in to stop a man from sexually assaulting a woman on a subway platform, only to get slashed in the face. With a lasting scar to show for it on his cheek, Smith eventually brought his unique New Face to Montreal’s Just For Laughs in 2013. And now, tongue still planted firmly in scarred cheek, he has made a satirical self-defense webseries, “Secret Weapon.”
The debut premiered a week ago and finds Smith teaching us how to use a pizza slice two ways to ward off an attacker on the sidewalk.
Episode two of “Secret Weapon,” out today, takes the self-defense lessons into even more absurd territory.
The Comic’s Comic tracked down Smith to find out more.
You made these three episodes last year, and are putting them back out there now because of the news in NYC, yes?
“I shot the series last year and decided to hold off making them public on YouTube. I wanted more traction so I spent the past couple months trying to pitch it to different networks as a TV series. But when news of all these recent slashings broke I realized I can’t sit on this. Just get it out there. If it’s gonna resonate with people and catch on, it’s gonna be now.”
What did you think when you first heard the news that slashings were now a trendy crime in NYC?
“When I first heard about this recent slashing spree I thought, ‘Awesome! This could be really great for my career!’
Honestly, it’s quite scary that so many innocent people are getting randomly attacked like this. My incident involved me actively intervening in a violent altercation. You could say I was kind of asking for it. But to just be standing on a train platform thumbing through a magazine and BAM you’re standing in a pool of your own blood??
It’s crazy and it makes me genuinely worry for loved ones because there is no specific demographic or location where this is happening. It’s completely random. If the only people getting slashed were the ones playing Candy Crush at full volume on a rush hour train we’d all be like, ‘Oh, well that makes sense.'”
And how long did it take for you to recover — both as a human, and as a comedian — after you were slashed?
“As a comedian we’re always hungry for joke fodder. The night it happened I remember standing on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Houston waiting for the ambulance to arrive. I had a wad of napkins stuck to my face, my jacket soaked in blood, and all I could think was, ‘At least I’ve got a new 10 minutes.’
I totally rode that wave of attention, too. Milked the shit out of it. Got more spots in those first couple months after the attack than I do now! Then I went through a period where I didn’t talk about it on stage at all. Didn’t want it to be a crutch. Didn’t want to be the scarface comic. Now enough time has passed that I do enjoy talking about it if I’m doing a longer set. It doesn’t feel like a gimmick and I’m able to look at it from an even more objective standpoint now.
In terms of physical/emotional recovery, it really wasn’t that bad. Got my stitches out after 10 days, hopped up on Vicodin in the meantime. The worst part was 2 weeks after I got my stitches out and I noticed a clear liquid dripping out of my scar. It kept up for a few days, I went back to the doctor, and they discovered a duct leading to my salivary gland had been severed. I was drooling out of the side of my face. They scheduled surgery to fix it but those next couple weeks in limbo were the worst part of the whole ordeal. I was literally walking around with a maxi pad taped to my face to absorb all the saliva. Everytime I would eat I would just turn into a slobbering Saint Bernard. I felt like such a freak. Then the day before I was scheduled to go in for surgery, the drooling stopped. It healed on its own, thank Christ. They would have had to carve me up all over again.
I never really thought I had any PTSD from it. I still go back in the same subway station all the time, I can use a razor blade without quaking in fear. But about a year ago I was riding the train and some wackadoo was pacing the car screaming at the top of his lungs, punching windows, really throwing a fit. Everyone was just staring at the floor trying not to make eye contact. I was finishing the last few bites of a slice of pizza, and subconsciously just started folding the paper plate, not taking my eyes off the guy. He gets off at the next stop, I look down, and I’m holding a perfectly crafted shank. Sturdy, sharp, could really do some damage. And then I just started laughing to myself realizing how paranoid and hyper vigilant I’ve become. I never would have done something like that before the attack, but now I’m constantly on the lookout, suspicious of everything, and that’s where I got the idea for the series.
In Secret Weapon I’m like the Bear Grylls of New York City, giving tutorials on urban survival, all of which backfire or lead to greater danger. A lot of the other episodes I have written involve tutorials on how to safely pull off illegal activities such a public urination and stealing from overpriced restaurants. It’s really just a guide to urban living from a blowhard who is completely off base all the time. But it’s not far off at all from the real me. I’m happy with the outcome and I really hope someone gives me money to make more episodes so I can wear that vigilante psycho outfit for the rest of my life.”