Book Excerpt: “Meet The Regulars” with Sasheer Zamata and Michelle Wolf, by Joshua D. Fischer
Joshua D. Fischer began interviewing famous fun and funny folks for the blog, Bedford + Bowery. After talking to a couple dozen such people, Fischer decided to expand his project into a book. "Meet The Regulars" finds Fischer meeting people at their favorite spots in Brooklyn -- 41 interviews, 123 photos, four illustrations and a map in all.
Fischer's collection of "Regulars" talking about their joints includes Andrew W.K., Seaton Smith, The Lucas Brothers, Jessica Pimentel, Kevin Corrigan and NY1's Pat Kiernan.
The book just came out, and is available wherever you buy books now.
Here are two excerpts, featuring Saturday Night Live's Sasheer Zamata and The Daily Show's Michelle Wolf. Enjoy!
Michelle Wolf of Late Night with Seth Meyers Gets Her Stride Back in Brooklyn Bridge Park
Michelle Wolf is talented. And she even has a secret talent I learned about during her photo shoot. Sure, I already knew that the thirty-year-old is a successful stand-up who writes and performs on Late Night with Seth Meyers. I was already a fan of her character Grown-Up Annie, who visits Seth to tell him all her sordid exploits in her tight red baby-doll dress that she’s just a touch too old to wear. I knew that she tours the country and shares the bill with major stand-ups at legendary rooms like the Comedy Cellar in Manhattan. But what I did not know is that she can do a mean vertical jump that looks like she’s in mid-sprint with one leg in front and the other in back. So, yeah, this is one talented funny lady.
Originally from Hershey, Pennsylvania, Michelle went to the College of William and Mary in Virginia. There, she was on the track team. But when she suffered an injury, her college sports career ended before it could take off. “I didn’t grow up with a lot of money,” she said. “So I moved to New York to make money.” After a stint working for financial giants like Bear Stearns and J. P. Morgan, Michelle discovered improv and then stand-up comedy. From there, she launched into a full sprint, left the desk job behind, and never looked back. While she now lives in the West Village in Manhattan, before that she lived in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn for three years. Every day, she’d run at beautiful Brooklyn Bridge Park. The faster and farther she ran, she explained, the faster and further her career in comedy took off.
The reason I run is that it’s the only way I can de-stress.
I’ve come here to run any time before a big thing has happened in my life. The day before I started at Late Night, I ran here. The day before I went in to my interview for Late Night, I ran here. The day before I got my first TV spot—the night before, I was running here.
You run down to the end and the city’s all lit up. It’s super dumb and sentimental, but I look out on the city and every time I felt like I was making steps further and further. Like I’m really doing this. It felt like I was progressively succeeding in the city more and more.
Track was my first love. The day before my very first meet freshman year, I got a third-degree ankle sprain practicing long jump. I never fully recovered. That was my first heartbreak. I thought I’d be a coach. I wanted to do more in exercise science—that’s what I was studying: kinesiology. I thought track was going to be something that was going to happen in my life. It never went in the direction I wanted it to, no matter how hard I tried.
Getting back into running was very hard. I wasn’t in the same shape I was before. I felt like I was too slow and fat. I was like, “This sucks; I’m not good at this.” When I started running down here, I was doing a loop that was a mile. And then I’d add another mile. And then I could do it every day.
I don’t really have much of a personal life. I do comedy. I work. I work out. And I do stand-up. I don’t date. All of my friends that I had before I started comedy, with the exception of maybe two, I’ve lost in the process. They got mad because I couldn’t go somewhere or do something.
The only time I’m ever at a bar is if it’s for comedy or after a show. I don’t go out to dinner. I don’t meet up with people. Mostly because I’m working. I’d always rather be doing comedy than anything else. Maybe I’m also antisocial.
I’ve never been in a relationship. I don’t make time for it. I don’t like commitment. I’ve never really seen a relationship work so I don’t really understand the point of it. I’ve done really cool things in comedy so far, and I think part of it might be because times that other people were on dates or making time for other people, I wasn’t. Not to say that’s the better option. I’m sure those people are, like, healthier.
Brooklyn Bridge Park is where I felt like I could start to go fast again. I like to run fast because all I think about is breathing and running. So I could not think about anything else. Clear your head, you know? There’s a million different things going on all the time, plus I’m always on Twitter and looking at my phone.
I also do this weird thing when I run—I’ll say things like, “If you stop here, how do you think you’re going to make it in life? If you keep running, you can keep doing anything. If you can’t even finish this run, how are you going to make it in comedy?” I feel like this is where I got my stride back, in this park.
For so long, I defined myself by school and track. For eight years, all I cared about was track—that was high school and college. When I lost that, I didn’t really know who I was anymore. And then comedy started to get better. I started to get confident again, and I had a point of view. And running became something I could do again.
This feels like home to me. It feels like Virginia because it’s a dirt path and it’s surrounded by trees in certain places. In the spring, there’s always a bunch of lilacs, which are my favorite. It feels like I’m not in the city. As much as I love the city, I didn’t grow up in a city. Here, it’s quiet and more Zen. You can definitely see the city, it’s all there, but it’s quiet and peaceful. It’s comfortable, which was important to me.
I feel like a regular here because even though it’s everyone’s park, it feels like it’s my park. The day before [Hurricane] Sandy, everything was shut down, including the park. But I came to run anyway. It was empty. It was so dark and quiet. I felt like I was the only one there. At that moment, I felt like this is my spot.
August 24, 2015
Sasheer Zamata of Saturday Night Live Brunches and Breaks Up at Enid’s
A few years back, when she lived in the neighborhood, Sasheer Zamata was at Enid’s weekly. During those four years, Sasheer would go to the hipster bar turned hipster-parent-with-hipster-babies bar/restaurant for everything from brunch to birthday drinks to meetings with prospective managers. She’s also had a lot of dates here, she tells me. (Don’t worry, we get into that . . .) Like a lot of people lately, Sasheer was ultimately priced out of the neighborhood—Enid’s stands on the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Unlike a lot of people, Sasheer eventually scored a gig on a legendary little TV show called Saturday Night Live. So, she can now afford to live alone in Fort Greene rather than room with a revolving door of comics in illegal apartments with bedrooms without windows, as she used to do. Nowadays, she visits Enid’s monthly.
As you may recall, her hiring process was a public fiasco because, as Sasheer tells me, more than other shows, “the audience feels an ownership of this show.” Fortunately for her, the twenty-nine-year-old actress and stand-up comedian who also performs improv and sketch came out glowing. If you’ve seen her recent stand-up, you’d also know that she has even more to offer—in particular an evolving and very personal take on the politics of race and gender in America today.
While she usually goes with the mac ’n’ cheese, today Sasheer enjoys a tomato and kale frittata while I chow down on some tasty and crispy chilaquiles. Though she’s a TV star, she’s not above our trying each other’s dishes. Sasheer was born on an Air Force base in Tokyo, brought to Indianapolis to grow up, and then schooled in Virginia for college. Now she feels at home in Brooklyn and “can’t imagine ever living anywhere else in New York,” she says. Enid’s has always been a special place for her, as it was one of the first places to really connect her with Brooklyn. That’s fitting because Enid’s has both been a seminal New Brooklyn hangout and weathered the increasingly powerful forces of Gentrifying Brooklyn. It’s gone from the place to party all night and brunch the following afternoon (Brunch in the morning? Not with this hangover.) to expanding the menu to baby-friendly breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Enid’s never lost its fangs, though, as Sasheer saw for herself, “I came once for late-night action. It transforms into a totally different place,” she says. “It was hip-hop night, there was a DJ, and it was really crowded. I was like, this is not what I want right now.” Not that she’s not into “pumping it up,” she says. Sasheer likes to dance and party, but she comes to Enid’s for something more chill.
Even though I haven’t lived here in a minute, I like being able to come back and remind myself of the times I’ve had here.
I really like the decor. It’s very do-it-yourself. Just strung-up lights, and during the holidays, they’ll have cutout paper snowflakes and draw on the windows. It’s really cute. Like someone’s house. Someone put personal care into it, and I like that aspect.
I really like when neighborhoods feel like neighborhoods. I talk to people on my street. That’s why I liked Greenpoint so much. The people who sat outside my stoop on my building would talk to me whenever I came in. I don’t know any of their names, but we would talk to each other about whatever. We had a neighborhood president who would organize block parties.
If you want to meet me, you’ve got to meet me here.
I can tell if a person is cool if their vibe mixes with this place. Or if they’re weirded out by the decorations. It’s an interesting place, and I can be like, “Oh, you don’t get it.” But if somebody falls right into it, then I’m like, “I like you.”
It’s not hipster in a pretentious way, but it is a little hipster here. In a pretty genuine, “we like these things” kind of way. Not like, “we’re trying to make it seem like this place is older than it is” or “we’re trying to make it seem like we have records you’ve never heard of.” They do, but not in a way that’s snotty. I feel like I have that, too. I have particular tastes, but I’m still accessible, I’d like to think.
I’ve had a lot of dates here. I was hooking up with this guy who didn’t live in New York, and he came in town to visit one day. We went to that booth right there and were canoodling. It was so gross. Kissing each other. We weren’t a couple but definitely acting like one. The waiter was like, “Man, you guys are really, like, loving.” He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t live here. So it was just a fun, every-once-in-a-while fling.
I love brunching. Brunch for me starts at 1 p.m. It’s not really breakfast.
This other guy, we were hooking up for months. It was getting to the point where I didn’t want to do this hookup thing anymore. I didn’t want to not have a label. I was getting tired of the games. We were hanging out for a couple of months, and we had gotten brunch here. We had a really great time. It was after the holidays, so we hadn’t seen each other for a couple of weeks. We were hanging out, loving life, and he walks me back to my apartment. And then, before I get into my apartment, he’s like, “Oh, by the way, I just want to let you know, I don’t want to be in a relationship.” He waited until the whole brunch was over and waited until he walked me home to drop this information. Which, honestly? There’s never a good time to hear that. It’s not like it would’ve been better at the beginning of brunch, but it’s also like, if you already know what you’re going to say, I didn’t need you to spend hours with me in order to do that. Get drinks, something that’s shorter—we had a whole meal! Something in-and-out where I can get out of there as opposed to making me feel like this is a great time. He’s a nice guy. He was doing it in the nicest way possible, but I was like, “Fuck you!”
During the week if it’s during the day, it’s pretty chill and easy to talk to somebody. Also, I’m not at risk of somebody overhearing something I’m saying. I’m always at risk, but I haven’t felt like, “Oh, man. Is there a blogger sitting next to me that’s going to write down some gossip or something?”
I feel like I’m at an interesting time in my life where I’m actually really craving information. I’m checking out the news more, watching documentaries, reading. Just trying to figure out my place in society. I figured this would happen. Years ago, I figured I’d be more political.
After Ferguson and seeing the repetition of police brutality, I know it’s not new. I know it’s been there. We just now have cameras on our phones and can document this stuff. Seeing so many names become hashtags and there aren’t a whole lot of things changing to stop that. Or when people are still doing mass shootings and we still have guns. Things haven’t really been regulated when it comes to gun control. Or people trying to defend Planned Parenthood. There are so many things that keep coming up where I’m like, “I’m just getting really angry now.” Instead of just pounding my fist and yelling at people and writing angry words online, I want to take a step back, analyze what’s been happening and how it’s been happening. I want to take more of an analytical look at stuff and see how it can change.
I don’t feel cute right now, I feel angry. And I want to talk about that onstage.
I’m a regular at Enid’s because it feels like Brooklyn. Or it feels like Greenpoint and Williamsburg. It reminds me of a lot of my first years in New York. A lot of really good times with really good friends. And really good food.
August 11, 2015
From Meet The Regulars by Joshua D. Fischer. Copyright © Joshua D. Fischer, 2016.