10/21/16 11:32pm
The Guy (Ben Sinclair) gives us a peek into his own life for the first time in the finale. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

The Guy (Ben Sinclair) gives us a peek into his own life for the first time in the finale. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

One of the more commonly held themes (maybe even beliefs) about New York is that it is a pit of loneliness, where you can never feel more isolated while surrounded by millions of people. 30 Rock encapsulated New York’s uncanny ability to grind you down perfectly here. This can feel like a shitty city, especially during any given rush hour on the subway. In High Maintenance’s season finale, however, the final story they have to tell is about the kindness of strangers and acquaintances, that sprouts like weeds (nice) through the cracks in the pavement.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. After a season of stories all across the map, this episode focuses on one of its main, underlying themes. This is a city where people don’t just lock their doors, they often deadbolt and chain them. That can start to feel pretty normal after a while, even if you grew up in a rural area where people don’t carry around house keys because the door is always open, but it has a psychic effect as well: we become closed off, silos living in our own personal narratives. High Maintenance is actively trying to fight this mindset, to open us up to the world around us, to the human stories going on right under our noses. Most of all, it’s trying to open us up to our neighbors, either because they can help us, or we can help them. (more…)

10/14/16 11:32pm
Hannibal Buress (playing himself) and The Guy (Ben Sinclair) go deep on meta this week. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

Hannibal Buress (playing himself) and The Guy (Ben Sinclair) go deep on meta this week. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

We live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by media. Our interactions with the world are filtered through our phones, to the point that even television shows conceive of “second screen experiences” for us to look at and interact with when not watching the actual program. Most of us get our news through aggregators of news, repackaging content in smaller, easily digestible, easily forgettable pieces. When a friend tells us they’re “taking a break” from social media and deleting their accounts, it’s pretty commonplace, if maybe seen as a bit extreme. Is there any other technology in our lives that could feel so oppressive, we actually have to physically remove its presence? And yet media is so ubiquitous that we can’t actually escape it, so the result is a strange and tense relationship with media, as this week’s episode, “Selfie” illustrates.

“Selfie” goes heavy on the meta. It’s a creative reflection not just on the characters, but on the series itself. Given how politically fraught this year is, maybe there hasn’t been enough time for High Maintenance to go through the typical cycle of critical acclaim and then suffer the backlash of a thousand think pieces (we hope this is true, at least), but the show’s creators seem happy to confront their own demons before anyone else has a chance. This is a hard look in the mirror that they’re taking, asking themselves if their concept itself is problematic.

The episode doesn’t let us forget that the show traffics in privileged territory, where tales of a drug dealer operating in New York are allowed to be whimsical because the weed dealer, and many of his clients, are white. Whether critics give the show a pass on this or not, creators Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair don’t seem to want it. (more…)

10/07/16 11:30pm
Kristen Hung, Clem Cheung. photo: Craig Blankenhorn

Joon (Kristen Hung) and Wei (Clem Cheung), two can-collecting parents in New York. Photo by Craig Blankenhorn/HBO.

A baby plays in the living room of a Brooklyn brownstone while her mother tells The Guy about their trip to Montauk and the tick that bit her daughter. She laments about how they didn’t even really want to go, and now a tick will “murder” their daughter. “Don’t blame the tick, babe,” her husband responds, “It’s the Lyme Disease inside the tick that will kill our daughter.”

“Like a ticking time-bomb,” The Guy interjects with a grin at the pun. But is it a pun, The Guy? IS IT REALLY???

Though the title of this week’s episode “Tick”appears to directly reference that anecdote, The Guy’s word-association is a more appropriate interpretation for this episode. Through the juxtaposition of families, generations, relationships and even objects and technology, this episode presents a meditation on time, how the passage of it affects us all, and what we can and should expect waiting for us.

While it might seem downright morbid to think about time in relation to us (it keeps going, we don’t), and how one day it is we who will be out of touch with current trends and our own children, there’s a positive message in the image of recycling throughout the episode. Yes, it’s depressing to think about growing old and being out of touch, and more depressing that your attempts to hold onto youth are mocked, but it’s still possible to regain your youth and be transformed into something new, even if it means smoking weed and going to day raves. It’s possible to be recycled into something new, and it’s also possible to find a community of people who don’t care that you’re an Old who sometimes says “Ha-cha-cha-cha!” (more…)

09/30/16 11:30pm
Beth dances for Gatsby's love. via screenshot

Beth dances for Gatsby’s love in his doggy fantasy. Via screenshot

Well, fuck. I thought I had this series figured out. But episode 3 of High Maintenance just defied almost every convention set up by the series to date.

As we’re only three episodes into the season this statement may not bear much weight, but: “Grandpa” is the best and most beautifully complex episode so far. This week’s story introduces us to Gatsby, the dog who moves to The Big City from Indiana.

We had to know a transplant story was coming — it’s the tremendously incisive High Maintenance, after all — but this was an especially refreshing and original take on it (literally from a dog’s perspective) and there are some honest to god real emotions there. With that dog, man. That fucking dog has gravitas.

Gatsby is a listless dog who gets into trouble around the apartment, but only for lack of any real attention or affection from his owner, Chase (Ryan Woodle). Chase’s first response to the dog’s unruly behavior is to get him a dog walker, Beth (Yael Stone of Orange is the New Black).

Beth made brief cameos earlier in the web-series as well, selling mushrooms to Chad and The Guy in “Sabrina” and then buying weed from The Guy in “Esme.” In a stunning fantasy sequence that emerges through Gatsby’s patient gaze while he watches Beth drinking from a water fountain, we see the dog falling hopelessly in love with her (the way she “presents” herself to Gatsby in that erotic dance will always be the kicker for me). (more…)

09/29/16 3:00pm
The ladies of Buzz Off Lucille, a feminist comedy group that gets to work for Lady Parts Justice.

The ladies of Buzz Off Lucille, a feminist comedy group now with Lady Parts Justice. Credit: Alex Schaefer Photography

In case you’re hearing for the first time, we happen to be in the middle of a pretty important election year. I know, it snuck up on me, too. And as if the usual white noise of platforms and spin weren’t enough, we’ve been forced to deal with the absurdity of candidates who literally refute recorded evidence of their actions and accusations of “coughing prevention machines.”

In all the ridiculous chatter it’s hard to remember that there are actual issues that people care about, such as women’s health care and abortion rights. That’s where Lady Parts Justice comes in. The organization was founded by Lizz Winstead, who also co-created The Daily Show. LPJ is committed to shining a light on the fight for abortion rights through comedy, writing, videos, and even apps.

Working in comedy while in service of a worthwhile cause, not to mention in direct contact with Winstead herself, sounds like a dream for any performer or comedy writer. Fortunately, Lady Parts Justice representatives and comedy group Buzz Off Lucille — Jenn Roman, Julie Rosing, Abby Holland, and Molly Gaebe — have some advice on how they “yes, and”-ed their way into a gig, how the moon provides, and how everyone can take part in the conversation about reproductive rights. (more…)

09/24/16 11:09am
(Shazi Raja) ditches the hijab as she tries to get The Guy (Ben Sinclair) to sell to her. Via screenshot.

Eesha (Shazi Raja) ditches the hijab as she tries to get The Guy (Ben Sinclair) to sell to her. Via screenshot.

This episode brings us two stories that are as disparate as it gets. What does an apartment of swingers have to do with a Pakistani college student smoking pot, other than New York real estate? The connection might seem hard to draw, but that’s kind of what makes this show great, and perhaps the greater message at play in the whole series. Our lives may seem so far away from each other most of the time, but seen in the right light, we can draw connecting themes and emotions, and maybe see some of ourselves in the unfamiliar, whether it’s living in a Muslim household, being polyamorous or dealing pot. That’s obviously an ambitious goal, but how do they execute it here? As with last week, the title might be a clue.

The episode is called “Museebat,” which my editor was eager to inform me means “misfortune” or “calamity” in Urdu, and then tried pushing the phonic connection to “chlamydia.” Guys, this is a game we can all play from week to week! But what kind of calamity are we dealing with? I would argue that it’s the calamity that comes when you’re living two different and incompatible lives. (more…)

09/19/16 4:04pm
The Guy (Ben Sinclair) dons a stage wig during the High Maintenance premier. Via screenshot.

The Guy (Ben Sinclair) dons a stage wig during the High Maintenance premier. Via screenshot.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” So says the bard (Geddy Lee), but Friday’s series premiere of the new HBO series High Maintenance added a new spin to it. We’re all pretty aware that New York, the home of 30 Law and Order spinoffs, is a city of infinite stories. We read and share Humans of New York, a blog that has been trafficking in true resident stories for years, and we’re always surprised at the perspectives they uncover.

But for all the stories that this city gives us, there is ever-present the lesson in humility that we’re not as quick to take in, no matter how often it burns us: everyone is playing a part, and things are rarely what they seem. And this series premiere, following the travels of a pot dealer as he delivers to his clientele, is quick to teach us that lesson right from the start. (more…)

09/15/16 11:00am
Comedian Pat Brown on the album, black comedy clubs in New York, and her worst side job ever

Pat Brown exposes herself without taking her clothes off. via website

Pat Brown has been on the comedy scene for 22 years, appearing on BET’s Comic View, in Vibe magazine, and receiving honors at the Las Vegas Comedy Festival and the She-Devil Comedy Festival, but you might only have heard of her more recently, on the occasion of the release of her debut comedy album Sex Tape, which came out this past July.

The album is a hilarious and frank look into Brown’s life, whether it’s as a black, female, or lesbian comic, or any combination of the three. Brown named Sex Tape accordingly; she believes comedy is about exposing yourself to people.

Brokelyn sat down with Brown to talk about the changes in comedy audiences through the years, the pitfalls of indie comedy, and why black comedy clubs still matter.   (more…)

08/19/16 11:56am
Via Flickr user verseguru.

Kenneth Hubriston on his way to his new home. Via Flickr user verseguru.

Welcome to the Fox Hunt, Brokelyn’s new column inviting you to tag along on a totally relatable story about trying to purchase a New York City home. 

It was last December when Kenneth Hubriston realized he needed to change his neighborhood, or else go insane. Engaged at the time in the fourth revolution of his “gap year” between an undergraduate degree and finding a job suited to his interest level, he had been paying month-to-month living in the uppermost hidden apartments of Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall, and it was clear why he hadn’t signed a lease. His downstairs neighbors were constantly playing their music too loud, particularly in the evenings, and there’s only so many times one can hear The Nutcracker in its entirety before admitting that, while beautiful and signatory of Tchaikovsky’s genius, one needs peace and quiet when watching Survivor.

And of course, there were “those vagabond cellists, hanging out every day after rehearsal,” Mr. Hubriston said. He wasn’t aware of the actual figures of the rent he was paying, but the board members in charge of his trust consistently informed him it was prohibitive. It was time for a move. (more…)

05/24/16 3:37pm
Don't let us tell you, let this quiz tell you. Chris Ford / Flickr

Don’t let us tell you, let this quiz tell you. Chris Ford/Flickr

Whether you’re new to town or you’ve been around for a bit, you know the one local issue that keeps popping up, and won’t be going away any time soon, is gentrification. Neighborhoods and demographics in those neighborhoods change, and while real estate agents love to employ the terms “transitioning” (aaaaaaaahhhhh), the reality is that long-time residents are being pushed out.

(It’s worth checking out WNYC’s new podcast on gentrification to hear just how that pushing out is happening; pretty scary stuff.)

What’s more, gentrification tends to be an uncomfortable us vs. them conversation that a lot of folks have trouble participating in, because they don’t always know which side they land on, or would rather not hear. So, for your benefit, we’ve come up with a quick and dirty quiz so YOU can see whether you are, in fact, part of the problem. (more…)