In this episode of “Going Out With Jake Cornell,” host and former NYC hospitality pro Jake Cornell chats with his close friend and comedy partner Marcia Belsky. The two share horror stories from their time working in food service and discuss how to be a good customer at a restaurant. Plus, they talk about what nightlife looks like in New York’s comedy scene. Tune in to learn more.
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Jake Cornell: How are you?
Marcia Belsky: I’m good. I’m chillin’.
J: Yeah. Obviously, we’re here to talk about going out. I think you and I have done a decent amount together. But we used to not, because we were OG pandemic friends. That was our connection.
M: We weren’t going out when we first met. We were out showing in the park or at protests or on your roof.
J: Protests or the roof were the two spots.
M: Yeah. Because that’s all we were doing. Nobody came out until the protests started happening. Then I think people went out, they were like, “F*ck it.” We went out for the protests. And then afterward, we were like, “Well, we’re outside. I mean, let’s say outside.”
J: After you went to a 30,000-person march and people didn’t really get Covid from it, you were like, OK, I guess right now outside is safe.
M: Yeah, and something about summer. We still don’t know anything. That was what was hard last year, too. We all were kind of like, “All right, we’re going to get through this.” And then winter got really brutal. The last time I went out last year, it was November. I was sitting outside with a friend and it was freezing. We were outside, I was so cold. I remember thinking to myself, “All right, see you in four months.” What am I going to do? I’m just going to hibernate. I kind of had you guys as a pod, but we didn’t really hang out inside that much. It still didn’t feel safe. And you were working.
J: The thing is that I was constantly exposed, so it couldn’t really do any sort of quarantining, which was a bummer. I usually start off the podcast by asking the guest something along the lines of, “What does going out mean to you?” Which I guess I can ask you, but I also think I have a general idea of it because we go out together a lot now. What does it mean to you?
M: I was thinking about how so much of my going out experiences with comedy, I was just going out to do comedy for so long. That’s really what I do. And then occasionally I’ll go to Marie’s Crisis.
J: So before, it was very much tied in with comedy specifically.
M: Yeah. I started comedy when I was 19 and I had a fake I.D. and I thought I was very cool. I was using that just to go out and do standup.
J: Your college was in Oregon, but it wasn’t like Portland? Oh, no, it was Portland.
M: It was Portland. I’m from Tulsa, Okla. And then I started comedy in Portland. And then I’ve been in New York since 2013.
J: Right. But it was very much tied to comedy in Portland.
M: Yeah, just tied to comedy in general. And going to music shows a lot when I was younger. That’s always weird, my standup life was so intermingled with my social life because I would use all my going-out time to do standup and that felt the same to me. It just felt like fun. And then when it started getting more serious, this is a big realization I had this year. Standup doesn’t feel like going out anymore, that’s my work. So I have to set time aside for myself to just go out to dinner with friends, just go out for drinks, and not have a comedy activity centering all of us there. Because for a long time all my social interactions were just centered on comedy. There always had to be a mic or a show or something going on for us to be there and not feel awkward, basically. It was starting to feel really draining. And I also was drinking too much at shows and I was like, “This really has to be my workspace now.” And it can still be fun. But that’s kind of the hard thing. You still want the audience to feel like you’re out with them. But it’s like when you’re a server, you’re the one working.
J: Yeah, exactly. I don’t know how the standups who do four spots in a night at The Cellar and are just kicking it, drinking the whole time — I don’t really know how they’re able to do that. I find that to be impressive.
M: It’s impressive in a bad way, though, right? It’s not healthy, and that’s what I realized. I definitely get why so many comics and performers have had drug issues over the years because you have to sustain that high and delude yourself that you are just hanging out, but you’re also putting a ton of work in and having to be a very “on” version of yourself. But I think with The Cellar crowd — this is super reductive and I’m not talking about everybody there — so much of their power and identity is wrapped up in them being revered and respected and always on as comics. But that’s why there’s a dark side to comedy. Because that’s not the reality. And it’s actually very sad. When they’re not sitting at the bar drinking, I think they feel very alone. They want to just be sitting there all night.
J: Yeah, I feel so similar. I think that my time at UCB was like a preview into how the microcosm of how the comedy world works at large. Because it was a smaller-scale version of the same thing where you become this. You see people become this celebrity to this very small group of very dedicated people. There’s this level of delusion that you have to keep up. If that’s what you’re actually there for, feeling that power, you have to keep this fantasy and keep it going and make you feel really important in this specific way. If your identity is wrapped up in the validation of this audience’s approval or this community’s approval, but you know that it doesn’t exist outside of there, it becomes a weird space.
M: I started therapy when I was 27 or 28 because I was having really bad panic attacks. And I had this thing where I was like, you catching the sickness of that and needing that external validation as a comedian and that being the reason you got into this now will be hugely important later. And it has been. I still struggle with it, but I’ve realized that that is never going to be enough. It’s never enough for those people because people also move on from who their heroes are and then what’s the hero left with? This is sad. I don’t know. This is funny because this is how I am going out. I’m like, I’m going to go have a good time. And I just immediately start psychoanalyzing strangers, talking about dark sh*t. People are like, “Marcia’s not fun. Let’s just not invite her.” She’s funny on stage, but she’s really bleak.
J: Marcia and I go out and we’re the two most Scorpio Scorpios that have ever existed. There’s no small talk.
M: That was our connection. That’s true. It’s like we both have this intensity that I think when we first met, we realized it’s a match. I did find out you’re a Scorpio. I just call you my brother because I think we kind of look alike in a way.
J: I think that it makes sense that we’re definitely cut from a similar cloth. I think something that’s been really fun with our friendship is, as the world has reopened a bit and we’ve been going out, you and I are both in this space of reassessing our relationship to going out. For different reasons and in different ways. Correct me if I’m wrong because we’ve never talked about this, but I feel like I’ve watched you fall in love with going out for going out sake. Being like, “Let’s go and have a nice cocktail and enjoy the space.”
M: Yes, that’s funny because that has been really important to me this year because the pandemic gave me that back in a way. I had been in a tunnel of just comedy for so long. I did that in high school and in college, but going out just for going out’s sake was literally not a reality in my 20s. Because especially in New York, I was using all of my energy to ingratiate myself in the comedy scene. And I was working in food service, too, so I would like to get off work at 11 p.m. and go to an open mic at 11 p.m. And that was my social life as I would stay drinking with those people, and get to know them. But it was all, not calculated because I only like forming connections that I genuinely like, but it had to feel productive. I didn’t want to socialize unless it felt like I was contributing toward my career and goals because I was so anxious that I wasn’t going to make my career and goals. I had to spend every second working towards that. And the social part is a huge part of the comedy thing. People get resentful, but you can’t only do that, you can’t only hang. You have to also be a good comedian. But there are some good comedians that are overlooked that maybe shouldn’t be because they’re not willing to do the hanging. People need to feel like they’re a part of the community and you need to kind of. It’s for you, too.
J: I totally agree. But I do feel bad for comedians who don’t know. I’m sure it’s hard to do it when you genuinely don’t enjoy that level of socializing because I would never tell someone to do this thing if you don’t like doing it. But I do just think in general that the root of a lot of the issues is that we are sort of taught that going out needs an ulterior motive. You’re either going to find a hookup.
J: You’re going out to make friends or you’re going out to the network. I do think that the healthiest version of going out is going out for going out’s sake.
J: To let off steam and have fun.
M: Because that’s when you start making real connections. Those rare nights in my 20s, I’m like, “Oh, I’m out right now” just because I want to be.
J: There’s also no way the night can be a flop if all the goal is just to go out and have fun.
M: I had flop nights like that though, I’m sorry. That’s kind of my problem. That’s why I don’t go out a lot. Sometimes I’ll like being like, “Yes, I want to have fun.” And then I just show up and the vibe is immediately not what I want. Bye.
J: But I guess I’m saying when you go out being like, “Tonight I want to hook up with a boy.” If that’s the one goal when you go out, you’re probably missing the opportunity because you’re totally focused on this one goal. And I think maybe going in with more of an open mind would lead to having a more fun night.
M: Exactly. That’s why our friendship is fun. Because I was saying that with all my pandemic friends, it feels like college friends again, where you’re just kind of put together in circumstances and you get to know who you like and you get to know each other on a deeper level. There’s loyalty there. It’s tough when all of your socializing is comedy for so long. I don’t really meet a lot of people outside of comedy because I’m not really ever just out. Even when I’m out, though, I don’t love talking to strangers. I need to get better at that because it seems like it should be something I love. My dad loves it and I used to be extroverted, but now I think that I just am so drained socially.
M: Do you know what I mean?
J: I wish I was better at it, too. If I’m going to meet up with you for a drink, maybe I haven’t seen you in a week and we actually do have a lot to catch up on. Then if a stranger gets involved, obviously we’re not going to have the same conversation as before.
J: I do want to have that conversation, but I’m totally envious of the people who can just grab a stranger and have a convo in a night with them. Maybe that’s every once in a blue moon.
M: It’ll happen to me sometimes. What I’ve realized lately is when I just let go and stop trying to make every night the most epic, that’s what your 30s are. That’s what your 20s are for. Every time you go out, you’re like, “This has to be f*cking epic with memories forever.” I would always find myself so disappointed, I think because I would set my expectations of a night really high. Now I’m realizing that not every night you’re going to meet somebody. But if you go out with your friends a few times a month and on a random night, you just happen to find a connection with a friend, a guy, the bartender, that’s what I like. I like getting to know the staff and I just always have to feel like I’m their favorite. But I don’t do annoying sh*t, I’m not like trying to be their favorite. I’m just trying to be so low maintenance that they think I’m so cool and fall in love with me.
J: It’s almost like a version of being a toxic partner in a relationship. Don’t ask the boy for anything, and he’ll like you.
M: And that’s exactly how I approach relationships. I’m trying to get out of that people-pleasing. But with bartenders, I’ll never get out of it. I have to be that way. I don’t take it personally, though, when somebody is obviously in a bad mood. But I do get hurt because I want to be liked by them. But then I was the type of barista and bartender that it didn’t matter who you are. If you walked into the place I was working, I was pissed at you. I would randomly like people, but most of the time people would just be totally normal ordering and I’d be annoyed.
J: I would catch myself getting so mad.
M: People are annoying, their faces are annoying.
J: I objectively know it’s not your fault.
M: Dude, allergies when I was a server, I was like, “I know I’m a b*tch.” The problem is high-maintenance people have made it really bad for people with actual serious allergies. Because it makes them seem high maintenance because there are people who are just f*cking lying who are like, “Tell the chef no onions, literally I could die.” This girl would always do that and then she turned to me. She’s like, “I’m not actually allergic, but you have to say that because then they actually care, and then they actually won’t put it in.” If you’re not going to die from onions, don’t tell them you’re going to die from onions because you can pick them out. You will be fine.
J: It’s so frustrating. The allergy sh*t I could talk about for hours because it’s so f*cking annoying.
M: I knew a girl who got really, really sick from peanut butter or something? Maybe it was celiacs. She was like, “People think that I’m that I’m just a gluten-free b*tch.” She had it really bad. She’d go to the hospital and get really, really sick.
J: If you have true celiac, you can’t touch gluten.
M: It’s like ADD. True celiac is really rare. But for people who have it, it’s really, really bad. But there are all these people who have gluten sensitivities who say they have celiac. And she’s like, “It sucks because I have a really strict diet and I just don’t go out to eat because I feel like a b*tch when I go out to eat.”
J: That breaks my heart.
M: She also can’t eat dairy or something.
J: Yeah, and I’ll never send back anything. We talked about that when Melissa was on. I’ll never send back anything in my life.
M: And it sucks sometimes because I’m kind of a picky eater, but I’m still not going to send it back. I’ll look at the dish and if I really like it but there are two or three things I don’t like in it, I just won’t get the dish. I’m not going to go through like, “Can they do this and this,” and then be mad when they don’t.
J: Same. I have this rare curse where I absolutely love seafood, but I’m specifically allergic to shrimp and nothing else. Sometimes seafood pasta will have everything I want and more with shrimp.
M: I didn’t know this. I need to get an EpiPen. Wait. Lucky for you, this girl makes these videos about how to stab an EpiPen. I’ve been really studying it. So if it ever happens to you, I’ve got you. I’m ready. Do you carry one with you?
J: It’s this whole story where I basically ate one shrimp once and then was walking to the train and started to cough in a way I’ve never coughed before where I was coughing and gagging.
M: Why is this funny to me? I’m sorry.
J: It was after a shift at work, and I was walking through the West Village. I feel like I really look like when a cat is about to vomit. But it wasn’t nausea. It was like coughing, but also retching and gagging.
M: Because you had hives in your throat.
J: I was standing on the corner of 12th and Seventh, and I was like, “Do I get on the subway right now to go home?” What if something happens on the train? Or do I go to this hospital that’s right here and be like, “I think I’m having an allergic reaction.” And so I go in and I’m like, “I think I’m having an allergic reaction. My throat hurts.” They looked and were like, “Yeah, your throat is super swollen, but it doesn’t seem to be swelling anymore. We just have to monitor you for 10 minutes and then you can go.”
M: Seems odd.
J: I’m sure they charged my insurance $4,200.
J: They told me to reach out to an allergist or something. And then they were like, “So you could do a full allergy panel, which would involve us doing pricks on your back and you can’t shower for a week, or you can just assume you’re allergic to shrimp and never eat shrimp again.”
M: That’s nice they told you that. I worked for an allergist and I loved her, I was obsessed with her. She worked on the Upper East Side. I worked for her for half a year. And I still can’t tell you if any of that sh*t is real. People would come in, they do all these tests, but are you getting any better? I don’t think so. They’d bring in their kids and stuff and it’s like chiropractic. Well, it’s not like a chiropractor because she could give out prescriptions and stuff. She was a doctor.
J: And I think the American Medical Association does recognize allergy stuff.
M: But everybody pays out of pocket because none of it’s covered. Those were the richest people I’d ever encountered. It was this very small private office, but I was a temp. I didn’t give a sh*t about that job. This guy would come in and he was this slumlord. I can’t say his name on the podcast, I’ll probably get sued. I guess he was this really powerful billionaire. I heard him on the phone with Donald Trump one time, literally when Trump was in the primaries. It was this really small office and he was on his cell phone being like, “We’re all rooting for you. We hate Marco Rubio. Good luck in Florida.” I was like, he’s on the phone with Donald Trump. I never remembered his name. Genuinely never remembered his name and he would get so upset. He was this 65-year-old billionaire wearing boat shoes, upset that the 22-year-old receptionist didn’t know who he was. One time he goes like, “Maybe next time you’ll remember.” And he was so sad. This is crazy how their ego works. It just disrupts his illusion that he’s this omnipotent king. This guy was a dick to his wife. He had this really mousy wife, and he would just yell at her. When he would come in, I’d be like, “What is it?”
J: I’m obsessed with that.
M: That has nothing to do with going out. But you’re going to get tangents with me, babe.
J: What are some of your favorite spots to go out to? If you’re excited to go out for dinner in New York, where are you going?
M: It’s funny because I’m so bad at this. I am so envious of the skill that you and my friend Allison Lieby have where you could be in an area and just remember what you’ve been to and what’s good in that area. I always just find two restaurants by my place that I can tolerate to eat. I have sandwiches, a corner store, and then an Italian spot. Someone will come to town and be like, “Where should we eat around here?” And then I text you, I literally always text you. My dream would be to date someone who’s really good at that because I’m so bad at that. I really want to date somebody who likes picking restaurants and can pick them really well. Our friend Melissa Rich has a friend named Kiki. She doesn’t own it but it’s her restaurant, Kiki’s on the Lower East Side. Melissa introduced me to it when we were living together and that’s the one place if someone comes in town, I’m like, “Go to Kiki’s.” It’s guaranteed to be good Greek food.
J: It’s such f*cking good Greek food. It’s all so delicious.
M: It’s one of those places that’s hard to find because they don’t have a sign outside and it’s in Chinatown. On the outside, it literally just looks like it could be a private residence. It doesn’t even look like anything. And the signs are in Chinese. It doesn’t say Kiki’s, even though it’s a Greek restaurant. I think they just kept the original signs from the building.
J: Melissa had a party and catered it with Kiki’s food. She had a spread of all this Kiki’s food. It was for 10 people and everyone was freaking out about this hummus. We were all eating different food. Everyone was like, “Oh, my God, this hummus is so good from Kiki’s.” Everyone was like, going in. Wait, let me try this hummus. And I have one bite. And I was like, “Guys, this is fish spread.”
M: The fish spread is so good. The hummus was not around when I was a kid. I only had it in Jewish spaces or there were a couple of Middle Eastern places that had hummus I loved. Hummus and bagels were literally not in Oklahoma when I was growing up. Now they’re everywhere. First we had St Louis Bread, which is now Panera Bread. They had bagels and everybody was like, “These are amazing.”
J: They’re like GMO bagels.
M: Oh, my God, my f*cking Philadelphia Jewish dad. Although we also had this place growing up called New York City Bagels. We had a drive-through. But oh, my God. They look at the babaganoush like, “What kind of hummus is this?”
J: But to white people, every single mush is hummus.
M: You never had a dip? Not everything’s French onion dip. I love cheese. But I really just text you guys, you introduce me to it all. I would have never known any of the bars that have outdoor spaces. You showed me all those. Because you know what it is? I don’t like going to places, especially alone. I never explore. I only explore if I’m with somebody because I feel really awkward. And like I said, I have that thing where I don’t want to bother people at work. Even if their job is to work retail and it’s OK that I browse, I just feel like you don’t want me here. I’ll just go away.
J: This was bad for me, but when I was a young adult, I really felt like it was rude to enter a store and leave without buying something.
M: I still feel that way.
J: I don’t want anything here. Time to find the cheapest thing to buy.
M: I still feel like they’re looking at me like a 16-year-old shoplifter. When I was in Palm Springs, I went to their fake Rodeo Drive. I was walking into these stores and I didn’t realize how expensive they were. I would like to look at the price tag and run out. The woman working is probably my age or younger, but I still feel like the 16-year-old kid and she will get on the walkie-talkie and be like, “Follow her.”
J: I got lunch with Richard Perez the other day. I was accidentally running late, and I was like, “Wait, babe, I’m so sorry. I’m going to be like 15-20 minutes late.” And he was like, “No, that’s actually perfect. There’s this clothing store I’ve been dying to check out near the restaurant.” I was like, “OK, cool.” And then I get a text 10 minutes later and he goes, “This is a store for babies.”
M: That’s what Brooklyn will do to you. Kids’ fashion is too cool. You’ll walk by a store and be like, “Wait, those shoes are awesome.”
J: It was so funny.
M: That is hilarious. Oh, my God. Also, Richard’s so funny. He’s looking at the little shirts.
J: But I think you’re right. You and I have really done a good tour of a lot of Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy/Prospect Heights.
M: Rialto, they have $10 cocktails. Why would we ruin that, though? The whole point is that they’re not so crowded and we just f*cked it up. Don’t go there.
J: We support them. Rialto Grande on Franklin.
M: We go to Doris a lot.
J: I was going to say that one of my favorite nights of the past year was when you and I spent all night playing Ping-Pong at Doris.
M: That was really fun. Me and Jake go to Doris and there’s one Ping-Pong table in the backyard and there’s always somebody playing, but they’re really unserious about it. Me and Jake just stand by like, “Hey, how long are you playing? What’s the plan?”
J: Then it’s like beer pong.
M: They instantly abandoned the table because they’re literally just there. And they’re like, “Yeah, you guys can play right now.” We’re like, “Good, good, good, good. Thanks. Bye.”
J: We will play until someone is like, “You’ve been on this table for an hour.”
M: Yeah, because that’s the thing. It’s rude to sit there by a pool table rushing them, but we do it at that. If somebody wants to play, they can tell us. But there are usually not that many people who are playing. I can’t even believe that I play with you because you always beat me.
J: You won, you’re good.
M: I won one game out of the 10 games that we have played. And Jake always gives me 21 to 3. One time we went and we ran into somebody and they thought we were on a date.
J: This was so brutal, watching that whole exchange.
M: That person was on a date, and I think he thought she was further away than she was.
J: What had happened was that Marcia and I had shown up at this bar and we were walking back to play Ping-Pong. And you kind of had a moment where you were like, “Oh, hey, we’re both here.” Then we went up and played Ping-Pong. And then like he walked up when they were leaving to say a high/bye moment.
M: Yes, exactly. He was making this motion because he was trying to subtly ask if you and I were on a date and I was like, “Oh, no.” And then I was like, “Are you on a date?”
J: That girl was standing right behind him.
M: She was not right behind, but she was close enough to hear. And I was like, “Are you on a date?” And he was and he was like, “Eh,” and made this so-so like, kind of motion. I feel bad for her.
J: I saw her see it.
M: It made me upset because I’ve been that girl. Because what I felt at that moment was that he was being a loser for no reason. Why would you try and play it cool when you’re out on a date? If you don’t like her, don’t be on the date. If you’re out on a date, it just makes you look really lame to say, kind of. It’s just immature, f*ck boy sh*t. I’ve dated so many f*ck boys that when you’re the girl on the date and you’re still trying to justify that he likes you, why are men like this? Why do you think that that makes you seem cool or confident? And she was gorgeous.
J: She was one of the hottest people I’ve ever seen. There’s almost an impetus. It’s one thing if you’re eating off of an app. If you are meeting up on Tinder or something like that, it is quite obviously a date. You are meeting up for the first time from a dating app. But I feel like when it’s people you either like to meet organically or maybe it’s a friend, and now you’re exploring dating, there’s a hesitation.
M: There is a gray area. But guys exploit that. I’m not doing that anymore because guys do this thing that just I don’t get. I think it’s maybe because they get validation and emotional labor off of women that I don’t get off of them. They love that gray area where they act like you’re friends, but they know there’s more history. There is something more. Maybe you’ve hooked up. But they want to keep you in this gray area, I think so that they can keep you as an option or something. I’m not playing that anymore because you either know or you don’t. Don’t waste my time. And that’s taking the value away from me because you should find me valuable. Otherwise, why would I waste three hours? That was a big thing for me. I don’t date a lot, in part because I was busy with comedy. But also because I would get really upset when I would waste a Saturday night. I was dating this guy for a month or so. We were slowing down, we had gone from hanging out three or four times a week to just once a week. He was like, “Let’s go to a movie on Saturday.” OK, that’ll be fun. I still wanted to hook up. We go, we have three drinks, and we watch the whole movie. I’m thinking of this as a date. And then afterward I’m like, “Oh, do you want to go back to your place?” Because his place was right there. And he’s like, “Actually, we should talk.” He basically tells me he doesn’t want to see me anymore. I was so upset because I was drunk. It was Saturday at 12 a.m. Then I had to go home by myself upset when I thought we were going to hook up. Either text me, call me, or tell me. You don’t have to take me to a movie to dump me. You just wasted my whole f*cking Saturday night making me think it was a date. That’s so embarrassing for me. Why would you embarrass me like that?
J: And also it stole your Saturday. I would be furious.
M: If we’re hanging as friends then we’re hanging as friends and in my mind we are platonic. But if we’re hanging as more than you need to be trying. It’s just an immature thing guys do when they’re insecure and when they’re being f*ck boys, but don’t want to admit it to themselves. It’s just really unkind to women. And I find it a little bit sexist, honestly, when men are doing it because why would you assume we’d stick around for that? And it’s because you know that we do because you know that we’re trained to have a scarcity mentality and stuff.
J: Let’s say it’s the best of intentions and they’re truly afraid to call it a date because in their mind it’s like, “OK, if I call it a date and it doesn’t work out, then we’re exes and can’t be friends. And I don’t want to lose this friend.” Even in that scenario, you are making an assumption about this person’s maturity and ability to make their own decisions. That in itself has misogyny to it and condescension to it. Both people should be entering every single situation with cards on the table, knowing what’s going on.
M: That’s how I want to start approaching it. I had to take a break because of my own issues and self-healing, blah, blah, blah. But as I’m trying to start over, I’m really trying to approach it in a different way. There is nothing to fear from honesty if all you’re looking for is an honest connection. But I’ve spent so much time accidentally not calling out bullsh*t because you know that men will leave. But those are the wrong men.
J: What are you actually trying to preserve if they’re already like that?
M: Exactly. But the problem is, it’s taken me a very long time to learn that. You can consider yourself an empowered woman, but it’s a process because there’s so much undoing that you have to figure out. But anyway, this is why when I go out, I just want somebody who knows cool places and is mature enough to be like, “This is a date. I like you.”
J: Totally. I think that’s not too much to ask. You’re not signing up for marriage by going on a date and calling it a date. It’s still allowed to just be a date, you know? There shouldn’t be as much of a hesitancy to do that as there sometimes is.
M: Exactly. But that’s why it’s hard. This is what I’m trying to fix too. Sometimes you’ll jump in because it feels safer for the body to just try and dive in. You date somebody for two months and your feelings are more invested than maybe they should be. I’m trying to figure out how to have that slow, get-to-know somebody. But I also think it just happens when the connection is right. Because of the times where I’ve had stable connections like that, you don’t feel rushed because that’s not what the connection is. How did this become a dating podcast? I didn’t want to do this. Go back to going out. I didn’t want to talk about any of this.
J: If you want to know what it’s like going out with Jake Cornell and Marcia Belsky, it’s this.
M: This is it. I’ve had friends where I can tell they invited me out and regretted it. They don’t invite me out again. I just feel bad because I don’t do it intentionally. I’ll start talking about bleak sh*t. And then he literally goes like, “Marcia, can we just not right now.”
J: I wouldn’t call anything you’re talking about bleak, though. It’s real.
M: My friend said her friend Melissa said that I have a doomsday vibe. What did she say? It’s like an uplifting doomsday vibe where I’m very doomsday but in a positive way. So I don’t know.
J: That’s so funny.
M: But I don’t try to be that way.
J: I think you’re a very fun person to go out with. You and I have had very, very fun nights like that.
M: I think I’m fun, too.
J: You and I have similar vibes. I think we’re both down to go out. I mean, not when it’s cold. This is why I f*cking hate the winter. This week is the first week of recording this podcast when it’s winter, winter. It’s not a cute winter where you can walk around.
M: Oh my gosh, yesterday I walked literally five blocks to your house. On the way home, I was like, “I’m going to die.” I had to rush to my apartment. It was so cold.
J: One of my best friends is like this. And we get in fights about it all the time. I really f*cking hate when people are like, “I prefer winter to summer.” I just don’t think that’s a valid opinion.
M: I kind of used to say things like that and still somewhat feel that way. But my problem is just that I hate summer. I love spring and fall. And I love going to the beach in summer. If I could literally live on the beach all summer, summer would be my favorite.
J: What is the winter equivalent of a beach? There isn’t one. Everything f*cking sucks. I’m sorry. I hate the winter.
M: But winter is an important time to go internal.
J: That’s why it should be three weeks long and not three f*cking months.
M: So move to California, Jake.
J: So I could be slightly depressed all year round instead of really depressed for a short time.
M: I like the winter because I was always kind of the kid that felt relieved on indoor days because we could just sit inside and play house or whatever. I didn’t have to be running around. I don’t know what we’re talking about.
J: I was going to say, I love a night out where we go to one bar, you have a few drinks, and we’re let’s go to a different place.
M: You can’t do that in winter.
J: You just can’t do that in winter.
M: I got out of my Covid isolation and there was a little bit of a break from comedy. I wanted to just go out and have a drink with people. And then I remembered, Oh, it’s f*cking winter. I need to wait. Last spring, though, I had crazy anxiety. I got vaccinated in April and I was walking back and saw all these people socializing. And it hit me really hard that I had not hung out with friends in three months. It stabbed me in the heart. I was like, “Oh, I need to sit down with somebody indoors and have a laugh with them.” I didn’t even realize that I had gotten into this Stockholm Syndrome place of, “I’m fine, this is fine. I’m good with watching TV every night.” I was working that horrible customer support job. That’s why this year has been really brutal, because people have been expected to work the same amount, especially food service people, without the relief of going out after work. That’s the reason bars are open till 4 a.m. in New York. People get off work at 1 a.m. and need to blow off steam. And then they have the after-hours places that stay open until 8 a.m. because people are getting off work at 4 a.m. You have to be able to blow off that steam. But people were getting off their food service jobs and there was nothing open. That would crush me. I would just work nine hours indoors in my apartment and talk to nobody afterward. And I’ve tweeted about this, but it got dark because I was watching “Glee.” There was a two-month period where after work, the only thing that made my brain feel OKwas putting on “Glee.” And watching it, too. I was not on my phone. I was staring dead-eyed at f*cking Lea Michele.
J: That’s so dark. And as someone who lives five blocks away from you, I feel guilty that I wasn’t knocking your door down.
M: We couldn’t hang out. You guys came over and sat on my stoop for hot chocolate when it was 10 degrees outside. And that was the best we could do, I remember. Because what people forget is it was hard because I didn’t really have a pod. It caused me a lot of anxiety because luckily I had a couple of people with whom we could plan out hangs. We could take two weeks and then I would go over to their house in a calculated way. But there are some people who had a pod they could hang out with every single day. I didn’t have that. And it was really intense and sad. My friend lives 30 minutes away. I lived alone. So I was like, “I’ve been alone for two weeks.” She worked retail, but I would go over and hang out and it would be amazing. But I would have so much anxiety for the two weeks after that I had Covid or I was going to get sick. Especially before the vaccines, if I get it, I’m going to die. I got Covid a couple of weeks ago. I was still anxious, and I was vaccinated and boosted. It was interesting this year to see who’s willing to die for going out. I felt really deprived of it, but there was no part of my brain that would ever go to a rave and just live with the risk of that. Even though I’m young, even though I had a good chance of survival, I wouldn’t even be able to have fun that night because it wouldn’t be worth it. I did a couple of outdoor shows that were just really crowded and I just let myself get loose and get drunk because I needed it. But I was so anxious afterward. This is not worth having a panic attack for two weeks.
J: Back then, I was still working in a restaurant at that point. I had this quasi-going out thing where I was working out. I was behind the bar. I was socializing with people. I could have a glass of wine with my coworker after work because we were seeing each other anyway. I genuinely don’t know, had I gone through that whole period of time without that Band-Aid to help cover the discrepancy and make me feel like I was doing something, how I would have behaved during that time. And I certainly don’t think I would have gone to a rave.
M: You would have been pent up. Because the service was tough, and I think one of the toughest jobs in the pandemic. But also it was nice to talk to people. Whenever you feel socially deprived, it’s interesting what experiences that normally would be exhausting are actually a community experience and you really connect and bond. You enjoy talking to people from behind the bar. Whenever I’d go through weird break-ups when I was working in the service industry, I was my best self comedically because I was just looking for these connections and moments of happiness and like. And then I would crash.
J: Yeah, I totally get that. Working in the service industry in New York there was definitely a crest. It energized me and kept me on my toes in this way. I think it did make me the funniest, sharpest I’d ever been. And then it crested and it was the opposite where I was my worst self at work sometimes.
M: That’s how I would get. That’s why service is hard because I’m moody. Especially because I was unhappy in my life in my 20s a lot of times. When I’m unhappy, people’s faces just pissed me off. I’m just like, “God, your stupid f*cking face.” That’s why with Eric Adams saying the people at Dunkin’ Donuts don’t have the skills to work office jobs — it’s the opposite, absolute opposite. When I finally got to an office job, I was like, this is the easiest sh*t I’ve ever done in my life. Because I just sit there.
J: This is not a joke. Every single person I have worked with in the service industry who has transitioned to an office job has been like, “No one talks about how easy this is.”
M: I could be on my phone. I could only talk to people on the phone.
J: You can piss and sh*t when you need to.
M: And especially in New York, you are on the front lines of a crazy stranger. So you’re having to deal with crazy people from around the world every single day. And it was just so exhausting. If I was in a good mood, I could handle it. Although it would just take one f*cking asshole. Because the problem is people who are really strong in service and you’re probably a lot better at this than me — I can’t let sh*t go. And I’ve worked on it. When somebody was just an asshole because it was so obvious to me that they felt powerless and were trying to get their power off on me, or they were just assholes, I had such trouble just accepting that that was a bad person and letting it go. I would spiral about why they would treat me this way.
J: Have I told you about the table I tortured until they cried at a restaurant?
M: No, tell me.
J: This was the first restaurant I worked at in New York. It was a super-fancy, really expensive restaurant, with really rich people. There were super-rich, horrible people every day of the week. And I worked the breakfast and lunches.
M: Because rich people who go to restaurants like that do it so that they can be demanding.
J: They used to sell fresh-squeezed juices that admittedly were 4 ounces of juice for $8.
M: I always worked at places like that. I’d tell the manager, “I’m the one who has to deal with this.” People would come in and f*cking get a dirty chai and I’d be like, “That’s $9.50.”
J: I know it was so bad all the time. So every time you had to run the juice, you just knew that you would drop it off and they’d be like, “Oh, OK.”
M: It’s literally a thimble of juice. I’ve worked at places like that. And they don’t understand that it actually takes a long time to squeeze even that. And you have 20 tables and they’re like, “Can we get five orange juices?” I would work at brunch places and they’d be like, “Can we get six orange juices and five cappuccinos?” I’d be like, “Oh, OK, I’ll see you in an hour and a half because I have to make all those drinks.”
J: It was so bad. The thing is, it wasn’t even my table. I had a down period and I looked and there were juices on the bar to run to someone else’s table. So I ran them to this other table. It was these three girls, I think it was a mother and two daughters. They started laughing at me, hysterically. Like I was an idiot. And I was like, “Is something wrong?”
M: That type of sh*t pissed me off.
J: They were like, “These are our juices?”
M: In my head, I’d be like, “You don’t know it yet, but I’m going to be very famous. And you’re going to regret this.
J: So I go, “Yeah, these are your juices.” And they’re like, “This is $8?” And I was like, “I know it’s small, but it’s fresh-squeezed. So yeah, it’s $8.”
M: And you’re rich, so why do you care, b*tch?
J: This is me being brainwashed to this restaurant, that every guest deserves an incredible experience. So I went up to a manager.
M: I would pretend in the interview and then on day one I’m hired they’d be like, “OK, so we really want you to be excited about the mac & cheese.” I’d be like, “No.”
J: I went over to the manager and I was like, “Hey, just FYI, When I ran that table — it was table 21, I remember — they seemed unhappy with the size of the juice.” And she was like, “Do you know what, let’s just, make them happy. And we’re going to bring them a free round of juices.”
M: If you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. This is what you learn. No good deed goes unpunished in food service. The one time you’re like, “You know what? That guy seems like a nice guy. I’m going to give him a free thing.” I did that one time. This guy was a regular and I was like, “I’m going to give him something free.” This guy started expecting free sh*t every time he came in. I did it once to be nice.
J: She brings them the juices. And I was like, “Did they like the juices?” And she goes, “Yeah, but they said you were kind of rude about it the first time.” My whole body caught on fire. They have no f*cking idea. They got those free juices because I did something I didn’t even have to do. I was being nice. And I was like, “Oh.”
M: A lot of times it is women. The men who are assholes are these f*cking machismo f*cking losers. But the women are almost always white. I don’t care that you feel powerless and your decisions and the stupid f*cking life that you’ve chosen. But if you go to restaurants just to f*cking be like, “I’m sorry, but that’s your job,” I will f*cking headbutt you.
J: So I walked over to the table and in a truly psychotic way was like, “Are you guys enjoying everything?!” Remember, this isn’t my table. At this point, the only thing I did was bring them juices. And they were like, “Yes.”
M: They can see the aggression in the eyes.
J: This was a slow brunch, so I had a lot of time to do this.
M: I could see you being so intense, too.
J: So then I wait a minute or two. And then I stand six feet behind the table just standing there, and I wait until one of them looks at me and then I go, “Is everything OK?” And the woman was like, “Yes.” I was like, “Great.” I give her two big thumbs up, and then I wait and then I walk by 5 minutes late and I was like, “Is everything still OK?”
M: Are you guys still OK? Is everything still a good experience for you?
J: And they were like, “Yes.” And I was like, “Amazing.” I did this the entire time they were there to the point where they were starting to lose their minds. And it’s genius, because what are they going to complain about? That I’m being too nice?
M: He’s checking up on us too much.
J: When they got up to leave, they walked past me in the restaurant and I went, “I hope you all have an amazing day.” And this girl stops, drops her shoulders, looks up at the ceiling of the restaurant, and screams. She starts crying and walks up to the whole stand and the manager and she was like, “He’s been bothering us all day.” And she was like, “What is he doing?” And she goes, “He keeps on asking us how we’re doing and making sure we’re enjoying everything.” And the manager was like. “OK.”
M: You are literally a genius. Genius. Gaslighting. If you treat servers like that, at the very least, you deserve to have your power taken from you and your day ruined. You’re not going to play those games with me. Listen, I’ve gotten fired from many, many places because if you’re not going to let me be a f*cking b*tch to people who are a b*tch to me, you’re going to fire me. I’m not going to take it. I’m not going to be degraded like this. It was just so insane. And I would do that sh*t, too, where I would kill them with aggressive kindness. They’re being passive-aggressive and they’re trying to act like, “Oh, I’m just a customer.” I’m going to serve that right back to you. On the surface, I’m going to be doing nothing wrong, but you’re going to feel how aggressive this feels. Because with people like that, either they never work food service or they worked a job for two months. I’ve been very lucky. I worked in food service off and on for five or six years. With those types of people, that’s where you should literally be forced to be in food service. People who genuinely think that McDonald’s is an easy job, I think McDonald’s is harder than fine dining. The faster people expect service, the more they expect to be pleased.
J: Also, the less you are paid, the harder it is to do your job.
M: It’s way harder, because of the degradation. When you’re a server, it’s really, really hard. But when you get $400 in cash at the end of the night when you’re like 23, it’s OK. But I was a barista at this one place and they paid $10 an hour. It was the worst customer I’ve ever had to deal with. We didn’t have a bathroom, so I had to constantly tell people who were drinking coffee that there was nowhere for them to pee. And we made no tips because it was just not that type of place. So literally, I would get $10 in cash at the end of the night after $40 hourly. And I quit that job within two months. It’s the same type of degradation I’ve dealt with at other places, but you’re literally not paying me enough to deal with that.
J: I’ve worked at restaurants where it’s so busy and I’m so stressed at the moment and I’m hustling, but I don’t care because I know I’m making hundreds of dollars. And then I’ve worked at restaurants where they f*ck over the tip pool and they don’t do it in a fair way. I’m working my f*cking ass off and I’m like, I know that I’m making $100 for this entire six-hour shift.
M: It just defeats you. There’s no worse feeling truly in the world than when you’re so stressed from work but completely broke. I kind of had that with this customer support job because I was buying stuff for my apartment and spending my money. But I remember a nine-hour shift where I couldn’t even order myself food because I was waiting for my check. That’s the worst feeling in the world where I’m working myself to the bone for what feels like nothing, but it’s really just you’re floating. It’s just too intense.
J: That ties it back to what we’re talking about, about needing to blow off steam. All I want to do right now is to meet up with a friend and have a beer and connect.
M: You need to.
J: I need to afford to do that. That’s why being broke is such a systemically hard thing to dig yourself out of. Society’s not set up to help. And also mentally when you’re broke, that headspace it puts you in is so dark.
M: Yeah, it’s f*cked up. And then people go into your work and treat you like sh*t for no reason.
J: We both feel passionate and we’ve talked about this a long time. We’re always so nice to our servers. I’m not going to name the bar, but do you remember that period of time when we kept on going to this bar where this service was objectively so bad?
M: Oh yeah, because I loved this one cocktail they had.
J: They have that one delicious cocktail. But we kept being like, “They’re having a hard night.”
M: Finally, after the third time, we’re like, “OK, we can’t do this anymore.” I kept wanting to make it work because they had this one f*cking cocktail that I love.”
J: It was like dating. We wanted it to work, the sex is good, but they’re bad.
M: It was insane. I remember one time we literally waited 30 minutes to order a drink and they weren’t busy. And then it took another 30 minutes after that to get the drink. I kept walking to go to the bathroom and the bartender was just standing there. It’s one thing when you’re at a place and they’re sitting there making all the drinks and you’re like, “OK, they just have a ton of drinks.”
J: But it was very much one of those places where you hire your staff based on hotness. They’re all very hot and they are all so bad.
M: That’s a red flag for me now with places. It’s not just that people are hot, they’re hot, hot. The service is going to be bad, the food is going to be bad. I’m not paying for bottle service. I just want good food. And the guy who owns the restaurant is probably a creep.
J: I have the same thing where if a chef is hot, he’s a terrible person. There’s literally no way. There’s no way that this is a healthy work environment.
M: That’s what’s funny, when I first moved to New York, the only people I’ve met outside of comedy are food service people. And chefs are fascinating but psychotic people to know.
J: It’s because chefs and comedians are two art forms where men can get lauded for creative genius without risking their masculinity.
J: In the same way that you’re an actor, some men find acting or things like that to be a little more like femme.
M: It’s because acting’s the most embarrassing thing you could do. I’ll be watching a random movie where the actor just has to do something ridiculous. This is why I like to write my own sh*t. But that’s true. They’re also working 18 hours a day. I worked for a female chef and because I think she felt she had so much to prove, she had been poached from this major restaurant to come and head chef this new place, she was waking up literally at 6 a.m. She’d go to the farmer’s market. She worked the lunch shift. She’d take a two-hour break. She worked the whole dinner shift, and then we’d go out drinking after. I would party with her and she would be out drinking at 3 or 4 a.m. She’s like, “Yeah, I’ll go to the Farmer’s Market at 6 a.m. tomorrow.” But then she burnt out so quickly because that’s not sustainable. That’s why they look very tired and it’s because they’re literally working like 18 hours a day. They’re kind of running and owning the restaurant.
J: It’s one of those jobs where you kind of is expected to earn your salt.
M: It’s so toxic.
J: Is earning your salt a thing or did I fully make that up? I think I made that up.
M: I’ve never heard that.
J: Truly the term I’m looking for is, pay your dues.
M: Earn your salt, can we start saying that?
J: You have to work for it.
M: You have to earn your salt.
J: That girl right there, she has earned her salt.
M: She ain’t her salt.
J: My point is, you’re expected to work these psychotic hours for no money for a bunch of years.
M: Yeah, they don’t make a lot of money. That’s why chefs are always so pissed. That was the hardest part about being a server for me because I hated dealing with the customers, but I mostly just hated the customers having requests. Because then the chef would get mad at me as if I’m the one requesting a well-done burger like, oh my God, the female chef I work for, it was so brutal. You could see the kitchen from the restaurant.
J: The customer watches you go back and get yelled at.
M: Chefs are obsessed, especially with beef, like when they’re doing steaks and burgers. She went out and she bought the nicest quality beef because she had been waiting to be able to cook her burgers like that. And in her fairness, this was the best burger I’d ever had in my life. They charged $20 for it, but it was f*cking good. People would order it well done and she would literally be like, “No.” So I go to my manager, “OK, she doesn’t want to cook the steak well done. What should I tell the table?” No, you have to tell her she needs to cook it well done. I go back to the chef. “Hey, blah, blah, blah says you need to cook the steak well done.” No, I’m not doing it. Tell the customer I’m not doing it.
J: This is triggering to me with divorced parents.
M: Exactly. But chefs would yell at me. I remember this was the one specific incident where they requested well done. She said, no. I told her, “You have to do it.” She said, no. She sent me a medium burger. I took it to the table. They sent it back. The table can see her scorching it. She sends it back to me, burnt to a crisp, and then I send it to the table. They send it back. They’re like, “This is inedible.” She’s screaming in the kitchen. She’s like, “They wanted well done. That’s a well-done f*cking burger.” I’m not getting a tip and this wasn’t even my fault.
J: In the chef’s defense, a well-done burger is gross
M: No, I mean, that’s the thing. She is right. But you have this disconnect between the manager who wants the customer to always be happy and yet also serves fine delicacy food. When chefs are in charge of restaurants, there are no modifications and no requests, because they know that they’re not doing it. But it’s always the bosses being like, “You need to accept any and all modifications.” I will never forget working at places where you have to f*cking put in an order and the chef gets a ticket that has mods that are this long. And they look at you like, I might kill your mother in front of you. I’ve never had anybody be so pissed. And I’m like, I didn’t f*cking do this sh*t. I don’t f*cking care. And they’ll scream at you.
J: Totally. A theme that’s come up in many conversations on this podcast is that the restaurants that don’t allow modifications outside of allergies are better for the customer and the employees.
M: Definitely. Even when I order Seamless, it has to be easy for them to read on the ticket. I get why it super disrupts their flow. I think being a line cook is probably one of the hardest jobs ever. I never understood how they kept it straight. I was so horrible when they would accidentally drop a dish because then it really messes up the table. But I genuinely did not know how they kept any of the orders straight. A kitchen every night literally gets influx with 200 tickets within an hour and I don’t get how they do it. I’ve watched cooking shows. I watched Gordon Ramsay. I literally don’t get how restaurants function. I do not get how a kitchen works.
J: I can tell you with 100 percent confidence, that I could simply never be a line cook. It is one of the most impressive jobs in the world.
M: No. And in this country, it’s mostly Mexican people. Nobody acknowledges that. But in every restaurant I’ve worked in, most of the line cooks are Mexican.
J: Especially in New York.
M: And especially in Oklahoma, where I’m from, this country would not function, would not have restaurants without Mexican people in the kitchens. So when people are racist and all this, like, “Go back to your country” stuff, literally every single restaurant you eat out would not be functioning without these people that you want to send back. What are you talking about? It’s the hardest job. Every place I’ve ever worked, those guys are just trying to stack up as much money as they can. So they would be working every shift I worked and more. They would work f*cking 14 shifts a week.
J: Well, I have to say, this is exactly the Marcia Belsky episode I expected. We touched on gender dating dynamics. We touched on workers’ rights, and we touched on immigration rights.
M: I f*cking went on a rant about a guy with who I went on a date four years ago.
J: To wrap up, you and I are going to go out for drinks soon. What’s your ideal version of the night? What are we doing?
M: I am a cocktail b*tch, this is what I realized. For me, it’s worth it to spend $20 on one cocktail plus a tip rather than have two vodka sodas. I don’t like that much. And you know what I love? A f*cking space cocktail, that’s what I call them. That’s why I kept trying to go back to that one place. I love a blue or purple-pink cocktail. I love something that makes me feel like I’m literally on Battlestar Galactica. That’s why I love that purple gin, which I won’t say the name of, because it got famous on TikTok and was sold out everywhere for 20 years or whatever.
J: I know exactly where we are going to go. There’s this new bar on Fulton called Famous Last Words, and I went there last night. It has very, very fun cocktails in very pretty glasses. We’re going to go literally ASAP.
M: Oh, my God. Wait, that’s exactly what I want. For me, I really love a place with food, like actual hot food. I love a cocktail bar, but I always end up wanting food, and I kind of hate having to leave and find somewhere.
J: If they don’t serve food, most places will let you order food from it.
M: I should do that more often. That was one thing that was nice about Portland. The reason why Portland, Ore., is such a foodie town is that to have a bar there, you have to have at least four hot items on the menu. It was a liquor law and it did work where people get less drunk, especially less violently drunk when they eat something. And when people get drunk, they want to eat. But a lot of the time, they don’t eat just because of what I said. They don’t leave and get pizza because they want to stay at the bar and then they get really, really drunk. Some places would just do it on a technicality and get hot dogs. But if you have to have a kitchen to open a bar, they would actually hire a chef and try to have nice food. So almost everywhere you got to get a nice cocktail in Portland also had food and I really loved that. I love a place like that in New York. Just give me a cheese plate and some tapas with a fancy blue cocktail.
J: I think we perfectly laid out the night. We’re going to go get cocktails, we’re going to do a cheeseboard, we’re going to do hot dishes.
M: And then we’ll go play Ping-Pong.
J: Yes, we’re going to do it. OK, love you.
M: Love you. Bye, everyone.
Thank you so much for listening to “Going Out With Jake Cornell.” If you could please go and rate and review us on whatever you’re listening to this on, that would be really gorgeous for me in a huge way, so thank you.
And now, for some credits. “Going Out With Jake Cornell” is recorded in New York City and is produced by Keith Beavers and Katie Brown. The music you’re hearing is by Darbi Cicci. The cover art you’re probably looking at was photographed by M. Cooper and designed by Danielle Grinberg. And a special shout-out to VinePair co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for making all of this possible.