In this episode of “Going Out With Jake Cornell,” host and former NYC hospitality pro Jake Cornell chats with friend, writer, and fellow comedian Melissa Rich. Along with being a standup comedian, Rich is a writer and hosts the “Chic NYC” podcast.
The two discuss their love/hate relationship with steakhouses (but appreciation for steak), how to overcome FOMO (the fear of missing out), and what makes for a great night out. Hint: It’s all about avoiding “amateur hours.”
Tune in for more.
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Jake Cornell: Melissa, I’m very happy to have you here.
Melissa Rich: Oh my god, I’m thrilled.
J: The funniest thing is, you and I have become very close friends over the past year.
J: It’s kind of weird because it’s one of those condensed friendships. Because of the circumstances of the time, we got close fast. And then VinePair is the one that’s like, “If we’re going to do the show about this, we have to get Melissa involved.” And I was like, “Wait, how do you know about my friend?” That just speaks to how synonymous with going out in New York Melissa Rich is.
M: Oh my god. Well, when I tell you how violently hung over I was today, Jake, I hope you take me seriously. It was the worst I’ve had in quite some time. And there was no way I was not coming here. But let me tell you, it was a struggle.
J: God bless. I know you’re a pro because what the listeners can’t see is that we already have two beverages at the table. Which is the sign of someone who is hung over, the multiple liquids. Walk me through your night. How did we get here?
M: Sure. Well, I actually had a comedy show in the Lower East Side. It was ideal, a 10-minute walk from my house. I’m going to be in, out, and done. Our friend Dexter, who was on Fire Island with us, decided to come to the show. Great. I’m already like, this a kiss of death for a comedy show. When a non-comedy friend comes to the show, it’s going to be bad.
J: Your performance?
M: I’m always just like, should I have them come?
J: So was it violently bad? So you bombed?
M: Oh no, I was good. But the show itself was bad. There were five people in the audience. I only knew one other person in the lineup. I was selfishly like, “I want to see you, so come.” But I knew I was inviting him into the lion’s den of brutal comedy.
J: You’re talking to someone who did improv for five years. So whatever you’ve done to your friends, I’ve done so much worse. I’m glad you brought this up, because that is the thing that non-comedy people don’t understand. When I post, “Come to this show,” I’m not talking to you. I’m not talking to my friends, guys. If you know me personally, you need to ask. It’s different if I’m producing the show because I’m selling it. Get your ass to my show.
J: If I’m on someone else’s show and I post, “Come,” don’t come.
M: To be fair, Dexter asked, “Can I come?”
J: And that’s acceptable.
M: Not on my part. I should have been more honest.
J: You should’ve been more honest. Because the text that’s like, “Hey, I got tickets to the show,” is like, no, you can’t do that. Because the room might be off. Sometimes I’m not doing comedy in a room that I’m thrilled to be in.
M: But it was a gorgeous room, a hotel rooftop, you know what I mean? I don’t want to talk sh*t on the show at all, because I’m grateful every time I’m on a microphone. I was excited to see Dexter, but I was like, “So sorry about this. Let’s have fun. I owe you a fun experience after this.” So we walked 10 minutes to Club Cumming just to see what’s going on. It was karaoke when we walked in. People were going up and singing and then it was just the guy at the piano. So that was fun.
J: What are we drinking?
M: Well, that’s the issue. I had a gin Martini right off the bat.
J: You’re speaking my language.
M: What am I doing not eating dinner, and then having a gin Martini, too?
J: And Club Cumming is a space where a gin Martini is more like a 9-ounce glass of gin.
M: One thousand percent. Then I help out with a song, because the guy was f*cking up “Take Me Home Country Roads,” and I gave him the lines for the bridge like a champion ally at the bar. And he’s like, “What are you drinking?” And I tell him gin, and everyone’s laughing. I’m like, “No, give me a shot of gin. I’m drinking gin.” Everyone’s like, “You can’t do a shot of gin.” I have, and I will continue to do so. The bartender was like, no way, and he poured me a shot of tequila. I told him, “I’m not drinking that,” and gave it to a stranger. Shake up some gin with some ice, put it in a tiny glass, and I’m drinking a tiny Martini.
M: Because it’s like a scented candle of liquor.
J: Absolutely. It’s my favorite of them all. A gin Martini is my ultimate drink.
M: Yeah, we’ve been Gin & Soda-ing.
J: We’re Gin & Soda girls, too. My mixed drink is a Gin & Soda, always.
M: Oh my god. When you were getting liquor for Fire Island, I brought up gin and you were like, “Thank god.”
J: Because all the girls take tequila. So for the listeners, Melissa and I did Fire Island together this summer. I took it upon myself to use my wholesale access to buy a very large sum of booze.
M: Which tells you that we were pros from start to finish.
M: When I tell you this was a perfect trip, it literally was.
J: It was a perfect trip. It had every element you wanted. Even in the ways that it was imperfect was what made it feel completely whole. It was the salt that made it properly seasoned. It was so gorgeous. We showed up at this house with about 15 liters of wine and a case of liquor.
M: When I tell you, we went on the ferry with all of it. Not that we have a little dolly thing.
J: Melissa, who is a bisexual woman, called me and said, “I’m thinking we should probably procure some sort of lesbian wagon for the liquor on the ferry.”
M: That is a direct quote, unfortunately.
J: Yeah, I knew what you meant. And I was like, “I think we should just carry it because the wagon is going to be difficult.” I think you were ultimately right; we should have used the wagon. Because carrying the boxes was absolutely harrowing. There was this humiliating thing where we timed the ferry slightly off.
M: No, we didn’t time it off. I was late. I was fully an hour late; maybe more than an hour late.
J: Melissa and I are in the car with our friend, David Odyssey. And Frank, Melissa’s partner, is driving us. We are supposed to get to the ferry at 1 p.m. I got a text at 11:30 a.m. that says, “I’m actually going to run and get a quick wax. Don’t worry, I’ll be on time.” We were getting the 5 p.m. ferry, there’s no way we’ll make it.
M: I’ve never gone to Fire Island and taken the ferry that I planned on taking. I’ve never done that. And I’ve spent hours at that goddamn restaurant waiting. It’s usually fun, but I’m so late every single time.
J: So then we had to sit at this restaurant with three cases of liquor at the table, eating BLTs.
M: Our luggage is filling the room. And more and more people are coming in as the ferry time nears. And it’s always the ferry where it’s like, “Oh, actually, it skips this hour, the next one’s in two hours.” And you’re like, “Oh, I f*cking hate you, Melissa.” And that’s fair. I think people were ultimately impressed that we brought that much sh*t.
J: Everyone on the ferry was like, “Actually, good move,” because everything on that island costs so much. The inflation is beyond anything I’ve ever encountered. What would you say are your pro tips for Fire Island?
M: That’s a great question. First of all, figure out your phone scenario. I don’t have service on Fire Island, which makes it an entirely different experience for me. I can’t figure out the directions of Fire Island, I get very confused. The last time I was there, after a week, I was finally able to navigate where I was. But I get completely turned on my ass. I’m f*cked up when I’m there, but I’m also just bad at directions. So figure out the lay of the land.
J: Are you confused about the direction to Cherry Grove and the Pines?
M: Well, that’s impossible for me. I can’t do that. The last time I was there, I was there for one night on my own. Larry was meeting me the next day. I was like, “I guess I’ll go to Cherry’s and see what’s up.” Of course, I find a group of lesbians not having fun. I’ve made gay friends, and on the boat over, I had met two guys who were doing a show, who are ultimately the heroes of the story. But I meet these girls and they’re having no fun at all. And I’m like, “Why don’t you come to the Pines? It’s your last night.” They hadn’t met anyone, they were leaving tomorrow, and hadn’t done anything. Generally, the women don’t leave their houses as much. So I was like, “Let’s get a boat back.” Boats are done; they’re done running at midnight. Oh my god, I’m trapped over in Cherry Grove. How am I going to get back? I’m wearing these shoes.
J: Which for the listener, is like a platform, plastic flip-flop.
M: So I find the guys from the boat, and they’re walking back to Pines.
J: So you have some shepherds.
M: I literally walk with them. For me, that is the No. 1 challenge. It’s kind of like Burning Man in the sense that whatever you have, you have for a week.
J: The lesson I learned, without going into too much detail, is to bring more of anything you might need. Because when you run out, you run out. That’s true of sunscreen, that’s true of anything. Burning Man is a good comparison, because it has a similar vibe.
M: It seems like you’re over-preparing, but you actually can’t.
J: We’re going to get into the main question of the podcast in a second. But I just want to say, they obviously just made the Fire Island movie. It’s going to be incredible. I need a separate movie — or a Bravo reality show — about those girls that work at the Pines Pantry. Just about those teen girls and their dynamics and what they see.
M: And then add in the liquor store boys, who have finally come around to letting me ride on their carts. I don’t know if you saw.
J: I very much saw.
M: The whole week we were there, I’m like, “We’re going to the same place. Let me sit on your dumb cart.” Cole was like, “I could get fired.” No you’re not, and you’re made of weed. Ridiculous. The second time I got there, I literally saw a guy and I was like, “I’m getting on this.” And he was like, “OK.” I’m cruising around on a chariot for days. It’s amazing that I did not die, they are reckless. They’re not made for humans. They’re made for cargo. But I was on it, and it was fantastic.
J: I love that. As someone who I associate with going out with, maybe more than anyone in my life, what does going out mean to you?
M: Step one, you have to leave your apartment. Let’s take that back, because philosophically, I feel like I’ve gone out and been at home.
J: So what is it for you?
M: You know, I’m going to take it back. You have to leave the house. I’ve had conversations with certain people in my life where everyone is always trying to figure out their balance with it. Obviously, you don’t want to be out of control. It’s difficult for me, because it puts me in such a state where I’m not sleeping or I’m maybe “not healthy” physically or whatever. But it gives me energy. While I may not have the normal kind of energy where you rest, I am fueled by that other kind of energy.
M: So that, to me, is like working out or whatever. I know I’m going to do this and it’s going to take a toll on my body in this way. But it’s actually going to reward me, in a way. That’s how I work with it. I know that is not the case for everyone. To me, that’s what going out is.
J: I’m also someone who goes out a lot. I prefer to be out of the house than in. I don’t do that many nights in, and I want to be out. Do you ever find yourself asking yourself, “Do I want to go out tonight or am I afraid of what I’m missing?” Is it the FOMO or is it the actual desire to leave? Because I think that’s a really interesting balance.
M: It is. And Covid was interesting for me because it was truly the first time where I experienced a complete lack of FOMO.
J: Same, Melissa.
M: And that was beautiful. People were dying, but it was beautiful. I feel like such an idiot when I say that.
J: No, it’s OK. When I moved to New York, there was something crushing about the fact that I didn’t know people here yet. I didn’t know where the spots were, I didn’t have friends, I didn’t have a network. That’s the No. 1 thing I need for happiness. It’s why when people ask if I’m going to move to L.A., I’m like, what the f*ck have I been doing in New York for almost 10 years other than making it so I never want to leave? I need that network. I need to know the four spots I can go to right now and there will be someone I know there that I can catch up with. I didn’t have any of that. Being in New York, I will never forget sitting in my first apartment and knowing that there was 8 million people’s worth of sh*t going on, and I was not connected to any of it. It was constant FOMO all the time. Sometimes, I’m still catching that, where it feels like, why am I in New York if I’m not out? It was on so many levels; on a career level, on a social level, especially as comedians. When there was nothing, it was the first piece I’d known.
M: I completely felt that as well. I’ve always been able to stay in when I really want to and when I can make that choice. I just happen to need that less than a lot of people, in general. I really did get used to it during Covid. I had my peace with it. That being said, when it was back, I was kind of like, let’s f*cking go. In getting older, I’m able to make peace with missing things. I think that the pace of New York helps with that, because the next thing is always around the corner, and you’re always going to have another fun night. And it’s always going to be relatively soon.
J: Totally. As you start to build out a life for yourself, and this is a big part of getting older, where I have good friendships, good connections, feeling more fulfilled by all of these things, you’re chasing less.
M: That’s an amazing point about going out. It’s not just the activity all the time. Most of the time it’s not the activity, it’s who you’re with.
J: 100 percent.
M: Unless you’re at the coolest thing, like an SNL after-party. Something where you’re just like, this an event. This is an experience. But generally, it’s who you’re with. Those are the ones that do hurt me. When I can’t go, but I know my friends are there and I know it’s going to be a gorgeous, heartfelt experience, those are the ones I think I feel true FOMO about.
J: When it’s going to be the crew that I love and it’s going to be special, those are the ones that hurt the most. Honestly, you get spoiled in New York. There’s always going to be another show. There’s always going to be another concert. There’s going to be another exhibition. When your favorites come to town, you have to go. But when everyone’s schedules align and they’re together, and I’m the f*ck who didn’t get it in, it’s the worst.
M: But that’s the beauty of having solid friendships and having good people around you. It will align again, those friendships are safe, and you will be able to enjoy them again.
J: You are also like me. You and I both have a lot of very close friends who are not connected. You have different pockets of friend groups. I think I’m the same way. That comes from your friends from when you were working in restaurants or elsewhere.
M: I was just going to say that, working in service.
J: Because those bonds are so deep.
M: Oh my god. It’s literal trauma bonds.
J: Walk me through this, because I actually don’t know this about you. Walk me through your time in the service industry.
M: Service moved me to New York. While I was a local cable sensation on the CW in Pittsburgh, I was moonlighting as a steakhouse waitress at the Capital Grille, which is a chain now owned by the people who own Red Lobster. Fun fact.
J: I didn’t know that.
M: The quality has vastly changed, obviously. Darden Restaurant Corporation can suck a d*ck, I’m sorry. So I’m working at the Capital Grille. I’m, of course, 23 and dating a bartender 10 years older than me. It’s standard.
J: Yeah, you have to.
M: Of course.
J: You don’t have to.
M: That’s the thing. You actually have a choice.
J: You really don’t have to, guys. Things were different in 2010.
M: Yeah, so enough was enough. I was going to be on the news or whatever, I was doing standup at the time. I was like, f*ck it, I’m moving to New York. I pry myself away from my “dad-boyfriend.” So I moved here, transferred to Capital Grille on 42nd & 3rd down by the U.N. That’s when I met all of the dignitaries. Michelle Obama came in one day. It was the most bizarre thing ever because I literally moved to New York, and Grand Central is my workplace.
J: It’s totally insane.
M: So I was on Molly all around Midtown East for a year. It was crazy. When I think of my early going out days, I’m at a lot of Irish bars with guys in suits. I dated a couple of investment bankers. It was so bizarre.
J: Where did you live at that time? Were you always in Brooklyn?
M: I was in Brooklyn at the time. I lived by you for a second in Crown Heights at my friend Abby’s apartment while I found an apartment. There were six Craigslist roommates in Greenpoint woods. My friend was living across the hall and he’s like, “yeah, there’s another one open.” I was like perfect, I’ll just sign up with these weirdos.
J: Great. So you took the G to the 7 to get to work.
M: G to the 7. Or I’d walk across the Pulaski, sometimes flipped up entirely, so I couldn’t get to the 7. I’d just send a picture of the bridge to my manager and be like, “bridge is up; I’m going to be 10 minutes late.” Honestly, I just had it on my phone and if I was running late, I would send the same photo.
J: That same bird is in the photo every time.
M: Exactly, it’s the same goddamn picture. They were trying to fire me for so long.
J: How long did you work there?
M: It had to be at least a year and a half. But they wanted me out the second I started.
J: Here’s the thing, and we’ve touched on this a little bit. Steakhouses and steakhouse culture is so emblematic of everything disgusting in America and everything evil. Yet, it is so f*cking sexy.
M: I love steak. We should probably just start a podcast about steak. I don’t know why we haven’t done that yet.
J: One day on Fire Island, Melissa went to the Pines Pantry and came back with $165 dollars of sirloin for the house, pre-tenderized.
M: I was like, “Don’t feel like you guys have to give me money for this, I know I just made this choice.”
J: Then there’s me, whose greatest fear in this life is overcooked steak, am on Melissa like a backpack while she’s grilling.
M: You were, but in a way that I welcomed. Literally, the stakes are high. I could f*ck this up, and I knew we had it. But your emotional support in the steak cooking was absolutely crucial.
J: When you’re cooking in a group, everyone can get kind of distracted and be chill about it.
M: You want to know what my worst nightmare is? It’s cooking a steak for a bunch of people and knowing that it’s overdone and watching everyone be like, “No, it’s not that bad.” I will jump off this roof. That is horrible. But everything was in such a flow state in the house.
J: And they were so good. I’ve never worked in a steakhouse. But I know it’s probably one of the most miserable places to work, just because the clientele has got to be brutal.
M: Well, this is the thing. There’s always the opportunity to flip that on its head. At least this is my experience coming at it as a woman. There are the guys who want a beefy, older guy to sit and talk to him about marbling and blah blah blah. I will talk to you about marbling for two hours. I knew everything. But they want your classic plate of cocaine and steak and Don Draper bullsh*t. But they did like when I would dom them into ordering like a $400 bottle of wine. They would get into it. They’d be like, “Oh, this girl’s like showing me up.” But I think I was also addicted to that manipulation of the situation.
J: That’s the only way you can survive jobs like that.
M: Exactly. So it was bizarre. You’re watching all these weird business deals go down, and there were pharmaceutical dinners. People with escorts and sugar daddies scenarios, which I obviously loved, but it was really weird.
J: I worked at the Italian restaurant version of that when I first moved to New York. When I moved to New York, I did not understand and was so shocked by how wealthy, wealthy people are. I’m sure you saw the same thing. Maybe it wasn’t as disparate from Pittsburgh. When I worked in Burlington, people would get pissed that a Margarita was over $10. If I dropped a check over $100, I was worried they were going to be pissed. Even though they fully ordered everything, people did not want to spend money there. It’s not a place for wealthy people.
M: My biggest tips were in Pittsburgh. I got a $1,000 tip one day at lunch. I just got back from Bonnaroo, I was a little poor, and this guy left me $500 randomly. Do you know what I mean? I feel like people are actually more generous in those spaces. Granted, people in Pittsburgh are generally really nice. But you’re right, people are expecting to spend money in New York. They are not as cool with it outside of NYC.
J: I was casually waiting on two finance guys — I would say finance bros, but they were definitely in their 50s — and they very casually ordered this bottle of wine that I had never heard of before. I entered it into the computer, and it was $4,000. I didn’t know what to do, and I went up to a manager and was like, “This table just ordered a $4,000 bottle of wine.” They were like, “And?” I didn’t know what to do. They were like, “Go get the bottle.” There’s not a form to fill out? What are you talking about? This is insane. And then they literally just drank it.
J: I think they did.
M: That’s the biggest bullsh*t ever, and it frustrated me so much, because it goes into your sales. You’re tipping out on those sales, which includes the wine, and then if somebody doesn’t include that in their total then your just getting f*cked.
J: No, that shit sucks.
M: There’s so much that goes on in restaurant stuff that people who have not worked in service obviously would have no idea about. But like they’re committing major crimes by their behavior.
J: We’ve never talked about this, but this is why we’ve f*cked with going out with each other. I don’t have to worry if you’re going to be on your best behavior in terms of the staff. You’re always going to treat your server well, you’re always going to treat your bartender well. You’re not going to be a problem to the staff. If I ever go out with someone I don’t know that well and that ever comes up, we’re never going out again.
M: One thousand percent. There is nothing less attractive in a person, not even sexually. Watching you drink that horrible drink when we were at Bushwig. You saw him pour the sour mix, or maybe Cointreau or something.
J: It was triple sec. I got a Gin & Soda at Bushwig, and he made it with triple sec. That’s a triple sec and soda. I’m not going to say anything, this man’s been bartending Bushwig for 10 hours. In no world am I sending back a drink.
M: He was like, “Taste this.” You had to give it back. I respect that. You are a beautiful soul.
J: There would have to be a full rat tested positive for Covid in a drink for me to send it back.
M: And so you’ll be like, “Listen, I’m in service, too. I never do this.”
J: If I order a gin Martini and it gets shaken, it’s fine. I’ll drink it. I’m never going to cause an issue. But that was maybe the one time where I was like, maybe I should have sent this back. I did not feel good after because it’s all sugar.
M: You were still sipping on it, I respect it.
J: I could have thrown it away, but I didn’t. That’s probably the bigger mistake of all of it.
M: Well, no, because it was probably like $12.
J: For sure. So if you were to paint a picture for your ideal night out, what does that look like?
M: Oh my god. Lately, I’ve been very into dining. That is just part of getting older, and this kind of excuse that dining gives, where you can get as f*cked up as you want, but it started in a very classy way. You can be like, “How did we end up here?” But really, you knew. It doesn’t even have to be a steakhouse, but I would love to eat a steak. That would be great. Larry had a show at Duplex. We went to Boucherie. I had a steak and a steak tartare. After the show, we go to Buvette, and we have another steak tartare. What is wrong with me?
J: Your cholesterol, that’s what’s wrong with you.
M: Literally. I actually have always had very high cholesterol.
J: You are a Don Draper steakhouse man in a petite woman’s body.
M: I truly am. I need to become the face of Lipitor. My point in telling you that is I went to Nowadays right after that and danced for hours.
J: And everyone’s like, “I smell beef,” and it’s sweaty Melissa on the dance floor.
M: It’s literally me with meat sweat. So disgusting, actually foul. I didn’t think about anyone else in that scenario. I was like, “Look at me, full of meat, dancing.”
J: If I were out with you, I’d be so pissed, because everyone’s going to think it’s me. You’re like dancing away, reeking of steak. Then there’s me, a 220-pound 6-foot guy.
M: Maybe for the good of the people, I didn’t have a massive steak before. But in my ideal world, I don’t smell like meat. I’m going to say dinner, a group meetup in a chill way.
J: So, group meetup.
M: Maybe a cocktail first with the excitement of a thing that we’re going to be at. I love going to a fancy place and being a complete idiot. My friend and I went to the PUBLIC Hotel three years ago on shrooms one night. It’s a hilarious story. It’s my friend Kiki.
J: Who I’m dying to meet, we need to go to Kiki’s immediately.
M: Yeah, definitely. She’s Greek, and it was her name day. It’s the day of the name. This tells you what year it is, because we were meeting people and she’s like, “I’m Kiki,” and they’re like, “Oh, like the song.” We’re like, “What song is it?”
J: Oh, the Drake song.
M: It was the Drake song that came out and we hadn’t heard it yet. And we’re on shrooms. So everyone’s singing that song. We’re like, “What the f*ck is going on?”
J: Everyone’s singing her name.
M: They put it on. To hear that song while we were on shrooms was crazy and weird. At the PUBLIC Hotel.
J: Yeah, you’re in a stunning room.
M: I’m in a Fila sweatshirt with the hood up, sunglasses. It was the World Cup.
J: Oh my god, this is like Mad Libs of a day.
M: We had not gone to bed the night before. England won, and we were going nuts. This is honestly part of the reason I’m dating my boyfriend, too, which is crazy. We haven’t even slept, and I remember her just saying, “Let’s go someplace fancy and f*ck sh*t up.” That’s part of my ideal night. Go someplace fancy, be out of place and run it, you know?
J: Being around a bunch of stiffs and being like, what if we all loosened up a little bit?
M: Yeah, exactly. To follow that, I would say, let’s leave and then go to the actual place with the vibe. For the later hours, which are to me, the best hours. I find it very difficult to go out during normal business hours. Have you tried to go to a bar at like 10 p.m.? When the public is out on a weekend night, it’s a nightmare. When I’m going out, the questions I ask myself are: Where do I know someone, either at the door or who’s working there? Where do I have a hook-up? Because that’s the place to go.
J: I feel the same way.
M: I would be going somewhere where I know someone, who was at the door. If I’m time-traveling in this, I would go to Paul’s Baby Grand in 2017 or something, before it blew up or whatever. Somewhere fun where I know the door and the vibe is good. Someplace where the vibe is pinpoint perfect every time
J: The 10 p.m. thing is so true, and that also comes from working in the industry. When you’re working during amateur hours, you’re not out during amateur hours. When you finally get your weekend night off, or when you stop working in the industry, and then you go out to a bar at 10 p.m. on a Saturday and you’re like, what is this hell? Who lives in this city? It’s rookie hour. My worst nightmare is when I see a bar I love get promoted on TikTok. It’s over. What is one to do? It is what you’re saying. There is something special about post-12:30a.m., I would say. You get more into the big leagues.
M: Yeah, after 1 a.m. What you’re saying right now is kind of reminding me of coming around to the ticketed event. This was the summer of buying tickets to things. At first, I was so not on board for that. For one, I can’t get my sh*t together to buy a ticket. Also, I hate paying for a cover.
J: Also, there’s nothing worse than committing to a plan and then finding out something better is happening. There’s actually nothing worse.
M: Once I kind of let go of things like that, or the idea that just because I bought a ticket to this, I don’t have to go to this.
J: You can probably sell it.
M: That was somewhat appealing to me by the end of the summer, because there’s not this hour thing. We’re in when we’re in. We paid to be here and blah blah blah.
J: It’s also because I’m not waiting in a line for longer than 15 minutes. I’m not interested, so I want to know someone at the door, ideally. Or I want to have a ticket and I want to get in. There is something nice about having just a little bit of structure. These longer events where you know it’s gonna be a show for an hour and there’s a dance party after, I can do that. If you get your $30 in and you’re not feeling it, then you leave. It’s interesting because you met me when the way I go out really changed. Before we met, I was not a late night girl. You would not catch me out past midnight most nights.
M: But you were bartending, right?
J: I was bartending, which I think was part of it. On my days off, if we were going out, I was really pro meeting at 5 p.m. and wrapping it up at 11 p.m.
M: That is very industry.
J: It’s very industry. I like it about myself, but sometimes I wish I wasn’t, I am a morning person. Unfortunately, I am a morning person. I prefer to be up at 7 a.m. doing my sh*t. But I’m not one to go to bed early. I’m usually in bed on a non-going night at midnight. If I’ve had a few drinks, I really like to eat some prosciutto and sometimes that happens in bed.
M: This is another reason I bonded with you really quickly. I will live on prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella alone. I survive on those.
J: I used to be one of those people that was like, nothing good happens after 1 a.m. There’s no point.
M: And I will only have fun after 1 a.m.
J: What I learned from you and that whole crew is that if you approach the night being like, we’re in this for the long haul, there’s something freeing about it. There’s less pressure on each individual moment to be fun because you’re in an experience. You can kind of keep everything chill. There’s less pressure to be like, “We’re out for two hours and then we’re going in.” There’s more of a flow. There’s more of an experience. At the end of the night, or even the next morning, we had like a whole day’s worth of that night out. Which is more fulfilling, instead of just being like, “We went to dinner and then we went home.” Instead it’s, “We met up for a drink, we went to dinner, we walked around.” It’s an adventure.
M: What you said is very profound. You talk about alchemy, or energies, of what creates a really fun night. And it is everybody being on board for the ebbs and the flows of the night. That’s very difficult sometimes. Comedians have a tough time with this, because if a comedian isn’t having fun for five minutes, I’m going to leave. It is not a character flaw of comedians, I think it’s the way that we can treat our time. Or the awareness of, I’m going to be hung over the next day, so I’m not going to write. It’s such a full-time job that it’s hard to feel like you’re wasting time. When you’re in a transitory part of the night’s experience, you’re not having fun for a second. It’s going to lull, you’re going to be waiting for someone, you’re going to be wanting to move before you’re moving. You have to deal with that.
J: Also, a lot of comedians are control freaks, and I think that a key to a good night is a release of control. You’re literally in the rapids and need to let the water move you where you’re going. And I think a lot of comedians struggle with that, especially standup. You’re getting a lot of attention in a space where everyone’s watching you. You can do things almost with mathematical precision. A lot of comedians don’t actually have the best social skills, because they’re not really good at the “tit for tat.” They do better when there’s a role and it’s their full output. Nights out can be really hard for those types.
M: I really do feel like a responsibility to push them. That’s something I’ve been working on personally. If a person says they don’t want to go, let them not go.
J: I will say, you have saved me from missing some good moments. I’ve had a moment where I’m like, “I’m going to bail,” and then you’re like, “Absolutely not.” We’re on location three of the night where I’m like, “It’s time for me to go home. “And you’re like, “Walk inside this bar right now, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” I always had the best time.
M: I remember looking at you several times and being like, “Stay for 20 minutes.”
J: Then two hours later, I’m like, thank God. It’s so true.
M: And to do things that seem illogical. Like us going to that rave and paying $40 for the last hour of it. Not logical, but it was so fun.
J: It was Bryan’s birthday. Yeah, it was a good hour.
M: That was fantastic. Or even my birthday, which I don’t know if I dragged you to this.
J: I could not go. Remember, famously on your birthday, I did lose my cell phone in that nightclub.
M: Birthdays are such a nightmare in this way. What is a good plan for everyone where they’re not going to pay a cover?
J: I’m throwing a birthday party in two weeks. It’s hell.
M: It’s absolutely insane.
J: We already had to change locations. I want to die.
M: I don’t think you have to do anything for a long time.
J: You love a location change.
M: Movement, that’s how I go out.
J: What was that night out recently, Nate talks about this all the time. We went to the Rosemont and it was off. We were there for 15 minutes, and you’re like, “I called the car.”
M: I didn’t even ask anyone, I just booked an Uber XL.
J: The location had already been decided. I think we were at the Three Dollar Bill within the hour.
M: That was after Azealia Banks. We had just experienced something pretty iconic. I couldn’t let us look at each other and dance half-heartedly. The music was of, I don’t know what it was.
J: It was not right, and you knew it.
M: And I got us out.
J: It was so iconic. Starting with a cocktail before the meal is my favorite feeling in the world. One of my favorite feelings in the world is when you’ve had two drinks, and then it’s time for dinner. You’re a little buzzed, and you kind of forget. Do you know when you forgot you ordered dessert and then dessert shows up? It’s the same thing. It’s like you forget that you haven’t had dinner yet, because you had two cocktails, and then dinner shows up.
M: I don’t know why I associate this with suburbia, but I like the feeling of, “Let’s get a drink at the bar while we wait for our table.”
J: Oh my God, it’s heaven. You associate it with suburbia? Like Applebee’s?
M: Not necessarily Applebee’s, though I did just go to the Applebee’s in Times Square.
M: I went to see “Carolines,” and the show was inexplicably at 5 p.m. So we were out by 7 p.m. and starving. We looked to our right, and there was an Applebee’s.
J: Of the Times Square properties, I would probably choose Applebee’s.
M: I hate where this is going. Have you been to Bubba Gump Shrimp?
J: I have never been.
M: Talk about me getting free shots. I have gotten many, because you can set the bar and do trivia. And they give you shots.
J: They always have trivia at Bubba Gump Shrimp?
M: Every time I’ve been there.
J: What a twist that you are a regular at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.
M: I’m not a regular. I’ve just been there, I think, more than most people. I’ve been there a small handful of times. My sister likes it. Talk about an expensive birthday party: I had a friend do a chain restaurant crawl in Times Square.
J: Who the f*ck did this?
M: I don’t know. But I know I went to that in the early New York days.
J: You tried six different $37 dollar chicken piccatas?
M: I didn’t eat anything. I wasn’t paying for that.
J: Yeah, absolutely.
M: I paid $13 for a Bud Light. I’m not buying food on top of this.
J: I used to be a secret shopper for a restaurant group. It was the sickest gig I’ve ever had and probably will ever have.
M: Jake! I can’t believe you never told me this.
J: It sucks that it’s gone now. It ended because of Covid and hasn’t come back. Now I’m on a podcast saying I was a secret shopper, so I probably can’t do it anymore. But it was so sick.
M: I can’t believe you were in service and you did that. Because, to me, these are the demons of the underworld.
J: So they wanted service people to do it. Did I ever report anyone for doing anything? The main thing you were looking for was theft. Are they stealing? Once a week, I would go to one of their restaurants, and they would tell me which one to go to. I could bring one friend and spend $100.
M: Oh my god.
J: And the thing was, you had to pay in cash. And then make sure that they gave you a receipt with everything rung in and the correct change. And I had to sit at the bar. Because when you pay cash at a bar, it’s really easy as a bartender to pocket the cash. I would have never reported anyone, to be perfectly honest.
M: Every bartender is stealing from you. That’s one of the guarantees in life.
J: At least they’re going to give a free drink or something, which is a form of stealing, I guess. It depends on the policy. At my last gig before I stopped, we were allowed to give stuff away. So I wouldn’t call that stealing. Anyway, I would go, spend $100 dollars, and then the next day I just had to write a report that was just the time stamps when everything happened. So it would be: Sat at 7:15 p.m., drink order at 7:18 p.m., drink arrived at 7:20 p.m. I would just have to do that. And then they would reimburse me the $100 and then pay me $125.
M: Hell, yes.
J: It was such a sick gig. But the one downside was one of their restaurants was Guy Fieri’s Kitchen & Bar in Time Square.
M: Oh, wow.
J: I’ve been there dozens of times. One time my friend got violent diarrhea before we even left the restaurant. I think it’s gone now. The nachos were red, white, and green tortilla chips — like the Italian flag — with provolone, marinara, pepperoncini, and pepperoni. I ordered the nachos, because you had to get food. Otherwise, I would just get the booze and booze is fine anywhere. We had to get the food. The first time we got the nachos, I didn’t even read the description.
M: Who puts marinara on and calls it nachos?
J: They were like, “Well, it’s fusion.” But my tour of being a secret shopper was truly one of my greatest gigs.
M: That’s awesome. That’s a good gig.
J: It was so good. OK, gorgeous. I guess we have to wrap up, because unfortunately, we have come to the end. This went by so fast.
M: Yes, I could be here for days.
J: We didn’t really get into it, but you were on the scene in Pittsburgh. And then you were on the scene in New York. You’ve really found yourself a crew and a space, and you have your spots. If someone’s new to a city or just wanting to establish themselves more, what’s your pro tip?
M: I mean, find the gays. That’s how it happened for me. Working at a restaurant is the fastest way to make friends. As far as going out, don’t be afraid to go out alone. Or make friends that you like enough to go out with. If they leave, stay. I know that sounds crazy, but I have a lot of memories in Pittsburgh of times where I really had great nights. My friends literally left, and I would stay and just dance. I feel like it enriched my life and my experience in Pittsburgh to the point where I was meeting people that way.
J: Totally, because you were doing what you wanted.
M: Exactly. And staying on your own path even if you are by yourself. That’s going to lead you to people who are really a good match for you. Because you are doing what you want to be doing.
J: Totally. You kind of just blew my mind, because I’ve had people ask me that question before. How do you make friends in a new city or what would be your advice for that? I’m realizing now, depending on what your job is, if you have a little extra time or you’re bored, find a restaurant or bar with a good vibe. See if they need a server one night a week.
M: Oh my god, to bartend one night a week.
J: It’s kind of the dream.
M: The negative of the restaurant industry is kind of the suction that happens.
J: One night a week will turn into three before the end of the month, and that’s the problem.
M: And that is unfortunate. But if you really could do one night a week, that would be really fun.
J: It would be really fun. I love you so much. Thank you so much.
M: I love you so much. This was so much fun.
J: All right, everyone come see Melissa and I at bars around New York very soon, both performing and drinking.
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.