People move to New York City in order to accomplish their dreams. When the glitz and the glamour starts to fade a bit, horror stories of grotesque living conditions become reality. And yet we all stay enamored by the city. These tales are what comedian Christian Finnegan explored during his performance “The Gorgeous Mosaic.”
After debuting the show last year at Peoples Improv Theater in Manhattan, Finnegan and his wife sought out a space in Queens to revamp their show. They found the space at Q.E.D. in Astoria.
The updated show has some additions but he’s had to remove some specific material. For instance, given the nature of recent events, he’s decided to remove a joke concerning who a person would save in a fire at St. Mark’s Place.
Still, Finnegan will stick to locally-based topics like jokes about Duane Reade and cramped apartments. Where it might not translate on the road, New Yorkers can definitely find some common ground with his stories.
He originally planned to perform a set at Gotham Comedy Club and then perhaps make it downloadable. However, as he began to prepare for the set, Finnegan started “filling in the connective tissue” and soon the set became a combination of narrative storytelling and stand up.
“I have this theory that you’re really not a New Yorker until you’re pretty sure you would be happier somewhere else but refuse to leave,” he said. “It’s kind of an exploration of that idea, like what is it that is keeping us here?”
He’s had wild experiences like living in an apartment with four dogs, including a rottweiler that Finnegan couldn’t touch because he was mentally ill. He also lived for 10 months in an apartment with massive 12 to 14-inch subway rats running throughout the living room.
And yet he found his entire existence in New York to be heartwarming in a way.
“The main reason why I love it here is because living in New York stops you from having to make your own life interesting, it does it for you,” he said. “And there’s just a buzz of possibilty, both positive and negative, that I’ve never found anywhere else.“
The Boston native moved to New York in 1991, where he spent a decade in Manhattan before settling down in Queens in 2001. It took him a few career changes to find his true calling. Beyond studying acting at New York University, he went on to work in publishing before realizing he wouldn’t be the next great American novelist.
Standup comedy stumbled upon him and the rest was history. Eighteen years later, Finnegan argued that comedy was the one thing that he’s ever tried that no one could get him to stop if they wanted to.
“If I’m having a good or bad day, all I want to do is get on stage,” he said. “It’s easily my longest and most intense relationship with anything.”
When he moved to the city, Finnegan heard former Mayor David Dinkins call New York a mosaic. It was a metaphor that stuck and to this day it’s is his favorite image of what New York represents.
“It’s like a mosaic which consists of tiny little pieces of colored glass and they’re all different but when you put them together, they form a beautiful picture,” Finnegan said. “No one ever talks about the glue that’s between the tiles that keeps them from separating from each other and that’s what makes New York incredible.
“Also, it felt just pretentious enough for me for a title, which is always important.”