Every New York commuter has likely asked the same question at least once: Why is my train so messed up? (Or maybe you used slightly stronger language.)
That’s just the question a group of comedians hope to answer in “Why Your Train is F---ed: A love/hate show about the history of the MTA,” a series of shows at Caveat, a Lower East Side venue that features “intelligent nightlife,” meant to entertain and educate.
“When I’m sitting on a train and I hear ‘delayed due to traffic’ or ‘signal problems,’ I don’t know what that means and I would love to know why that keeps happening and why no one’s fixing it,” Kate Downey, the 29-year-old creative director and co-founder of Caveat, said.
That frustration led her “down the rabbit hole” of information about the transit system’s history and inspired the series, which began on May 23. The next show is Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
The shows are hosted by two comedians with very different levels of experience with the subways: Meg Pierson, 31, has only lived in the city for one and a half years and considers herself still “optimistic” about the transit system, while Justin Williams, 34, has been doing stand-up in the city for the past 10 years and has been on trains “everywhere from Coney Island all the way up to Gun Hill Road.”
The two delve into the problems of public transportation dating as far back as the early 1800s (when horse-drawn streetcars led to way too much poop on the streets), which they have help dissecting from someone “on the inside,” an anonymous source with knowledge of the city’s transit history. What they’ve learned is that the problems New Yorkers face now are often a result of that history.
“You get to see how early 1900s corruption affects your commute,” Williams said.
While educating people on the history, the comedians hope to relay the “little human nuggets of weirdness” uncovered in their research.
“There’s just so many very, very human, weird things about the subway,” Downey said. Like in the 1950s and ’60s, people “used to suck subway tokens out of the machines with their mouths.
“That gives (Pierson and Williams) ammo for the comedy and ways to make it really weird and relatable for people.”
The series, which is being recorded to eventually be released as a podcast, will also go into what’s being done to address the current transit issues and what commuters can do to advocate for changes, Downey said.