There’s a game we New Yorkers play on our daily subway commutes.
CRAZY or ACTOR?
To play, all you need to do is spot someone on the subway muttering to themselves. The game is to figure out whether the person is CRAZY (or eccentric or slightly strange) and talking to themselves OR if they’re an ACTOR (or performer or stand up comedian) trying to memorize lines.
If they’re holding a script, this game ends pretty quickly: ACTOR.
If they’re clutching a crumpled piece of paper in their hand and trying not to look at it… the jury is still out.
Flamboyant or disheveled attire can go either way: CRAZY or ACTOR.
Drastic, sharp shifts in mood may point towards ACTOR but it’s not a forgone conclusion.
Laughter and/or crying: again, a toss-up.
If the person breaks the 4th wall and starts addressing the train car: CRAZY. Perhaps also an actor, a CRAZY ACTOR.
Specific gestures and facial expressions: likely an ACTOR but again, not safe to assume.
The other day, I was memorizing lines on the subway. I could feel people playing this game around me. Is she CRAZY? Or an ACTOR? I had the script on my phone, thus it was not an obvious ACTOR give-away. I was memorizing a scene I’d just received, a “play with in a play” for a web series I was shooting the next day. The scene was over the top, so dramatic as to be absurd. A fight with a giant blue demon and an “impromptu cesarean” are the highlights.
I looked absolutely CRAZY. There’s no doubt about it. Muttering lines like, “Here’s the knife! Here’s fucking knife, you heartless animal!”
The train stopped in a station, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are delayed due to train traffic ahead of us. Thank you for your patience.” I was so engrossed in my script, I might not have noticed how long we were stalled. But someone standing outside the open train doors was watching me. Watching me and playing a very different game than ACTOR or CRAZY.
He was a tiny little boy, maybe 5 years old. He was looking straight at me, with his adorable face grossly contorted.
He must have seen my face mouthing, “Cut this baby out of me!!”
Instead of being scared and running to his mom, he took my expression as an invitation for a Silly Face Contest!
I can’t say no to a Silly Face Contest!
I abandoned my script and made funny faces at this child.
We didn’t stop until the doors closed and the train left the station. It was awesome.
As the train sped away, I couldn’t help grinning and laughing to myself. It had been such a genuine, delightful interaction. I couldn’t stop smiling the entirety of the subway ride. Could this little boy tell I was an ACTOR? One especially adept at entertaining children? Or was he just really lucky I wasn’t CRAZY?
Have you ever played this game? Maybe not just on the subway? When was the last time you engaged in a Funny Face Contest? Ever done something that you realize made you look completely crazy/like an actor? Let me know I’m not alone?
(and thanks Benedict Cumberbatch for helping me illustrate this story. Click images for credit.)