Years ago, I remember meeting friends in Philadelphia’s University City. I gave a supposed homeless person money. When I exited the restaurant an hour later, I saw him jump into a Cadillac with his other friends counting the cash. I felt angry and robbed. A friend said that my intention was the important thing. But I am no longer a fan of handing money over to people on the street. However, there are always exceptions.


In NYC the homeless are fun and very talented. The Motown group, the mariachi band, the break dancers who’s big closer is a 3 year old dressed like them … Sure there’s the occasional accapella soloist singing “I believe the children are our future” … in which case I offer them a dollar to stop singing. I figure it’s not gonna make me any more rich or poor and it’s a community service against noise pollution.


But don’t expect me to give anything to you just because you gave an unsolicited performance. I was perfectly fine having a quiet subway ride. I gave money to the Motown singers and was then berated by another homeless man. “Why the f**k do they get money and I don’t!” he yells.  “Because they didn’t shake a f**king cup in my face that’s why!” I reply. 


It’s like strippers at a nightclub that hover their junk over your head while you’re having a drink with a friend. So fuckin lame. Hey asshole – you need money? Pull the sock out of your g-string and go panhandle on the street like a normal person!


For better or worse I’ve been desensitized to the homeless people that scour the city in Los Angeles. Some talk, argue and even get into physical altercations with themselves. In LA, the homeless are crazy and they’ll f-n kill ya.


I find whether you are helping them or not, if you don’t ignore them and address them directly, no harm will come to you. They know you see them, so acknowledge them. I can be direct, respectful and still say no with personal strength so they don’t mess with me. Approached first thing in the morning I’ve cut them off, hand up, with an, “It’s too early for this.”  After hustling all day I’ve replied, “You’re askin the wrong guy buddy. I ‘m a comedian.”  At a stoplight by the tranny-hooker-donut shop I’ll say, “I like your dress man-lady!”


Some homeless look perfectly healthy and even dress well! If you’re gonna play the homeless card, do not put on your new hightops or tweed jacket. Messing up your hair does not sell the product.


Props are generally lame too. How do some own a dog but don’t own a home? I’ve had a dog. They are damn expensive. Showing me your dog and telling me you’re hungry? You should eat your f**kin’ dog. Man’s best friend can be man’s best meal. Don’t be picky. You’re homeless.


Some aren’t homeless, they’re just asking for money. Panhandlers … Don’t be lazy and unprepared. Have an act.


Have you seen the young black boys who have huge boxes of M&M’s they’re selling for their basketball team? It’s November. There is no basketball now. And why do you have to start the announcement with “Ladies and gentlemen, I am not doing drugs or stealing …”. Hey guy – the homeless start that same sentence when they ask for handouts. It’s plagiarism and a disjointed logic to boot.  HEY! I’m not a Nazi and I don’t have crabs! Give me a dollar!” You never heard Ron Popeil start off that way before ‘pitching’ The Juicer ( but maybe the JEW-sir).


There’s a little Chinese lady who sells nothing but those pencil top “Whirlies”. I don’t know what it’s really called but it’s a piece of neon green plastic that sits on top of a pencil. It lights up and makes a whirly sound when you shake it vigorously. Has anyone in the last 20 years seen her shuffle through the train and think, “Ya know? I need that.” She sells one in 6 months and goes home to her family bragging about her sales technique which is far more successful than her brother-in-law who stood at the exit to the Lincoln Tunnel all day holding one, five dollar bouquet of flowers that he couldn’t sell.


Somehow I find her “job” more annoying or insulting than being homeless and asking for a handout. She is enabling the production of crappy toys and getting mindless people to buy them, polluting our planet with more garbage. That being said, I believe there were only 52 “Whirlies” produced and they just circulate the world along with fruitcakes and Caribbean pirate coconut heads.


I do love the Sybil-esque switcheroo for the homeless that praise you to Jesus while asking for money until you snub them. Then cursing you to the fiery depths of hell. Life is hard. I’m killin myself to make it. So sometimes I just want to give and get honesty from my fellow man. When I don’t, well, it generally goes something like this …



Walking Out of the Subway


Homeless Woman: “Jesus loves you. Can you spare me some money?”

Me: “No, sorry.”

Homeless Woman: “Well why the hell not cracker-ass ?”

Me: “Because I am one paycheck away from not paying my rent and I’m out workin my ass off. What are you doin?!”

Homeless Woman: “We’ll that’s all you had to say!”

Me: “Well that’s what I did say!”

Homeless Woman: “OK!”

Me: “OK!”


In Penn Station

Pan Handler: “Scuze me. I’m not looking for a hand out, but I’m taking a train to Harrisburg and it’s twelve dollars and I only have seven.”

Me: “OK … so what can I do for you?”

Pan Handler: “Well, I’m not looking for anything. I’m just saying you know, I’m taking this trip to Harrisburg and the ticket is twelve dollars.”

Me: “Right? So what are you asking me?”

Pan Handler: “Well I’m just asking for some Christian brotherhood, you faggot m*therf**ker!”

Me: “Hmmm, ok well #1, you should have just said what you wanted instead of this tap dancing around and #2, I don’t think you can use the term “Catholic brotherhood” and faggot m*therf**ker in the same sentence.”


So basically here’s what I’m looking for from my homeless.

1.)   Show a real skill, an act, a talent.

2.)   Get to the point.

3.)   Learn the full lyrics to “Greatest Love”. It’s been done. At least do it well and have some kind of instrumental.



Michael Paul Ziegfeld, Citizen of the World


*You can follow comedian, Michael Ziegfeld at www.twitter.com/michaelziegfeld