The kid was nervous.
He stood on a small stage on Second Avenue, in the heart of the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Feet away from him sat Lorne Michaels, the gatekeeper to the world’s most prestigious comedy clique and creator of the most Emmy-nominated television show in history. With dark eyes and short, salt-and-pepper hair, the man sat in a wooden chair and waited, silent and scrutinizing, expressionless as he usually was at times like this.
It was 1996, and this was The Comic Strip, the oldest stand-up comedy showcase club in New York City. The long-haired kid wore jeans and a pullover T-shirt, and held in his shaking hands a Troll doll, a plastic, pantsless toy with beady eyes and neon ...