Home View from Underground Poll: ‘It’s showtime! Showtime’

Poll: ‘It’s showtime! Showtime’

by Benjamin Kabak

A few months ago, I made a slight shift in my evening commute back home to Brooklyn. Instead of taking the 2 or 3 train as it slowly winds its way south of Chambers St. to Grand Army Plaza, I shifted to the Q train from Times Square to 7th Ave. Although Q headways are longer, the ride itself is faster and more comfortable. I can usually get a seat from the get-go, and if I can’t, the BMT rolling stock is wider than the IRT’s. What I didn’t account for was “Showtime.”

You know “Showtime.” What time is it? Showtime! If you ride the subways long enough, you’ll see it and hear it and see it again and hear it again and again and again. A group of kids — sometimes young, sometimes old — come into the car, blast some music, and spin around on the poles. It’s the modern-day version of break dancing. After an express run — from Union Square to Canal if you’re lucky, from Canal to De Kalb if you’re not — they canvas for money and move on to the next car.

As things go underground these days, “Showtime” is divisive. I can’t stand it. It’s loud; it’s in your face; it’s inconsiderate, especially at rush hour. People on already crowded trains are focused to move to the sides (though I’ve seen more than a few groups refuse to move), and then tinny music blasting from a portable speaker fills the car. I just want peace and quiet on the way home.

Not everyone is as curmudgeonly as me. Some people love the Showtime routines. It is, they say, just a way for kids to earn a few bucks, and it doesn’t harm anyone. It’s just good ol’ New York fun.

The debate came to a head shortly after Christmas when two men were arrested. DNA Info reported that a Showtime duo were charged with reckless endangerment as a misdemeanor as they “caused a hazard to themselves and others around them, and made excessive noise by blaring music from a stereo.” I think an arrest is a bit too harsh, but removing the threat of Showtime from a crowded subway is A-OK with me.

But I’m just one person. Let’s hear from you. What are your thoughts on Showtime? Let’s have a poll.

What do you think of "Showtime" routines on the subway?
View Results

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Bolwerk January 7, 2014 - 4:07 pm

It’s antisocial. It’s selfish. It’s…about making money. But two things:

1) Instead of giving people who don’t usually actually hurt anyone arrest records, fine it so heavily it’s not worth it anymore; the financial impetus goes away and so does the problem.

2) Would it be so bad to give kids like that busking licenses and a place to do their shows?

Spendmor Wastemor January 7, 2014 - 7:17 pm

I’m sure, well, reasonably sure, that the case will be dismissed or continued then dismissed.

It’s cute the first time, sorta cute the fifth time… and if it’s the 100th time you’ve sat through pretty much the same thing I admire your restraint. Here I will be in rare agreement with you that it doesn’t rise to the level of criminal offense. I think the charge is meant to be a “this time we mean it” message and it won’t be pursued beyond a “get a permit or don’t do it” deal, and obviously it’ll need to be in a station, not on the train.

realist June 11, 2016 - 10:53 pm

That wouldn’t work. Except for maybe a few tourists nobody wants to see the “show.” They’re a disaster waiting to happen.

Erik January 7, 2014 - 4:28 pm

On the Q train as well (or maybe it was the W back in the day) I once saw one of these kids take out a child. They were doing their act and one did a tumbling roll quite a distance down the aisle (impressive gymnastics, actually) but a child who wasn’t paying attention took a step back from her mom and was knocked over like a bowling pin. The performer then was thrown off and ran straight into a pole with his remaining momentum. Served him right. There were many apologies. It was awkward. But it just goes to show that in addition to the normal annoyingness of panhandling it’s dangerous. At least the kids selling M&Ms for their basketball programs, homeless mother sob stories, and the guys selling sandwiches stay out of the way and move on quickly. And at least the Mariachi bands are more considerate even though they have the same travel pattern.

norax January 7, 2014 - 4:31 pm

I agree an arrest is extreme.

I do find the showtime!rs grating, though (especially between Canal and DeKalb!). I think the loudness is rude, though granted I’m probably overly sensitive to noise. What really bothers me is when performers basically order people to move to the sides, making a busy train even more crowded and uncomfortable for a lot of people who just want to ride home in peace.

I’m curious to see the results of the poll since it does seem like a polarizing issue.

Chris C January 7, 2014 - 5:24 pm

Did you read the report in the link because that says

” … dancing and somersaulting on a packed A train at about 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 27, police said.”

It was the somersaulting that was dangerous (and really stupid).

So no I don;t think an arrest was exrtream

Daniel January 7, 2014 - 4:43 pm

I find breakdancers less annoying than bad barbershop quartets (AFAICT, *good* barbershop quartets perform in stations like other musicians; it’s the bad ones who need a captive audience in a subway car) and both less annoying than preachers.

Which doesn’t say much about breakdancers, except that if you go after one and not the others I suspect ulterior motives.

Benjamin Kabak January 7, 2014 - 4:44 pm

I could do without bad barbershop quarters and preachers too. I don’t need bootleg DVDs either.

SEAN January 7, 2014 - 4:43 pm

Aresting these people is extreme, but what do you expect when zero tolarence is allowed to run amuck. That said most of the time these performers are anoying when they have blasting music. Some do have legit tallent though.

tacony January 7, 2014 - 4:44 pm

I just want peace and quiet on the way home.

I’ve made this comment before, but I find the officially-condoned music performers in the subway stations to be mostly really annoying and way too loud, and in Times Square and Union Square especially, they create legitimate pedestrian circulation issues as tourists crowd around them and make it difficult to fight your way through the quickest route to transfer between lines.

It boggles my mind that the MTA and NYPD waste resources arresting the kids who do “Showtime!” and the Mexican guys who play guitars while my biggest pet peeve performers are the ones the MTA apparently thinks are really cool? I don’t think we should banish all performers from the stations but turn down the volume and don’t block our way.

Spendmor Wastemor January 7, 2014 - 7:32 pm

That’s a tough call. There are times when I find the amps annoying, especially when it kills what would have been something fun and entertaining.

Example: There’s an old Chinese guy who plays an Erhu, a majestically simple instrument that transparantely shows the player’s skill, or lack of it. I’d run across one performing unamplified in a station a few years ago; that was remarkable. More recently I heard one playing through a tinny but loud mini-amp, which killed any musicality he may have had.

To me this is part of the character of the city. If it makes someone smile once in a while, it’s worth it. I have no patience for the sidewalk as urinal philosophy espoused and practiced by some residents and endorsed by the ACLU. Not kidding — the NYCLU brought a case on behalf of a schizophrenic homeless woman who was shouting at passerby and defecating on the sidewalk. The leftist judge (perhaps promoted by the same group) found this perfectly reasonable, and that it was an abridgement of civil liberties to arrest this woman and others like her. As a result, she never got treated for schizophrenia and died out on the street.

Tsuyoshi January 7, 2014 - 4:48 pm

Acrobatics on a train (or on the platform) is dangerous and deserves an arrest, in my opinion. Otherwise… in stations (not on the platform) it’s OK.

I also object to the noise (from them, and from the musicians, preachers, “homeless”, etc.) on the train because passengers are not able to move somewhere else to avoid it. Perhaps not worthy of an arrest, but definitely worth a fine. If there are enough people that actually enjoy such a thing (I really doubt it), maybe it’s worth designating certain cars as “noisy” cars where music performances can be allowed.

Lady Feliz January 7, 2014 - 4:55 pm

Thanks Ben for reminding me why I left NYC for good a few years ago. Whenever I get wistful for the old town I just go on SAS or Gothamist and go “oh, yes, THAT’S why I no longer live there!” Not only is it 72 degrees in my new city today, but there are ZERO instances of “showtime!” on the subway. If I want to actually see a show, I just go to one of the numerous theatre/music venues in town to do so.

JMB January 7, 2014 - 5:00 pm

Been riding the rails for about 12 years now and noticed something new (i refuse to say trending). Anyone else seeing the free paper distributors becoming more and more aggressive? At first they hung out outside stations but im finding them moving in more and more into stations themselves. Second was outside the terminals and now i see them in the mezzanine.

I guess you could try to get around them but its really crowded and in my xp it seems the two competing companies dispatch at least 3 distributors each. So thats 6 people coming straight at me with their crap papers. I thought this was totally illegal to do, hence why they had to stay street level.

Also noticiing a big uptick with the Jehovah Witnesse tables in mezzanines.

Bgriff January 7, 2014 - 5:44 pm

They love to get in the way of the floods of people trying to take the L->F/M and L->N/Q/R stairways during morning rush hour.

Matthias January 8, 2014 - 1:55 pm

Bingo. They block the entrances at 125 St/Lex in the morning. I’m hurrying to catch the train and the person in front of me slows down to take a paper. They also get mad at you if you don’t take one. I’ve complained about this multiple times.

alek January 7, 2014 - 5:01 pm

I’m deaf and I just snooze through the loud music showings turning off hearing aid. But what annoys me is those dangerous teens doing dance moves and I nearly got hit by a teenager doing a flip. I was seated and I was scared to death that I could get hit and my plans would be gone out of the window if I was bleeding.

On the 7 train ride toward home there was a “blind” lady covered with sunglasses with a cane she seemed to walk so smoothly without bumping into other people. She even crossed the subway cars without a hitch. She was asking for money but I was not sure if she was really faking it or actually she is blind legally.

Matt January 7, 2014 - 5:27 pm

If you want to see all manner of begging on the subway, ride the 42nd Street shuttle during evening rush hour. Every train. Sometimes several cars per train. It’s one of the big reasons why I signed up for Citibike.

Vicki January 7, 2014 - 5:29 pm

Loud music might be a first amendment issue. But the first amendment doesn’t give anyone the right to kick in the air a few inches from my head while I’m sitting on a bench, nor to thump into me and act as though it’s my fault when I shout “Hey, watch it!”

It’s not even that I or other passengers “didn’t get out of the way fast enough.” This happened while I was lucky enough to have a seat on an uptown A train (59th to 125th). Being seated on a subway bench is out of the way for any reasonable definition of that term.

Eric January 8, 2014 - 4:38 am

Quiet music might be a First Amendment issue, but loud music certainly isn’t.

Maya January 8, 2014 - 11:32 pm

Oh god, I had a job that involved taking the A between 59th and 125th around 7-15 times a week in the middle of the day. Prime showtime time. And yeah, I was in serious danger of headkicks a couple times when I was sitting in a seat.

Alex January 7, 2014 - 5:31 pm

I will be much happier, if MTA will remove those stinky homeless living in subway cars or begging for money. How many times did you need to switch the car just because them stink so badly, that you can’t deal with it?

Spendmor Wastemor January 7, 2014 - 7:38 pm

That stink means fecal matter, which carries some interesting diseases.

Older and Wiser January 7, 2014 - 5:51 pm

Can’t help but notice that it’s always the poorest-dressed riders in the car who enable show time with their endless supply of one dollar tips.

If you can afford a dollar tip every time a show time crew comes through the car, don’t tell me you need to be protected from every 25 cent fare increase that might come along with it.

Bgriff January 7, 2014 - 5:52 pm

When I first moved to New York over a decade ago I was still young and un-jaded enough to find some of the musical acts entertaining, including Showtime. That hasn’t happened in some while now.

(And is it just me or has the quality of a lot of the in-car “performances” gotten worse? I feel like the first time or two that I saw Showtime it was dangerous and inappropriate but also actually kind of impressive. The last few times I’ve seen it there are not remotely any worries about getting kicked in the head because the people doing it aren’t doing anything nearly that acrobatic. I’ve also seen heartbreaking variants like a parent trying to have a clearly exhausted and uninterested young child perform for cash.)

But, I still have a soft spot for these kinds of things, in that “only in New York” kind of way. At least I’ve never encountered the train performance/vendor culture in other cities. Homeless people begging for change do seem to be more universal, unfortunately. I’ve also heard anecdotally that Chicago has more hellfire preachers on the train, probably because they’re still good midwestern types whereas New Yorkers are beyond saving.

Josh January 7, 2014 - 6:12 pm

Not going to lie, I’m pretty surprised at the number of curmudgeons here.

After 7 years in NYC, does showtime annoy me? Absolutely. Do I think these kids should be a little less brash and a little more respectful. Yes. Do I think this a problem the MTA should be spending even a second thinking about? No.

I totally agree with the point that arresting these kids is a little extreme. If it’s illegal, they should be fined and given that we have a system needing money, they should be fined aggressively. If they can get away with it and they aren’t wreaking havoc on the streets, good for them. There are a million other types of begging going on on the subway and none of them give any kind of cultural contribution never mind one that like it or loathe it is uniquely NYC. I’d much rather see them legitimised and fighting for space on busking pitches in big stations that have it. This might even raise the quality of the performances — which I agree has gone down quite a bit and as someone who traverses the 59th-125th corridor on the (A) on a daily basis I would like to think I am a bit of an expert in “Showtime!!!” performances.

Also, I just think they need a new song as “Show time what time is it show time!” is a little old by now, and someone should be creative and come up with something better. But frankly it’s still usually better and more temporarily invasive than half the songs that people with guitars or saxophones or drums play on the train… and having just come back from China I can say it’s a hell of a lot better performance than people get in other areas of the world.

This is another area where we can learn from the Tube. Maybe if Jay Walder could have stuck around he could have implemented their busking policies in a more liberal way here and it would be less of an issue.

D in Bushwick January 7, 2014 - 7:03 pm

Do I roll my eyes when Showtime begins under the East River? Yes.
Compared with the cost and stresses of bumper-to-bumper commuting to the suburbs, would NYC be less interesting and unique without Showtime? Yes it would.
Litter pigs should be shot on sight however.

MH January 7, 2014 - 7:29 pm

Showtime means time to put on headphones…only thing that’s worst is the kids selling candy saying that I’m not on a basketball team I’m just doing it to stay out of trouble

ajedrez January 8, 2014 - 1:53 pm

How is that worse? They generally just say their speech, see if they have any takers, sell their candy and move on. Compared to the “Showtime” kids blasting music and doing flips and everything.

Duke January 7, 2014 - 7:48 pm

The latest batch of subway acrobatics seems to be enabled by the R160s that have two bars for holding onto across the top of the car. You can hang from those in some much more creative ways than the single bar that the R142s have or the no bar across the top that older cars have.

I will confess to being yet another curmudgeon about this and all unnecessary interruptions on the subway. I like peace and quiet on my subway rides and anyone who disturbs that for any reason is automatically an annoyance.

But yeah, arresting them is extreme. Even fining them seems unnecessary, if I were a cop I’d just yell at them to get lost.

Another thing that especially grates on me: the incessant announcements about the R not running through the Montague tube five months after that service change went into effect. I got the message in August, dangit!

Josh January 7, 2014 - 8:07 pm

Thank you, sensible curmudgeon!

My favorite story as it involves Showtime:

A group of Showtimers were doing a show on the downtown (A) between 59th and 42nd. This is a particularly treacherous place to do a show owing to both the very short duration of the ride as well as the fact that the train hurtles through 50th and slams on the brakes hard as it enters 42nd. If it’s even a minute from 59th I’d be surprised.

Anyhow, the gents completed their show and were preparing to disembark at 42nd when a lovely lady in a leather jacket caught their eye, and two of the young lads started flirting quite openly in middle of the car, muscles glistening. The woman smiled back, but it was not lady luck that smiled upon them, as she opened her leather jacket to reveal an NYPD badge and escorted the gents off the train and sat them down and gave them a talking-to on the benches in the station.

I’m not sure what the end result was (ticket/arrest/slap on the wrists) as I continued on my southward journey, but the look on their faces when the undercover cop revealed her badge was absolutely priceless and it was almost as if it was part of the show.

Fred January 7, 2014 - 8:05 pm

I also ride the Q train between Midtown and Brooklyn everyday. I find the “showtime” dances very tiresome and annoying, especially between Union Square and DeKalb. I wish that NYPD would start riding between those two stops to really start cracking down on this terrible annoyance.

I’d rather see the beggars, homeless, candy sellers or even the preachers that walk through train cars. Anything is better than to constantly have these sweaty and smelly young kids look stupid and throw themselves around poles on a moving and packed subway car.

As a side note, I see that they are starting to ride the Queens Blvd E & F lines on the stretch to/from Jackson Heights, NYPD HELP US!!!

Roxie January 7, 2014 - 9:17 pm

Dangerous stuff like swinging from handlebars ought to at least be worth a ticket, but that’s the extent of it. Going any further is ridiculous.

That said, I really don’t get the curmudgeonly attitude towards people selling things on the subway. As long as it’s not being shoved directly in your face, what’s the big issue?

john doe January 7, 2014 - 9:37 pm

Sorry to be off topic but does anyone know what’s going on at the 50th st/8 ave stop?? I saw a lot of construction today, looks like they’re possibly reopening closed entrances/exits??? Anyone know anything?

Brooklyn Cowbell Guy January 7, 2014 - 9:37 pm

Worst is this annoying Hatian Preacher who gets on the Q at Atlantic Ave – Barclays Center & talks about Jesus till Herald Square.

Brooklyn Cowbell Guy January 7, 2014 - 9:38 pm

If you come down hard on the show timers, it will end quickly

Michael January 7, 2014 - 10:25 pm

I’ve been a long time regular rider on the subways. I could really dow without any of the following: the annoying pan-handlers, the sob-story homeless and/or seeming disabled folk asking for money, the “homeless organization guys” that use fake addresses asking for money, the various sob-story folks begging for money, the various definitely non-basketball playing kids selling candy for their team, the from a distance smelling ragged homeless persons that can clear out a whole subway car in minutes, the Mexican musicians on the half-horse, the folks selling bootleg DVD’s, the jazz musician from Mars with his sazophone and Izods, the do-wop singing groups that should never ever sign another Motown song for the next 1,000 years, the guys who beat their plastic drums in the subway stations and on the trains, the seemingly deaf ladies handing out trickets for pocket change, that wacked out lady who used to sing Billy Holiday songs with flowers in her hair trolling for change, the guy who had only half of his body (only from the waist up) moving about from subway car to subway car on a little skateboard, the guys selling their books or poetry on the subways, the guys with their political manifestos on copied papers, the loud noisy annoying teens who are not considerate of other folk or their own behavior, etc. It is a short list, but there are folks that really try to make riding the subway an unpleasant experience while they are not conducting in any shape or form a crime against a particular person.

There are times, when we train riders just want as much as possible to be left within our own thoughts, reading, listening on headphones to music, etc. as we freely travel the subways. So yes, I really understand why many object to the various kinds of intrusions.

Out of all of the kinds of subway intrusions – the youthful muscular guys doing these Showtime stunts really do not bother me. I actually like to see them perform. They work hard at their craft, bring smiles to the faces of plenty of riders, and generally try to be pleasant. Unless there is some kind of accident, I generally would not prefer that they guys be arrested. I do understand why some folks might not like these guys though.

Just my thoughts, Mike

BoerumHillScott January 8, 2014 - 8:16 am

I think the showtime people are dangerous, kicking around inches from people’s face.
I would like to see the police crackdown on all sorts of obnoxious subway behavior that breaks the rules, but with warnings or minor tickets, no arrests needed.

Jonathan January 8, 2014 - 8:33 am

I find it amusing on the A between 125th and 59th when I’m with my toddler, but that’s pretty much only on the weekends. If I had to suffer every night I would not be happy.

Stephen - NYC January 8, 2014 - 10:02 am

I guess I should be happy that I take the #7 for the most part. Those cars are really not conducive to doing a gymnastics floor show.
That being said, I agree that they should be fined and kicked off a car if the NYPD witnesses them doing their act.
As for the other annoyances that have been listed, I also agree with their status as annoyances. I would like to have a quiet train ride.

Roy Berman January 8, 2014 - 12:35 pm

As annoying as a lot of this stuff is, I kind of miss the steel drums you used to get. What happened to those? They were all over the city when I was a kid in the 80s.

normative January 8, 2014 - 2:29 pm

I love subway performers. And someone who was born and still lives in nyc; it decidely part of our culture. The NYc subway is famous for its experience–how many stories can I shoot off that begin “the other day on the subway, I saw…’ We live in the most interesting,exciting city in the world. Not because every one pays attention to the rules and is well orderly. Forget the talent and class issues ( a lot of them are talented break dancers, minority youth who might not have the same options for part-time jobs that their privileged peers have), this is what happens when creativecity allows zone for more freedom. Sure–I could be a grump, whino that just wants a calm/boring/expected/cookie-cutter train ride, and complain about this or that shit which pisses me off, but I am Nyer who wants it all: loud, direct, and in my face.

Asar January 8, 2014 - 6:13 pm

I don’t know why people don’t enjoy showtime. It’s usually just some teens trying to make money. The music and jumping like monkey is amazingly entertaining. If you do enjoy showtime, you can usually find these flexible entertainers on then j/z and q lines

Bronxite January 8, 2014 - 6:25 pm

Showtime is culturally NYC.

I personally don’t mind it. Most people over the years can phase out these distractions. Sometimes I do witness something impressive, mostly I ignore it.

Anyway, at most a fine and like many others have mentioned designated performance areas.

People forget these performances add an interesting dimension in our subways that tourist appreciate. Tourist = Money.

Older and Wiser January 8, 2014 - 7:16 pm

Allowing Showtime is suicide for mass transit funding in NY.
I don’t know what tourists you are talking about, but every tourist I’ve seen watching had a look of thinly-disguised terror on their faces.

Showtime totally violates the broken windows theory of policing. Instead of a vital, reliable and efficient means of getting New Yorkers to their destinations, the subway comes across as bedlam on wheels, with the inmates running the asylum.

I never understood Robert Moses’ priorities until the plague of Showtime arrived long after Moses departed.

Josh January 8, 2014 - 7:26 pm

I’d love to hear some rationale for the argument that it’s “suicide for mass transit funding.”

Especially since the tourist argument is totally subjective.

christopher January 12, 2014 - 6:46 pm

I resent being made to move and having to listen to loud, obnoxious music. If the train has any room at all, these guys will set up Showtime and make people move out of their way, creating crowded conditions where there were none to begin with. If you don’t move, they’ll just do their routine anyway, and you have to take your chances that you won’t get hit. It’s coercion: get with the program or get ready for trouble.

Coming home on the Q train tonight, I had to endure Showtime…and it’s Sunday evening, for god’s sake! One older passenger (my friend referred to him as Archie Bunker) was in the doorway where the dancers were swinging on the poles. He kept giving them disapproving looks and muttering comments. When the dancers were done, they made jokes about how they should have kicked him in the face. So let me get this straight: the dancers are entitled to freedom of expression, but passengers inconvenienced by them are not–not unless they want to be threatened with physical violence?

Twice, as the train rolled into Dekalb, one of the dancers loudly said “cocksucker” (not in reference to the passenger), and there were children in the car. Not all of the dancers are as rude and rough as these guys, but none of them have been especially cool. And if you’re going to make people move their asses so you can do your stupid dance routines and beg for change, the least you can do is be pleasant about it.

In short, I hate them. I wish the NYPD would put a transit cop on the Q trains and get rid of them.


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