Once one starts doing shows, there are good shows and bad shows. I could almost write a blog about bad shows or something (approximately a third of my blogs about bad or weird shows, that’s me being a real live wire). For every time I’ve showed up to a show and had no microphone, a horrible drunk crowd of hecklers or an owner who knew less about funny than Josef Stalin, it still usually beats booking shows that go off the rails. You have no one to blame but the big dummy in the mirror. Here’s the worst of the issues I’ve ran into.
I had a comic promise me a booked gig, so I did the ol’ backscratch and booked him. He was hungover at 5 pm on a Sunday when I picked him up and drove to Zanesville. He was so hungover that he did 5 minutes instead of 20 and I was so dumb when I started, I paid him the full amount. He then lost to me in the finals of a comedy contest, tried to fight the staff at the Funny Bone and quit comedy. I never got my show from him.
I had a comic and heckler go at it, but I never cleared with the owner whether I could toss the guy. Add to it, he was a roid freak and I probably couldn’t have removed him from the bar with a baseball bat and I had to watch seven minutes of two guys calling each other losers while 20% of crowd left the room. “You’re a loser.” “No, you are!” “You suck!” “No, you do!” Repeat for seven minutes while I lighted the comic and told meathead to zip it while waiting to be punched.
I had a show cancel on me…without telling me. My sound guy went to set up and the place was closed. If he hadn’t taken the time to set up early, I would have had over 100 people show up and it would’ve been my fault, even though they forgot to do a small thing, like renew their liquor license.
I ran an open mic for two years and they forgot to set the sound equipment up about 20 times. Keep in mind I have the audio equipment knowledge of your Grandma. “Did you plug it in? Yes? Well, show’s cancelled, I got nothing.”
Amazingly, no comic ever had to back out without a good reason on me, but I did have a guy beg me to be on my show for months. The day before, I asked why he wasn’t helping promote the show, since his pay was determined by the guests he brought. He said he was busy, but would do it. The ironic thing? The day before I messaged him, he put two posts up in one day promoting an open mic he was going to. An unpaid open mic, which apparently, he ended up no showing to that show after asking someone to sign him up. Promote longer set where I can get paid and booker openly asked me to? Nah. Promote an open mic that I’m not even on and wasn’t asked to help hype? ON IT BRUH.
I think the most interesting part of doing comedy that I didn’t expect was how many absolute lunatics I’ve ran into. If I think about it, music takes years of practice to be good, art is a wildly unique gift and so and on and so forth – anybody unstable enough to talk in front of strangers is an open miker, the first step to being a comedian. And oh boy, have I seen some pearls.
- I saw a black woman do blackface at an open mike. It was so bizarre, the black chef came out of the kitchen and argued with the woman for a couple minutes about the racial components of the piece. The whiteys just shut up and watched.
- I did a couple shows with a guy that put a dip in and burped the whole time he talked. He couldn’t have been more incoherent if he was wearing a dog muzzle.
- I have done shows with comics who cried after their sets.
- I had a guy tell me I was almost to his level. I had won three comedy club competitions and was doing 4 to 13 paid shows a month; he hadn’t done an open mike in six months. When he went to piss, his wife, who I had never met, told me she was humiliated when he was on stage because he was so unfunny. He was basing his “success” on winning a clap off at a bar against four other comics where he brought the entire crowd and the prize was a $10 bar tab. Almost there, everyone!
- I’ve seen multiple comics blacked out onstage, even at paid shows.
- Lastly, the winner. A man who went by No Money Down Productions presents Still Gettin’ Paid was so mentally unbalanced, he was removed by security before the show. He called every comic the “N” word for five minutes, said he was a professional because he did comedy in his basement and admitted he quit taking his pills because they were holding him back. He also had shaved his entire head except a question mark tuft of hair on the front. It was the most appropriate haircut I’ve ever seen.
1) During winter, the average time spent talking about winter with other people is 500% more than all the other seasons combined.
2) Winter doesn’t begin until my nose is full of more boogers than a preschool class at 2 pm. Seriously, I can’t breathe right now. What is going on with my sinuses?
3) I’ve been sick about 50 times in my life. 48.5 of those times were during winter.
4) Once New Year’s is over, the next major holiday (I mean time off work holiday, not the others) is Memorial Day, where we honor the fallen military heroes. THANKS WINTER. CAN’T GET A DAY FOR OL’ ABE AND GW’S BDAY? ST. PATTY’S? V-DAY? EASTER? (It’s on Sunday…oh wait) GOOD FRIDAY? MAY DAY? OTHER HOLIDAYS?
5) Mowing the lawn is at least fifteen times better than shoveling snow, even if you have allergies. How many people die drinking a beer and mowing the grass? None. Shoveling snow? Hundreds every year.
6) Potholes are worse in winter. I found this out when I hit one a few years back and it cost me $800.
In summation, I didn’t even mention the cold weather and we can all agree winter sucks all the ass. The only solution is buy aerosol cans in bulk at Sam’s Club and spray them into the atmosphere until global warming accelerates and dinosaurs are running down my street in Ohio. Who’s with me?
I was going to save this one, but it was so awful it is a subject/blog/round unto itself. The infamous Blue Raccoon comedy night, just over two years after I started. Tis a cautionary tale for all sides of a show: comic, audience and booker. I’ve covered this before, but it’s been a while and I didn’t go as deep into it a few years ago. Enjoy.
I was approached by a man I’d never seen before at the Funny Bone open mic. He said he was putting together a show and needed some comedians. The show ran with an emcee, who did some time, then brought up usually about a dozen comics, who got five minutes each, until the closer, who did more time. He got my attention when I was running to take a leak between performers. “Were you on the show tonight?” Yes, I’m the emcee. “What number were you?” I’m the emcee…I was first…third…fifth…seventh… I noticed at this point, he clearly wasn’t watching the show to save $5 and was just hanging out at the bar or he legitimately had no concept of what an emcee was. So of course, I gave him my contact info for his show, because new comics are dumb.
He emailed me (still didn’t know his name; again, new comics are dumb) and asked if I would do the show for free beer. It was 40 miles from my house. No. I finally used all my skills to get him up to $50 cash to emcee the show. Bad money for the trip, but I was open and it was just emceeing, right? I walked in and he had two bouncers working the door, I got one of my buddies in by saying he was filming my set (two can play this game). The bar was a little rough – there were paper copies on the restroom doors that proclaimed, “Anyone caught doing drugs in the bathroom will be asked to leave.” That means 1) It’s happened before and 2) The druggies needed more clarification because it’s not obvious that you’re not supposed to do drugs in a bar bathroom.
The next part of the disaster was finding out that this jackass booked NINE comedians and told them all to do TWENTY minutes each. That’s a 3 hour show. Even better, almost every comic on the show had never done a paid set and/or ten minutes at once. Also, apparently only me and two other comics bothered to negotiate any pay for this show and two guys I’d never heard of before were told they could do as much time as they wanted to. To supplement the door, the booker (whose name I did not know still) set up a crockpot full of coney sauce and weiners for $3 a dog. I began running around and telling everyone to cut down their sets. It was too late, he had already bullied the new guys into full time or they wouldn’t get anything, even a buck.
The show was OK for a short time – I was working hard and won the crowd’s attention, which was hard as there was no stage. I stood on a small disco looking dance floor. Then I brought up a brand new comics who had been doing open mics for less than two months. The show careened off the road. That was the pattern all night. Experienced comic, good crowd. New comic (which was over half), show crashed. After nearly four hours of show time later, where I had exhausted all my material bringing the show back, I was ready to get my pittance and get the hell out of there. I was sweaty and angry as I sought out the, ahem, “booker”.
He waved me outside to the patio and was acting very strange. “Well, here’s the deal. The thing is, well…let me tell you the thing.” What’s the thing – give me my money, I have to get rolling. “Well, the thing is, the flyer cost a lot of money (side note – he had a very high gloss flyer made that he had dispersed across the city to promote the show. You could have propped a car on the flyer to change a flat, it was so thick with laminate) and the food didn’t sell very well. (Oh, no one paid $3 to eat your beanie wienies?) I didn’t even pay my bouncers.” The visceral rage shot through my veins instantly. I had about one rational moment left. “Well, you agreed to pay me!” “That’s the thing, the deal is…” I cut him off. “You made two mistakes, you forgot you’re dealing with a redneck and you didn’t pay your bouncers, so no one has your back.” He looked at me and shrugged, “I don’t have any money.” I don’t know why, as I had never done this before, but my hands shot out and I began double hand choking him. He dropped to his knees, flailing about like a fish out of water. With one hand, he was trying to break my grip; the other reached into his pocket and handed me a $50 bill. “Thanks!” I heard myself say. My friend Laura was right behind and she got paid also. I don’t know if anyone else got anything, but I found out later most didn’t get a dime.
At that moment, I realized I had probably exit stage left and quickly. We piled in the car and threw gravel as we pulled away. I learned after that show to assume nothing, not take shows from guys who don’t know what an emcee is, work off a contract if possible and most importantly, a double hand choke is more effective than threatening to write a really nasty letter when you get home…and after emceeing a four hour comedy show, it feels a lot better to do so.
Our puppy is old enough, thank God, for training class. I took the demon dog down this week to the training center. Puppies are cute, thus why we named ours Merry – she’s always happy. In retrospect, Pissy Missy or Bitey McNeedles would have worked too. It was all cinder block and mats, louder than a prison yard during a riot, with dog owners that looked more confused than the canines.
Right at the start, a dog peed on the mat. The trainer, a very loud (she had to be, some of the mutts wouldn’t shut up) woman, proclaimed they would be happy to hold the leash while the owner cleaned it up. I laughed out loud, then quickly looked at Merry and whispered, “Don’t embarrass me in front of these people!”
My pooch did very well – she actually sat, walked well on a leash and didn’t drop a surprise on the mat in front of everyone. I was feeling good about it, until the trainer announced we had to research our breeds online, introduce the dog to several different people off a checklist (Stranger with an instrument? Man with a hat? What in the blue hell is this?) and work around the house on a new trick. How about we learn the “not pee on the floor” trick or the “don’t eat my shoes” one? Oh well, I’ll just finish my homework in homeroom like high school.
I got an email last week asking if I could emcee the Saturday shows at the Columbus Funny Bone, I checked with my wife and was able to pull it off. Our kid was sick and she had to call off one day, so she was pretty far behind with life, but she’s the best and was able to pull the long shift again for me. I looked at the schedule and realized it was with Headliner Colin Quinn, formerly of Saturday Night Live, Remote Control, and Tough Crowd, plus countless stand-up specials and movies.
It was a very cool experience – the crowds were sold out for both shows and both Colin and Jay Stevens, the other comic I worked with, were both overly nice to me. I introduced myself and he said, “Wait, let me guess with that accent. You’re in Columbus now, but not originally from here. Kentucky?” Close, I said. Before I could say where he said, “Tennessee?” No, I’m from Southeastern Ohio. Ohio has three accents and I got the shitty one. He told me I should use that onstage, so that will likely be my opening joke for the rest of my life.
I did my set and was even more surprised that he listened – the club has a speaker coming into the Green room, which is nice, so you can hear the other comics. He had some pretty good advice I can use and told me with my voice and story telling material, I could be a really unique stand-up and fill a niche for blue collar crowds. (Like I said, he was very nice, he should have told me not to look him in the eye and kicked me out of the room). I also got to hear some really interesting stories about how he got started and how he came up with Adam Sandler and Chris Rock on the New York comedy scene in the 80’s. Chris got a big break when Eddie Murphy picked him go to on before him, but even after getting on SNL, he was able to reinvent his entire set by changing his delivery style. Of course, his material was great also – I always love hearing comics take the most obvious things that we can all relate to and finding the humor in them. He was able to take his entire act from common experiences and make it hilarious.
He even let me get a picture with him, which I told him I would understand if he told me to go to hell, after my shitty intro. I brought him up the first time and he had told me he wasn’t particular about his intro. I went through the TV credits and for some reason said, “He’s a staple of the industry.” He went up and torched me for it – nothing says this next act is funny like calling them a staple of the industry. It was even funny getting blasted for using a term like I was presenting an employee of the week award. Oh well, I’m sure I have more duds to deliver down the road.