Comedy Carnival Days

Most shows I know what I’m getting myself into, but occasionally I do a gig where a booking agent fails to mention what I’m going to face. In September of 2010, I had an off-night and was contacted about doing a show in Southern Indiana. The money was okay and it was only 3 hours away, so I said I would take it. The itinerary just told me that it was at a Community Center in this town.  These type of American Legion/Elks Club type gigs are usually pretty fun as the audience is ready to have fun.

So I put the address in my GPS and about a block away I see a lot of cars. Cool. Then I get closer and see a big carnival going on.  OK, well I won’t be able to park very close. Start walking through the Midway with all the Carney treats on display.  Walk up to the Legion Hall and see a stage and microphone sitting under an awning.  OH SWEET MOTHER OF THE BABY BUDDAH!  Then I hear, hey are you Scott? I thought about not answering and just walking back to my car, but my 3 little kids don’t ask where the money comes from, just I need clean diapers and cable TV.

Yeah, I’m Scott.

My name is Jerry and welcome to Poseyville Autumnfest.  We have it in late summer as it gets too cold to do it in the Fall.

So I’m guessing you if I asked where I will be doing this you would say I’m going to do my 1 hour show right here, with everyone welcome to watch?

Yep. I suspect you don’t do a lot of shows like this one, he laughed.

Uh in my 18 year standup career I would have to say, never.

I’m a pretty confident person, but when there is a mix of people from the ages of 3 to 83, I will admit I felt a real sinking feeling.  I do corporate events quite a bit and even though they aren’t my favorite, I do generally like them as the adults there are generally very appreciative of something to break up the boredom of the rest of the banquet/meeting.  (Did I mention the money is usually good.) When the audience includes children, it really makes it difficult because I can name on one hand comics who can entertain kids with their comedy and let me tell you, if a comic has that talent, they don’t make what I was being offered.

So knowing the situation, I asked the head of the event if he would give some fair warning to the people so they would have an idea of what I would be delivering. I took some video of this as I knew it would amplify my story.

It’s going to be fairly clean, so take that for what it’s worth. Most importantly, don’t forget to buy a corn dog or a hot dog or a lemonade or a….

So now you see the situation. During the show, I had kids running in front of the stage. This is when you have to use whatever is in front of you.  Remember the little dudes with the light sabers. I ended doing play by play of them, throwing in a bunch of Star Wars references. Doesn’t sound that funny to relay, but it killed with the audience.  I went after everyone. The kids, the kids parents, the town, the elderly.  When I feel like the target, when I’m a fish out of water, I attack like a shark.  The method I use to do this is what I call aggressive/passive delivery. I slam someone and then apologize for saying it.  My Father was the type of guy who not only wanted to get a rise out of people, but didn’t much care if they were pissed off at him.  My Mom is the type who wants everyone to like her.  I have both characteristics, which I don’t think would work well in most professions, but serves me well on the comedy stage.

Somehow I stayed on that brick slab for an hour and ended up leaving with a lot of small-town Indiana people happy.  It’s definitely not something I want to do again, but it did fill me with confidence to know that I can face almost any situation and do okay.  Nights like this comedy show are like a really bad job, but it always offers the chance of the finish being much better than expected.  For those who don’t like a moderate happy ending, I suggest you keeping checking back, as I have plenty of stories about eating royal shit on-stage.  Fortunately, for the good people of Poseyville, this wasn’t one of them.

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