College Gig Night 3: The Worst Show of My Career

What's Your Problem, UWM?

I feel like this blog (so far) has made me seem a little too invincible. I’ve had so many good shows lately I thought it was time to bring up my worst.

About a decade ago, I was contacted by my good friend, Frank Caliendo (name dropper), to open for him at an orientation kickoff for new students of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.  Frank is a grad of UWM, so that made him even more of a big deal at this function. I felt really honored that he asked me to do this event, as it was a homecoming for him.

I was set to do 20-25 minutes, which I felt pretty comfortable with. One thing that made it more of a challenge was that it wasn’t just college students, but orientation college students. This meant that the ages of the kids there were 17 or 18.  Not exactly the best age to do standup comedy for, but I was excited to perform for over 1000 people in the auditorium.

Right before I hit the stage, our University contact mentioned, Have fun and make sure not to discuss anything sexual or anything about drinking or drugs. Time for the panic to sit-in.  Try to remember what your main interests were when you were a teenager. Yeah, I was basically left holding a spork at a knife fight.

One thing you learn early on at my job is that to be a successful standup you need to have confidence you are going to do well, no matter how delusional it might be.  So I hit the stage with the attitude that I was only going to be up there for 25 minutes, how bad could it go. Really bad would be the answer.

I would like to say I started off well and then it began to go downhill, but there was never a moment when I did well. It’s one thing to bomb at a comedy club, but to eat shit in front of a 1000 people brings a special brand of flop sweat.  Remember how you felt when you did a speech in front of your class that didn’t go well? Try doing it for 25 minutes in front of 1000 teenagers who are hating you more and more as time slowly creeps by.  I resembled a boxer who keeps getting knocked to the canvas.  I’m sure there were many that wished I would just stay down and throw-in the towel, but I’m stubborn that way. Like a desperate fighter, at the end I threw a last gasp punch mentioning that all the guys there had something in common with me.  We both can’t wait for the Olson Twins to become legal. (I think they were 16 at the time) That did get a few laughs, but at the expense of me going from not funny to being the really creepy old dude.

I walked off the stage feeling like the victim of a Bukkake gangbang.  Frank went up there and as he always does, killed with the audience.  What kind of a friend is that? He could have done his Jonathon Winters and Richard Dreyfuss impressions, but no, he did all the impressions they wanted to hear.:)  For years after this, the UWM gig was all Frank had to do bring me back to size, whenever I killed an audience in front of him. I’ve had 1000’s of good shows, but it’s the few like this UWM gig that I always remember.  These shows make you really appreciate the good ones.

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