When I started doing comedy, the thing that I thought would keep me from success would be memorizing 30 minutes of material, let alone an hour. I always hated memorization, so I thought it would be my largest obstacle. I learned quickly that memorizing stuff I wrote wasn’t too hard.
Actually, the hardest thing for me to do is a 3 show night. Not too many clubs outside the IMPROV’s have 3 show Saturday nights. To do 3-45 minutes sets is tough on your voice, but even rougher for your memory because by that 3rd show you are thinking to yourself, have I done this joke already? This is especially the case when you are someone like me who never does the same show twice.
If you have learned one thing from reading my blog on comedy it would be that standup is a hustle. If you want to make a decent living at this job and don’t have a built-in fanbase (very, very few comics have this) you better be able to perform well in all types of situations. A rarity happened this week where I got lucky, as I had already booked a nice corporate event on Saturday and then got a call by the local club wondering if I could fill-in as the feature act for the week. Since the corporate I was doing was just 3 blocks from the club and it ended 15 minutes before I was set to hit the stage at the club on Saturday, the logistics were perfect. For once I got to Double-dip, with a club and corporate. Dollar signs.(See I told you I had some luck.)
The corporate event was being held in a stateroom inside where the Indianapolis Symphony Yuletide Celebration was to follow, so it was kind of swanky affair. As corporates go, the show was about average for me. What saved it for me was an audience member with a really bizarre and loud laugh. Now if you are kicking ass, you don’t want a laugh to throw-off your timing, but if the audience is kind of laid back like this corporate group was, I always welcome a little something extra to bring life to them. This lady seemed to love most of my jokes and her laugh was one-of-a-kind. I thanked her a few times when she finally responded that SHE was a Man. Oops. Since the table was kind of blocked from my view I went over to it and responded that considering the person had a gray beard and did look pretty manly, I would take his word for it.
I get done and walk-out the door and down the street to the comedy club. The week had went great so far, and it was a good bill as I working with comics James P. Connolly and Kevin Ruble. Outside of some theatre shows I’ve done with Frank Caliendo, I only headline, except a couple of weeks a year for Crackers Comedy Club because it keeps me home. Almost everything is better being the middle act. The audience is warmed up from the MC, you are on during a time when they are really revving up to laugh, and you don’t have to deal with that last 15 minutes of the show when the audience gets tired and you don’t have to deal with the check drop. The check drop is the bane of all comics, as when it happens, you lose a fair percentage of the crowd as they are more concerned with splitting the tab. So it is fun to once in awhile not have the pressure of closing the show and it also is a great time to work on new material.
If you are curious what is better about headlining, here they are: 1) You can say pretty much whatever you want, where as a feature act you have to worry about language and material being too edgy to follow. 2) This one is most important. You make a helluva lot more money. At least twice as much as the feature act and often way more than that. Thus, almost all comics are striving to be the headliner.
So the first show Saturday night is one I call Comedy stealing. Almost any semi-professional comedian could do well with them. It’s the type of show that keeps some comics who should retire from the business going because they remember that show and think that it’s a fair representation of what most audience’s think of their material. I killed it, which was nice after just finishing with a more staid crowd at the corporate event. It was one of the 5 best sets I’ve had in 2010, but I knew that the crowd was so good it was kind of like stealing.
Historically, late show Saturday crowds can be the toughest of the week. Definitely the most drunk. I usually like them as I’m not adverse to engaging them, which if you’re good at it can make for a really fun performance. This past Saturday night 10:30 show just didn’t have much energy. You can usually tell this from how they applaud for you when you hit the stage. The MC, Kevin Ruble, had to repeat “are you ready to see your next comedian”, because the first time he said it there was such a lukewarm response that it was embarrassing for them. I had no problems with thinking I was doing jokes I had done at my first 2 shows because I decided I was going to do mainly new material. This was a stupid move on many levels, but I wanted to work on these things so I trudged through it. It was pretty fucking ugly. It was the worst comedy club show I did all year and at one point I mentioned that I know you are not liking me, well just consider how much I must hate myself now, after your lack of response? If I was headlining I would have brought out some of my greatest hits to slam at them and get them on my side, but I didn’t feel that same pressure as a feature act so I stood my ground. On some levels I respect the Andy Kaufman’s of the world who would/could purposely do material they knew/know would/will bomb. I have some perverse desire to dig myself a hole with some edgy bit, but I do it in mind that I will get them back quickly. Late Saturday show’s was one of the few where I was never able to get them completely back on my side. I think I’m entitled to one of those each year, so Fuck them if they can’t take one (or all) of my new jokes. (continuing to justify…anyway no one did very well that show…
FINAL SCORECARD FOR SATURDAY
Corporate Event B-
First Club Show A
Second Club Show D