Things that Happen in the Green Room

Yes, I realize this sounds like the title of a 100,000 pyramid question. I think for a lot of people not in the business, the Green Room at a comedy club sounds like a palatial dig. With few exceptions, they are not.  Most comedy green rooms are glorified closets, with furniture out of a Goodwill. More times than not, if there is even a TV, it features only local channels. Even in a world where really nice flat screens cost 300 bucks, clubs are chintzy as hell on giving a place for the comedians to relax before they go on-stage. If I was a club owner, I would spend a little money on this front, as it creates a feel to the comics like they aren’t performing in a dump.  The one consistent exception to Green Room quality are the newer IMPROV’s, which are nicely decorated with leather couches and flat screens. Since the IMPROV’s bring in a lot of comedians who don’t play many clubs, they treat the comedians with better amenities. They have high-quality menus which creates a different bottom-line, as they are as much in the food business as they are in the drink business.  I don’t think that clubs have to make green rooms like the IMPROV, but at least have a green room that doesn’t look like the keg room of a frat house.

My favorite story of what happened in a green room was towards the beginning of my career. I was doing a 2-man show with the biggest ventriloquist in the country at the time. (No, it was not Jeff Dunham. I have never met or worked with him.) Part of working with this particular ventriloquist was that you had to do his sound cues.  He had music timed out with some of his bits which definitely added to his show. Now, I should mention that I’m no snob about comedy.  I can appreciate a specialty act and I would rather watch a really great ventriloquist over an average standup, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think they are freaks. My week with this guy cemented my thoughts on how nuts you must be to become a ventriloquist.  Now remember I had no experience doing sound cues and all the training I got was his going over it with me once and handing me this piece of paper which had each one listed.  Considering I was about 3 years into my career, I wanted to make the club happy, so I tried hard, but I did miss the timing on a couple, which he berated me for.  What I was to quickly find out, I wasn’t the only one he berated.

On Friday night, I was walking by the green room before the show and I heard the ventriloquist yelling and cursing at someone. Of course, I was intrigued by who he was castigating, so I stood by the door to find out. Then I heard a response, it was one of his dummies.  They continued in a heated conversation that was not part of their stage act and it sounded pretty ugly.  Now if he did this just to make me think he was even more nuts, it worked.  I don’t think he had any idea anyone was outside the door and he never said anything about it to me, so I have to think this was a regular day in his nutty fucking ventriloquist world.  Good story though, right?

Some big-time headliners want the green room to themselves, leaving the other acts to sit in the kitchen or in the back of the showroom the whole week. I think this is a dick move, but I do cut some slack to them since they are drawing a lot of people to the club. What I don’t cut any slack for are comics who refuse to talk to the other comedians all week.  I worked with one guy who let’s just say came from a big pants family and he never acknowledged me all week.  Wanted the green room to himself.  Now I was a big fan of this guy, so I would have been nothing but respectful to him, but he treated me like I was the dishwasher.  After this behavior you can guess I was not the fan of his I was before as I sat in the back during his show, secretly rooting against him doing well. My psychic efforts seemed to work, as he had a really up and down week.

Recently, a friend told me of an experience that he was part of.  Myspace was doing a promotion where they did secret shows that only people Myspace would know about. Most of these were by bands, but they did some with comedy acts, as well. So he was booked to feature for one of these shows, with the headliner some very young internet sensation.  Now I don’t generally begrudge anyone’s success, as I know how hard it is to make it on a grand scale. Sure there is luck to it, but more than anything it takes talent and hard work. Well, I don’t think this guy has a lot of either, but he connected with the Zeitgeist of what is going on now and creates things that are perfect for the YouTube times we live in.  Well, this entitled douchebag comes in for one-night, tells the manager he needs the green room and then treats the other comics on the show with disdain.  I can tell you that I hope this guy ends up being just another footnote in the Tiger Beat sensation list positioned right next to Leif Garrett and Corey Feldman.  His cool quotient has already been damaged by taking the MySpace money.

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