Good news. Over the past month I’ve seen an uptick in standup comedy. Almost every show I’ve performed at has had big crowds. Tonight I went back to my home state of Iowa (which I don’t do enough of) and did a show in front of over 200 people at the Diamond Jo casino. Beautiful theatre, with a great stage. Being in Iowa, I had a little home state advantage, which doesn’t hurt. I started the show mentioning how I’m the 2nd most successful comic to attend the University of Iowa and if I would have been willing to have sex with Roseanne, I would be the most successful comedian ever to attend the University of Iowa…
Now I don’t have a lot of material about growing up in Iowa, but I do understand the people better than the comic from LA who talks about earthquakes for 10 minutes. I work hard to make sure my show works for all crowds, but I can think of a 3 or 4 states where I feel I can connect with a crowd as well as anyone. Iowa is at the top of the list.
Only a couple times do I recall not connecting with an audience. I can remember being at the IMPROV in Hollywood , Florida and feeling like I was kind of out of my element. I was headlining an off-night and the feature act Al Jackson was from the area and he used it to make sure I was going to sweat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Al is funny anywhere, but that night it seemed like he was Duke playing at Cameron. I busted my ass to make it work, but it was one of the couple* times I walked off-stage feeling like I had been upstaged. I know when I was a feature act I did it plenty of times to the headliner following me, so payback was a bitch that night.
***(The other time I can think of was of was a one-nighter in Carbondale, Illinois where I told a young comic friend named Tommy Johnagin to come by and do a guest set between me and the opening act. Tommy lived about 15 minutes from the gig so he had the home court advantage, but the bigger thing that I discovered that night was he had gotten a lot better in the 6 months since I last saw him. The 7 minutes he was on-stage was better received than anything I did that night. I went from thinking Tommy was going to be solid working comic to Fuck if I’m going to let him do a guest set in front of me again.:)
My favorite story of being set-up to fail was at the Minnesota Comedy Club in Maplewood. The guy who booked it, Tom Hansen, was an early supporter of my career and I always liked him personally. Well, when I showed up for this particular week, I asked Tom who my feature act was and he response was Dave Mordal. Now if you don’t know Dave Mordal, let me promise you he is hilarious. He also speaks and tells stories like he’s the official comedian of Minnesota. You might ask why was he featuring for me? Well, Dave was putting together his set for the New York finals of the initial season of Last Comic Standing which was taping on that Sunday night.
When I asked Tom if he hated me, he told me he knew I would do fine following Dave. I wasn’t as confident, as I had heard that he killed in Minnesota. Well, Mordal was great, but we were so different in tempo and material that the show flowed really well. Turned out to be a great show from start to finish. (The MC was really good too.) It was the first time watching Mordal perform and I wasn’t surprised he did so well on the show. He was by far my favorite comedian of the first season of LCS and I’m glad to see his career took an upswing after the show. Dave Mordal and Tommy Johnagin are just 2 examples of comics from the Midwest who are as good as any comics you will see on the Coasts.
Let me close this piece by making a statement to the booking agents of Iowa. I might not be as famous as native sons like Tom Arnold or Jake Johannsen, but I feel like I can hold my own against any comic who was born in the Hawkeye state. Now the only problem with this statement is that none of the people who book clubs in Iowa read this and I sound more like a professional wrestler than a standup comic. I need to get a grip on myself…