Planes, Buses, and Automobiles

with the wait staff after my show in Duluth, a couple weeks ago.

One of the things that most people are most uninformed about your typical standup comic is how we travel. A lot of people think we fly to most of our gigs. We don’t.  Unless you are a comedian who is a draw, you just don’t make enough money to fly too often, as travel is rarely included in our deal.  (lodging is, with very few exceptions.)

A few years back, I used to perform at a lot of IMPROV clubs, so I did fly to all those that were on the West Coast and Southwest. I enjoyed playing these rooms, as they are among many of the best clubs in the country, but I just was losing too much money turning down headlining gigs to do them.  I have changed my booking style to be close enough to that I can drive to it.

The one exception is when I perform in Nevada.  The money is good there and I like to visit, so it’s like the closest thing I do to a working vacation.  Despite it being fun when I get there, I hate what a pain in the ass is to get around.  I like traveling in my car.  It has everything I need and I don’t have to sweat missing flights, going through security, and dealing with baggage.  I try to only fly on Southwest because with a large bag of merchandise I lug around to gigs, I don’t want to get slammed a bunch of extra dough dragging it around.

My week began last Thursday night opening for Frank Caliendo at the Monte Carlo.  It is fun opening for Frank, as it’s a bit of break from headlining, plus being on a big theatre stage is cool.  Now since he does an all-ages show, it is a little nerve-wracking to do a super clean performance, but I usually only do 10-20 minutes in front of him, so that isn’t a big issue.

Now anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I’m a real stickler for getting to a gig early.  Since I’m flying across country, I come in the night before when I’m in this situation. It was a good thing I have this mentality because this past Wednesday night we were delayed by almost 2 hours.  Right before we were to get on the plane, there was a massive hailstorm right outside the airport, so they had to recheck the plane for damage.  Since I only had an hour in between my connection in Denver, it didn’t look promising that I would make it to Vegas early Thursday morning, like I was hoping.  Fortunately there were enough people on my flight that were heading to Vegas that they held the flight.

Now when I go to Vegas I usually rent a car, especially when I end up performing in Laughlin, as well. Well, this time I didn’t because even compact rental cars were going to run me over 250 bucks. So when I got into Vegas (4 am EST), I had to find a shuttle. Since the weather is usually pretty good in Vegas, there isn’t a great overhang to protect your luggage. Did I mention it was raining. My luggage comes down the shoot and it’s soaked. So I drag my 2 big pieces of soggy luggage to the hotel shuttle area.  It’s around 6 bucks, so that’s a helluva lot better than a cab or limo.

I try to perform in Vegas during the first week of the NCAA tourney, because it is the best place to watch the games. The sportsbooks are electric.  I couldn’t book myself this year at this time, though, so I did it for the second weekend.  Between the tourney and spring break, the Strip is pretty packed.  Not a buyers market, as the best hotel price I could find on Orbitz was 200 or more.  This is where Priceline.com comes in.  All comics should use this site.  I got a room at the Flamingo Hilton for 55 bucks. Bonus happened when I checked in the Hotel Clerk told me I was being upgraded to a suite.  This suite was enormous.  It had to be at least 1500 square feet.  Kind of ridiculous for one person, as it was better suited for Charlie Sheen and his possy, (I believe he spells posse with a Y) but still it was nice surprise.

So after 4 hours sleep, I meet Frank for breakfast buffet. I love me a Vegas buffet, especially when it’s free because you are eating with the guy on the 100 feet marquee outside the Hotel. Worked on some writing after breakfast and then went to the sportsbook to check the lines.  Sat out by the pool for an hour, grabbed some dinner and went to the show.  Opened the show for Frank and then waited until he was done with his part.  Since he had a rare Friday night off, Frank wanted to drive back to his house outside of Phoenix afterwards and offered me some extra dough to join him. It was fun having the time to catch-up with an old friend.  Who needs sleep anyway, right?

So we drive the 5 hours down to his palatial estate, then I sleep a couple of hours on his couch, until he takes me to Phoenix airport for my flight back to Vegas. Part of my offer was him buying my ticket back, so I made out pretty, pretty good.  I take another airport shuttle back to the Flamingo, so I can catch a couple more hours of sleep before I check-out.  I drag my luggage back down the curb, so I can take another shuttle back to the airport.  At the airport I took a shuttle down to Laughlin. With all these shuttles, I still only dropped 100 bucks versus the more than 250 I would have been slammed on for a rental car.

Now if you haven’t been to Laughlin, the locals refer to it as God’s waiting room. Lots of old people.  Not the ideal audience to perform for, but I acknowledge this from the beginning and they seems to appreciate my honesty.  While the show does need to be a little less edgy because of the average age being around 60, these are also people who are drinking, smoking, and gambling. It’s not a church retreat.  There is a way to do sexual material without it being creepy and shocking.  I try to put something silly in these jokes which cushions the blow—job joke.  My opening act, Jen Murphy was really funny and has a similar bent in discussing how silly sex can be.  She has a charming way of discussing her contemplation of being a whore, so it was a well-balanced, he/she look at sex.

My last show was Sunday night.  We had sold-out shows the first 2 nights at the Edgewater and the last one was close to doing the same. The audience was the oldest of the week and for the people not hooked up to an oxygen tank, they could have used one.  I love a challenge so I went at them hard. It was time to work these old fuckers like I was a young Don Rickles.  I pulled out every trick I have in my arsenal and damned if I didn’t get multiple applause breaks.  I try not to be too self-congratulatory here, but let me mention this was pretty amazing.  It was just one of those nights where all my improv worked and all the pieces seemed to fit seamlessly.  I had people in their 70’s come up to me after and say it was the funniest show they had ever been to.  I had one senior citizen buy my DVD, even though he said he didn’t have a player. He just wanted to show his appreciation.  It felt good and this comes from someone who is not constructed to feel that way too often.

So I get up in the morning, take a cab to the pick-up point for the shuttle back to Vegas. I had a fun ride back, as I was sitting with a bunch of great musicians who back-up country star, Ty Herndon.  We told stories and the 90 minutes to McCarran Airport flew by.  We make our living doing something pretty different from each other, but our lives are fairly similar. I have 4 hours to kill before my flight leaves to take me back home, so here I am pounding away on this story.  I will get in a little after midnight, pick up my luggage, call the hotel shuttle to take me back to my car that I have in their long-term parking.  Should get in around 2 in the morning, wake up a few hours later and put my daughter on her school bus. Such is the glamorous life of a standup comedian.

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