The Groundhog Can Kiss my Ass

April 16th in the UP. Nice weather if you are a Yeti.

It’s a bit of a conundrum when doing standup in the Upper Midwest.  It can be treacherous to drive during the winter months there, but at the same time, the audiences are at their largest when the weather sucks.  So I try to do most of my work up in the far North during the months of November and March.  I booked myself to do a run which started in the UP of Michigan back in 2010.  I do this run once a year because I like the rooms I do, the owners who run the rooms, and the booking agent who I work with, Samara Palubiski.  Since it’s just a weekend run, I need to put a Thursday in front of it to make the money more typical for me.  That didn’t happen. Samara always lets me bring my own feature act, which does help with fuel costs, but when I booked the gig, gas was more than a dollar cheaper than now.  When I emailed her to confirm the week, I mentioned that my feature act and I might take a moped up that way to make the mileage costs work, but we would be there.  Her response I have below.

Thanks! Have fun!  At least you won’t have to worry about snow…heehee
From the photo above, you can tell that on April 16th, the UP of Michigan had decided to ignore her forecast.  Some weeks you just have to make the most of it.  The place I performed on Friday Night in the UP is usually a great room for me, which is the big reason I do this run.  I like the audience and the owner, Clark, is a great guy who has been doing comedy in this small town bar for 19 years.  He is one of the really good guys in the biz and has always given me a little extra dough to show his appreciation.  This year he said his audience size has been down a little, which he figures has to do with the depressed economy. I’m sure $4.00 dollar gas prices aren’t helping.
Well, my favorite opening act, Jeff Oskay, did a kick-ass job opening the show. I figured I would just ride his wave and it would be another great night at this place.  Didn’t exactly turn out that way.  I wasn’t eating it, but I wasn’t getting the response I usually get during the first 10 minutes of my act.  I couldn’t blame the audience, as I’ve always done really well there before and Jeff had a great set in front of me.  Call it what you want, but here are the reasons/excuses I think didn’t get off to a good start.
  • I was trying to work on some new things and didn’t do a great job of introducing my comedy persona to the audience. It is important to not jump to fast into your pointed material, as there has to be a little feeling out period.  Your first 5 minutes are the most important part of your show.  They don’t have to be the funniest, but they do need to be bits that help connect you with your audience.
  • I was tired from driving over 10 hours that day and getting up really early.  I didn’t hit the stage until after 10, so I should have used some type of stimulant to perk me up.  Since I don’t know any coke dealers in the UP, I should have gotten some truck stop speed pills or at least a 5 hour energy drink.
  • I have outlined how the toughest heckler is a female one.  Well, there were 4 chicks celebrating a birthday and 1 of them was a real pain in the ass.  The group also had one husband of the women, who was also a pain.  At one point he insulted me, I went back at him by saying the only reason his wife was with him was because she had a lack of choices in the UP.  I don’t know if it was because i was tired or what, but I just had insulted the whole audience. I knew it immediately and acknowledged this fact.  Talk about making a bad situation worse. It took me probably another 10 minutes to get them back on my side.  Uphill battle the whole show.

The show still turned out to be pretty good, but it was definitely different that most.  It had been awhile since I had lost an audience. What I’ve discovered which works best for me in that situation is to slow everything down, acknowledge that this isn’t on my typical show agenda and offer some vulnerability. (Yes, I know this sounds real manly. I’m fine with that.) My favorite thing to say in this situation with a healthy dose of sarcasm is “Wow, I have never done this well before.”

So I had some people buy my DVD after the show and tell me how much fun they had.  I can’t say I had as much fun, but after a good night’s rest, I woke up feeling… about the same. If I don’t have a really good show, it stays with me for awhile.  I don’t know how comics who don’t do well stay in the biz.  My shell is not as tough. I need the love and approval of the audience.  Fortunately, I had a great show the next night in Wisconsin and that helps a lot.  It’s kind of like being a closer in baseball.  You appreciate the chance to redeem yourself the next day.

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