For those of you that know me, I’m not much of a drinker. I can go a couple of months without even drinking a beer. Not a teetotaler, not on the wagon, not a fan of prohibition. I just don’t have a big desire. When I do imbibe, I totally go the binge drinking route. A couple times a year I like to really tie-one on. The following story happened about 5 years ago and it was the craziest drinking session I’ve had in my couple decades of standup.
As most good drinking stories, it begins in Rockford, Illinois. Rockford is a blue-collar city west of Chicago and with its proximity to Wisconsin, the people like to booze it up. Rockford had a typically rowdy one-nighter on Tuesdays that was connected to a club I used to do in Milwaukee. This night they were particularly revved up. The opening act was a friend of mine and the crowd had little interest in what he did during his opening 30 minutes. He wasn’t helped by having no real MC, as the person who was supposed to do it was a radio DJ who didn’t show up that night. Some audiences want to listen to your comedy, while others want it to be a wild circus. This group had no interest in low-key material, which was the opener’s style.
Knowing this, I hit the stage with a take no shit attitude. I started slamming people and showing them who was boss. I know it doesn’t sound like the most artistic way of doing standup, but it is what was needed. The crowd’s way of showing me respect was to buy me a shot. This got the ball rolling and within the first 15 minutes, I had been given 6 shots. Since this was a really classy bar, all them were served in little plastic cups.
Something I’ve learned from doing standup is that when an audience member sends you A shot, it is usually pretty decent. You know, jagerbomb or Cuervo. But when there becomes a sheep-like mentality of many shots, you end up getting the most vile shit like creamy shots or cheap gin. These sick fucks want to see you puke more than they want to watch you tell jokes. The worst is the cement mixer, which consists of Baileys Irish Cream and Lime juice. As soon as the acidity hits the Baileys, the drink starts to curdle creating a cement like texture. That is the one shot I won’t do.
Well, as you can guess, I was starting to feel an impact from these shots. (6 in 15 minutes) Now you might ask WHY NOT JUST TELL THEM YOU WON’T DRINK? Well, it is a bar and especially with a drunken group, not a great way to bond. I had drank too much, though, so at that point I did tell the audience I’m not your science project. I’m not your monkey boy. The drinking shots part of the show is over. Seems reasonable, right? Not to this group. The chant Pussy, Pussy began to ring out. I told them they could chant it the rest of the show, but I felt like I had more than done what was obligated. I then went into my closer bit which I knew would hit hard. I went into it way early, because I wanted to make sure I got a big laugh to get their minds off the shots. It worked, until…
A very attractive bartender comes walking up holding another shot. My response was Hey babycakes, I don’t know if you got the memo, but I’m off the sauce for the rest of this gig. And that took care of…oh wait a minute, no it didn’t. Her reply was a simple, “Drink the shot, Nancyboy.”
So I have 2 choices at this point.
- Ladies and Gents, that was my time, thanks and good-night!
- Give me the shot, you horrible, horrible woman.
Since she was the one who was going to pay me, I chose the second option. I took the shot and set it down on the stool before I drank it. I yelled to my friend (my only one it seemed) that I would not be needing my car keys the rest of the night and threw them to him. I then asked who bought the shot. When someone claimed their nasty bourbon from the Well, I slammed the shot and then whipped the plastic cup at them. I was their conquering hero.
I wish I could say that the shots stopped at this point, but they did not. I continued to do my show and whip the cups at my patrons, afterward. I have no memory of what happened after 40 minutes, except for when some women in the front told me to take off my shirt, which I slurred back that they should take off theirs first. One of them did, so I played fair and did about 5 minutes without my shirt on. I do know I ripped everything about Rockford (I actually like the place, but I was feeling a little violated.) Since I’m a huge Cheap Trick fan, I did offer up that they were exempt from my diatribe, as they were the only thing decent to come out of this drunk tank of a town. Of course, since I was being their puppet, they would have let me say anything and they would have laughed. I had definitely earned their respect.
My opening act said I did nearly 90 minutes. I have no idea of what I was saying, but he said the audience was completely on-board. He lost track after shot 21 of how many I did. (Maybe he wasn’t that good of a friend. I mean even Rocky’s manager Mick would’ve thrown in the towel at some point.) I’m sure Bon Scott was looking up from Hell yelling, “No more shots, mate! No more shots!” You are right to think this is an illegal amount of alcohol and yes these participants all should be charged with attempted manslaughter. I do know I still sold merchandise after the show because I am a robot to that part of my job. I have no idea how I would have made change though, but when I counted the next morning I was in the black. I also remember that I stayed at the bar until 2 in the morning, just drinking diet coke to hopefully sober up.
So what was I like the next morning? Just a small headache. Never threw-up. Never had the spins. Not even any sign of anal penetration. The Patron Saint of Drunks must have been looking out for me. Maybe one thing that helped sober me up the following morning was a call from the booking agent. (The following is the conversation I had with him to the best of my memory. My dialogue is in italics.)
Hey, what’s up?
I got a call this morning from the (DJ who was supposed to open the show) and he told me a woman had called into his morning radio show and was disturbed by what she had heard happened at the (insert place). She said you were completely drunk and had disrobed.
The last part is true. Can I explain what happened?
Please do that.
I then outlined how it all went down. I told him about how the DJ didn’t even show up. I told him about how I felt like I didn’t have a lot of other choices. And I told him that I thought the audience thought it was a great show. He responded by saying he did think it was strange that he was getting a call about me doing this, as he had never had any bad report before on me.
Fortunately, the agent cut me a little slack, just telling me to not let it happen again. I realize how if a client tells the booking agent that someone was unprofessional it makes an impact because that gig pays them weekly, while the comic is going to be there maybe once a year. Now who is more important to the bottom line? There are plenty of comics out there annoying the shit out of bookers (translated: constantly calling and emailing them), so unless you are a major draw you are pretty expendable. Something to keep in mind for younger comics. It might not always be fair, but since the booking agent has to rely on the clients report on you, it would be best for your future career trajectory if you were on your best behavior on and off the stage.
Later that week in Milwaukee, a couple different groups of people drove over an hour to see me again in Milwaukee. They had loved my show so much they made the trek to see it again that weekend. I think they were a little disappointed that I didn’t get bombed on-stage or take off my shirt, but they did get to see a little saner version of my standup.
The next time I got an itinerary from the booking agent there was a note posted at the top to all comics that NO drinking would be allowed at the Rockford gig. I had heard through the grapevine that the comedian the week before me had also had a drunken incident as well. It is kind of ironic that someone like me would wreck the opportunity for other comics to get to drink on-stage, but so was the case.
And now you know the story of the drunkest I’ve ever been on-stage.