And now we come to the most embarrassing moment I have ever had on-stage….
It begins at a comedy club in Topeka, Kansas. It’s a small room, but beautifully set-up for comedy. The opening act was the very funny Kevin Bozeman, who was on his way to the Loony Bin the rest of the week, so this was a great show. While Kevin is up on-stage, I order some food. Now, I generally prefer to eat after the show, as a full-stomach makes you feel a little sluggish, but I was really hungry so I thought I meet somewhere in between and order a salad. I asked the bartender what was best and he recommended the Cajun chicken salad.
So about 15 minutes before I go on, the salad comes out. I chow it quickly, as I know the lettuce will be wilted afterward. 5 minutes later, I am started to feel a rumble. I instantly know I’ve got some trouble ahead. I go into the bathroom and let fly as I hear Bozeman get his applause. I quickly wipe, flush, and tug my pants back up. I hit the stage hoping that this will be enough to get me through. Uh, nope.
Unlike any other profession I can think of, when you are a standup comic and have to unload the dumptruck, there is no backup plan. If you are in an important work meeting, you can still make up some excuse to leave for 5 minutes. If you are a singer in a band, you can have the drummer do a Moby Dick solo. Even an actor giving a one-man play could call for an intermission. There is nothing a comedian can do that won’t bring complete attention to himself. You can’t call Manpower for an replacement. The Topeka Kelly Girl temp agency doesn’t have a stable of comics that will pop by in 5 minutes to take your place on-stage.
I have had this problem happen to me maybe 5 times during my 2 decades doing standup. All but one of them, I was able to finish my business before I got on-stage, before the long night in Topeka. The exception was when I was featuring at the Star Dome. I told the opener as I hit the stage, that he needed to stay close in case I needed to bail quickly. It was touch and go at the start, but I managed to get through the 30 minutes I did on-stage.
Since I was headlining, I was scheduled to do an hour in Topeka. Within the first minute of my material, I realized this was not going to turn out well. Sweat was already starting to pour from my forehead. I had the audience applaud for the talents of my opening act, Kevin Bozeman, and then asked if he was in the room. I figured I could say something like “Kevin is so funny, let’s have him do an encore and have him come back onstage until I took care of my problem. No dice, he had went out to his car. I was shit out of luck. At this juncture, I felt it was best for me to just level with the crowd.
So you know how when you really have to go the bathroom at work, you can just get up and go? Well I don’t have that luxury. I had some type of Satanic Cajun Chicken salad before the show and my body wants to exorcize the demon within. Let’s take a 5 minute break and I will be back. (I then walked right to the bathroom.)
I know the audience was initially stunned. I’m sure they thought it was some stunt. When I hit that bathroom, my legs were flying up in the air like I was Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber. I had been in such agony that for the moment, I wasn’t even concerned about the future shame this incident would hang around my neck like a scarlet letter. When I finished, I walked out of the bathroom, triumphantly. I started whistling the Rocky Theme, with my hands held high. The audience was laughing, definitely at me, not with me. For the rest of the show, whenever there was something that could be made into a poop joke, I would get heckled with it. I told the audience they all had a free shot at me tonight, as I had no defense.
I have been back to Topeka a couple times since and I have had an audience member ask me, while I was onstage, are you the guy that went the bathroom during the show? WELL YES I AM! I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED! Then I proceed to tell the story, as I feel like it is my doody. Hard to imagine I will ever have a more traumatic thing happen to my onstage unless I am raped by a pack of bears. Such is the risk of being a standup comedian.