In my efforts to bring other great standup stories to this site, today I offer up one I can relate to by my friend Josh Alton. I worked with Josh a couple of times and thought he was a really funny guy who I knew was from Iowa…what I didn’t know until last year was that he went to the same high school as myself (Southeast Polk). Find out more about Josh at http://www.joshaltoncomedy.com
For most of my adult life, I have been able to earn a living by doing stand-up comedy. I worked hard to put myself in this position, but I also know that a lot of things had to go right for this to happen. I feel very blessed that I am able to have a job doing something I love to do. As a way to show my appreciation, I try to volunteer whenever I can. Most of the time, that means heading over to work in the local food pantry for a few hours, but every once in a while, somebody will ask me to participate in a comedy show for charity. Any time I can do that, I jump at the chance!
Last fall, some friends in Chicago asked if I could be the comedian/emcee at an event they were hosting, to raise money for some local animal shelters. They run an adoption shelter called ALIVE Rescue (www.aliverescue.org), where they help find people to adopt cats and dogs. They were teaming up with several other animal shelters in Chicago to raise money, by hosting the Adopt Hop, which is basically an all day bar hop, all over the city of Chicago. A great way to raise money! So the participants hopped around from bar to bar all day, then ended up at a watering hole in Chicago’s Wrigleyville area, for the comedian, the raffle, and the final wrap up.
Now this bar was about 40 steps away from Wrigley Field, and tends to be very busy when the Cubbies are in town. But the Cubs were away, and the Adopt Hop organizers had secured a side room inside the bar, with a stage and a microphone, for us to have the final events. When I arrived at the tavern, I was surprised to see that the place was packed to the gills, and people were yelling and cheering wildly. I went in to investigate, only to find out that this bar was a University of Michigan bar, and Michigan happened to be playing Notre Dame in football. Anyone who follows college football knows, this is a big game every year. No big deal though. We’ve got a side room secured. Or so I thought.
Soon it was apparent that the bar was not going to honor the original agreement. The manager explained that because of the game, they were not going to clear the room for our event, and we would just have to move to the outdoor patio area, which was just a long strip of tables that ran the length of the building, and sat in between the sidewalk, and the actual side of the building. There was no stage out there, and there was no microphone. To bring more adversity to the situation, there were also people eating outside that had nothing to do with the Adopt Hop, not to mention all kinds of random people walking by on the sidewalk.
My friends approached me, and asked what I wanted to do. “Sorry about all this. That is BS they won’t let us have that room! You don’t have to go up, if you don’t want.” I thought about it for a moment, then figured, hey, I’ve got a group of
drunk, generous, animal lovers to entertain, and I’m going to do it! So, I pulled out a chair (for a stage) and had the event organizer step up on it to introduce me.
When I got up there, the Adopt Hop participants all gathered around me, and I started into my act. I felt like one of those old-time “miracle tonic” salesmen. “Gather ‘round folks, and check out this amazing new product! It literally does everything! It’ll cure your cough, fix your back, make you grow taller…” The situation was a little awkward, but the audience was great! They gave me their undivided attention, and laughed in all the right places. Some of the people walking by even stopped to enjoy the comedy!
After I did my 15 minutes of “pet-friendly” material, I called out the numbers for the raffle, and gave away the prizes. When it was over I could barely talk, as I really had to project, so that everyone could hear my unamplified voice. The event ended as a big success, and a lot of money was raised to help out homeless animals. Best of all, I got the chance to use the skill I was blessed with, to help out someone (or something) less fortunate than me!