The Oldest Running One-Nighter in Stand-up

With the very cool Laura Brinkmanis. Sorry about the lighting, Laura.

So I got a call early last week with a voice that only takes 1 word to know who it is. “Scott, this is Tom Sobel.” I’ve had a frustrating history with Tom, as I’ve done very little work for Comedy Caravan (his agency), despite living 2 hours from his headquarters.  The first out of town open-mic I ever did was at his club in Louisville.  This was around 1993 and standup was still really happening in Louisville. So much, that the open mic had sold-out crowds.  It also should be mentioned that this was no ordinary open mic, as comedians would come in from all over the country to perform, as Tom had lots of weeks of work at this point.  While it was great to get to do 5 minutes in front of such a hot crowd, I think it hurt me in the long run, as Mr. Sobel’s first impression stuck some, not what I was to become as a comic.  This is a good lesson to younger comics that you don’t want to be seen too early by major decision-makers because first impressions are hard to shake.

It has been over a decade since Tom has seen me perform, so this isn’t meant to be a big knock on him.  Hey, he does headline me at random one-nighters, so I have moved up some in his thinking, just not as much as I would like. Comedians of all success levels have a couple of bookers who have had created frustration.  I’ve tried to never take not getting work from some agency as a personal affront, as that just brings anger to a place where you can want to burn a bridge.  Persistence and professionalism does work most of the time, if you continue to work at your craft and get good reports from the gigs you do.  I will mention that Tom Sobel is one of the first autobiographies I would want to read in the comedy biz, because the stories he could tell I’m sure are pretty amazing. (I actually mentioned this to him recently and he told me that he wouldn’t do it because it would wreck too many careers. I guess I will have to hold out that John Yoder writes one then, as he’s the other person I can think of who probably has an equal amount of great Fly-over country comedy stories.)

So the gig he had for me was Bear’s Place in Bloomington, IN.  Bear’s Place is known to be the longest-continuing one-nighter in the country and during it’s heyday, was one of the best.  A couple years back, someone opened a Thursday through Saturday club in Bloomington and things have fallen off at Bears.  Bloomington is a college town and definitely not big enough to support a full-time comedy club and a one-nighter that does 2 shows on a Saturday.  I’m not going to get into what side is in the right as it’s not that simple, but I will say it is kind of sad to see such an institution like Bears Place struggle. This was the place where Roseanne Barr had her career worst moment in which she left the stage crying.  Bear’s Place has something that few comedy clubs have anymore, a history.  I mean this is a place that many of the top modern standup comics performed at one time. Looking at the headshots on the walls there is kind of like stepping back into time.  I mean just look at this shot I took of an early Brian Regan.

One nice thing about Tom Sobel gig’s is he often calls you last minute about them, which can help fill a hole in your calendar you thought was a hopeless case at that moment.  My summer calendar is the best it’s been in few years, but I had this night off, so I was glad to do it.  Considering it was less than 90 minutes from my house is another bonus.  So I began my trek.

Now I will share that on Friday I started feeling really crappy. Let me accent the word CRAPPY, because I had a really bad stomach virus that was manifesting itself on a consistent basis right out my rectal cavity.  It only was worse on Saturday to which my wife was saying “you have to cancel that gig.” I have never canceled a paid gig in my career.  It’s not on the level of Cal Ripken, but I’m proud of that record and I want to keep it intact. I also don’t ever want to be any type of problem for a agent, as when they book me, I want them to know that part of the job is over.  I loaded up on Alka Seltzer and Immodium AD, plus didn’t eat anything but 2 pieces of peanut butter toast all day.  I didn’t drink anything after 5, just to be extra careful. Now I knew with all these precautions, it would still be a little dicey, so I brought one of my wife’s mini-pads as backup, as protection if I felt I couldn’t make it, which I could slip in the back of my boxer briefs to absorb any leakage.  (SEXY!)

Driving down to the gig I was kind of distracted and took the wrong route, adding about 30 minutes to my ride.  This was going to put me about 15 minutes early, which is later than I feel is being professional.  So I was trying to make up a little of that time when I saw lights flashing in my rearview mirror.  When I pulled over and unrolled my window, the sheriff mentioned I was going a little too fast.  I replied I was performing at Bear’s Place and was running late.  He took my info and quickly came back to me, saying that I didn’t have any points against my license and to slow down.  I thanked him and told him that there would be no cop jokes in my act tonight as a tribute to him.

Now I am aware that I used the tiny bit of celebrity I have to try to get out of that ticket.  That is why when I hear about some athlete or actor dropping their name to get out of a DUI, I never slam them for it.  All is fair in getting out of ticket.  By the way, here is my idea for getting out of a speeding ticket if I get pulled over late at night and can’t use the I’m running late to a show excuse.

Officer, I’m a really sorry, but I’ve had the worst day.  I’m working out of town when I get a call from a neighbor saying that he saw some guy sneak into my house and has been there for awhile now.  I might be paranoid, but I think my wife’s having an affair on me and I want to be there to make sure it stops.

Now very few people can’t relate to that one, especially a cop who is gone all night doing his gig.  The reason I have a clean record is because I don’t usually go over the speed limit because I hate how expensive tickets end up being, plus you get better gas mileage going a little slower, but I will get back with you here to tell you if it works when the time comes that I do have to use it.

So I get to the show with 10 minutes to spare and see that there are not a lot of people at the show.  The awesome Laura Brinkmanis who runs the room and does a great job of getting the crowd revved at the beginning of the show mentioned to me that it was Taste of Bloomington that weekend, so it was going to be slow.  Laura is one of the people in the biz that you always are happy to see because they have a great energy and love standup comedy.  The opening act, Luke Robbins, was one of the most talented young comics I’ve seen in quite awhile, so that was a great start to the show.  Then the feature act was a friend, Homer Shadowheart, so it was a good lineup.  Despite being an audience of around 20, they were a quality audience which gave me the nerve to work on some new material I had just written that day.  Overall, it was a good night and most importantly, I didn’t have to break the seal on the mini-pad.  Another successful night on the comedy circuit.

2 thoughts on “The Oldest Running One-Nighter in Stand-up

  1. I laughed so hard at your hardships on Saturday night! What a story, talk about a wedgy! I hope your Father’s Day was used for something more worthwhile than
    recovery. Love you son, you make us laugh!

  2. Haha..I read your comment about the autobiography that would ruin too many careers. I hung out at Comedy on Broadway in Lexington in the mid 80s and worked at the Funny Farm in the late 80s and early 90s . There’s a few folks that worked there that could write that book but couldn’t want to either! Everyone would have to incriminate themselves. Wild but fun times with Bill Hicks, Steve Harvey,Tim Wilson,Lenny Clarke,so many . Lenny Clarke and the whole staff got thrown out of a restaurant late night for laughing too much and drinking the town dry. I think he had the club credit card too! Lenny responded by dumping a bowl of pasta on his head, and we all stumbled out on to an all nighter.I will save the really crazy stuff for my pothshumous release. I’m not a comic,but an artist but haven’t had a drink in 23 years for good reason! The late great Frankie Bastille. His story needs to be kept alive.That would be an epic bestseller. Begging his former girlfriend to work on it with me.The glory days of comedy. I left in 93 … just missed ya. So many people on tv that did those Tuesday open mics! Amazing talent.
    Good luck ,you should have plenty of material these days.

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