So recently I was booked to perform for the weekend at a Comedy Club. I was under the impression I was to do 2 shows on Saturday, but the website said only one, so that was no problem to me. When I got to the club, the owner mentioned that I would be doing an early show on Saturday at a Assisted Living Home. As I stood their slack-jawed, unable to speak, he continued saying it would be good publicity for the club to do a comedy night there. Ok, was all I could mumble.
Let’s break that down for a minute. Unless there was some type of media outlet there to videotape, not sure how it would be good publicity for the club. The elderly are not big in the social media world and I doubted that they would be spreading the word to attend the local comedy club, so I don’t see any benefit there. Well at least Scott you were going to get an extra payday out of it…
Nope. Someone I suspect made some extra money on this gig, but it wasn’t me. Well then why did you do it? Look, there are lots of great things about not having a manager or agent, especially the 10 to 25 percent I don’t pay out to them, but when situations like this arise, it’s not so great. If I refuse to do this, there is no guarantee that I’m going to get paid. Outside of some corporate shows, almost no comedian has a contract with the club. It’s kind of like the NFL. You show up and you do your job or they will find someone else. While my career might span a little longer than the average NFL running back, the signing bonus, benefits, and salary is not exactly in the same league. I’ve tried to use this blog to inform, so here’s another truth to file away. Being a standup comic has its moments, but as a financial path to security, it’s not much above Noodling.
So I’m told the MC will pick me up to be at the assisted living home by 6. Oh sweet, it’s a half an hour away. (sarcasm) We get to the home and I’m then told the show will start at 7:30. Awesome! (sarcasm building up) I get to wait over an hour at a nursing home before this nightmare kicks off. I’m smelling that sickly smell of oatmeal and Depends or as it’s also known as, Death Stench. I sit and read a newspaper as some acoustic guitar duo is singing covers from the 60’s and 70’s. That’s the great part of being a musician. Almost any gig you have you can sing some type of song(s) to pacify your audience. I don’t have some joke that works like breaking out Cracklin’ Rosie. I can’t start strumming and singing Taking the Chevy to the Levee, but the Levee was dry. I can’t go into some Seinfeld cover Hey what’s the deal with how you only find one sock in the dryer? Standup comedy doesn’t work that way. As I discuss early in my show, I have audiences that range in age from 21 to 71 (or that night from 4 to at least 94) which puts a lot of pressure on me. I don’t have a joke where Hannah Montana meets up with Matlock and they solve a crime.
Before I go any farther, take a look at this quick video I took in a darkened room with my IPad. This will give you an idea of how for some it would be better described as Assisted-Barely Living-Home.
If you weren’t able to make it out, the audience make-up was beside of a few family members visiting, all over 80 years old. It was mostly women and most of them were 85 years old or over. I can promise you I wouldn’t have taken this weekend, if I would have known this was part of my duties. As regular readers here know, I will do almost any gig, but one that is made up of 90 year old women who have never seen a live comedy show was never on my Bucket List. (On that subject, I hope my audience that night had taken care of everything on their bucket list because they don’t have a lot more time to do it.)
The MC was a guy a little older than me who has a warm, almost late night classic rock DJ voice, which was about as perfect as could be to host a show for octogenarians and above. He did a nice job of talking slowly and not scaring the audience. Since the show started later than we thought, I asked the feature act to follow me on the bill, as the MC and I needed to drop me off back at my hotel so I could pick up my car to get to the club and we were on a tight schedule to make it back to the club for their show. I don’t like being at the mercy of other people in regards to getting back to my hotel after the show. Since I rarely stay after my show and drink or talk, it’s just best for me to have my car, so I don’t wreck someone Else’s fun.
OK, back to the show. I walk up to begin my performance and I quickly realize this is not one of those gigs where you do your material and it will all be great. From the beginning I went interactive. I usually don’t like a cordless mic, but it was a bonus this night, as I started walking through the room going table to table getting feedback. One old bag had an especially sour look on her puss. I told her I suspected she wasn’t a big fan of comedy and that I probably reminded her of her husband who would just go and on— which I’m guessing always annoyed her. Without a smile, she said, that’s about right. Hey, I appreciate honesty.
- I mentioned that I would not be doing my best material because it would be dangerous for me to kill tonight.
- I told them I was there because I love cursing at the elderly.
- I said that the biggest reason I took the gig was I knew there would be a great ratio of chicks.
- After I did one joke that didn’t go over very well, I offered that I wasn’t the Assisted Living’s first choice. They had tried to find a more suitable comic for their group like George Burns or Bob Hope, but for some reason, neither one of them returned their calls. I added that it had less to do with them no longer being among the living and more to do with what the pay was. Sometimes you have to do jokes for yourself.
I noticed one gentlemen with a mustache and white hair. I said it was exciting we had a special guest tonight. Ladies and Gentlemen. Captain Kangaroo. Didn’t work. You know your audience is ancient when Captain Kangaroo is too recent of a reference.
One fellow at a table I went up to I complimented on how dapper he was dressed. He responded that maybe I should have followed his lead more. (I was wearing a sportscoat, but had jeans on.) I told him I doubted he was much of a fan of dungarees. He ignored me and kept talking, which included saying he was 94 years old and then asking me if I had ever been to a Speakeasy? I responded to him that since I was not around during the Roaring 20’s, I hadn’t really gotten the opportunity. He then said to me, I can’t hear a word your saying. I told him I wished I had that excuse with the rest of the crowd. That got a laugh. Then I pointed to his thick white mane and said I don’t know what pisses me off more, being heckled by a 94 year-old man or that he has better hair than me. Biggest laugh of the night. Kind of a losing proposition to deal harshly with a 94 year-old heckler who can’t hear your responses, so I just took it and tried to have fun.
I got done with my 30-35 minutes I was contracted, uh I mean told I was to do. The people had a nice time. I survived it. It wasn’t the worst gig I ever had, but I can tell you the thing that kept me from being totally irate going into it. My Fly Over Comedy Blog. I knew it would make for a decent story, so I kept that in mind. I appreciate how this site has grown to having a fairly substantial readership (especially as blogs go). This gig was another detour on my road less traveled.
POSTSCRIPT: Most of the stories I share here are when things go strangely. I don’t discuss most of my shows here, as they go great. What’s the fun in reading about how I kicked ass? For those of you that want to know specific names involved in this story above, I’m not sharing. I try to be as honest as I can be, but I do sometimes withhold names or places as I don’t want to burn bridges. Now I don’t mind burning a little rubber on the bridge. Thanks for checking in.