Pro Choice Meets Bad Choice

With my friend, Zan Aufderheide, who has done shows for church groups over the years. Someday she will have to explain that trick to me.

As my previous post outlined, I did the most rewarding show of my career, last Wednesday. I had left the rest of my week open, so I took an offer on a gig a couple hours away when it came available. Didn’t know really anything about it except that it was a fundraiser and I would only have to do 20 minutes. Sure.

So the day of the gig I get the details on who will be at the event. It’s a fundraiser for a group who are basically the opposite of Planned Parenthood, as this organization helps financially to motivate women to not have abortions. Now, I am pro-choice myself, but I can respect the other side of this argument as it is a very personal subject. Having said this, I knew I would rather not do a show for a group like this, as I knew they wouldn’t be my ideal type audience.

When I started in standup I had an abortion joke. It was actually my favorite joke I wrote in my first 5 years in the biz.

So I was at a 7-11 which happens to be right next to a Planned Parenthood. When I came back to my car after buying a Big Gulp, I realized I had locked my keys in the car. I went back in the store to see if they could help me get the car open. The manager gave me something he said would do the trick, but right when I was about to try to get the car unlocked, I had a bunch of picketers come up to me and start chanting “Baby Killer! Baby Killer!” I told them, you got the wrong guy, I locked my keys in the car and I’m only using this wire hanger to try to open it up.

So I get to this gig and it’s at a really beautiful ballroom in Cincinnati. Since it was only 3 days after the election and Ohio had been the state to push Obama over the top, I’m guessing this crowd wasn’t in the greatest mood that night. While I wasn’t really looking forward to the gig, I was still confident I could do well for 20 minutes, since I have an excellent corporate act for 60 minutes. The crowd was stereotypically what you expected, except that there were a lot of kids in the audience who had a home schooled smell to them.

My opening act was the head of this organization. He showed a video of young women who had planned on having abortions but through the help of this group they had made the decision to have their baby, which they were eternally grateful for. Despite my politics, I did not for a minute think they made the wrong decision for their lives. It’s about being pro-choice and I’m glad this organization gave these women another choice.

Wrapping up his time the group’s leader began a prayer where he tearfully mentioned how “God you are Great. I know you are up in heaven with the 54 millions babies that have been horribly aborted since 1973 when Roe v Wade made this holocaust legal.” Ok, strong words. I have never told a feature act not to use blue language, but I do think I’m going to put this in my contract rider of phrases I don’t want used at my show. And I thought following guys who sing or do the hands bit during their closer is difficult.

A couple minutes later it was my time. Besides the things I’ve already outlined, half the people at this point had gotten up to the buffet and the others were eating. Oh and this ballroom was huge with 50 foot ceilings, which is not exactly ideal, especially when you add that the sound was not great and the house lights were completely on. The feeling I had at this point was something I’ve felt less than a handful of times…I would totally have been okay being told it isn’t going to work and you don’t have to go up onstage, but we aren’t going to pay you. Wouldn’t have bothered me at all to have taken the loss on the gas. I was dreading this show.

So I hit the small stage with a podium in front of it and started off my show. I was wishing at that point I was wearing a I LOVE CHIK-FIL-A! t-shirt to try to bond. My focus was on being conversational and really pretend like I was happy to be there. Only 20 minutes, only 20 minutes was my internal mantra. Well this show ended up seeming like it lasted an hour even though I did 20 to the dot. I thought they might bond with me discussing how my wife and I went 6 years trying to have a baby to the point where we had all 3 of our children through IVF.* Then I discussed how the doctor saw in the ultrasound something that looked a little concerning, but we refused to have the test to see what this might be because we were never going to have an abortion, anyway. We knew that we were going to love our child if they had some kind of special needs or not.**

* These pro-life groups are anti-IVF because they see the fertilized eggs that are not high enough quality to put in for IVF conception as a form of abortion. I knew this, but I still thought it might be informative for them to meet someone who had tried to have a baby–the thing they find most sacred–to see why IVF shouldn’t be demonized by them.

** These groups don’t like to acknowledge the idea that some single mom who can barely take care of a baby will possibly have a child with special needs. It wrecks their idyllic image.

About 10% of the audience paid attention while the rest couldn’t have seemed less interested. It was like the majority of this audience had their funny bone surgically removed through prayer. They seem to be following the first book of Footloose. After I finished not one person said anything to me as I made the very long walk out of the ballroom and straight to my car. So much for love your brother. Thank Baby Jesus I had gotten the check before I performed. (Important tip for comics at corporates.) The whole drive home I felt a mix of shock and anger. I had just had the best night of my comedy career 2 nights before and then the next show I did was one of my worst. Ah, the roller-coaster which is standup comedy. Reality bitches!

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