The most popular pieces I write for this blog are the ones where I call someone out. I withhold names, but it still is a dangerous game I’m playing. When comics get together the 2 things they always discuss is gossip about the biz and tell stories about the shit they have had to deal with it. I’ve tried to bring some of that to this site, as I see this blog as kind of like the old FOX network show, Secrets of Magic Revealed. I saw this article about the person who shot the video of Mitt Romney’s 47 percent comments. I think it was the most important element of the 2012 campaign which swung the election toward Obama. Here is what the Huffington Post said about the whole situation.
The man, who tended bar for a company that catered to a high-end clientele, had previously worked at a fundraiser at a home where Clinton spoke. After Clinton addressed guests, the man recalled, the former president came back to the kitchen and thanked the staff, the waiters, the bartenders, the busboys, and everyone else involved in putting the event together. He shook hands, took photos, signed autographs, and praised the meal — all characteristic of the former president. When the bartender learned he would be working at Romney’s fundraiser, his first thought was to bring his camera, in case he had a chance to get a photo with the presidential candidate. Romney, of course, did not speak to any of the staff, bussers or waiters. He was late to the event, and rushed out. He told his dinner guests that the event was off the record, but never bothered to repeat the admonition to the people working there. One of them had brought along a Canon camera. He set it on the bar and hit the record button. The bartender said he never planned to distribute the video. But after Romney spoke, the man said he felt he had no choice.
I bring this up here, as we could all learn from this. I know that is the case if you are a standup comic. I’m not saying I don’t have a few people in the biz who are not fans of mine. I’m guessing a couple of those are reading this right now shaking their heads because they just can’t help themselves. I am too opinionated and unlike most, I’m willing to tell a comic who is hacky or is disrespectful to the business I’m in they should get their shit together. I don’t do it often, but it does happen. The most important off-stage thing you can do is be cool to the staff. I’ve mentioned here before that they are at the club 52 weeks a year–you are there for 1 week. The staff has a lot of sway on how you are perceived. Let me give an example of how I fucked up on this front.
So I perform at this newer comedy club. The owner was talking to me about what he should do to improve things. I discussed how the behavior of the opening act, who showed up late, went past his time onstage, and was very dirty in his material was not cool. I was pissed about these things, the owner had asked me, and I shared. I should also add that I did not have great sets that weekend, as the crowds were small and were not buying what I was selling. Well, I have never been back there again. Even though what I said was true and good advice, I have no idea if the MC wasn’t someone the owner really liked and he put a big X by my name after. It would appear my big mouth messed this up. In this case, it would appear I overstepped my bounds.
Personal relationships with comics are important. Now let me state that no one in the business that I know wants to be around some kind of Robin Williams type who is constantly on. It wears you out. The best type of comic off-stage to hang with is funny and conversational, but not trying to work his bits out on you all the time. It really is one of the great things about being a comic. Getting a chance to hang with people who look at life with a similar skewed viewpoint. Here are a couple stories of my interaction with comics that did not turn out so well.
I was in town featuring for a comedian at my home club. I’m tight with the staff, so I feel pretty comfortable there, plus the MC was a friend, too. For the most part I like comics and I would guess 90% of the ones I’ve worked with have positive things to say about me. Well the headliner that week was a comic who had less credits than even me and wasn’t drawing anybody. He was no great shakes on-stage either, but he did do well with the audience. The first night we are in the green room before the show. He is strangely aloof and prickly. I figure it’s just a bad day. This continues for the whole week. On Saturday, the MC, who has to pick the guy up at the hotel and drive them to the show, starts talking about something. The headliner responds with now that isn’t a very positive way of looking at things. I start laughing as I offer back that is a good one considering you have brought your bad energy in this room all week. He comes back at me with what are you talking about? Maybe its I just don’t like you. My response is well I can’t argue with that. I’m glad it’s just that because otherwise you are one of the most unhappy people I’ve ever met. He finishes up with the conversation with hey, things are good with me, you are the one with a problem. We then went back into our corners. I told the MC I felt badly for him having to watch Mommy and Daddy fight like that. Yes, tension filled and awkward. Now I have no great wrap-up to this, but I will tell you that we both burned a bridge there. Such is life.
Earlier in my career I had one veteran comic who really was supportive and even referred me to a couple clubs. We weren’t what I call tight, but he was a guy I had a lot of respect for and was helpful to me when no one else really was. At one point he got me on the bill of a New Year’s Eve show which was paying me the most I had ever been paid up until that point. So the following year comes up and the booking agent contacts me and says the venue wants me back, wants to double my pay, but they didn’t want my comic friend back. Tough situation. If I turn it down or not, he’s still not getting the gig, so I took it. I did that gig for NYE for the next 6 years. Still wish I had that NYE gig. Now I would like to say at this point of my career and what I know, I wished I would have turned it down as support for my former friend. All I know is that at that point in my career I was too ambitious that I wasn’t going to let a moral conundrum like that get in the way of the best gig I had ever gotten. From that point on, my friendship with this great guy has been dead. I haven’t run into him since, but he’s never reached out to me since then and he hasn’t accepted my Facebook friend request, so I’m guessing I’m dead to him. I get that. I deserve that. And that is just the way this business can go. I will say that I have a clean conscience when it comes to standup, outside of this event, so I guess I’m thinking I wish I wouldn’t have taken the gig now, despite the 8 grand I made over the years from it.
I could tell a lot more examples of events in my career where I saw people not handle things the best way. I have seen it sometimes rise up and bite them in the ass, but more often, I’ve seen them continue to thrive. There is no easy answer to this issue, but I will tell you that unless you have the psychopathic ability to let go of regret and guilt, consider the Long view. Don’t Be a Douche.