As a comedian, you know you’ve had a bad show when one by one, audience members stop by before leaving and say, “That was good. You were funny. Keep practicing.”
Keep practicing? “Lady, I’ve been doing comedy for 20 years! You keep practicing at laughing!” Out loud I say, “Thank you, I will.”
Sometimes the shows are bad and you’re opening for a big name. That’s not quite as bad because the audience didn’t pay to see you, they’re there to see the ventriloquist.
I once opened for David Benoit, the famed Jazz artist. His name was pronounced Benwa. You might imagine the lecture I got before I even hit the stage, about what is appropriate on stage and what is strictly off limits.
There were two shows that night, but I wasn’t told that since it wasn’t sold out, many of the folks who attended the first show could stay for the second show too. Disaster.
Far and away, the worst show for me was at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California. I was asked to perform in a show with six orher comedians, all of whom I knew. It was huge. They brought in a sound crew from Nashville, Tennessee. They had a camera truck out back with a director because there were so many cameras. This was a major production.
I was picked up in a limo at the airport, with a camera guy recording the entire trip down. When I arrived, I was asked to sign a contract. Essentially, the event was being sponsored, in part, by The House of Blues, there was talk of HBO floating around, Walmart and Circuit City had already agreed to buy the CDs to be used as interacting screen savers.
In addition, we would be touring, starting with a gig at the House of Blues in Orlando. I know! A Comedian’s dream! Our material had to be squeaky clean. I bounced any questionable material off of the executive producer, and he approved everything. I was set.
The show began with the first four comedians doing very well. The next comic get up and was bombing, which was fine because it was television. They fix that in post production and make it appear as though you rocked the house. This comedian didn’t understand that, so when she wasn’t getting laughs, she started telling dirty jokes. We call it “going blue.”
The executive producer went nuts and demanded that she leave the stage immediately. When they got her off stage, the next comedian, who is now a rising star, didn’t like what they did with the previous comic, so he decided to go blue as well. Beautiful. As I was being introduced, I could hear the producer screaming that he might pull the plug on the whole show.
So, I’m out there telling my jokes, getting lots of laughs when the sound went off. I know this was no accident, with the crew they had. The audience yelled, “Keep going!”, so I did. Suddenly, the lights went out and an announcer said that the show was over and thanked them for coming.
I was furious! Since they cut me off, I’m sure the audience thought I was to blame. I headed right upstairs to the production room where all of the executives were hanging out, hiding. I banged really hard on the door, but no one answered. I banged harder and demanded to be let in. One man reluctantly opened the door and wanted to know what I wanted.
I pushed my way right through him and found the executive producer. I demanded to know why he pulled the plug during my set. He had no answer. I continued yelling at him because, to the audience, it looked as though I was the culprit who ruined the show. He gave no apology or explanation. I still had my microphone pack on, worth about $1,500,and I took it off of my belt and threw it as hard as I could against the wall, shattering it in pieces and walked out.
They didn’t ask or demand that I replace it. The whole thing got tied up in litigation because the woman who caused the problem in the first place wanted to get a copy of her horrible performance, which was not in the contract. I had to buy my own plane ticket home. It was as bad as it gets. One selfish comedian ruined an incredible opportunity for all of us, including the producers.
A couple of weeks later, I received an email from the executive producer, apologizing for what he did to me. Ok, move on. That’s the business.
See you tomorrow.
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