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 30 years! You keep practicing at laughing, you idiot!” 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 other 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.
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