My latest gig adventure sounds like the set up to an old joke; A priest a kid and a raffle all get together at a winery.
Thats what I had to follow.
Private gigs really are the bread and butter of a comics life. I love playing a club with no restrictions on content and language, but in all honesty its those lucrative privates that pay the rent most months.
Lately, it seems that when ever I have a gig that requires me to drive more than an hour, the skies open up and God sends a flood that would even make Noah say, Holy Shit!
I drove up with a rare combination of person; a friend and the Booker.
I was grateful for that until we got in his 1987 Toyota death trap pick up. With all the cold and rain the windshield defroster was more a theory than a working device in his truck. While we got pelted with gusts of wind and curtains of rain, I spent most of the white knuckle ride craning my head forward so I could look for an address threw the tiny hole of clear windshield in front of me.
What is it with me and Napa? Every time I come up here the news is telling people not to travel unless you have to.
I am at Down Town Joe's in Napa next month.
I can predict now that there will be a major storm on that night.
All we know about this gig is its a benefit for a local school and they want material on the Oscar nominated movies. It is being held at a winery and all I am required to do is 10 minuets.
This is the classic bank job gig.
We go in and do the thing. No one gets hurt and were gone with the money before anyone can look up from their banquet style rubber chicken.
Driving an hour in the rain to do ten minuets might seem silly, but the money was OK for how short they wanted the set. It felt like we were in some boat race. Get up there as fast as we could, round the buoy and head home with the prize money.
But there was just one wrinkle.
The school, was a private Catholic school.
There was indeed an Oscars theme. People are dressed up as stars and movie characters. In fact, we walked in on a red carpet and were greeted at the door by two beautiful people holding fake microphones. They are playing the part of interviewers on the red carpet. Its a nice touch. Too bad the parking lot has turned to mud. The red carpet looks like the nicest welcome mat I have ever seen covered with muddy foot prints and smears.
Once we get in, the Booker and I are thinking the same thing, we should of asked for more money.
Its a very elaborate party they have set up. In a main room, there are a hundred or so round banquet tables. They are about 30 feet from the stage, the floor is concert and here is my favorite part-the room is ice cold. Sure, they have 4 of those giant heat lamps scattered among the tables, but unless your inside the 20 foot circle of warmth, forget it. How do I fully impart to you how cold it is in this place? How about this. Standing "back stage" I can see my breath.
Thats how cold it is.
You know, if I sat down to design a worse format to attempt stand-up comedy in, this is probably what I would of come up with.
Concert floor. Lousy for acoustics in a giant hall.
Freezing cold temperature to make everyone want to end this thing quickly.
Round banquet tables to insure that at any given moment half the crowd has their back to me.
Going up while people are eating.
Before I go on, lets have a priest right out of central casting complete with a thick Irish accent go up and lead everyone in the lords prayer.
Then, lets have a kid go up and read his winning essay titled, Blessed. Its an ass kissing ode to how great the school is.
Check and F'ing mate!
Were not done yet.
When the kid reads the essay he mentions all the fun things you can sign up to do. Like math Therapy.
This just begged to be made fun of. But considering the average age of the room was 60 and they gave off that mix of religion and closed mindedness, I thought I would let that slide.
Math Therapy though?
"My mother won't give me the love I need doctor."
"Go to the board and work out this long division problem."
I know my bank account could use some math therapy.
Right before I am introduced they have a raffle where someone wins $5,000
They just gave away five grand and how much am I getting for this gig?
Here is the other very important little fact that dawns on us. No one in this crowd saw any of the Oscar nominated movies.
There will be Blood?
You mean the movie that mocks a preacher and kills him?
A movie about a teen age girl who gets pregnant after having sex?
Need I go on?
Maybe they saw No Country for Old Men, about a psychotic hit man killing like most of us breathe, but the joke I have written for it sure ain't gonna fly with this bunch.
I thought no country for old men was about John MaCane.
These people are going to vote for this guy!
People always wonder why I charge what I charge for what they see as a simple gig. This is why.
I have 45 minuets to rethink what will work and what will not. In other words, here comes the riff gun once more folks!
Yet another reason that riffing is a genuine skill and not a cheap trick.
OK. So I am following a priest, a kid and a raffle. Big deal. Lets do this.
By far my biggest laugh came when I found the table that the owner of the winery was at and I said, "Nice place you have here. One suggestion; heat!"
10 minuets went by and that was that.
As we walked out with our cheek, a big guy in a white tux came after us. I had mentioned I was from Illinois in the act. Right before we hit the soggy red carpet to make our clean escape, he started yelling "Illinois! Hold on a second!"
The Booker and I trade glances of, our we about to get killed? The man is towering. Way above my height and I am guessing by what he said, more than a little drunk.
"I lived in Illinois until I married into this 3rd generation Napa wine thing."
I swear to God. That is an exact quote. The love might be lost when you start referring to your wife as "thing."
"You did great! We thought you were very funny. It has to be hard doing comedy for a bunch of people who can't admit they have dicks. How do you think your children got here. Men have dicks and women have pussys. Get over it."
OK. At this point, were just sorta stuck there. Inching our way slowly toward the door, we are trapped in this mans gravitational field. Besides, how do you respond to that?
"We should have you up at the house sometime. We have Sammy Haggar and Cake come up. You could join us. We have a lot of acreage. You could come up and goof off."
Dude, if you know Sammy Hagar, why was I hired to work a benefit for a school up here? Then, were out the door and back in the death trap for a ride back to the city. We laugh about the gig and the Booker is very complimentary of my performance, but I know it could of been so much better if the set up was actually set up for a live show.
I have done church gigs before. That was not the problem. It is this mentality that comedy is something you put in a corner and press play on. Like I am a human Muzak station.
All in all it went pretty well though. Easy money? Not really. Man i was dancing for those ten minuets!