Monday, March 31, 2008

Follow That!

Last night. I performed at Cobb's for a benefit against the Death penalty. I thought it hilarious that when everyone wished us good luck, they said it like this. "Go out there and kil...break a leg!"
Here was the order of the line up.
Sandy Stec, as host and MC for the night.
Aundre the Wonder Woman. She also sits on the board and works with project innocence. They take another look at people convicted and sentenced to death. As we continue to learn, a lot of the people sentenced to death turn out to be innocent of the crime they were convicted of.
Then it was Brian Copeland. A local celebrity who gained fame with his one man show, not a genuine black man.
Paula Poundstone, icon and huge supporter of this cause.
Then, me.
No one wanted to go last, Brian didn't want to follow Paula, who wanted to leave early anyway, so that left me as the headliner. But will get to that.
I use to work Cobb's a lot more. Seems like the only times I am at that club now is when I am auditioning for a soulless TV show, or it's a benefit. The big name acts they book bring their own opening and middles, so us local guys have been cut out of the mix. I don't blame Cobb's for this. It's the trend with comedy clubs everywhere. Anyway, it was nice to be back on that stage again.
I got there a half hour before the show. Sandy was nervous she would mess up the more than three pages of announcements they wanted her to say. She did great.
Benefit or not, the one thing all comics have in common is our ego's. In a week, I went from being first up on the bill, to the headliner. Not because I wanted to, but because I had the least amount of clout to say where I wanted to be in the line up. I will admit that the idea of following an icon like Paula, especially because she is a master riffer, made me more than a little nervous. But a glance at the evenings program left me with something else to be worried about. After Paula, there was an award ceremony I had to follow.
It's not exactly the raffle at a room in Modesto, but it's this crowds equivalent.
Paula, who said she didn't want to close because she had to leave early, ended up doing 35 minuets instead of the allotted 20. I don't really care. I go long all the time too. But I do it when I am last, not when there is an award and another comic after me. They give her the light once, then once more and when people on the board of this event start coming back stage nervously running their hands through their hair, I started to get nervous. Every time we thought she was about to end, she would look at someone in the crowd and ask, "What do you do for a living?"
Not only is she going long, but she is doing what I do. Shit!
finally, she gets off the stage to thunderous applause.
James Cromwell, from 6 feet under, L.A. Confidential and a thousand other movies gets on stage.
James Cromwell!
All I can think when I see him is, "You shot Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential!"
This isn't just an award they are presenting to Aundre for all her service, it's a reminder to everyone exactly what this is a benefit for. In a very dramatic, professionally trained voice, Mr. Cromwell reads a long dissertation on the horrors of the death penalty and Aundre's impressive list of accomplishments. The room is utterly silent with respect for her and disgust for the death penalty. A few people wipe tears from their eyes. When Mr. Cromwell finally comes to end and presents this award to her, the room explodes in not only a resounding wave of applause, but they rise to their feet!
While everyone else is smiling broadly, I am back stage shitting!
Great! I have to follow Paula and now an award for fighting evil. Maybe Robin Williams can show up, do 45 and then Jesus can return and pass out more wine!
When Sandy asks the crowd, "Are you ready for your headliner?" I can see programs open in laps around the room. Everyone is thinking the same thought when they see my name following the award presentation, who?
Paula had opened her set by telling the crowd that people on the board had taken her out to a fancy restaurant, Milano's. She was amazed that the owners had worked out a deal with the owner of a driveway across the street from the place. They could park there, and simply walked into the restaurant. In San Francisco, that truly is an amazing thing. She went on about this, appropriately blown away by being able to park in view of their target. That never happens in this town.
When I went up on stage, I told the crowd it had already been an amazing show. I didn't want to be the headliner but I got here late because someone parked in my driveway by Millano's.
Applause break!
There are moments on stage when you take a risk and get instant reward. As soon as they laughed at that, I knew I was OK. I knew I had them. I stuck to jokes, kept the "fucks" to a handful, and did almost no riffing.
Thank God I didn't die up there on the death penalty benefit show. That would of been just too much irony to handle.