Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Lot to Prove

You ever sit at one of those tables outside the restaurants on Columbus Avenue? It has always looked so romantic to me. Saturday night I was walking with a friend from the Purple Onion to Cobb's. Nothing makes you feel like a San Francisco comic more than making this little trip. Leaving one venue to perform at the late show of another club is awesome. As we walked and bumped into people, I looked at the couples actually seated at those tables. You know what I noticed? The way complete strangers had to grind their crotches into the backs of peoples heads just to get around these tables. I know, sweet! You save for years to take a vacation in
San Francisco, have a meal in North Beach and when it finally happens, your wife's head gets pushed by a strangers groin into the glass of wine you just toasted your second honey moon with.
The weekend was good for me. I did the show at the Purple Onion then walked down Columbus Avenue to do the late shows at Cobb's. Here is a nice moment; It's Saturday night and I am headlining on the Cobb's stage. The crowd didn't come to see me. They came to see Jay Mohr, but he canceled at the last minuet. People were given their money back and told if they like, they could pay to see a local show. I not only did well, I crushed it! I crushed it to the point that when I told the crowd I had to get off stage, they moaned in unison wishing for the show to continue! That's a pretty cool feeling.
Then came Sunday.

In comedy, it feels like the Universe balances the scale with ruthless precision. Those shows where you feel great and everything is clicking are usually followed by the sort of events you don't care to remember. That was Sunday. The universe balanced it's books with a rash of phone calls and e-mails filled with drama and misunderstandings. Shows canceled, events moved, checks bounced, Booker's thinking things were explained that were not and a few random what the hell is this e-mail about, that contributed to my I hate the world rant on Monday.

Monday night came along and in a sour mood, I headed down to the Punch Line to perform in a benefit show for a high school. Comics get asked to do a lot of these shows. They are usually great. Everyone in the crowd is aware that they are here to raise money and the comedy is a nice bonus. This one was slightly different. It was to raise money for Belmont's Special Ed. Students. Or, as those of us not so P.C., it was for retards. Too mean? Well, you have to understand what a panic this set off in us. Comics were in the green room thinking over their acts for any reference to that word. Turns out we all had a lot of references to this word. In fact, one of the comics big closers was all about them.
That didn't end up being the problem though. The problem became apparent almost as soon as the show started. This crowd was not the sort that usually ventured out to comedy clubs. So when the "fucks" and the "Cum" and the other various words started flying, the moans and groans of shock began. Standing in the back watching all of this, I thought it was pretty funny. But so what, I told the crowd when I got up there at the end. Yes, these are dirty sometimes vulgar jokes. But it's for the kids!

Tuesday was OK. Right down the middle. Not spectacular nor a train wreck, a good show. Last night was the one I worked myself into complete worry over. Here's why; Margret Cho.
Margret Cho is a San Francisco comedy icon. Say what you want about her, but she truly is a icon in this town. Apparently she is filming some new sort of show for VH1. If I had to guess, I would say it's some kind of reality show. I say this because the front row was composed of her parents, guys dressed like the gay version of Miami Vice and a midget. Here was the plan as it was explained to me. The camera crew would come in early to set up. The host would go up, do a few minuets and then bring Margret up. Word had been leaked and people were showing up to see her. This made us all a little nervous because she was literally doing 10 minuets at the top of the show and then leaving. Not just her either, but the cameras had to be broken down, the front row was to go with her and all this while we attempted to continue with our little show. The fear was a portion of the crowd would go with her or if they stayed, none of us would be able to rise above the star factor of her being there. There had to be 30 people there just to work the cameras and walk around with a smug sense of superiority holding radios and wearing appropriately ironic T-shirts. They all to leave too. How was this not going to create havoc in the middle of my little show? Oh and me being me, I had to come an hour early just to make sure I would be pissed off and jealous. Yeah. Thats how I roll. Thats exactly what I did too. I came to watch this spectacle to make myself feel jealous and upset. Well, it worked. A crowd began to gather at the front door all there to not see me. Cameras started rolling. The other comics were scared of fucking up in front of the person who inspired them to get into comedy. And I, I drifted into the kitchen muttering under my breath about it all. You have to understand, I have been at this now for 15 years. I also had spent my own money to place adds in the local edition of the Onion all to get a few people out for my show and it was now being completely upstaged by fame I can only wish for. So yes, I was unhappy and working hard in the way that I do to make myself more pissed about the whole thing.
When she went up. A huge round of applause greeted her. Here's the thing; she did alright. You certainly couldn't say she killed. She didn't bomb either, but the set was just...OK. You could feel the crowd shift uncomfortably in their seats as they realized, this was it. Once again, fame had attracted a crowd and like so many times in this situation, fame was the only attraction.
Then, after ten minuets, she said good night. Her parents, the cameras and the midget all disappeared out the side door of the club and once again, it was my show. When it came time for me to be introduced, I kept telling myself not to go up angry, not to go up pissed, not to go up and say something stupid. In 2 minuets I had my first applause break and never looked back. In fact, I killed. Afterwards, a lot of people said the same thing. "I came because of Margret, but you were amazing!" All in front of the Booker too. People had also come because they had seen my add in the Onion. All in all my worse fears about what would happen didn't even come close. All in all, it felt pretty great. Not because I did better than Margret, but because I did better than what my expectations were for the night. As for Margret, well the thing I have observed about famous comics over the years was perfectly demonstrated in all this. She has fame and fans and people love her, but the fire in her for stand-up is clearly not what it once was. And even though you have the fame and fans, if you don't deliver the jokes, you leave them with an odd sense of let down. I doubt she left with a sense of let down, but I know that when I took the stage I took it like a man who had everything to prove. That is the secret to a great show from a comic; do they have something to prove? Margret doesn't have to prove anything anymore. People will show up if you put her name on the door. Because she has reached the level I want to be at, she can deliver a so-so performance and let the TV crew edit it as they see fit for whatever show will continue to grow her fame. But for me, every time I get introduced, I feel the crowd look at me like who are you? I feel their expectations drop when I am introduced. Not because they are cruel, but in this world of fame is everything I am unknown. Unknown, in this day and age is equal to, He must not be that good. Thats the thing that gets under my skin and drives me fucking crazy. There is absolutely no connection between famous and good. None. Night after night, show after show I go up and kill and gather a few more fans. Why? I still have a lot to prove.


Sandy said...

Nothin' says yum, like an eye full of bum...

(I would've said crotch, but that didn't rhyme! ;) funny...this is the second time I've been able to use that phrase in a week!)

Congratulations on a great show!!!

After reading some of your blogs, I can not even imagine what a roller coaster of emotions it must be to put so much of yourself out there on stage, night after night. It must feel amazing when you feel that the crowd is feelin it. It's an interesting glimpse that you give us...

Again, congratulations on a great show! I would have liked to have seen it! And, for the record... **big grin** I would've been going as a newly acquired fan of yours! :D

Joe said...

You are too kind! I did record the whole thing on my iPod. soon, I will have lots of shows people can download for their listening enjoyment on the site!

Dean said...

Isn't "gay version of Miami Vice" redundant? Good on ya, Joe, for crushing. I read sometime that Muddy Waters would put so much into a performance that he would spend most of the next day lying in a darkened hotel room with a cold towel on his forehead... not that we want you to start getting comedic migraines...

Jenn said...

This friend you speak of...was she blasted out of her mind talking about eulogies and such? You should fire her.