Friday, June 20, 2008

Nebraska! Part Three. Or; I'm Still Here.

Tonight, the eight winners will compete against each other for the five thousand dollars and the attention of Edie Brill. I am on the fence if I even want to go or not. I know, it seems rather small of me to not show up at the thing, but the idea of watching other comics do their thing from the sidelines is a little depressing. Frankly, if I could, I would be on the next flight home. Today we went to a farm. First it was a two lane modern black top road, then a narrow road and eventually just a dirt path to a clump of trees where a beautiful new house sat under shade. They had prepared a picnic lunch of hot dogs and burgers for us. Again, everyone was so kind and so polite. It was very sweet. It made me think of just how much we have lost living in the city. How much I take for granted and how much I just nod my head at as normal. Such is life. It was on the way to the calf feeding that we passed a barn holding an airplane that I really got an idea of just how lazy I am. You see, the guy who lives here with his family built it in his spare time. He has a wife, kids, runs a small family farm and when he is not busy, he built an airplane. OK. It's a small two seater, but it works! I have trouble building plastic models of planes that work. This guy built a real honest to God flying plane. God I'm lazy!
Sure enough, there were two calves afraid of us at first, but once they got close and we held the bottles out, they came right up to the fence and drank. They were shy, a little skittish, but warm and sweet with large brown eyes and friendly faces. I felt a little queasy knowing I had just finished two burgers and a hot dog. Then it was off for the hay ride!
I gotta tell you. Never in a million years when the Booker for the David Letterman show called, did I foresee being driven around on a flat bed trailer sitting on bales of hay listening to an explanation on water pivots. Pivots are the large metal things on wheels you see out in the fields. They turn slowly giving every part of the field just enough water. The real surprise came when I said, "Show us the marijuana!" The farmer turned around, bent down into a small patch of weeds and pulled up the unmistakable leaf that anyone can identify. It surprised a lot of us. It's not the pot you would smoke though. It's the male plant so it's lacking in any THC. It's just wild hemp. It just grows because it can out here. Makes you wonder why we don't grow it on a large scale for rope and clothing if it's so easy. Oh yeah, were America and crazy about drugs. They have no redeeming benefits. Right?
So there we were, sitting on bales of hay being driven across a cow pasture under a post card perfect Midwestern sky of bright blue and clouds that float like towers made of cotton. It's beautiful, but what the fuck does any of this have to do about comedy? Surreal is the only word to describe the feeling most of us were having. I am in the middle of a cow pasture in the middle of Nebraska and I am here to further my career in stand-up comedy? Yup. That about sums it up.
I do understand that this is a big deal for the town. The front page has been about us all week. The local radio is about us. They want to meet us and talk to us and feel like they have touched something outside their own small life. I don't say that with any big city sarcasm either. Their life might be small in scale to what I am use to, but it's quiet, clean and apparently you can build a plane in your spare time. It's sweet. Every where we go we are treated like visiting royalty. People wave at one an other and ask if we are one of the comedians. They want us to be what they think of when they sit down after a long day and turn on TV. The truth is, we are both a little surprised by each other I think. Small town America is not populated by toothless hicks and dumb hillbilly's. The people are well mannered, intelligent and more willing to help you than anyone I know in San Francisco. I feel guilty about the joke I do about there being nothing between California and New York. On the flip side of the coin, we are not all dressed in suits and quick witted with a willingness to listen and be a part of new things. For the most part, a comic is a solitary creature that wants as little contact with the audience as possible. Seriously. I know that might sound ridiculous if you are a crowd member or towns folk, but the truth is, we are odd people who are trying to make a living with an extremely narrow range of abilities. We want to be able to observe and then go report it on stage. At least I do. I don't want to be the center of attention all the time. So the hay rides and cook offs and trips to fossil beds, yeah, they are all great and I am glad that my sense of guilt propelled me to go on them, but sitting there today under a spectacular blue sky with hay getting in my pants making my ass itch, all makes the frustration incredibly surreal. I am holding a giant baby bottle as a calf drinks from it. Is this getting me on Letterman? A man explains to me the unique geo-chemistry that had to occur for these rhino's to be fossilized so perfectly. Do I put this on my bio when I try to get a manager? A waitress patiently describes exactly what Dorothy Lynch dressing is best on. This will get me on a season of Last Comic Standing? No. None of those things will. But I know that life experience does. Thats where all the best comedy comes from. I know this. I truly do. I am grateful for the adventure this has been but speaking for all of us that didn't hear our name called at the end of those shows, it's hard to get into the spirit of learning about small town life when you can stop thinking that I lost again and now I have to milk a cow.


Dean said...

Right... people are always surprised when they learn performers are terribly shy and/or downright antisocial... I'd be hiding in the hotel room writing bits or watching the Weather Channel.

If you bring back a bottle of Dorothy Lynch, I will pay top dollar...

Grout said...

Thanks for making me lol - real good. If anything, at least you have gotten some frequent farming miles out of the trip, and you are a wiser man for it. We in the lazy land of public transport await your return.