I had a classic anxiety dream the other night. I was in a comedy contest. I went for a walk and realized I should be getting back. I was in hills and fields though. As I headed back to the location, I realized there was someone else with me. She had on hells, so she was moving slower than I. I was torn between be a gentleman and waiting for her to catch up and running to get there on time. As is the way in dreams, every turn I took only succeeded in making me farther away from my destination. Eventually I crossed a highway, my friend in heels struggling to keep up was still up in the hills. When I got into the building, it had the feel of a high school. Hallways shot off in every direction, people stood around telling me with panic in their faces that I was next and the host was looking for me. Classic. I had not thought about my set and now I was consumed with the fear that I would miss my introduction. Right as this anxiety reached fever pitch, I woke up.
The other night after a show where the crowd was bathed in booze, a young comic interrogated me on all things comedy. He wondered why more established comics didn't answer basic questions and why comics didn't help each other out more. Why? It's the reason why there is no comics union. There will always be that guy willing to do a show for less. A lot of clubs exploit that. New, not so good comics get used for M.C. work all because they want to be on stage and the club sees this as a pool of free hosts. Comics are selfish creatures. Not all of them, but by the nature of what we do, we are loners. People are afraid that by giving information, they will somehow loose out on opportunity. As if there is a finite amount of opportunity to go around. It's ego too. Why bother to answer some piss ants question?
So far the weekend has been marked by smoke and alcohol. The state is on fire and my eyes are burning like coals. Fridays crowd was young and drunk. I worry about the Clubhouse. The BYOB policy is something of a mixed brown paper bag. You know? By the time I get the crowd, they have been drinking for more than hour. When I say drinking for more than an hour, I mean I was watching crowd members bring in card board cases of beer. That can't be good. It's a beautiful looking room, but it's starting to slip in quality. When BYOB is the attraction and not the comics on stage, you have to wonder whats going on. Long story short, a crowd in that state limits exactly what you can do. It's fun, don't get me wrong, but it's more crowd control than art.
Saturday I was in Napa at the Opera house headlining a benefit for the Big Sister Big brothers organization. It is always such a treat to perform in a room that is beautiful. Throw in the added karma bounce of doing it for a good cause and I am making money, you can't beat it. Every show should be this good. I had to follow Leland Cotton Brown. Way back in the day, I once watched him get a standing ovation in the old Cobb's. Needless to say, it was more than a little intimidating thinking I had to follow him. The host, Michael Pritchard is another name that is big in the San Francisco comedy scene when there was an actual scene, not the small collection of bars and big clubs we have now. If you want to know who he is, youtube the episode of TAXI, where Judd Hersch dances with a gay man in a bar. Thats Michael Pritchard. How I got on this show is beyond me, but there I was, the headliner. Just as I feared, Leland cotton brown destroyed. He had a guitar and Jack Nicholas impressions. Dear God! Follow that, smart ass. No ones attitude was like that, but I didn't want to trip over the shadow of these guys. When I was new these guys were giants. For personal and other reasons they decided against the lure of bigger careers, but they are and remain very talented people committed to various causes that help others. There is some inspiration in that. Pritchard was holding court back stage. The man is a wealth of stories and some interesting philosophy from a comic. If you know a comic, you know that they are not the most fun people to hang out with it. Thin skinned, easily distracted and given to thoughts of glory while being consumed with self doubt, anytime you meet a well adjusted comic, you listen. he was telling us that studies had been done on the brains of people who thought of themselves as reasonably happy over a period of time. Turns out the secret can be summed up in one word; compassion. Having compassion for others results in a state of well being. Now, my jaded sense of self was screaming bullshit in the back of my head, but I had to admit, even though I had to follow in the foot steps of some big names, I was curiously at ease. I wonder if it had anything to do with being a part of a show for a good cause? I ended up having a wonderful set. The jokes worked fine, but me being me, I had to talk to the guy in front.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I sell nuts."
You wait years for a serious answer like that from someone in the crowd. That was set. Screw with the nut man. The jokes did fine too. All in all, it turned out to be great. When the show was over there was even a friend and fan waiting in the lobby to give me a Star Wars T-shirt. You can't beat that folks. You really can't.
Tonight, I am Santa Cruz bound. Closer to where the state burns. My eyes have stopped watering and the stinging sensation that even drops could not rid me of has gone away. The coughing and heavy chest has gotten better too. Yesterday I woke up with a horrible pain in my chest coughing like a miner with black lung. A thin mist of blood covered my pale chest. I went from sleepy to hyper awake and freaked out in seconds. Turns out, having asthma as a kid makes me super susceptible to tiny particles in the air. Breathing it all night on my back only managed to collect them in my lungs passageways and create a nest of crud that worked like steel wool on the tissue. I was seriously panicked but I remembered I had health care.
The doctor cautioned me against needless talking (something I was being paid to do that night) and staying away from the source of fires. (Napa and Santa Cruz are prime locations for our states apocalypse)
The sky down in Santa Cruz is other worldly. The sun is a tiny brass ball with orange vapor passing in front of it. All the fires have made for an amazing sunset. I can actually taste the smoke down here. I thought it was my car at first, but nope; it's the sky. I wonder what it will be like tonight? The Booker called me to confirm around 5PM and the two guys he told me that were on the bill with me were unknown to me. That's not a bad thing, but a lot of these L.A. comics have something to prove and I have to be the guy to follow them. The show starts at 9PM, but down here that usually means 9:30. That means I will get home around 1am tonight. If I am lucky. Highway 17 slows everything down.
I am not looking forward to Monday. Much to get done and I am a lazy Dude. I had a big money private gig cancel on me for reason I cannot dispute. There was a death in the family. I am so cynical that when I first read the e-mail I thought, they must of seen me on line and decided to get someone else but didn't want to tell me that. Then I thought, thats the lie I would of told to get out of it. Christ! All this really means is I have to keep the gig I originally booked on that night.
Tonight's show will be what it will be. I will put on some Death Cab for Cutie as I drive home and in a few weeks the check will show up as a happy surprise.
Ah the life of a comic.