Thursday night I get a text message from the Punch Line Booker.
"Are you available this weekend to headline the Punch Line?"
I don't know much about the headliner who had already been there for two nights. I don't know much about the reasons why he couldn't finish the week either. Thursday night, after a performance that suggested no turmoil inside the man, he left the stage, walked out the door and ran from the club.
A few hours later after managers, excuses and ego's were dealt with, I'm getting a text for the gig. Good for me, sad for him. Comics are not the most stable lot. No secret there. But to be at a point where you are about to blow up big and not be capable of emotionally handling it is sad. I feel for the guy, I really do. But I wish I was in a position to blow off choice gigs in great cities and then have my managers explain it away.
Whatever the reasons, it was now my weekend. Friday and Saturday night at the San Francisco Punch Line! It really doesn't get batter than that.
One small hiccup in the whole thing. Months ago I agreed to headline a benefit for an organization in Oakland that gets Athletic equipment for kids. I can't cancel. My Karma couldn't take the hit. Lately when ever I get a Booking in the city, I can almost depend on another call coming in with a show for that same night. If you hear me complain about being stuck in San Francisco, you have my permission to tell me to shut up. If you are double Booking yourself on a weekend night regularly, you really can't bitch about your career so much.
Here is how it worked.
I should be going on at the Punch Line's first show at about 8:45. I come off stage at 9:30, make the 20 minuet or so walk from the Punch Line to the Comedy College about six blocks away. I go on there at 10:00, do my set till 10:30 and when I come off that stage, I turn around and make the easy walk down hill to walk in the Punch Line at 10:45, right when I should be going on for the late show.
I learned two things during this marathon. One, I am desperately out of shape and two, I could of just walked. No show ever starts on time.
I made it!
All the shows were a hit. Some sets I liked better than others, but nothing to out of the ordinary. All in all, a pretty good weekend. I get my check after the Saturday shows and as I make my good byes I get accused of stealing a joke. It's something I have never been accused of before. It is also something that you better be sure about saying. Calling a comic a joke thief is about the worse thing you can say to a comic. Any time these things happen the people and the jokes in question are never around to end the debate. In this case however, they were. Here is the extra ridiculous part of this story. Its a dick joke. Thats all. In fact, its a jacking-off joke. A joke that I gave tags to the comic for.
Think about this for a second. IF I was ever going to steal a joke, something I have never done or been accused of doing, do you think I would do it literally in front of the other comic standing behind the bar during my set? Even I don't have balls that big.
It started simple enough. I was talking to a guy in the front row. I asked him if he was married and in one of the most unintentionally funny things I have ever seen, he looks at his hand for a ring first and then responds no. If you can't remember if your married or not with out having to look for a ring on your fingers, your in trouble! No way I was going to let that comedy gold go!
When I riff, I like to create a personality sketch of the person I am talking too. Then, I can talk into the Microphone as that person. When it works, it kills! When it doesn't, it means the crowd is dumb. Tonight, it works. I go off on this dude being asked if he is married and having to look at his hand every time. From there it's not a far stretch into masturbation jokes. In the middle of that I reference the joke in question. Actually, I just mention the product the other comics joke is based around. I referenced it because I know the guy is there!
When I finish my set I go up to him and ask, "Did you see that?" I didn't ask because I thought I was in trouble. I asked because I hoped he saw it. I think it is cool when comics throw some part of my set into their act when I'm in the room. Other comics like it too. He smiled and said yes and that was that.
That was that is rarely the end.
As I made my good byes his girlfriend confronts me about it. She is strident. She insists I stole it. The bartender looks at me as well. Before this scene goes any farther I realize, hey the guy is in back. Lets ask him what he thinks even though I already know. I go into the back and ask, "Did you think I stole that joke from you tonight?"
"Then talk to your girlfriend because she does."
His reply, "Punch her in the face."
I think that means I was right but I will pass on the face punching.
All this just reminds me that a lot of people who are around comedy are not comics. They don't get it. They are never the ones on stage but always the first to have "notes" for you. They don't understand the concept of tossing inside jokes over the head of the crowd to the one or two people who will get them.
It bugs me. At the very end of a near perfect weekend the person I made a point of going up to for a quick chat and a good bye tells me I stole her boyfriends joke. Wonderful!
I head home with this burning a hole in my head. I am pissed! How is it that at the very last second an entire found money weekend can get fucked up by one comment from one person who has known me for years? Such is life. Because as this thought is eating me up I realize, fuck them. It was a great weekend. The guy whose joke it is doesn't think I stole anything. End of story.