Is it possible to be in trouble for being too good? I've got to check my ego, take a deep breath and ask myself if I am really seeing the whole picture with that statement. Allow me to explain.
I performed at a club where I was the feature act. A reviewer came to the first show of the week.
I left right after my set so I can't say what exactly the headliner did or didn't do. Long story short, the reviewer didn't like the headliners act. He seemed drunk, the reviewer said. he seemed off his game, the reviewer noted. What the reviewer did like was me. What was suppose to be a review for the headliner that week became a glowing endorsement of the Klocek experience. Hands down, it was the best review I've ever had as a stand-up comic. Not just because I stole the show but they got me. Even reporters who do dig me sometimes fail to explain what I am doing with the crowd. Because I treat the audience like we are friends hanging out, I get to be the smart-ass friend who gets away with making fun of you. I might say fuck you but it's always with a wink and a nod.
This reviewer got that.
It was the next day at the club when the manager brought the article to my attention. He was angry that the headliner and by extension, the club had been given a poor review. he realized it was great for me but in an effort to ingratiate myself I suggested that I too was unhappy with the review because it gave away several of my punch lines. The manager said he was going to complain to the small on line paper and that was that. I didn't think anything more of it until a few weeks later when I was back in the area doing another show and I posted the link to the piece. A few people emailed me asking what did I do. What did I do? the link wasn't just dead it now brought you to a page that said the article had been taken down for illegally being used. What did I do?
I emailed the reporter who had friended me on Facebook. She seemed friendly enough. I asked what happened to the article and thus began a frustrating afternoon of figuring out exactly how good I should be when featuring in clubs. My first shock came when she replied, I thought you had asked for it to be taken down? WTF! Why would I ask to have the best review of my stand-up comedy career removed? She told me her editor had said the manager of the room said I wasn't pleased with the number of punch lines the article contained. Ah oh. Here is where everything suddenly clicked into place. The manager has a job to do. Promote the room. Instead of saying he wasn't pleased with the treatment of the headliners set he went with me being the bad guy to get a review that cast the room in a poor light taken down. End result; the best article written about me as a live stand-up comic cannot be googled, downloaded or seen by anyone.
For a few days I wrestled with going back to the manager of the room and requesting that he contact the editor and have the piece put back. What would this accomplish? More than likely the manager would think I was a dick and I might alienate myself from a good room. That and why the hell did I even say anything bad about a glowing review in the first place? What a mess. I felt like I couldn't win for doing a great job. Like I was being penalized for just doing what I do on stage. Besides, I didn't see the headliners set but the rest of the week it looked like the guy was crushing. Still, the idea that I got in trouble for being too good stayed with me until I convinced myself it was just silly and I was hanging onto it because it made my ego feel good.
Another week in another club came around. I was the feature act again for a headliner with hip TV credits, a podcast following and the added bonus of having worked with him before. Everything seemed fine the first night. The second night I had a fun set too. The only thing I can comment about that second night was that the crowd was a little weird. There were three different tables that were a little vocal. Not drunk or out of control, just a little vocal. I had decided that this week I was going to work on material and keep the riffing to a minimum. I engaged the tables one by one, had some fun and then politely shut them down before moving onto the new stuff. If a comic can't handle drunks in a night club they might not be ready to headline. Period. I didn't watch their set but supposedly they had a little trouble dealing with the more vocal fans. Thats the other thing, they had almost the entire room there to see them. After the show the headliner sold his CD and shirts to adoring fans and I passed out fliers to my storytelling show. Thats when a woman came up to me and in front of the headliner said "You were funnier and should of been the headliner." I'm not a dick. I just smiled, thanked her and hoped the headliner hadn't heard them. Well, he did. The headliner didn't say anything to me about this. In fact, I might never have known anything about the incident but he told the opener who then told me. Ah, thats right. This is pure passive aggressive Hollywood style. Again, I felt like I was getting in trouble for doing great. I didn't think too much about it but then the opener told me they thought I went long on the late show Friday. If I had gone long the Booker, who never hesitates to tell any comic when they went long would of told me and I checked with the manager who also confirmed I did not go long. At this point I am just pissed. Fuck these Hollywood pussies! You have TV credits, fans and the much larger pay check to be here this week. I don't have the luxury of relying on fame, I have to win my audiences over by being a damn good comic. Its the mark of a weak headliner when they start blaming the feature act for their lack luster performances. Besides, if one person says I did better than maybe you should worry about the people lining up to give you an additional $20 for your T-shirts and CD. They seemed to like you just fine. Why take it out on me?
And so it went.
The headliner didn't like my set for some reason, told the opener and then went on stage and had OK sets in front of the audience their name brought out! To my face everything was always, nice set! Good stuff! Thanks for being on the show! I felt like we were divorced and the opener was our child bringing messages between us. Only, I had nothing to say. I hadn't done anything wrong. I wasn't riffing like I usually do. I wasn't going long by anyone elses standards and I started the week as a fan excited to be working with him. In fact, I was hoping to ask the headliner if he would take me on the road. Yeah, that clearly wasn't going to happen.
My problem is this. I can't headline because in this day and age of marketing is everything, I have not appeared on an HBO show. I don't have a well subscribed to podcast. I don't have Comedy Central specials under my belt. I am just a fucking great comic who has to earn his fans joke by joke, show by show. Most of these L.A. wonders developed inside the bubble of L.A. They can act and network but most do not have the skills to keep a live audience of their own fans interested for forty five minutes. If I am in trouble for anything it is for doing my job well. Period. Who am I? I am Joe Klocek. I am funny. If you can't follow me don't invent bull shit like I went over my time to sooth your ego. Hire me to write for you. That way I can finally make some money in this fucked up business and you can give your fans a good show.