(Author’s note: Many of you seemed to really love reading my last story about booking comedy shows. The amount of people who wrote to me telling me what a great story it was- and also wanting to know the name of the comedian who I was talking about- was wonderful and amazing and I appreciate all of it. So, here’s another story for you.
As a note, I do want to say that this story had been previously published on another site. In fact, I wrote it on the, literal, last day the site was still taking submissions. When this story originally came out, there was a really fun conversation that Brandon and I had about comedy and writing and this blog made me realize just how much I loved not only writing, but working with Brandon. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that writing this was a strong catalyst for me wanting to continue working with people I respected and who I felt respected me, which is directly what led to Fancy Boys Club.
The previous site has removed this piece per my request, so I re-present it to you now.)
In 2010, I started producing a weekly comedy show. It was, by almost every metric, an absolutely unmitigated failure. We rarely drew more than 4 people. The venue, hoping we would be a good way to bring people in so they would stay for reggae night, dropped the show after a few months.
That being said, the show served a few purposes. For me, it was a chance to give myself a fair chunk of stage time and improve my skills as a host. For the guy who gave me the show, it was a chance for him to watch comics I was hoping he would book at his shows. And, as an added bonus, I got to see one of the most delusional acts I’ve ever seen in my life.
I’m not sure if I should be using this dude’s actual name, so let’s call him Bob. Bob would dress up in an old zoot suit, go onstage, and tell one-liners. Was it hacky? You betcha. Was it funny? It was not. I vaguely remember Bob doing well a few times, and wondered if I had some sort of bias against him because of the story I’m about to tell. So, for the sake of fair journalism, I texted a few comics who also knew Bob, and the response was unanimous: He is not funny.
Here’s something most comedians don’t think about when they begin producing a show: literally every comedian from miles around will ask to do the show, especially if it pays. Often, the people asking are the people who you see on a daily basis at mics or other shows, and it could be hard to tell these people that you didn’t think they were funny enough to be on your show.
I was lucky that Bob never asked me to be on the show. He never asked in person. He never emailed me.
It’s important to remember this for the story you’re about to hear: he never asked to be on the show.
One night, I walked into the theater where my show was and there’s Bob. I was really touched. The show had never drawn a lot of people, and the fact that he was coming out to the show to support it meant a lot to me. We casually chatted for a while, and he even followed me around when I went to the neighboring bars to try and get more people to come to the show (a tactic which worked an amazing zero percent of the time, yet I did every week to try and get rid of some of my nervous energy). I remember thinking the whole time, “Man, this Bob is an alright guy. I’m lucky that the scene has such kind and supportive comedians on it.”
It’s fifteen minutes before the show starts. There are the usual 5-7 people there, and Bob excuses himself and goes outside. When he returns, he has a full garment bag. I knew that his zoot suit was in there, but I didn’t know why.
“Why’d you bring the zoot suit tonight?” I asked, truly not knowing the answer.
“I’m getting ready to go on,” he responded.
“On the show? My show?” At this point, I truly don’t understand what’s going on.
“Bob,” I say, “You’re not on tonight’s show. I never booked you for the show.”
This is when Bob says something that I had never experienced nor would ever experience again.
“Well, I emailed you asking you to be on tonight’s show. But, you never replied back. So I just assumed it was ok. How much time am I doing?”
I would like to refer you to earlier when I pointed out that Bob had never asked me to do the show.
You know how when you turn off an old television, the picture would just shrink down to a thin line? I felt that in my brain. There were so many questions: Am I sure he didn’t email me? Who thinks like this? Why is this happening to me? How can I explain to him that he’s not on the show? Is this how the world works? If I wrote to the governor and asked for his job and he didn’t write back, do I just become the governor? Is this some deep magic I missed? WHO FUCKING THINKS LIKE THIS?
“Bob, you’re not on the show.”
I don’t really remember what happened next, because my mind was still in tube-brain. I remember Bob being angry, and just assuming that I knew that the only reason he would have come to my show was if he was going onstage. He hemmed and hawed and tried to get on, but I must have stood my ground because him and his garment bag took off.
Here’s the post-script:
A few days later, I’m at a mic with Bob. He lets me know how angry he is with me. I must have been feeling bad because I invite him to do the show the next week. And he came, zoot suit and all, went way over his time, didn’t get a laugh, and didn’t stay for the rest of the show. And, later that night I remember thinking: was this his plan all along? Because if so, it worked.
It was probably the only way he would have been able to be on the show. So, it just may have been the most genius move of all.