With comedy shows starting to open back up, I’ve decided to bring back the one series of articles that is, by far, the most popular thing I’ve ever written for this site. That’s not too surprising. Comedians love to talk shit about each other. We looooooooooooove it. And there are certainly plenty of dudes to trash.
In the three previous installments, I’ve tried to limit my scope to two dudes who absolutely did something shitty and knew it (parts 1 & 2) and just a very funny story of a guy who didn’t know any better. The first two stories were a lot more fun to write: I was going after people who fucking deserved it. The third story is funny, but when I think about the guy who lied about his stage time because he wanted to go up, I feel bad for him. Here was a guy who was so excited to prove himself, then ran away when he failed. He made an honest mistake, but it was enough for him to probably never step onstage again. And, honestly, I always wanted to see that dude again. Because I bet he would have apologized. I hope that man is alright.
Before we get into this newest story, I just want to make something very clear here: I am not without fault.
There are a lot of things I’ve done in the past, both as a comedian and a producer, that I would never do today. I used to send mass texts out promoting my shows because I was desperate for people to come and didn’t realize how annoying my friends would find it. I certainly have not been honest, particularly when I was starting out, about the amount of material I had. I’ve definitely gotten pouty about not getting on shows and I have certainly sent out bad clips to producers and then gotten upset when they didn’t want me in their rooms.
So, people could write stories about the nonsense I’ve done. And I would totally deserve it.
Some of these occasions, there was someone there to tell me, “Hey, don’t do that.” Some of these times, I was able to apologize. I have tried to grow and learn from my mistakes and I’ve been grateful when people understand that. So, when I write these stories, I cringe at my own mistakes. Because I’ve certainly fucked up more than enough times. And I hope if someone wrote about me, I’d be able to find the humor in it.
I also want to say that, while writing this, I thought of some of the stupid things I’ve done onstage because I was drunk. None of the stories I’m about to share are worse than the dumb shit I did while loaded, both on and offstage. Again, I’m lucky that some people have forgiven some of my behavior, and I also understand the people who haven’t. I was a real reckless idiot, and that is the best way to never get booked on a comedy show. I’m very lucky I had good friends looking out for me to make sure I didn’t go down any deep holes I couldn’t climb my way out of. I know that when you’re talking smack, you never want things to get too serious. But I couldn’t help but have these thoughts and I wouldn’t be true to this article or myself if I didn’t say that.
There are three stories that all pop into my mind when I was thinking of what story to tell. They all make me laugh, but all in that, “I cannot believe someone would ever do or say that” kind of way. They’re also all short stories, so I don’t mind telling them all. It’s possible that this will be my last entry in this series. However, last week, the show I helped create and am a co-producer of announced we will start doing shows again in August, so I know that it’s only a matter of time before someone does something to make me shake my head.
All three of these stories take place at The Clearwater Theater (where both parts 2 & 3 of this series happened). I was only there for 8 or 9 months, but that place gave me so many memories. Maybe it’s because it was the very first show I ever produced. Maybe it’s because as a producer, I was making as many mistakes as they were as a venue. Either way, that show was a colossal trainwreck. And I would absolutely start running a show there again if they let me, because I am an idiot.
A quick story of one of my own faults before I get into some of the nonsense I had to experience from other comedians: The show I ran there usually had 6-8 comics each doing about 10-12 minutes. Back then, I had a hard time saying no to anyone, even if they weren’t very good, so sometimes shows ran a little long because I would also let 3-5 other people go up and do 5 minutes or so. The venue always told me that I should book less comics (some nights, the show ran over and their house reggae band had to start late), but since I was only making a cut of the door, I didn’t listen and kept running things my own way.
When we finally decided to part ways, they agreed to let me have one more show. They made it clear that I was not to book too many comics.
I put 34 people onstage that night.
I am very fucking petty.
And then, to add to the fun, I made a deal with the bar across the street to let us do a show there and pay the comedians in beer. So, a comic would finish their set at the Clearwater, cross the street, do a set at this other venue, and get tanked. It was a blast of a night and one of the nights in my comedy producing career I remember the most fondly.
Anyways, all three of these stories come from the Clearwater. In 2011, the city of West Dundee shut the theater down after it was discovered that, for over a year, the venue was operating without a liquor license. It reopened a while ago under new management and a new name (Rochaus). I guess, some times you can never go back. Though I’m not sure why I would want to.
All names are changed and all stories are accurate to the best of my memory.
Halfway into my run, I got contacted by Chuck, a guy who I knew had been on the scene for a long time. He wanted to do the show and though I’d never seen him, I accepted. His set was fine- I remember him getting laughs- but it was something he told me at the end of his set that I’ll never forget to this day. He let me know that he was about to unload a tip that all newer comedians should know, and I was a newer comedian, so I leaned in and listened to his wisdom. Here is a paraphrase of what he said:
“If you’re ever not doing well, end your set by asking people to stand and applaud for the troops. That way, you make sure you’re leaving on a standing ovation. And that’s what people will remember.”
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY: Don’t be gross. No one needs a standing ovation that badly.
The very first show I ever ran, there were eight audience members, and one comedian brought all of them. The venue was not happy. I was in a full panic. A man I admired a whole lot had let me produce this room and I was failing him after one show. The theater owners are going to be mad at me and I had already booked the first four months of shows! What was I going to do?
Zach was a dude I had seen around the scene for years. Dude has hustle and grind, but I never really understood his humor or found him all that funny. However, he reached out to me the day after that failure and it was almost like he knew exactly what to say. Zach said he had grown up around the area and that he knew that if I put him on the show, he could get a ton of people out. I didn’t really want him on the show, but I also wanted to keep doing the show. So, I gave in to my paranoia and told him I would love to have him come out and do five minutes.
The night of the show, Zach came up to me and asked me how much time he was doing. I reminded him that it was five minutes and he was not pleased. Most comics that night were doing double that. But he went on and his five minutes did not go well. Also, how many people did he end up bringing? If memory serves, he brought two people… his parents.
After the show Zach came up to me and admitted that he knew it did not go well, then he showed me his set list (the order of his jokes) and said, “Man, if you had only given me more time, I could have gotten to my real crushers.” To this day, I am curious why Zach did not choose to include his “crushers” in his five minutes.
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY: If you say you’re going to bring a lot of people, you need to bring more than your parents. Maybe have your parents divorce so you can have step-parents who also come. Also, if you have “crushers”, do them DURING YOUR SET.
In the very first installment, I told you about a comedian who we’ll call Claude. Claude had a reputation for showing up to shows that had not booked him and insisting he was on the line-up that night. When he did that for my show, I fell for it very easily. In 2009, I still had a flip-phone, so I had no way of checking my e-mail or social media to see if I had booked the guy. So, I reluctantly let Claude on.
However, that night I was thrilled because my friend Cliff (also not his real name) was coming. Cliff was the guy who had let me run this show, and I was always excited to show him the comedians I had booked. I also knew Cliff was going through a bad time personally, so we decided to have many drinks.
Anyways, it’s Claude’s turn to go onstage, and I forgot to mention earlier that Claude had another reputation besides sneaking on lineups he wasn’t a part of- he was also a bad comic. People knew him as a guy who always struggled, yet had kept getting on stages over and over and over again. I could tell that Cliff was surprised that Claude was on the show. Hell, we both were surprised. But nothing was more surprising than what we witnessed.
Claude was… pretty good.
He was getting consistent laughs and the audience was really enjoying him. Because we were both pretty tipsy, Cliff had no problem turning to me and saying, “Man, he has gotten a lot better. I have only seen him bomb.” I expressed similar sentiments and then I noticed that about three feet in front of us was a running video camera. There were only two logical conclusions: the camera had to be Claude’s, and there’s no way he wouldn’t hear us shit-talking him when he watched it back.
I could feel my face turn red with embarrassment. I didn’t know what to do so I did the only thing that made sense to me. I leaned forward, stopped the recording, deleted the file, and then left the camera running.
Cliff and I moved seats, giggling like maniacs the whole time. I went up to introduce the next comedian, and I guess Claude came back, was furious that he “hadn’t recorded his set” and began to tell everyone how he missed a chance to get an amazing set on video.
THE MORAL OF THIS STORY: I am glad I stopped drinking so hard.