Archive for October, 2010


Elmira

My first  thought on the way to Elmira, was “Sweet.  Elmira… It’s not as far as Mitchell.  I should make it back to Toronto well before last call.”  Priorities, people.  Priorities.

I meet the headliner at Keele Station again.  I’m early as always, so I hit up Timmy’s, and window shop through a 7-11.  There’s a new brand of Doritos.  Interesting.   I haven’t had Doritos in a long time.  When I was in Junior High, they were my lunch.  I walk back to the station.  My ride is waiting.  He was early too, but not as early as me, so he didn’t see me bumble off once I arrived.

It’s raining, and there’s traffic on the 401, even though it’s Saturday.  Where do people go on Saturdays that don’t involve a cab?  That always confuses me.  The further away from Toronto we get, the more the fog starts to roll in.  As we approach the cute, little town of Elmira(we had to go through 3 round-abouts to get there- I didn’t even know North America had round-abouts) it gets very foggy.  The headliner tells me a story of a girl he knows that doesn’t leave the house when it’s foggy out, because she thinks that’s when rapists are out.  “Hmmm…” I think to myself.  “The Foggy Rapist?  Sounds like a pub I might frequent.”

We enter the venue, a traditional community centre, that has converted their concession stand into a bar.  It’s packed.  Good job, Elmira.  You got the whole town out.  Comedians like a big crowd.  Why do you think I barely do open mics?  Music blares through the stadium… did I say “Stadium?”  I meant “Rec Centre.”  The DJ is playing “Stars on 45″, which sadly, I remember.  You know those cheap CD’s you used to get at K-Mart that would blend all your favourite Beatles songs into one big medley?  Please tell me I’m not alone on owning one of these discs…

We are guided into our “Green Room,” a converted class room that still has one of those mechanical pencil sharpeners attached to the wall.  They have a plate of pinwheel sandwiches and a basket of random bottled beverages for us(Bacardi Breezers, Smirnoff Ice and Bud Light Lime are not in my ryder, but thanks anyways.)  The emcee is a vegan, so the pinwheels are all for the headliner and I.  Oh, and I’m the only comic not driving, so I guess that other basket is for me…

I go pee.  As I’ve told you, I pee a lot right before I go on stage.  That’s my form of nerves.  There’s a sign on the back of the stall door that says “Please don’t flush tampons, sanitary pads or diapers down the toilet.”  Diapers?  Has anybody really tried to flush a diaper down the toilet?  And was it a baby diaper or an old people’s diaper?  I hope those flushers aren’t here tonight.  Babies and seniors are not my crowd.

I hit the stage, which has been randomly polluted by a smoke blower during the emcee’s opening set- like we’re rock stars or something.  As much as I dream of being a rock star, I don’t want to look like a Laura Branigan video up here.   As I’m on stage, I realize “I’m killing.”  I hate using that expression, cuz I really am a humble person.  But the crowd is undeniably digging me.  So I do what any comic would do during this moment- I do that joke that doesn’t always do well.  And….

Ouch!  They hate it!  I must remember my crowd!  People in a big city might understand the ridiculousness of that show, “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” but small town people probably know someone who went through a similar experience.  I must stop doing this joke on the road.  It’s fine at Spirits, or the Central in Toronto, but Elmira?  It barely survived in Mississauga.  I should know better.  No more “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” jokes on Supple runs. 

Luckily, I go straight to a joke that I know will work, and get the crowd back- fast.  Thank God.  I think they like me again.  I close strong, and even get some Hi-Five’s on the way back to the “Green Room.”  I grab the basket of un-drinkables, and take it over to the concession stand to trade them in for a normal beer.  As I do, a big, burly drunk guy approaches me.

“Hey!  You were really funny!  But what’s this?”  He grabs the sleeve of my shirt.  “This looks like your brother’s shirt.  That’s not what you look like in your picture!”  Yes, I’m wearing a long, over sized plaid shirt.  And yes, in my headshot I look like a young Olivia Newton-John.  I guess people in Elmira don’t know the rule that people look 18 times better in their headshots, than they do in real life.  Consider this a lesson learned.  (Later in the week, the headliner will tell me the organizer called the Yuk Yuk’s office, and say “the guy we originally asked for didn’t show up-some other funny guy did.”   But it was him.  They just didn’t recognize him from his picture.  These people take the headshots very seriously.)  Back in the “green room,” me and the emcee chat.  As we do, the organizer comes in.

“How long’s this guy gonna do?” 

“About 45,” we say. 

“But the pizza doesn’t come til 11.  He’ll have to do longer.”

Ack!  It’s not that easy, people.  When a comedian’s on stage, you can’t just give him a green light when he’s expecting a red.  We try to explain that our contract says “100 Minutes,” not 120.  Twenty minutes of stand up comedy is a lot- especially when you’re not prepared for it.  The emcee tries to get the headliner’s attention.   In mime, he moves his hands out to both sides and mouths the words, “Stretch!  Stretch!”  On stage, the Headliner shakes his head, but at this point we can’t tell if he’s shaking his head at us, or one of the many drunk people in the crowd.  I keep looking at my phone, but this time not because I’m checking Twitter- there’s no reception out here-but because I’m checking the time… Keep moving, clock!  Keep moving!  All this time to fill… and for Pizza Pizza…  Ugh. 

And guess what?  He pulled it off.  I don’t know how he did it.  I would have shit my pants, or done so much crowd work I would have known the pant sizes of everyone in the front row.  That’s how I know I’m still a middle, and not a headliner.  

We exit immediately after the show.  I shake a few hands, take one last pee for the road and say good-bye.  I’m making it home for last call in Toronto.  I just know it.   

And I do.  I meet up with two other comics, coming from other cities.  We bond about our shows, close down the bar, and head home.  Another night in the life of a Stand Up Comic.

xoxo, Gossip Girl.

I mean,

LOL, Comedian Girl.

PS. I actually googled Laura Branigan for this blog, to make sure I spelled her name right- her last name, not first. It turns out she passed away in 2004.   This goes out to you, Laura.  I love your song “Gloria.”  It was my favourite.  I had it on “Mini-Pops.”  RIP.

Mitchell

Yes, Mitchell is a town.  Not some dude I did comedy for last night.  If you don’t know where Mitchell is, let me enlighten you.  It’s far.  Even farther in Friday afternoon traffic.  Fun.

First of all, I hope your shock that I’m blogging again has subsided.  My last blog was in September, and I didn’t even tell you how the other two nights in Ottawa went.  I made it sound like I was going to blog about all three nights, then made a quick turn onto Slacker Ave.  But thanks to my October full of Supple Runs(I explain that term in one of my blogs-check the very small pool of archives,) I decided I really need to jump back on the blog train.

Friday, Oct. 22nd, 2010: 12:15.  What seems like a million dudes in suits, take comfort at the bar, ready for beer and lunch, in the shortest period of time possible.  The bartender, me, is hoping for a slow day, so I can bolt out of work as early as possible to make it to my gig in according time.  This is what I call, “living the dream.”  Doing what you love, and doing something else to support that dream.  Thank you, Fionn MacCools.

It is all about timing, isn’t it?  Timing for these people and their lunch breaks, timing for me and my jokes…  At this point in the day I realize timing is important to everyone in life- not just comics.  I dash out of my day job at 3:15, only skimping on one side duty that I promise to do tomorrow.  I gotta meet the headliner at Keele Station at 4:00 for my ride to Mitchell.  I hope I don’t fall asleep on the subway.  Perhaps closing down the Keg last night was not a good idea.

I get to Keele Station 10 minutes early.  The headliner is early too.  Two punctual comics- completely unheard of, especially if you’ve ever worked with a comic from out west.   Now comes the crawl up Black Creek Dr, then the crawl on the 401, then the crawl of rush hour traffic.  Shit, we even hit Kitchener traffic.  Yes, people.  Kitchener has traffic too.  By the time we hit Stratford, I’m starving.  I sacrificed my lunch break to cut lemons and limes.  I ask if we can pull over for food.  The headliner suggests Wendy’s, which I decline, due to a food poisoning incident I had with them in 1999.  I have no ill feelings towards Wendy’s, since I got a lot of homework extensions thanks to them.  I simply have lost my lust for the Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

So we go to Kelsey’s.  I have a chicken quesadilla.  Mexican cuisine in a Canadian restaurant… my favourite.  The bartender even brags about giving me my side of jalapenos for free.  Yummy.  Thanks, bartender dude.  As we pull out of Kelsey’s, I see a building with a big red sign on it that says, “FAG.”  Seems offensive, Stratford- it really does.  Can anyone tell me what goes on in that building?  I’d love to know.

About 30 minutes and 24 barns later, we arrive at our gig.  The Mitchell Community Centre.  Half the venue is a hockey rink, the other half is a rec centre turned into a comedy club for the night.  I wish I had a map at home that resembles the one on Regis & Kelly, so every time I play a town like this, I could put a pin on it.  We meet the organizers, one of whom is wearing a shirt that says,  “Friday Night Funnies.”  I wonder if she made the shirt herself, or if they sell them down the street at Giant Tiger.

We meet up with the emcee of our show, who drove separately from us, due to his proximity to the 407.  I know him from Vancouver.  Both dudes I’m working with tonight are funny, so that relieves me of any extra pressure.  I’m the middle, as always.  No complaints- I love middling.  It’s the sweet spot.  The emcee asks the organizer if there’s any announcements he can make for her. 

Organizer Chick: “Ya, can you draw the winning 50/50 ticket right off the top of the show?”

(Yes, most of the small town gigs I do have a 50/50 draw.  I should start buying tickets- I could triple my earnings.)

Emcee Dude: “Don’t you want to do the draw at the end of the show, so you can sell more tickets during the show?”

Organizer Chick: “No- we want them to win now, so they spend all the money at the bar.”

Wow, smart thinking, Organizer Chick.  Me and the other comics retreat to the kitchen, AKA our green room.  There’s a sign that says, “Hot Dogs: $1.00.”  That’s right.  “Dinner and a show” means “Chicken Weiners and Vibrator Jokes.”  I don’t even know if those people knew they were eating chicken weiners, but we knew.

The Emcee does his time off the top, then brings me on.   In my intro, he mentions that I lived in L.A. for a while.  Having L.A. in my intro always makes me a little nervous.  I get scared the nice, small town people will think I’m pretencious, which obviously, if you know me, is not true.  I smile more than a dentist.   He also brings up our history of being friends, which I do like.  I doubt the crowd really cares, but a lot of us comics have been friends for years.

I hit the stage.  Like most small town gigs, it’s pretty clear they’re not used to female comics.  Most of the men in the crowd give me a look that reminds me of Ben Stein’s students in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  That anticipation of being utterly bored and not interested.  But a couple jokes in, I can see they’re warming up to me.  I’m not that cliche female comic that talks about her period… until my second to last joke, but screw you.  It’s funny.

Twenty minutes later, I wrap up my set.  I’m happy with it.  It’s not the best set I’ve ever had, but it’s certainly decent.  I hit the bar, which reminds me of the canteen at my junior high school, only instead of ordering a Mountain Dew I’m ordering a Bud Light.  Don’t judge my beer choices on the road- slim pickin’s.

I head to the bathroom, cuz there’s something about stand up comedy that makes me have to pee a lot.  Maybe it’s the nerves, maybe it’s all the free water.  A guy stops to tell me, “Great job.  That was really funny.”  I try to shake his hand, but it’s in a cast.  I ask him, “What happened?”   He says, “A cow kicked me, and broke my thumb.”  Wow.  I had no idea cows were so violent.  No wonder they’re using chicken weiners tonight.

After the show, the crowd wants to meet me and the other two comics.  The women are all really friendly, and most of the guys have Roy Daye beards.  This is what I love about small town shows.  The crowd is genuinely happy you came to their home town to entertain them.  They want to buy us drinks, but we decline.  We have to drive back to Toronto.  Shit, I have to work my day job tomorrow at 10 am, though I don’t disillusion them with the fact that comedy isn’t my sole job.

As we drive back to Toronto, I notice there are no hotels in the town of Mitchell.  Maybe that’s why we didn’t get one in our contract.  The nearest hotel is in Stratford, and their marquee reads, “Welcome Maple Syrup Producers.”  No rooms for travelling comics in this community.  The maple syrup industry has bought us out.

We continue on, towards Toronto.  We drive through the town of Wilmont, where we can’t help but tell Mike Wilmont stories.  Who knew that a town in Ireland wrote a song about him…  I secretly pass some gas in the car, but luckily, none of it smells.  I’m so blessed… I crawl into bed at 1:32 am…  Sleep is valuable…  In the morning, I will tell people I’m tired, cuz I played the Mitchell Community Centre last night.  Or maybe I’ll just tell everyone I sold out the MCC.  Tomorrow,  I’m off to gig in Elmira.  And I will keep blogging…