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.
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.