I’m a stand up comedian. I tour around English speaking cities making fun of life-usually my own. I like the sound of laughter. I especially like the sound of applause breaks. I’ve performed in clubs all across North America. I’ve even performed in stranger places, like night clubs, community centres, amusement parks, schools, racetracks, casinos, coffee shops, laundromats, barns- I even performed in a church once(I don’t think I’m going to Heaven.)
So why did I decide to start this blog? Honestly? I’m not here to brag or bitch. I don’t care if anyone reads this. I’m definitely not here to try out new jokes. I’m just bored. It’s Easter Sunday, and I’m by myself in St. John’s Newfoundland. I’m enjoying a modest dinner of pizza(not pizza by the slice-pizza off a menu, in a restaurant with good beers on tap. Now that’s moving up in the world.) I wasn’t sure Easter weekend would be the best for comedy shows. I did a show in Thedford, Ontario once. If you don’t know it, it’s the Onion Capital of Ontario. You can imagine my excitement. At the exact minute the show was supposed to start, there were no people in the crowd. Not a soul. Apparently our competition was a craft fair down the road, and we were losing. If I could lose to paper mache and glue, I figured I could lose to the Easter Bunny. But lucky for us, I was wrong. Thursday and Saturday were sold out. Good Friday was a smaller crowd, but still a good one.
When a comedian sets out for the road, it’s a lot like going on vacation. I pack a suitcase with all the essentials: clothes, shower crap, a bathing suit-I don’t know why I packed a bathing suit. There’s still snow on the ground here. I packed flip flops too. Hopeful thinking. The night before my flight, I have a shit sleep cuz my paranoia of missing my flight keeps me awake. In the morning, I get to the airport the same way most comedians travel- public transit. In the subway, a business type dude helps carry my suitcase down the stairs. “Thanks,” I say. “Chicks, eh? We love to over pack, but then we can’t lift our bags.” He laughs. It’s a lot easier to make someone laugh, when they don’t expect you to be funny. On the subway ride, I can’t decide whether to read, or write, so I opt to do the ‘space out and look at people’ thing. I have Ke$ha playing on my headphones(no one has to know that.) I examine the upholstery. How come the Bloor Line has the ugliest seats on their trains? Do the people travelling north and south deserve more style than the people going east and west?
I get to the airport early enough for my traveller’s anxiety to leave my system. As per usual, I forget what terminal I’m supposed to go to. Doesn’t matter how many times I go to Pearson International, I always forget. I check my ticket. Terminal 1. Of course. It’s always Terminal 1. I use the express kiosk to check in. For the first time in my life, the machine spits out my boarding pass with no problems. I don’t have to ask a single human being for assistance. Air Canada would be proud- or relieved. I walk over to security. One of the things that did not get checked off my To-Do list this week was “clean out purse.” There’s always something in there that gets confiscated at the airport. The security guy looking in the X-Ray machine looks up at me. “Do you have a corkscrew in your purse?” Fuck. Of course I have a corkscrew in my purse. I work in a bar. Yes, that’s right. Comedy is not my sole job. I still have to wait tables to “live the dream” sort of speak. I think some comics are embarrassed to admit they still have day jobs, but I don’t really care. At least this way you can rest assure I’m not starving. Plus I just read an article on Yahoo about jobs that “surprisingly under pay.” Stand up comedy was third on the list. So I lose another corkscrew. This is not the first time.
Next I browse through the bookstore by my gate, hoping to buy a new notebook. I’m unimpressed with what I can get for $16, so I decide to buy a book instead. I contemplate buying the new Lauren Conrad book, since nobody is around to witness me doing so. I still can’t do it. I decide on another piece of “Chic Lit.” It’s pink, and about a writer. Perfect. Next I decide to eat. I just became a vegetarian a few months ago, and the road is not the place for meatless goodies. My gig in Forest, Ontario lead me to a cheap affair with a pepperoni pizza. It meant nothing. I swear.
I finish my veggie stir-fry just as my flight is about to board. The stewardess announces they are boarding rows 20 and higher. That’s me. I’m in row 32. I walk on the plane. I see people in rows 12, 14, 15… Dumbasses. Remember Grade two math? Is 12 <> than 20? That’s right. It’s <. The couple in row 12 are excited about the flight. “Look! There’s a TV on the back of the chair!” Newfies for sure. I find my seat(much nicer than the Bloor Line,) buckle up and contemplate writing. I can’t write jokes here. We’ve all heard jokes about airplanes. Jokes about the food, jokes about the pilot talking over the intercom, jokes about the comfort of the seats… They’re funny jokes, don’t get me wrong, but they’ve been done. I’m no copy cat. I decide to check out the “in flight” entertainment. I opt for some music first. I go with Channel 6-XM En Route Hits. I don’t know if these are “Hits” per se. The first song I hear is Ashlee Simpson. That Ke$ha CD is sounding pretty good now, isn’t it? The little girl beside me finally stops crying. I’m not sure what did the trick. It might have been those little cheddar flavoured Goldfish crackers her mom gave her. At this moment, I might have found her cute. But later in the flight she will nail her “Silly Suzy Book” at me.
When I land in St. John’s, I spot the headliner I’m working with(I’m what they call, “The Middle.”) Turns out we were on the same flight. We’ve worked together before. He’s a great guy. Sometimes as a comic, you have to go on the road with creeps. Big, fat, scary, spooky, haunting, gassy, creeps. Thank God my two weeks in the Maritimes won’t be with one of those. We walk to the Taxi Stand. “We’re going to some area called “Kenmount Terrace,” I say. The cabby responds, “Oh, are you’s guys going to the comedians howse?” (Sorry if I don’t know how to write Newfie accent in text.) Sweet. He knows where we’re going. I certainly don’t. We get in the cab. The driver knows we’re comics, so he immediately starts telling us jokes(funny how that works, eh?) The first joke, I can’t understand at all. His accent is way too thick. The second joke I sort of understand, but I’m pretty sure it’s racist. I look over at the headliner. He’s a black dude. At least the cabby went with another race, otherwise the ride would be way more uncomfortable. The last joke he tells makes absolutely no sense at all, but that’s because he pronounces the carrier company UPS improperly. Instead of saying “U-P-S,” he says “ups,” a non-existent word that rhymes with “cups.”
We pull up to the house-our house for the next four days. It’s in the middle of a newly developed sub division. It’s a little out of the way. Actually, it’s a lot out of the way. The nearest bar is a Boston Pizza and even that looks like a 25 minute walk. We have a few hours before our first show, so we decide to go grocery shopping. If I’m going to be under paid, at least I can save some money by cooking at home. After dinner, we call a cab(I’m going to spend a lot of money of cabs, this trip, aren’t I?) We pull up to the comedy club exactly 30 minutes before show time, proper industry standard. The early show is still going on. On Thursdays they do a “Local Talent” night. Some comedy clubs might refer to this type of show as “Amateur Night,” but here in Canada we have a way with encouragement… I guess. I know the guy who manages the club. He was a comic when I first started in Ottawa(I live in Toronto now. Can you tell?) He’s talking to someone else when he spots me. “Hold on a sec,” he says. “I have to go molest someone.” I hope he’s joking. He comes over and gives me a big hug. Sweet. No molestation. I haven’t seen this guy in years. We go into the Green Room where the other comics are hanging out. The headliner knows one of the younger local comics. The room fills with soft conversations, as we hear laughter from the club in the background. I decide to get a beer(Coors Lite, of course. I don’t want to get drunk before my set.) As I walk over to the bar, I watch the comic on stage. He’s killing. Destroying. When comics say “kill” or “destroy” it means the audience is laughing their asses off. It’s a good thing. I don’t know exactly what he’s talking about, but now I want to watch. A few sips into my beer, I realize he’s telling a joke similar to one of mine. Very similar. Crap. I can’t go on stage and do my jokes on the topic now. The crowd will think I’m stealing from him. Ugh. This has never happened to me before. Now I have to reorganize my twenty minute set in my head, and quick. Fuck. I want to rock this crowd. First impressions are key. All the staff and local comics will judge me off this performance. I drink a little faster.
There’s a 15 minute break between the first show and ours. I go back to the Green Room. Mr. “I’ve-got-the-same-joke-as-you” walks in. Everyone congratulates him on having a great set. Even I do. He sits down beside me. Eeeeeeeeeek! Now I have to make small talk. I decide there’s only one thing to do. I should tell him we have a similar joke, otherwise someday in the future he will see me do my jokes and always wonder if I stole from him. Though to be fair, if you knew me, you’d sooooooooooo know this joke is about me. I softly say, “Hey, we have a similar joke.” I tell him the bit. “But you have the guy perspective, and I have the girl perspective.” Good way to put it, right? “I just thought I’d throw it out there, so you don’t think I ran backstage after your act, and wrote my act.” Now that’s just funny right there. Some comics don’t write new jokes for years, let alone do it in the back of the club right before their set. He smiles and defers any big reaction to what I’m telling him. Most people think women aren’t funny, so if a girl comic(whom you’ve never seen before,) comes up to you and says she has the same joke as you, you might be a little embarrassed. Confidence is a precious thing. It can slip away at any moment-especially as a stand up comic.
The second show begins. The manager(who is my old pal) is hosting. He’ll do 15 or 20 minutes off the top, before bringing me up. I’m a little nervous. I’ve never played this club, or this town for that matter. Will they like me? Do they like chick comics? Are there any chick comics in Newfoundland? Can I do my act without stepping on the material the last local guy did? Ugh…so much going through my head right now. I have another Coors Lite(don’t judge me.) The crowd seems really good. The host gets ready to bring me up.
“The next girl I saw the first time she ever got on stage.” It’s true. Amateur night in Ottawa, years ago. Then he made some joke about me being a stripper. I’m only half paying attention to him cuz I’m thinking about my own set. Then he confesses I was never really a stripper. Thank God. I’m definitely no stripper. Why do guys always think they have to give chick comics sassy intros? Or talk about their looks? It’s not about looks. It’s about the funny. Finally he gives me a normal intro, explaining where I’ve performed, and where I live now. I hit the stage.
I open with a hockey joke. I’m not sure they’ll appreciate it, since Newfoundland doesn’t even have a hockey team, but they love it. The crowd is deluxe… At 18 minutes, the red light flashes. That’s how I know I have two minutes left in my set. This is where I usually go into my bit that Mr. “I-have-the-same-joke-as-you” already did. I have to somehow dance around it. The crowd has loved me so far, and they loved him, so I make a reference back to him. I figure that’s the best way to do it. “Hey, So & So(that’s not his real name, but I’m keeping this blog semi-annonymous) was talking about ______ earlier…” Then I go into my jokes on the topic. It works. It almost sounds as though I’m coming up with the jokes right off the top of my head. Thank the F’ing Lord. I was scared for nothing. I do my usual closing bit and return to the line up of comics standing against the back wall. I get hi-fives and smiles, even from Mr. “I-have-the-same-joke-as-you.” Now I can relax and watch the headliner’s set. That’s the best part about being “The Middle.” Once you’re done, you can just relax, have a drink, and enjoy the main act, especially when he’s a good one. My work for tonight is done.
And my work for the real tonight is done too. This is my first blog ever and I fear I’ve made it too long. Like I said, I’m bored. And I don’t go to Halifax for my next weekend of shows until Wednesday. I can blog about Friday and Saturday over the next couple of days. This was fun for me. I hope I didn’t bore you. If I did, go read something else. If you want to read more, I’ll be back tomorrow.
(Just kidding-but I really do like that show)
ps I wrote this whole piece on my laptop, thinking I could just cut and paste it onto the blog site. I was wrong. Had to re-write the entire thing. Ugh.
Night 2 »