Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Down the Down Time Rabbit Hole.

Here's an old post I though was appropriate to this forum to migrate over. From a Mid West run I did last year...Enjoy!

So you want to be a Road Comic?

It's Thursday. Five days since my last gig. Nothing on the books until Saturday, so, besides trying to hustle more work, I'm pretty much in down time. A holding pattern. Lots of web surfing...channel surfing...back of eyelids surfing....
The last 2 shows were, well...not what you'd see on Comedy Central. West Virginia was equal parts David Lynch and Larry David. The "crowd" was drunker than a homeless man who found a $20 bill near a liquor store. To characterize the barrage of non-sequiters and random noises blurted towards the dance floor area called the stage as heckling would be to disparage real heckling. Wrapping up felt like dismounting a mechanical bull. Fun, but in a ball busting and disorienting way. The next night in northern PA was a good show except for the drunk woman who began her crazy babbling before the host even took the mic. Drunk women are the worst offenders at live comedy shows. A drunk dude might pipe up, but usually they will lapse into a sullen heap once defused. A drunk woman knows no such restraint. Like a shrilly vocal Jason Voorhees, they will bring down a show with the tenacity of the honey badger. The only way to deal with them is to try and make them a part of the set or have them ejected. Both are disruptive to the magical hour long trade of humor for laughs that we all picture as the ideal. It takes years and experience to find that line where you aren't the big mean out of towner picking on the local lovable skank, nor the spineless pushover utilizing half your time wrangling with the annoying booze harpy. I set the rules with her from the beginning. I would allow a minimum of mouthiness, but when I needed her to zip it, I would utilize the safe word "Armageddon". By the end of the set, every time she began to blurt out some booze soaked non-sense, the crowd yelled "Armageddon!" in unison. It was beautiful.
So here I am, waiting for the next series of adventures in comedy. In the meantime, one show canceled and I had to drop another because my van decided it wanted to play "let's start acting fucked up and turn the Service Engine Light on and off randomly". Thank goodness my hosts for the week are amazing people and have allowed me to stay extra days and figure out my transportation issues. Looks like I'll be sinking money into a mechanic and a rental car (to finish the tour while the repair is done). Add to that the sudden unavailability of my Chicago area connections for a place to stay, which will be adding at least one more night in a hotel to the already spiraling downward budget. 
Am I complaining? Nope. It's what we do. Another comic friend of mine was just informed that her vehicle is screwed. FUBAR'ed. She has three weeks left to go on this run and is over 1500 miles from home. How is she handling it? Better than most people would. Again...it is what we do. Comedians go through cars like NBA players go through shoes. Part of the package.
You have to be a special type of crazy to do this for a living. Operating costs (gas, hotels, food) have tripled in the last decade yet pay is stagnant or dropping. Clubs are scared to take chances, so they are booking conservatively, meaning that unless you have TV credits or are a regular at the club, good luck on getting in!  "You'll need to do a guest set." Translated: Drive here, put yourself up and do a free set to maybe have the chance to know who will be ignoring your call for months until there is a fall out.  It is a madness that makes jumping in a vehicle with 280k+ miles and driving another thousand to do a handful of shows which will net you, if you're lucky, $200 to $300 profit seem like a no-brainer. Black Ice and Lake Effect snow? Why not? Eating primarily from an ice chest or a dollar menu? Absolutely. Too broke to afford a hotel on a night off? Trust me...there are a ton of ways to sleep in the car. Done that. Slept there.
Yet, as rough as the road can get, I can't imagine doing anything else. I'm doing what I am supposed to do.
I just wish it were in a better car.

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