Riding the Wastes
I should probably wait until after tomorrow's trip to Flushing, Michigan, up near Flint, before I write about my weeklong juggernaut of comedy feet-in-the-door, but it's 3am and I'm wide awake and listening to Motorhead, and I don't wanna go to bed, so there you go. I just got back from a frankly dreadful night in Pontiac, where a nice room and a solid lineup of comics got decimated by roving packs of disinterested, loud-talking drunk douchenozzles who drowned out the whole thing.
Don't get me wrong, I had a good time. I generally always do, these days, doing the standup trips. An hour and a half in the car, alone, rocking out, drinking coffee and going over set notes, is great meditation time for me. I love hurtling through the Michigan night, along desolate stretches of 75 and 94 and 696 and whatever, through blasted and potholed dumps and glittery stretches of franchised, strip-malled brick. I'm even - call me sick - getting to like driving in unfamiliar towns, hoping my GPS isn't full of shit, looking for free parking and wandering down new streets to get to my destination.
And while a room full of loud shmucks is a bit off-putting, that's a good experience as well. I didn't handle it as suavely as I wish I had -- I let them get under my skin, and I made snarky comments, instead of just doing my set for the people who sat right up front and could maybe hear some of it. But I got in my time, did some jokes, drank too much Black Label, strained to hear the other comedians over the rude hordes and the bass from the Peter Murphy show next door, and then I split for a quiet ride home.
A quick stop at Denny's for some lousy food (seriously, do they make their sausage links out of sawdust and oatmeal, or what?) put things in perspective. I got fought over by crabby, tired waitresses who kept accusing each other of taking tables out of turn, as they scrapped over the meager tips to be had at this dead-end highway exit. Pontiac, and the tastefully-appointed bare brick walls of the room where a dozen comics met their flaming kamikaze demise, might as well have been another planet. Who gives a shit? Eat your food, fill your travel mug, give a nod to the drunken Tapout shitheads at the next table as you leave, and get on to the next mission.
I gotta mention the awesomeness that transpired on Wednesday. I went down to Connxtions for the "Wise Ass Wednesdays" local showcase, and did an early 10-minute set that got tons of laughs. It was a great ride - steady all the way through, lots of great response and no lulls from the crowd. I walked out of there on a high, and raced down to Bowling Green to emcee the "Live and Local" music night for the first time. I'd discussed it with Jessie, the booker, but had no idea how it was going to really work, or if anyone would give a shit about standup there. I wound up doing about 20 minutes up front, then bringing up each of the three open-mic musicians, and I killed! It started out as a very light room, but people kept wandering over from the other side and getting into it, so that by the end I had a good crowd hanging on every joke.
It was such a great night, I came home feeling ten feet tall. That put a little reserve in the confidence tank to help get through events like tonight, and spur me on to new adventures. Like I said, tomorrow I'm driving up to Flushing to do a showcase with Tom E. Thompson, who MC'd at Connxtions a few weeks ago when I did guest sets. We're all like pinballs, all of us doing this, bouncing off each other as we zigzag around, burning up fossil fuels, taking on losses and eating shitty home fries while we grab hold of those precious minutes on a stage in front of people. When you go down in flames like I did tonight, and all you can think about is the next time you get a shot at it, it's safe to say that the drive to do it is in your blood and not going anywhere.
I went up to Ferndale, Michigan the last two Mondays for the "Ca$h For Comedy" contest at the New Way Bar. Michael Soave and Digg Johnson, two very cool local comics, put this thing on, and it was great to get to meet them, and do a show in a more rough-and-tumble environment than an all ages room or a comedy club. Bars can be brutal places to do standup in, but it's always a learning experience in stage presence, crowd control, and rolling with the unexpected.
Last week's show couldn't have been more different from tonight. Very few paying customers, a faulty PA system, and a general air of desperation (or maybe that was just me after I ordered the gravy-slathered "country fries") led to kind of an odd show. I put on a set I would have ranked in my bottom 10 so far, and I got voted on to this week's show.
Tonight, I rolled in with less-than-zero expectations, and I got a big and enthusiastic crowd, and a crackling energy that made the whole show great. Everyone did a really good job. I know that my set was one of my best, and I felt great about it - I did a whole slew of new material I'd written specifically for Detroit shows, and it killed.
The selection of the winners was done by audience approval last week - we all stood in a line and they cheered for each of us, then the judges picked the five with the most applause. An imperfect science for sure, but contests are what they are, so you go with it. Tonight's method was a little different - we paired off in groups of two and the crowd voted one in, one out. If you got paired with a local fave who brought some friends out, you were toast. I got paired with a local fave.
I got sent packing, but not without many kind words from the people in attendance and the other comics. Even the guy who beat me came up to say some nice things, which was cool. I felt great about my set, to the point where the contest part didn't matter that much to me (though some money would have been nice). I made great contacts, met some awesome people (Stu McCallister, from Grand Rapids, is well worth your time to seek out - great material) and had a lot of fun.
As I sit here tonight, I have plans to be on stage Tuesday, twice Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, and the following Thursday. I have leads on guest sets and out-of-town open mikes that will hopefully lead to some paid gigs. I'm really happy with a good bit of my material, and the last couple times I've walked on to the stage, I've felt like I owned it. This good mood may only last until the next time I eat shit in front of a crowd, but for now I'm gonna go with it.
Welcome to my blogmare.
This is the spot where I'll be spinning tall tales of my comedic adventures. I plan to make it as entertaining as possible without pissing off people I have to go do shows with who can potentially steal my camera or hork a loogie in my beer while I'm doing my set.
For now, though, it's 5:30AM so I'm going to post this horrifically useless entry as my debut, publish this placeholding piece of crap site, and go get some shuteye.
Where I write about the stuff I do when I'm out doing the stuff I do.