Gotta Get There

Saturday August 7th, 2010 – Algonquin, IL/Milwaukee, WI

Sometimes the hardest part of comedy is getting there when your name is called. Today was a perfect example, and I always say I’m never going to let it happen again…until the next time it happens. Stress and angst were a bigger part of my day than the comedy part.

I had two separate gigs booked tonight – one show at a golf course in Algonquin, IL and then two shows at Jokerz Comedy Club in Milwaukee. Of course, each of those places are in opposite directions of where I live, so I knew my travel time would be a major issue.

I measured how far I had to go and how much time I was supposed to have to do it and it came out pretty close. I tried to coordinate it with both parties, telling each of them my situation beforehand to avoid confusion. The country club promised to get me on and off so I’d be able to make it to Jokerz, who in turn agreed to start their show a little bit later.

On paper, in theory, I would be fine. I gassed up my car and had my proof of insurance ready in case I was pulled over, and had my map all laid out of the route I’d had planned for several days. For once I thought I was ready, and was confident I’d be able to do this.

This is a variation of a situation every live performer has encountered WAY too many times to count. There are X number of miles to travel in Y amount of time, and variables like road construction or a train delay are never figured in and then it becomes a flat out race to get there in time. Making the money is important and we’ll risk our life to get it.

I pulled up to the golf course at exactly the time I said I’d be there, and of course they’d been drinking and golfing all day and were running late for dinner. I’d worked for them in the past, and they liked me enough to bring me back again so I didn’t complain – but I did say I was on a tight time schedule and needed to be off so I could get back up to Jokerz.

They sat everyone down and started bringing the food out, and then brought me up right in the middle of that so I had to deal with waiters and waitresses walking past where I was standing. There was a wireless microphone, but no stage or lighting so I had to stand right in front of a long table of prizes and awards that were going to give away after the meal.

I could hear the clinking of silverware on plates and some people weren’t looking at me while others weren’t even facing me at the tables where they sat. Some were talking with each other, others were talking with the wait staff. This was not the ideal show situation.

I’d been in front of these people last year, all baseball umpires of all things. They were a little drunker this year, and I could feel it. I opened with some standard lines that are solid 99% of the time and they just laid there so I knew I’d have to adjust and find a new route.

Actually, it found me. A couple of the drunker guys in back started piping up comments and I was able to slam them, much to the delight of the other guys. It was all male so I got a little blue, which they all loved. I could tell what I had to do to get them to come along.

How many times have I been in this situation? I’ve lost count. They weren’t bad people at all, but the situation was extremely difficult. They all knew each other and maybe a few of them remembered me from last year, but I doubt it. I had to really be in top form here.

This was survival mode. By the time I got on it was about a half hour later than we had agreed on, but what could I do? That’s how these things tend to go, and I needed the cash so I took the risk. Now I was up there in the middle of dinner deflecting heckler darts so I could do my time and get in the car and start racing to Milwaukee to do two more shows.

A few of the guys started stepping up to the plate and trying their hand with me and that was a big mistake. I launched them left and right and the more I jammed them the more it went over with the rest of the audience. They loved it, and when I said good night I got an unbelievable pop from the audience. Some were even standing, but I had to start driving.

I got my check and started my journey north to Milwaukee. Of course I hit every kind of traffic construction there could be, and also got behind every nose picking, phone chatting Illinois road ape there was out driving tonight, and of course that was every single one.

Frustration and tension built as I pounded my Toyota’s accelerator to the floor. I was up to about 90-95 a few times, and then I thought better and slowed it down. I went the long way, but it was freeway so I thought that would be easier. I took I-43 north and barely got to Jokerz by 9pm when I was scheduled to go on. I dashed in and went right up on stage.

I’ve never enjoyed doing that, and it took a minute or two to get adjusted. I did find my rhythm, and the audience never knew that I’d risked life and limb to get there on time for the show and they didn’t care. It’s not their job. It’s my responsibility to get to work when my show starts. I’ve always hated these situations though. It‘s just too much of a drain.

But what am I supposed to do – turn down the money? Right now I can’t do that, so this was the only choice. At least it wasn’t the worst case scenario which would have been not making it for the show at all. I’ve done that too, and that’s about as frustrating as life gets.

The first show went fine, and the staff at Jokerz are really wonderful to work with. They knew the deal, and were very supportive. We texted back and forth the whole way so they knew how close I was as I sped like a maniac to get there. It was like a James Bond movie or something. I did make it when I said I would, but this was way too close for my tastes.

The second show was a surreal nightmare. There was a bachelorette party that went off the deep end and had to be thrown out, right during my show of course. It was very tense, as there was yelling and loud confrontation and I had to try to tip toe around it on stage.

My friend Drew Olson came out to hang, and he witnessed yet another example of how difficult comedy can really be, at least on this level. I didn’t tell him about the rest of the night, but he’s been around long enough to know how it is. This was a day of high stress, and I earned every penny I made. The sad part is, it’s all going to go to paying off bills.

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