Five Times In One Night

Tuesday November 23rd, 2010 – Grand Cayman Island

I scoured the deepest crevices of my memory all day, and I just can’t seem to remember in all my years even one other time when I’ve ever had to do five shows in one single day. I was able to pull it off, but it took every single year of experience I had to do it correctly.

I read where Vaudeville performers used to have schedules like that all the time. I don’t know how they survived that grind without going totally crazy. I had enough trouble with it for one night. By the fourth show, I was ready to go back to my room and lock the door.

This was a very tricky situation all the way around. First, this is Thanksgiving week and there are many more kids on board than usual. The first two shows are family friendly and rated PG. There were kids everywhere for both shows, and that makes everything harder.

Standup comedy as a rule just isn’t meant for kids. It’s difficult to get them to listen for any length of time, and their window of life experience is painfully small. I had no choice in the matter, so none of that was important. I had to do two half hour shows nevertheless.

They went very well, and I worked extra hard to make sure I gave my best. Quite a few parents came up to shake my hand after the show, and those who’d slap me on the arm or pat me on the back would be rather surprised to find out I was drenched with perspiration.

I never want to gross anyone out, but it’s WORK up there in the hot lights for that long. I move around way more than the average comedian anyway, and yes when I’m done I’m usually soaked to the skin. The illusion created is that comedy is done without any effort.

Many parents from the first two shows decided to come back and see my third show at 9:30. That’s a compliment to me and I appreciate it. The final three are billed as R-rated adult shows, but I really don’t work all that dirty ever. It’s just not my style. I try to keep it on the cleaner side, just because it’s easier to get higher paid bookings. Clean is green.

I’ve found that most audiences on the ships really like it on the filthy side for the adult shows. This is the only place I’ve ever gotten a complaint for not being dirty enough, and I’ve gotten that more than once so far. It goes against my comedic instincts, and what I’ve had to learn in clubs over the last twenty five years. I’m still learning the ropes out here.

Anyway, the third show went extremely well. I knocked it out of the park, and it was as solid a half hour set as I can imagine anyone doing. It was packed with laughs from top to bottom, but then the comedy club manager surprised me when he announced at the end of the show I’d be doing a completely different show for the 10:30. I hadn’t planned on that.

I don’t blame the club managers, they’re all new to comedy. Our guy this week is a very good guy and does a splendid job hosting the shows. I wasn’t angry, but it did surprise me a little when he said I’d be doing a whole new fresh thirty minutes. I took it as a challenge and went over in my head what bits I hadn’t done yet. I lined them up and went to work.

There’s something remarkable about the human spirit when it’s backed into a corner in a pinch that I’ve never seen fail. The mind comes out swinging and gets the job done in a way I’ll never understand. I knew I had to do thirty new minutes they hadn’t seen, and my subconscious mind came through with flying colors. I even had some material left over.

That’s three completely different thirty minute sets without repeating anything. That’s a tall order, I don’t care what anyone says. Most comedians never have to work that way, so this is a real workout. Personally, I like to have my whole repertoire in my head for every audience, and then I can pick and choose what I want to give them for any 45 minute set.

That gives me a lot of freedom to really mix it up, and the results are some very unique shows that are not only fun for audiences, but for me too. Doing the same old stuff every time loses it’s luster after a very short time, even though it’s good to have a polished set.

This was great practice tonight, and I actually wouldn’t mind doing it again if it should be needed. I’m glad I was able to help allow Happy Cole get home for Thanksgiving with his family. Everything else was secondary. Doing five shows wasn’t anything out of line.

That fifth show was extra tricky though, as I didn’t know who had seen me when or if at all. It was a port day too, which always makes it tougher because many of them have been cocktailing in the sun since early afternoon. Each of the five shows had added challenges.

I could have phoned it in, but I didn’t. If I’m going to be out here working, I want to get the most out of it from a comedy standpoint. I’m not above earning every penny they pay, and in fact I wouldn’t want it any other way. If someone comes out to see me perform, my goal is to always give them the absolute best I have. Phoning it in isn’t good for anyone.

As I get older, I realize that every time I step on a stage could very well be my last. Had my latest car wreck last week smeared me like a bug on a windshield, my very last shows would have been on the Destiny last week. I gave my all there and was happy with them.

It’s not pleasant when an audience doesn’t like me, but I can live with it if I know in my heart I’ve given my absolute best effort. I’m getting a lot better at that as I get older, and it feels great to turn a crowd around when at first they were stiff or indifferent. That effort is never wasted if in the end they come around and can be shaped into a productive entity.

I learned a lot from tonight’s marathon. The reason I went on about it in such detail was to help aspiring performers who may read this in the future. Whether I’m living or dead is of no consequence, the lesson is the same – give it all you’ve got in every performance, no exceptions. When there are kids, drunks, repeats, whatever. Give it all up every time up.

I’m still a student of the game, and I’m going through in my mind how I could have done even better shows. For example, it’s Thanksgiving week. Do I have any bits about it? NO. Does it come up every year? Yes. Would it behoove me to have at least a few jokes on the topic next year? Of course. Even after good shows, there’s still room for improvement.

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