Choking For Charity

Thursday May 19th, 2011 -Chicago, IL

More than any other performing art, standup comedy has the highest risk factor. When a performance goes poorly, and they do, there’s only ONE individual who has to absorb the punishment. The audience may be at fault, but that doesn’t matter. They aren’t on stage.

On the flip side, when it goes well, that same individual gets to bask in the enormity of  the limelight‘s glory, which is the ultimate ego rub. It’s totally intoxicating. It’s an intense experience either way, and one can’t feel that high without the low. It‘s not for the timid.

Starting out, the lows are frequent for a number of reasons. It’s part of having to pay our dues, which every seasoned performer has to do – no exceptions. Audiences aren’t usually very large at the beginning, and most of them don’t pay. It’s a challenge to get any laughs.

As one progresses, what usually happens is as the skill level gets higher, experience lets those times of crashing and burning get fewer and fewer. Still, there are occasional shows when nothing goes right, and there’s nothing one can do but stand there and feel the pain.

When that happens, it really stands out – just as a good show stands out in the beginning when it’s hard enough to stand on stage for five minutes much less worry about getting an audience to laugh. That first time they do is the shot of pure heroin that causes us to chase that feeling the rest of our lives. There’s nothing like it, and any real comedian will agree.

That being said, I took one in the poop shoot big time tonight, and at a charity event yet. I’ve been having some of the best shows I’ve ever had in the last several months, and that made the sting hurt even worse. I’ve been on a hot streak like never before, knocking one show after the next out of the park and feeling like a real live big time entertainment pro.

Not tonight. I couldn’t buy a laugh, but neither could anyone else on the show. This was a typical example of how charity shows often work – nobody was really there for comedy. They showed up to support the cause, and the show was an inconvenience to be endured.

They weren’t mean people at all, but they just weren’t into the show. They were talking amongst themselves, and quite a few shouted out loud during the show trying to steal the attention from the stage. They were rude without knowing it, and all any of us could try to do was get through our allotted times and politely get off stage. This was not about jokes.

I feel horrible, but I have enough experience to know it wasn’t my fault. Still, I wanted to give those people a kick ass show to reward them for their generosity to participate in a noble cause. I called in every favor I could think of to get media coverage but it didn’t do a bit of good. Nobody was there to see any of us, and we all struggled to finish our time.

Elly Greenspahn put the show together and worked her ass off along with Mahoney’s, a quality bar and restaurant with an outstanding staff. Aaron Foster, Cameron Esposito and Brian Hicks all donated their time, as did I. We were there to help, but it sure wasn’t easy.


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