Southern Comfort


Saturday September 29th, 2012 – Columbia, SC

   As I pulled into town this afternoon, it occurred to me I haven’t been to Columbia, SC in about twenty five years. That was a bit scary to think about, but it also brought back fun memories that are getting sweeter with time. There used to be a full time club in town called ‘The Punch Line’.

It was part of a chain of comedy clubs in the Southeast in the ‘80s with the same name. Atlanta was the home base, and that club launched some big people like Jeff Foxworthy, Pam Stone from “Coach”, James Gregory and quite a few others. That was one of the hottest rooms in the country for years, and during the big boom of the ‘80s they kept on opening clubs. I cut my teeth in them.

There was eventually three locations in Atlanta and also one each in Birmingham, Jacksonville, Mobile, Savannah, Charlotte, Greenville, Columbia and a few others that came and went before I could work there. They ran six nights a week, and I could earn a living while learning my craft.

Gary Kern and Kyle Nape invited me to work with them as an opening act. We’d often work as a three man team for several weeks in a row, and I had some of my most fun times on the road in those days. I don’t see newbies coming up today getting chances like that, and I really was lucky.

That’s a good thing too, because I sure wasn’t funny then. I had to do fifteen minutes a night as the opening act/host/emcee, and many nights I wondered if I’d be able to make it. I was far away from home for the first time, and that can be very intimidating. Gary and Kyle were very kind to show me the ropes, and that’s why I try to be so helpful with new comics today. I’ve been there.

I was SO stealing money back then. I was painfully inexperienced, and I wish I had a chance to personally apologize to all those paying customers who had to sit through my pathetic act during that period. It’s something every comedian has to endure, but it’s never pleasant as it happens.

The guy who performed tonight was a far cry from that kid who was here at The Punch Line all those years ago. I’m usually quite hard on myself, but I thought tonight’s show was one of a few I’ve ever done that I would consider to be five stars. It wasn’t a particularly great situation, but I thought I was able to handle myself exactly how I always dreamed I would. I have really grown.

There was of course a table of three drunken women close to the front, and I had to work them into the mix because they wouldn’t be quiet. I wasn’t angry, and I surely was not intimidated as I have been dealing with babbling boozers for decades now. I have finally reached maturity status.

But like all ripe fruit, there is a limited time of ripeness before it starts to rot. I don’t know how long that will be, but I do know that it’s inevitable. For now, I’m at my performing peak and I’m enjoying every second of it. This was a solid show tonight, and it took a lot of years to polish it.

It was the exact right mix of old and new material, pacing, crowd work and every other facet of the comedy craft I’ve been working on for so many years. I’ve got a horribly long drive ahead of me, but thinking of how far I’ve come as both a comedian and a person will help make it shorter.

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