Headline News

Sunday October 20th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

I’m finishing up another week at Zanies in Chicago, and it was very good on many levels. First it was a payday, and I can really use that right about now. Next, I enjoyed working with the other acts on the show. They’re all up and comers, and I always try to be kind to them whenever I can.

I remember when I started that it didn’t take many encouraging words from a headliner to go a long way in making me feel like I was part of the business when in truth I really wasn’t quite yet. It takes years of hard work to get real seasoning, but it sure makes a difference along the way if a headliner offers some words of kindness and encouragement. It’s my turn to do that when I can.

The headliner on a comedy show has a lot of responsibility, and it’s a lot harder than it looks to pull off that position. Everyone who does comedy wants to get there, but not everyone can pull it off. To do it well takes a lot of experience, and the only way to get it is by taking a lot of lumps.

Coming up the ranks in comedy is a brutal process, much like a butterfly working hard to peck its way out of a cocoon. It requires all available energy, and although it can appear to be horrific torture it is in fact what builds the strength required for flight. Mother Nature can be rather cruel, but there’s a plan in place for the bigger picture. The struggle at the front end has a payoff later.

There were three shows last night, and I wish I could have recorded them all to show those on the way up what can be expected. They were as different as different can be, but a real headliner has to be able to adapt to any situation. That’s why we get paid the most – the pressure is on us.

The first show was extremely tight. They had not eaten dinner yet, and were not in a laughing mood for whatever reason. They were stone cold, and the opening acts all had trouble with even getting their attention much less making them laugh. It got to the point where they brought it up and insulted them about it. This is a big mistake, but one I made myself when I was starting out.

I knew exactly what to do, and was able to win them over in a few minutes. I had experience to fall back on, and instinctively knew how to warm them up. By the end of the show they were on my side, and I had a long line of people afterward telling me how much I had “saved the show”.

I thanked them for their words, but I really didn’t save anything. The other comics haven’t had the experience I have yet. If they stay with it as long as I have, they’ll know what to do too. They haven’t paid their dues yet, and it takes a lot to know how to bring around a tight crowd like that.

The middle show was red hot, but that’s to be expected. That’s the money show, and everyone should be able to pull that one off. I brought my A game and “played the hits”. The crowd was in a great mood, and I brought home a rock solid show. That’s what a headliner gets paid for also.

The late show was rowdy. There was a bachelor party full of obnoxious drunken frat boy types, and they were very vocal. It spooked the openers to the point of them bailing early, and I’ve been in that scenario too. I don’t blame them, but again I knew what I had to do and went up there and took charge early. I barely had to deal with the group until the end, but by then I had established myself and it was easy to squelch them. It was a textbook night on how hard standup comedy is.

Standup comedy is hard - being a headliner is harder. Not everyone gets there.

Standup comedy is hard – being a headliner is harder. Not everyone gets there.


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