Posts Tagged ‘sports bar’

Badger Battle

March 31, 2014

Saturday March 29th, 2014 – Wilton, WI

Whenever the topic of comedic timing comes up, it loses the majority of those involved in the conversation as it’s an intangible entity. As a rule one either has it or they don’t, and there isn’t a thing they can do about it if they don’t. It’s like singing. If one doesn’t have it, it’s a lost cause.

This is a different subject for a different day. Today I had an example of comic timing that was completely different. I wish I’d recorded the show so others could learn from it, and it was so out of the ordinary that I think I could have learned from it myself. Situations like this are quite rare.

My show tonight was at a sports bar in Wilton, WI. I am a cheese head by birth, and I must say that before I booked this show I had never heard of Wilton. For those that may care, it’s between Elroy and Sparta along the famous bike trail. The population is 542, and there are no stop lights.

The ‘downtown’ consists of four bars, a post office and a Hardware Hank. There were a couple of other buildings that looked like they could be shops of some sort, but I couldn’t tell if they had gone out of business or not so I won’t count them. This town makes Mayberry look like Chicago.

A truck driver named Jeff and his wife bought and remodeled the bar, and did a spectacular job from the ground up. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in, and the joint was jumping. Too bad the reason it was jumping was because the Wisconsin Badgers basketball game was on TV.

This is the timing I’m talking about. What are the chances a basketball game would have even a minor affect on a comedy show – in Wisconsin no less? This isn’t a state known for basketball, but on this night it was all anyone could talk about. Like it or not, that was the headliner tonight.

Both Jeff and his wife are not only nice people, they’re very sharp at business. I talked to them before the show, and told them we needed to call an audible. Both the game and comedy shared a scheduled starting time of 8pm, and unfortunately comedy was going to lose. The question now was whether to try and squeeze the show in before the game ended, or wait until it was finished.

I would have been fine with waiting until the game was over, but I’m not sure if the customers would have wanted to stay around – especially if the Badgers lost. Either way, I was going to be the one in the trick bag tonight so it really didn’t matter. I wanted to insure the bar made a profit.

We ended up starting about 8:15, and things were fine. There was a separate stage area that was away from the TVs, and the people wanted to see the show. The opening act did a fine job for the circumstances, and then I got on and started strong. I almost thought I had a chance to pull it off.

Then the game got interesting, and the people yelling at the bar became a distraction. I couldn’t avoid it, so I had them give updates from the bar. I started and stopped bits, and it was absolutely maddening after a while. Then to make it worse the game went into overtime, so I told the crowd I’d leave stage and we’d all watch the game. When it was over I’d finish my show. The Badgers did win, and I went back up and finished my set. It took the skill set of a Ninja, but I pulled it off.

I was cheering for my home state Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA tournament - just not when I was scheduled to perform.

I was cheering for my home state Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA tournament – just not when I was scheduled to perform.

It required the skill level of a Ninja to pull off a show tonight - but I did it. THAT'S timing.

It required the skill level of a Ninja to pull off a show tonight – but I did it.

Slumped Over

March 25, 2014

Sunday March 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Three months ago, I was riding sky high on top of the world. I was in a groove like I’ve never been in ever before, and life was beyond good. I felt exactly like I had always pictured life to be like in a positive way, and I thought I was finally on my way to where I’ve always wanted to be.

Today, after a couple of rough nights this past week and not a lot of work on the horizon I’m in a big time slump, and I honestly don’t care if I live or die. That’s a pretty big change, and I’m not exactly sure what has happened. Either it’s a normal cycle of life, or I am a crazy bipolar maniac.

At one time I may have bet on the maniac, but I’m not so sure now. I have been satisfied with most of the decisions I have been making in the last couple of years, and it’s not like I’m a slave to booze or drugs or anything like that. For whatever reason, I somehow veered off course again.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really in the dumper right now. I’ve been here plenty of times before, and it’s never fun. I am trying to objectively figure out why I feel this way and/or what has gone on to trigger it and all I can come up with are those two bad shows this week. They scorched me.

Being on stage is by far the only thing that has ever given me any consistent satisfaction in my life. I love to entertain a live audience, and after decades of trial and error I have finally reached a high level of consistency. I know that far more often than not, I’ll be able to get the job done.

In my mind, I see myself working big rooms for big audiences night after night. I know in my heart I can pull it off, as whenever I have found myself in that position I have always been able to deliver at a high level. It excites me to think about it, and after all this time I feel I deserve it.

I guess the cosmos doesn’t agree, as for whatever reason it’s not happening right now. All I am asking for is a payoff for all of my hard work. I sacrificed everything to develop my skill set, and to be in front of 14 people in a sports bar or standing alone on a dance floor at a wedding talking to myself after all these years just crushes my dreams and stomps on my self esteem like an ant.

I don’t think I can try any harder, but apparently I have to. But when I get in these ruts the very last thing I want to do is get out there and start over again. I’ve done thousands of shows for tiny audiences and/or non attentive ones. I’m past that. Going back sucks all the humanity out of me.

One of those nights might have put me in a minor funk, but both of them back to back have put me deep in the mental toilet. I feel like hope is completely gone, and I wish I could just lie down and give my remaining days to anyone who wants them. I feel like I missed my bus, and it hurts.

All I think it would take to turn it around is some tangible hope. The hope of reuniting with my siblings was what gave me the super uptick I had three months ago, and it ended up going really well in the end. That’s great, but they don’t pay my bills. I feel great personally, but professional pain is pain just the same. The stress of the struggle is getting to me, and I feel it. What stinks is I just don’t feel like fighting it anymore. Is anyone else hurting inside this badly? I sure hope not.

Life is a series of ups and downs. I'm in a down. Am I crazy? Probably, but some hope would be nice.

Life is a series of ups and downs. I’m in a down. Am I crazy? Probably, but some hope would be nice.

A Sour Pickle

March 22, 2014

Thursday March 20th, 2014 – Mystery Small Town Location in Illinois

I’m in a pickle, and it’s a big old sour one. I really enjoy performing, and always have. I enjoy getting an income too. I have almost always jumped at any chance I ever got to perform, even if it happened to be in less than ideal conditions or subpar pay. I always thought it was better to get on stage and practice my craft than not do anything and let it rot. Those days are officially over.

There comes a point where there’s nothing to gain from doing tiny little gigs in tiny little towns for tiny little money. The time and effort it takes to get there, do the show and get back no longer makes it worth my while. Not only that, the drain it puts on the self esteem really kills the deal.

Tonight I had one of those gigs in a town I’m not going to mention nor will I name the booking agent that sent me there. I have no issues with anyone but myself here, so that’s where I’m going to point all fingers. In a way it’s a major positive, as I have graduated past these kinds of shows.

The booker in question and I have a very good relationship. This person asked if I’d like to do a show in a small town approximately 180 miles from Chicago. The money wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great either. But on a Thursday night when I had nothing to do I said yes as I usually do when things like this come up. On paper it would be a breeze, and I would sleep in my own bed.

I had the option of doing all the time myself, or bringing an opener. I like to give people a shot whenever I can, so I asked Caryn Ruby if she wanted to come along. Caryn is trying very hard to gain road experience, and she asked if I ever had a chance for her to tag along if she could do it.

I have an ever growing list of people like that – mostly former students – and that’s yet another reason I take gigs like this. They don’t float my boat like they used to, but if I take someone with me that’s excited just to be there it gives me a charge in return. Their energy helps me endure it.

Caryn is always very professional, and knows how valuable of an experience it is to be able to get in front of a real audience – even if it’s a small one. She had her chance tonight, and it was as small an audience as I’d care to have. There were a total of 14 people, and I think a few of those worked at the sports bar where the show was held. This is just not what I need to be doing now.

March Madness basketball killed the comedy show, but since it’s a sports bar one would think the person would realize that and now schedule a comedy show. I didn’t think about it from my end, but that’s not my job. I don’t own a sports bar. I’m not pointing fingers, but it does add up.

There was a separate room in said sports bar that holds around fifty, and we did the show under bad lighting with no stage. We stood in front of three dart boards, and people had to walk right in front of us if they had to use the bathroom – which almost all of the 14 people did at some point.

It was embarrassing, humiliating and not fun whatsoever. I had to do more than a full hour time wise, and at the end of the night the owner and crowd were thrilled. I did get my pay, but the ride home was hollow and unfulfilled. Caryn was happy, but I was miserable. It sucked out my soul.

Caryn could see I was less than thrilled, and started to tell me all the good things about the gig and how much fun she had. I appreciated her effort, but I wish she would have just kept quiet to let me brood or bring up another subject. Trying to salvage this situation was not going to work.

Again, I’m not angry at anyone but myself – and I’m not even angry at myself. I’m just not in the same mindset I’ve been in for decades when I would just suck it up and drive home and hope to come back another day. I’ve reached the point of not wanting to come back at all. I’m over it.

I have done too many nights exactly like this in too many small towns over too many years to count, and I have reached my limit. Driving roughly 400 miles to entertain roughly 14 people is just that – rough. It’s surely not smart from an economical standpoint, and I surely don’t need it for the experience. I have more than enough of that, so there’s no reason for me to even be here.

Caryn popped for dinner, which was all you can eat soup and salad at a truck stop just outside of town. I have eaten in thousands of places like that in my life, and it was just ok. Sometimes it can make an entire trip to discover some hidden jewel of a restaurant in a secluded location, but tonight wasn’t it. It was run of the mill chicken soup and bowls of lettuce served by a teenager.

I looked around at the locals eating there with us, and I saw absolutely zero spark whatsoever in any of their eyes. They all looked like lost zombies having a little snack before going back out on their hunt for brains. They weren’t bad people, but I didn’t feel a kinship with them and me.

The couple that owned the sports bar were very nice people as well. They had done about half a dozen shows there in the past, and of course “they were all packed full except tonight.” I have to believe I have heard that phrase or variations thereof more than any other living performer.

“Hey, you should have been here last week,” or “I don’t know what happened – we promoted it all over town” or any number of other last minute band aid excuses just doesn’t cut it anymore. It lets me know that I no longer need to be doing these kinds of shows, even if it means working at a car wash or bagging groceries. Doing it like this isn’t working, and it’s destroying me inside.

I have feelings and an ego like every performer, but nights like this in places like this are just what the doctor ordered to rip all that out of the socket and leave me feeling like a cow that has been completely milked out. I’m much better than this, and there’s no reason for me to continue saying yes to shows like this. I didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, and it kicked my keester.

People talking through the show and walking back and forth in front of me to the bathroom is just plain disrespectful. I don’t think they even realized it, so I did not take it personally. I gave them my best show, and at the end of the night they all loved it – but at what cost? My dignity.

I took my money and thanked the owners, and I truly wish them nothing but the best not only in business but in life. They seemed like nice people, I just can’t afford to come back here again. Even if it was ‘sold out’, it’s what – fifty? Sixty? Easy money does not exist. This was painful.

Caryn Ruby opened for me in a small town in Illinois tonight in front of 14 people. If you missed it, I can assure you it won't happen again. www.carynruby.com

Caryn Ruby opened for me in a small town in Illinois tonight in front of 14 people. If you missed it, I can assure you it won’t happen there again. http://www.carynruby.com