i was on the radio yesterday morning. they called at 7 am to promote a gig i played tonight in santa rosa. the guy producing the comedy show was like "have you done radio before?" i'm like "yeah" meaning "no". "it's a hip hop show. we got a 'rough & ready' crowd. you rough & ready?" me: "yeah" meaning "what the fuck does that mean?"
judging by crowd reaction (luckily, there was no vegetable stand next door) apparently i was a little too "smooth and unprepared" for them. i started doing some bits, got a few laughs*, and mainly got blank stares. people were seated all over the room, including behind me, and my spotlight flooded onto these people, so like a substitute teacher, i'm sure i was being mocked upstage in any number of visual ways. it sucks when the people laughing hardest are watching your ass.
you never realize how joke-y your act is until your punchline has been capped with the "wah wah wah" of a black guy sitting behind you. would less people show up if it were more appropriately named "comedy in the round" instead of "comedy jam"? or "do you want fries with that shake"? you haven't really lived until you've had a bar brimming with "rough & ready" ready to rough you up. think blues brother's without the chicken wire, but instead of actual beer bottles they just threw a lot of amateur alcoholic animosity.
the marine recruiter contingent fueled the fire.
it was about ten minutes into my set. i was trying to do bits. but certain crowds don't actually want to hear jokes. they want you to fart into the microphone or talk about how bitches be havin fat asses, and while i appreciate the subtle variegation from one dudes-don't-compliment-other-guys'-balls-like-chicks-compliment-other-girls'-breasts bouquet to the next, i find a similar joy in that ethereal feeling that accompanies the onset of a feverish influenza.
but so i'm in the middle of my set, and am suddenly (sic) struck with an epiphany. i don't have to hide how i'm feeling.** "this is not going well! i am fucking frustrated!" (the crowd whoops). my wireless mic cuts out. "stupid fucking mic!" ([email protected]) i brake from my bits, and jump into the audience, roving. they like this.*** the room is dark, and outside the spotlight you can't really see, so now my disembodied voice is all i've got to hold their rittlin-head attention spans. and i let go. "fuck you for heckling me!" "have sex with me!" (to a woman i pretended to hit on earlier) "where's the marine recruiter?" "show me the guy told me to get off the stage!" for about three minutes i had no clue where i was going, i was having fun just being fucking angry.
this is why i do what i do. so but then i thought we were all having such a good fucking time i'd get back on stage, close with my best bits, and leave triumphantly. "g'night!" but as i return to the spotlight and start to say i'm going to take off in a minute, they cheer as loudly as they did when i was in the crowd. by now it's really loud. i'm hollering into the mic to throw down my last bits. they get quiet only when i get quiet. by now they're yelling "get off so we can go home!" but i'm only the first comic in the lineup. i close, and the host retakes the stage. the applause is thundering, but for a differnt reason than usual.
i try to take off after my set, but i have to stick around to get paid. yes, paid. with my sense of self-worth, i'm struggling to affirm i did something worthy of payment. other comics would think "i earned that shit. i should get paid more." not me. [insert jasper joke here]
why do people fuck with you when you're on stage after they've paid to come see you talk, and then afterward come up to you and try to be shakin your hand? "i'm sorry my friends heckled you" and shit. like eight guys from the crowd come up after to apologize for their "friends" who heckled me, pointing at their friends, who then say "who, me?". they were drunk or are in the marines or don't "appreciate your kind of humor, but i did." the other comics are telling me i did a good job, and keep it up, and don't let it get to you, and the booker says he has some more gigs for me, that dudes were impressed i stayed on as long as i did. like i'm riding a mechanical bull. which reminds me, i haven't done that bit in a while.
it's a fine line between expressing yourself and "snapping on the crowd", between commanding the stage and hogging it. i'm not sure which side of that tightrope i leaned toward, but the fall to the cement floor below is only a couple feet.
*but afterward they'd check to make sure no one noticed them chuckling..
**plus, i never have to see these people again.
***they still don't like me, but they like this.