Had a great show tonight – better than I’d hoped, actually. Tonight I performed with several comedians in Lake Geneva at Hemingway’s Port of Call and I really hope I have the opportunity to go back someday. The “room” is run by a friend of mine, Ron Swanson (a great comedian himself), and as a favor I did the show for him tonight in the headliner position. (That’s comedy speak for “the guy to perform last”.)
The headliner slot is typically reserved for the comedian with the biggest name, the most experience, or the one that is deemed to be the funniest of those performing that night. The interesting thing for me is that I’ve done numerous shows by myself in churches, corporate gatherings, etc., and I do just fine – but after several years of comedy I realized on my way to Lake Geneva that this would be my first “headliner” gig. Most comedians relish this opportunity… I, however, was not so sure.
You see, I knew the guys I’d be performing with tonight… and I knew the order of the comedians. Tonight we’d be breaking a rule when it comes to well-planned and effective comedy shows. A comedy show can start off clean and get dirtier and dirtier and still get laughs… but that doesn’t work the other way around.
When working with other comedians who may not be clean, I’m almost always placed as an opener to warm up the crowd and get them ready for the other comedians. It just makes sense to do that, and I have no problem filling that position – it’s a fun position to be in. Even if I have five times more experience than the guy coming after me, the clean-dirty rule makes placing me as an opening act a good decision.
The first three comedians tonight were all great – but they are not “clean” comedians. So they didn’t have to limit themselves on what they said. They could curse whenever and wherever they wanted to in their act. They talked about those things that would make grandma blush and cause you to put earmuffs on little Suzie.
So… me in the headliner spot tonight was a gutsy move on Ron’s part. It was a recipe for failure. I work clean, that’s my niche. I’m safe for Beaver Cleaver’s high school post-prom party, even if Father Flannigan is acting as the master of ceremonies.
Fortunately the show tonight went well… very well. I was afraid I’d die on stage, but instead – I killed. (Odd how “die” and “kill” in comedy have totally opposite meanings.) I even sold some CDs after the show, got booked for a show at another venue (Kenosha, Wisconsin – here I come!), and made friends with someone with a band that might want me to open for them sometime in the future.
More than anything though, I had the chance to talk with people after the show. One young woman in particular had a terrible family crisis take place just last month. She tried to cover it well, but she admitted that it is emotionally painful for her right now and that she came to the show not expecting to have any fun at all. She came expecting not to laugh, and when she saw my business card on the table which says “No Cursing… Just Comedy” she expected even more that there would be nothing truly entertaining taking place tonight. But once I took the stage, she was one of the loudest in the room – one of the most energetic. She was having more fun than just about anyone.
Thank you, God. I’m glad You chose to send me to Lake Geneva tonight. I brought someone who had a lot of pain, some temporary joy.
I love this job.