The pieces came careening at me like a cosmic puzzle. I hadnít
realized it yet, but I was walking into a stand-up comicís nightmare!
had just come from the finest comedy club in America, The Comedy
Caravan in Louisville, KY (Great money, six days work, nice stage,
decent housing, and friends). Happily, I began the next weekís work on
a tour of twelve different cities in two weeks. If you canít do the ďAĒ
clubs, one-nighters (long drives, cheap or no motels, bad stages, and
some venue managers reluctant to pay) are the easiest shows for most
comics to book.
As the particular establishment in question
is still open, with nasty lawyers, I decline to mention the name of the
business, or the city. The truth: if I made fun of him and he caught up
with me, a certain humongous bouncer promised to erase my scrawny butt
from the planet. I write this with the safety that heís certainly not
an Internet user, because he probably still canít read.
first piece of the puzzle worked its way into the picture
unobtrusively. The rat of a booking agent told me the names of the
other two acts. They were from Detroit and I didnít know them. That was
only the first of many red flags that I would completely miss. My
quasi-official world record for performing in 1000 cities in ten years
had left me with a working knowledge of most of the knuckleheads, who,
like me, were criss-crossing America.
Iím a LA comic. I hoped they spoke the same stand-up language as me.
The next two puzzle pieces cartwheeled past me like a horny
cheerleader. My itinerary revealed the show that night was at 7pm, and
was at the same address as our accommodations. This is never a good
sign for a tour like this. Doing a comedy show at 7pm? Itís my
experience that a drinking crowd is at itís most uncontrollable; either
very late or very earlyÖ a 7pm show?? Also, when you do a show in the
same place as you stay, everybody knows in which rooms of the motel the
comics stay. Hope you like visitors!
After I checked in with
the motel, they told me I would be in the Pat Paulsen room. No big
deal, he was the act appearing last week, so I got the same room.
The fourth piece of the puzzle slapped me in the face as I walked into
the adjacent bar to inspect the stage. There was a brass pole on the
stage, and I now knew there was going to be trouble at the show
tonight. If you donít get it yet, brass poles mean there are strippers
nearby. Strippers?? Thatís not good for Mr. Jokey-boy! Itís especially
not good for Mr. Jokey-boy, if he wears Red Shoes.
I wandered back to my room to see if the other acts had checked in yet.
I found the washing machines and dryers and washed everything I owned.
When one is on the road, one doesnít know when one can wash their show
clothes and daily wear next. I thought I was just staying ahead of the
curve. When I came to change my stuff into the dryer; I just about had
a hissy fit. Everything I owned was a cute, light pink color!
Another piece of the crazy puzzle fit into its place.
Frantically, I dashed off to buy some new clothes for the show in two
hours. Iíll never curse K-Mart again. I found some Levisí and a
button-down shirt. A thought hit me: ďWhy is this night different from
every other night?
I went back to my room and found messages
from the other two acts. One was from a Miss Gwen Sarrong and the other
was from Peter and Billy. I returned the calls. Now, just thirty
minutes before the show began, I was informed my opening act was a
transvestite, and my closing act was a ventriloquist!
dummy told me not to do any cat jokes, and the transvestite warned me
not to wear my Red Shoes. Exactly why I do not take ventriloquists
seriously, much less some guy in drag.
I went to the showroom
early to check in with the venue manager and discovered the audience
was primarily from some lumberjack outfit, with some stragglers
streaming in from the local slaughterhouse. Not counting our opening
act; there wasnít a woman in the house. I was sure all the pieces of
the ambush puzzle had fallen into place, then I saw the headline
stripper start a backstage catfight with our visiting trans-gender type
person. Great, Gypsy Rose Lee vs. Betty Boop on steroids.
stepped between the scantily clad combatants and reminded Diana, or
Larry, or Miss Whoosis, the comedy show started in ten minutes. To this
day, Iím not sure which of them left that powder handprint on the seat
of my new pants. But they separated and we each went to our various
dressing areas. Mine was the janitorís closet, which was OK, because
the smell prevented any visitors from popping in.
to see if I was still presentable, and wandered out to judge my
openerís competency. The slaughterhouse guys werenít buying it, and
they werenít laughing. The lumberjacks offered to do a sex change
operation right there using their axes!
But, they were
laughing and in a good mood, so I steeled myself for an interactive
show. At the ten-minute mark, he/she/it started crying and rushed from
the stage. Maybe his multi-sequined gown with the plunging back was
just pinching too tight.
I prayed for luck and marched to
center stage. I announced there would be a raffle to find out who got
to drive the stripper home, after she beat the crap out of Diana! This
seemed to please the meat packers and lumberjacks, as well as the guy
who had to pay me. Hardly a killer start, but I had everybody going!
Next, I told them I was Lue Deck, The Comic in Red Shoes, and Iíd skin
any dude here who believed I was a sissy like Diana/Larry! More laughs
from the cheap seats. Hell, there was nothing but cheap seats in this
place! I did best my sex and pot jokes, hoping that would fit the mood.
More big laughs!
On a roll, I left the stage
with a cordless microphone and started plowing my way through the now
seventy or so souls in attendance. I did the old ďplay the crowd trickĒ
asking individuals questions and lampooning their answers. I insulted
every guy in the place, and they thought it was pretty cool.
Actually, I mustíve gone a little too far while laying into one
heckler. He was the bouncer, and son of the owner who was dating the
pugilistic stripper. I told the crowd I had seen him slipping out of
the cross dresserís bedroom before the show.
This young moron
pulled a knife and offered to end my miserable existence, now. His
raucous buddies restrained him long enough for the manager to approach
the stage and pay me, while he advised me the hot head would bust loose
soon. I took my bow, smiled and went back to my room.
packed, checked out, jumped in my car and headed towards the next town.
Welcome to the comedy trail, where just about anything can happen. Oh
yeah, that ventriloquistÖI heard laterÖthey nearly lynched his dummy.
I smiled again, knowing I had barely survived the night when nothiní was funny!