It’s Wed night. I just got back from doing a small comedy set at Wiseguys. Tonight was not good.
I think that subconsciously, I choose to have these experiences that drag my ego down into the mud. On some level, I view myself as a pompous, try-hard, pretentious douche bag, and there is part of my psyche that delights in tricking myself into putting myself into humiliating situations that strip me of all pride, leaving me feeling like a reprimanded 5 year old that just got caught pissing in the dishwasher.
I felt pretty good about going up on stage tonight. There were no girls in the audience that I was hoping to impress. I was prepared with some pretty solid material, and I had a new idea that I wanted to try out.
I got up, did some jokes that I’ve done before, and I think they went okay. When you are doing comedy, you have an allotted amount of time. The MC will blink a flashlight at the back of the room to signal you that your time is almost up. You have time for one more joke in most cases, at this point. When you get the light for the second time, that means your time is all up and it’s time to get off stage. MC’s are notorious for giving more time to those he likes, and less time to those he doesn’t. It’s hard to know where you are at time wise up there.
The light flashed, so I started into my last joke. It wasn’t a particularly long one. It has 3 parts. I delivered the first 2 parts, and then I saw the MC flashing the light again, which means time is up.
I start delivering the last punch line, thinking I can just cram it in to these last few seconds and be done.
The MC, Tim, barged up on the stage yelling, ” OKAY! That’s IT! Your 3 minutes are up! OKAY, GET OFF THE STAGE!
While he was barging up on stage, I eked out the last part of that punch line. I don’t think anyone really heard it, much less had the chance to really let it sink in. It’s one of my favorite, most meaningful punch lines. It’s a joke about religion, and I feel like it’s a smart, well crafted joke that raises a very valid point about organized religion in general. Tim is a self described “shitty mormon”. Maybe that joke is for you, Tim. Who knows.
The crowd was silent.
You know that hush of silence that comes over you when you witness someone get in trouble? Multiply that by 150 silent people.
I put the mic back in the stand.
As he barged right into my personal space, I put my hand on his shoulder in a way that was meant to assert my personal space that he had made himself at home in. It was one of those gestures that could mean a few things:
“Hey buddy, thanks for the opportunity”,
“Hey buddy, get the fuck out of my personal bubble, I’m not afraid to touch you like this, and I’m not afraid to touch you harder in your face, either.”
As I did this, he yelled into the mic, “Hey! You’re done! Stop touching me! Get off the stage!” For some reason, that line, “stop touching me” pushed a button in me. It made me feel so creepy, so icky inside. It made me feel like he was accusing me of violating him in front of everyone. God that felt horrible.
This whole exchange really only lasted about 3 seconds, but in that moment, time slowed and it was a lengthy, drawn out public humiliation that went on for hours. It wasn’t enough for him to just get on with bringing up the next comic, he had to do and say everything possible to make me look stupid. He does this every week. He tends to compliment some comics after their set, but he always berates me as I leave the stage. Every. Single. Week. This is obviously part of his whole alpha-male schtick. He’s one of these guys that probably got laughs in high school by being a bully, and mistook that for having a sense of humor. I’ve seen his stand up. He’s not funny. But, he is efficient at keeping the show moving, I’ll give him that. Anyway, on with my tale of suffering:
Normally, even the shittiest of comics get courtesy applause as they leave the stage. As I left the stage…
silence, silence, silence.
I felt a wave of shame come over me. I really wanted to just walk straight out of the club and never come back, but my friend Jory was there, and we had plans for dinner after the show. I couldn’t ditch Jory. And, leaving would signal some kind of defeat. By returning back to the same place I’d been sitting all night, I tried to assert to myself and everyone else that what just happened was no big deal. I had to do everything I could to make it look like I didn’t give a shit about what just happened.
Fake it till you make it, maybe?
It’s very fucking hard to feel good about myself in that place. I usually spend the next 3 days after doing comedy at Wiseguys trying to stay away from guns, edges of tall buildings, sharp objects, fire, train tracks, and deep bodies of water.
And yet, I keep going back every week.
What the fuck is my problem? Do I really hate myself that much? Am I really that opposed to having a happy, peaceful life? It seems like I’ve replaced my addiction to drama queen bad news girls with comedy. Both make me question my judgement and leave me feeling like less of a man. But for some god-forsaken reason, I keep going back up on stage, twice per week. WHY??? WHY do I do this to myself week after week?
[I know exactly why I keep doing this. This is part of a bigger design for me. I'm just surprised sometimes at how badly it stings when thing don't go well]
On my way back to my seat, I got a big hug from the only female comic of the night, and said something like “great job” or whatever. I think she, being a woman and thus more naturally empathetic, knew that I really needed a hug at that moment.
I could use one now.
Like, really… could use one. I need something to distract / console me from this. I don’t really want to drink myself into oblivion tonight. I don’t want to smoke myself into orbit. I’d much rather lay in the arms of a woman that loves me and feel her play with my hair as I drift off to sleep.
But, I’m a single guy.
SO, I’m sitting at my desk writing to you, The Internet. You’ll have to do for now.
I wish the Internet could hug me and play with my hair while I doze off.
Anyway. I’m gonna call it a night.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Good Morning everyone. I got some sleep, did a little meditating, and I have a few thoughts:
If I live properly, getting kicked off stage will be something that happens periodically. Ideally I’d like to be asked to leave for what I’m saying, rather than using up all my time. I think that would be an important mile marker in my life. We all have thoughts and feelings running around in our heads that are horrific and disgusting. Ladies and Gentlemen, I’d like to bring those thoughts to your attention. When I hear people mutter to each other “Oh my god. Did he just say that?”, I’ll know I’ve done something right.
What would Hunter S Thompson do? What would Neil Strauss do? What would Tucker Max do? They would have been just a tad more aggressive about trying to belt out that last punch line, even while being kicked off the stage. They would have walked very slowly and victoriously off the stage, arms in the air, making devil horns with their hands, wagging my tongue at everyone, like Gene Simmons, as I walk out. THAT’s what should have happened.
There’s always tomorrow.
P.S. Tim, if you are reading this, I want you to bring me on stage and introduce me as “the biggest asshole in Salt Lake City” next week. Thanks, buddy.