There was this one time… In over 20 years of comedy there are so many stories. I tell them to my wife and she says I should write them down. My dear father tells me to write them down. So here we go. Hmmm, where to start? How about the beginning?
To answer your question before you ask it, yes, I have always been funny. There were plenty of hi-jinks in high school and college, but this is a story about my life in comedy on a stage.
Some of my first performances were in dives. I remember one particular place that was in the basement of a sandwich shop near the University. The ceiling was so low that while standing on the 4 inch high stage I could put my hand flat against the ceiling. The walls were covered in dark brown, wood shake shingles. Attached to the walls were old, used horse accessories like a bridle, reins, and assorted rusted chains. It had a strange, S&M ish ambience. The stage was maybe 4′ by 4′ and tucked in a corner. The room sat about 75 people if you weren’t worried about fire escapes, and they weren’t. A thick smell of deep fat fryer oil wafted down from the sandwich shop upstairs. The name of the restaurant was the Rolling Scone.
Shows were on the weekend. They tried me out a few times before moving me up to a paid slot. There were two comics and an MC. The comics each did a 30 minute set and we were paid $10. Sometimes. My early set was made up of “funny” songs that I had written. That’s how my goofiness manifest itself before it was “trained”. I had a few jokes in between. Basically I was snarky, I was in my early 20’s. I played the guitar, I played a tiny Casio keyboard. I wore a vest.
The place was often packed. Of course, when you are in your 20’s you have lots of friends and if you invited a few, the place could fill easily. I remember good times. I thought I was funny, my friends thought I was funny and nothing really mattered. The comedy was pure, raw and ragged. There was no career to feed, no image to uphold.
I made some friends there that I still have today. Some of the people who came through that tiny venue have gone on to distinguished careers in showbiz. Surprisingly accomplished careers. You never would have known it watching us then, but that was back when we were young and all we knew was that we wanted to, we didn’t have a plan or know where we were headed, and we didn’t care where we performed.
One time they brought in a real comedian to perform special shows for a couple of weeks. I remember performing there with him and thinking “What would an actual talented professional comedian be doing playing in a place like this?” But there he was, getting his free cokes and scone sandwiches in between shows. He talked to me, gave me advice about comedy. I remember he told me I should do song parodies instead of the originals I was working. I thought he was nuts. After his shows, I remember thinking that while he was funny, whatever he was doing in comedy it wasn’t heading anywhere. I dismissed him.
A few weeks later I saw him on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. This was back in the day when Johnny could make a career. After that appearance his career took off and he never looked back. His name is Louie Anderson.
So much for my ability to judge talent.