Last year I was contacted by one of the NFL Teams and asked if I would perform standup for their corporate clients during the week of the Super Bowl. The following is my story.
Flying down to the game with the clients, I struck up a conversation with one of them who mentioned that the past 3 years the comedians had been Sinbad, Bob Newhart, and Jay Leno. I laughed and said hey thatís a good one, until I realized it was no joke. Iím guessing that the team must have been over the salary cap for the year and the entertainment budget was the first casualty.
Arriving in Houston, the first thing you notice is that the city’s architecture would best be described as modern strip malled. I was told the reason for this is there are no zoning laws, which definitely seems the case, as you see strip clubs resting next to family restaurants. On the subject of strip clubs, Houston is famous for them, but when I heard that there were $100 dollar cover charges the week of the Super Bowl, I realized no adult entertainment for me. I would have been like a $5 dollar player sitting at a $100 dollar table. Houston knows gouging like Enron setting California energy rates. Coincidence? Speaking of Houston and gouging..
I do a number of corporate events each year, so that’s no big deal, except that when I came to the hotel ballroom for the show, I discovered that one of front office types from the team had decided to bring his children to the comedy show. Now, I always keep my corporate shows at a network TV language level, but when you have kids under 10 in the audience, anything with a slight bit of innuendo or edge makes many adults uncomfortable. Well, I still hit the stage confident, after being introduced as a comedian who has performed in 32 states and even though he doesn’t like to mention it, a writer for the NFL on Fox Pregame Show, let’s hear it for Scott Long.
Right from the beginning, I could tell that many of the corporate clients who had not been on this Super Bowl trip before felt ripped off by having me as the entertainment. I can best describe the feeling they had as being a member of the Tonight Show studio audience the night that John Stamos, Delta Burke, and Kenny G are the guests, only to hear Jay Leno announce “and on tomorrow nights show our guests will be Jim Carrey, Eva Mendes, and U-2.” Iíd like to be able say that through all these things working against me, I brought all the age groups together with the joy of laughter, but that would be a lie, as I could feel the flop sweat covering my body at an Albert Brooks/Broadcast News-like rate. Fortunately, the ten and twelve year old boys liked my show, since I made fun of their dad.
Now, as amazing as this might seem, I have had other difficult shows in the past, but never have I had to spend the next 3 days with the same people I barely amused. Not a dream scenario, but feeling somewhat guilty about how my show went, I made it my focus to be make each person at the show laugh on an individual basis. Kind of like table magic, but I will say it seemed to work, except for one executive from a certain Mexican fast-food chain. I found out later that this person didnít laugh at Leno or Newhart, but he did like Sinbad, so his lack of approval I found as an honor.
One of the most interesting things during Super Bowl week is the celebrities who come in to town. I put the word celebrity in italics, as the local news entertainment reporters sound orgasmic discussing the B-grade stars that will be partying the night away before the big game. Sure, the stars of CSI Miami sound glamorous now, but remember back in 1986, Miami Vice was the bomb and Phillip Michael Thomas thought he was king of the world. Now he can’t even get a Psychic Friends Network infomercial. The big star staying at our hotel last year was the brash young running back from the show Playmakers, who sat outside the hotel in his hummer limo soaking in his celebrity status. This year he could be chauffeuring the limo, as far as I know.
The night before the game, I was asked by my gracious team host, if I had any interest in going to the game, as he had a spare ticket. So the next morning I got on the charter bus on my way to Reliant Stadium, holding a $500 dollar face value ticket in my hand. We left early, so everyone could soak in the NFL experience. After going through the gates, there was a concert area the NFL had set up featuring the vital voice of current musical relevance, Eddie Money. All of a sudden the Super Bowl experience became like a 4th of July Ribfest in Moline, Illinois, with Money warbling how he had 2 Tickets to Paradise, which would have run 10 C Notes that day.
Even though the game between the Patriots and Panthers was a classic, Super Bowl 38 will always go down as the one where Janet Jackson claimed she wasn’t in Control. (In regards to Miss Jackson, I have to say Super Bowl 36C would be a more apt description.) In the $500 dollar nosebleed seats I had, I didnít see any aureole medallions. The seat was up so high I needed my own sherpa to climb up to it. I didn’t know anything about the Janet Jackson incident until my cabdriver on the way back to the hotel, kept saying, “oh did you see the Janet Jackson booby? I canít wait to get home, my wife taped it!”
And here lies a fact the NFL doesn’t like to share. Pro football is better seen on television, with its replays and analysis than being at the game live. College football and basketball have the tradition and school spirit to make for a great live event, being at the ballpark for a baseball game is the greatest thing you can do sitting down, while the NFL just doesnít have the same advantages in person. Pro football is designed for television and thatís why it receives such great ratings. Oh and let me add, I didnít mention the NBA, because I can’t see how anyone watches that game, anymore. I would rather watch highlights of the Celtics/Lakers from the 80’s than sit through a current NBA playoff game.
Now if you were paying attention, you might have noticed that even though I took a bus to the Super Bowl, I ended up in a cab on the way back. Well, when I was dropped off from the charter bus, I didn’t pay attention to where it was, because I figured I would be sitting with my corporate friends. Not the case, as the rest of the group weren’t sitting in the really expensive cheap seats. I still didn’t think I would have any problem finding my way, until I went out to the parking lot after the game and realized that there were thousands of look-alike buses. Running through the chartered maze, looking for the team flag on the bus, I came up empty until right before they were set to leave. Then, oh hallelujah, I found it!
Walking in sheepishly, I discovered that none of the people that I came with were there, as everyone had different faces. It was like a scene out of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They explained that this was the owner’s bus, but they would take me back to their hotel and I could catch a cab from there. I made the walk of shame back to an empty seat and here’s where any rationale thoughts I had left, were lost. Who’s sitting in the seat across from me. Kato Kaelin. Hey, don’t call me a liar, it’s true. He was a nice guy, but then why wouldn’t he be, Kato has made a career of appearing at big events and staying on the celebrity scene, without having any discernible talent. (kind of like the male Melissa Rivers)
Well, that’s the highlights from my Super Bowl experience. If youíre asking, well that’s a pretty lame way to wrap the story up, let me mention again, I went to the game, didnít see Janet’s nipple, got lost trying to find my bus, and finally took a ride next to Kato Kaelin. Bring on Chyna, Hammer, and Flavor Flav, because Iím qualified for the surreal life.