Life in the Independent Leagues

My comedy career is a weird one, in that I perform in a lot of “A” rooms like the Improvs (Plug: I will be in Ft. Lauderdale next week), but also I play a fair number of smaller markets that often end up paying me more. Last week I went down to Oklahoma City to see my Mom, and a booker I work for offered me a gig a couple hours away. Since it was close I figured why not make some extra money. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

(Note: I’ve decided not to list the name of the venue, as they didn’t ask to be written about. Let me say that the gig was in a small Texas border town along the Red River. Part of the place’s name includes the word “Roadhouse,” but it isn’t from the fancy Patrick Swayze movie.)

So I pull up to the joint a couple hours before the show so I can be sure not to get lost when driving there after dark. The “Roadhouse” is preceded by a cemetery. It’s located right behind a couple trailer homes on a dirt road. On both sides of the Roadhouse is an auto junkyard.

When I got there at 8:30 p.m. (show was supposed to start at 9:00 p.m.), the staff said they would probably begin a little after 10:00 p.m. OK, so I went to a convenience store a couple miles away because the “Roadhouse” is BYOB or BYO-any-other-beverage. I’m guessing it was located in either a dry county or they couldn’t get a liquor license.

Getting back to the joint, I milled around drinking my Coke Zero, looking around at the memorabilia which consisted of a couple of Confederate flags hanging on the wall behind the pool tables. One of the flags had a line on it saying “Heritage Not Hate,” so I guess that makes it cool? Not exactly the decor of a Hard Rock Cafe, but it did seem to fit the small-town Texas life.

Another interesting part of the Roadhouse’s decor is that the owner’s dog just strolls through the place. I’m guessing that the health inspector of in this small Texas town isn’t the most detail-oriented of public servants.

The owner brought up the first comedian, his 10-year-old daughter, who read off jokes she had gotten out of a joke book. Not a great performer at this point, but I’ve worked with bigger hacks than her. The feature act did a nice job, but it was pretty tough to warm up an audience of 30 yahoos.

Did I mention that there was a pup tent set up behind the stage? Why was that? Well, after the Roadhouse closed at 4 a.m., the joint was going to do something special for its customers by cooking breakfast for them and then allowing to have a sleepover in the building. No, really.

The first thing I noticed when I hit the stage was that the front row table were passing around a Jagermeister bottle the size of kettle drum. (Only slight artistic license being used here as this looked like a bottle of Jager that you would buy at a Sam’s Club.) Welcome to the world of BYOB.

While there was a couple really obnoxious hecklers, they were nothing I couldn’t handle. During one part of my performance I did have to stop for a minute, as the owner’s dog walked on-stage and started licking my shoes. I figure this was the dog telling me he liked my act, so I did what I do when any audience member comes up on-stage and licks my shoes — I reached down and petted him.

It was interesting to me that the owner wanted the show clean (according to my iteniary), considering that the jokes that he and the audience liked the best were the more risque in my act. I’m guessing he didn’t want his 10-year-old daughter to learn anything too blue, as she might fit it in to one of the knock-knock jokes she would open with at the next show. Either that or maybe his dog is part of the Assembly of Dog church.

After a week at the Washington, DC Improv, playing sold-out shows for the hip and cool (like visiting Juice Blog contributor Ryan Wilkins), it was good to deflate my ego a bit. I see one of the most vital elements of life being who can compile the best stories, so here was another night on my Comedy Holy Grail. This show is one of my favorites in that category. Hopefully this gives some insight into the strange life that is the standup comedian

And now you know….the rest of the story.

4 thoughts on “Life in the Independent Leagues

  1. 1.  What the O/U on the number of times you are instructed to “get” something “done?”

    Also, do you have different routines depending on where you’re playing? I am sure you do, but can you explain how that works?

  2. 2.  Maybe this is different from your POV or maybe not, but I look at compiling good stories as being something akin to being a hitter who gets a lot of walks. That’s not the goal per se, but it is a common side effect of having the right approach.

  3. 3.  Ken,
    I love your analogy. Of course as a sabermetrically-inclined comedian, it was custom made.

    Tom,
    Get er done was mentioned only once. I’ve noticed a slight decline on that phrase, which I’m guessing/hoping means the LCG hysteria is slowing down.

    Yes, I do have different routines for different shows. I do a lot of corporates and at those shows I pull back, as I know I have to be more politically correct. (I will whore it out some when paid appropriately.) I don’t change my regular stand-up act much, as I like challenging the PC blue states and red neck red states, as too many comics spoon feed the audience.

    Much like I attempt to do here, I try to be a bit of contrarian in my stand-up.

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