In about six
hours, I'll be MC and auctioneer at a fundraiser for my kids'
school. Of course, by the time you read this, it will all be
over and done with, but that's of no real concern, it wasn't
like I was inviting you. In one potential scenario, you'll have
heard about it on fox news or seen unfortunate Youtube footage
before this article is published on I-Mockery. Unless it's the
property of the local DA by then.
Try not to get the vapors. I'm not threatening violence, this
isn't a manifesto. Nowadays those are done on digital video and
I haven't the time, the skills or the interest. All were talking
about here is run of the mill stage fright, or what's left of
I don't perform on a regular basis anymore; I haven't since my
first child was born, because like many babies, she needed to
eat to stay alive. Once in a while the odd charity event like
tonight's. Prior to fatherhood I spent almost a decade laboring
in comedy salt mines and sweatshops up and down the east coast.
Mostly with a touring improv group. We played clubs and
colleges when we were lucky. Mostly we played bars.
When I first started I had miserable stage fright. Stomach
cramps, sweats, the occasional bout of pre show vomiting. Three
hundred or so performances will cure you of that. By the end of
my career only a gig in the Deep South on the edge of army base
or Prison Farm would even make me pop a Tums before I went on.
I'm sure the mind numbing repetition helped me calm down. And
eventually you find out that even if the audience hates you so
much the throw things, you don't die from it. Unless they throw
big or sharp things, and even then the things have to hit you
just right, which by the way is what happened with that comedian
you really really liked who used to be so edgy and now he sucks
But the fact is, I stumbled across a little secret. A way to
spend the few hours before show time that always calms me down.
And I'm going to share it with you. Like I said, I don't perform
much these days anyway, and I have no idea if my method would
work for you or not.
Are you ready?
I'm kidding of course. Heroin is an illegal, addictive,
dangerous drug. While admittedly very calming it's not a good
comedy drug in any case. If you stand on stage with a sleepy,
dreamy grin and mumble, people will laugh, but only for a little
while. Then they get uncomfortable. Didn't I learn that the hard
No, I play a little game. A little 'what if?' game.
If you hang around comedy clubs long enough, you'll see a
performer have a really bad night. Actually, you'll see it a
lot. Anytime you go to what's called a 'showcase' night, where
an endless cavalcade of beginner comics get ten minutes each,
you'll see it. Open Mic nights? Pretty much all you'll see. But
if you really go a lot, you'll see someone have a bad night and
go totally mental. It's worth then wait.
That's what happened to Michael 'Kramer' Richards. And it
happens a lot more often than you'd think. Comedy is a very
stressful profession. Back in the eighties, I saw half a dozen
comics totally flip out on stage. Most of them never got
anywhere professionally, but you'd be surprised.
So the day of a show, I like to relax by thinking "What if
tonight's my night?" Doing comedy is like riding a motorcycle.
Even if you're good, every show statistically increases the odds
you're going to have an ugly crash. The kind of scene that
causes traffic jams for hours 'cause everybody wants to see what
you left on the road.
If that doesn't sound very relaxing to you, I probably haven't
explained myself well enough yet. It's not so much "What if I go
mental tonight?" as "Since one of these days I'm bound to
totally lose it, why not make tonight the night and have it over
with?" I mean, who hasn't been out on the highway after midnight
and thought to themselves "What if I just... kind of... closed
my eyes, took my hands off the wheel and pushed my foot to the
You've never had that feeling? Huh. Maybe that's why no one
wants to ride in my car. Whatever.
Me personally, I find playing out the possibilities in my head
is like some sort of magic charm against it happening. I find it
Well. I'm not being entirely truthful here. It's not so much just
playing out the possibility of totally losing my shit onstage
in my head that calms me down. What I really like to do is taunt
my wife with it.
A couple of hours before a show I like to say "Hey, honey. What
if tonight's the night?" And she knows what I'm talking about.
I've made sure of that. And she's pretty sure I'm just joking
around. But not one-hundred percent certain. Not certain enough
that her coloring doesn't change just a little bit. I've made
sure of that, too.
Have you ever actually met a comedian? 'Cause the thing is, if
you're not totally okay with excrement, you don't grow up to be
And if anything, this little game of mine has gotten to be even
more fun in my semi-retirement. See, 'back' in the 'day', I used
to tell my bride "Hey, sweety, do you suppose tonight's the
night? You got my bail money all set?" and then I'd head off to
some crappy little club full of drunk college. Now I say, "Know
what I was thinking? What if, just follow me on this for a sec,
what if tonight is the night I finally have a psychotic break
down while performing and end up crouching next to the mic
stand in my underwear sobbing?" And I'm not going off to any
club. I'm going to the Elks lodge to raise money for our kids'
school. And she's coming with me.
Did I mention she's the head of the PTO? And that she's the one
who volunteered me? If you've never tortured your spouse like
this just for the fun of it, I'm going to guess you're either
single or in the first three months of your marriage.
I mean, what if, right? What if I'm just so sick of the tension
that builds up wondering if tonight is finally the night the
house of cards collapses? What if tonight I say screw it and
just maybe blow a little on that house of cards? What if, say,
what if tonight, right? I don't just blow on the house of cards,
what if tonight I take it down with a FUCKING AXE?! You
ON THIS ONE?! HONEY?! You GAME?! Cause Poppa's feeling
tonight! VERY GAME INDEED!
I mean, you know, suppose I start small, right? Subtle. Like the
first time I only end up bringing in a twenty-five buck bid on
the fifty dollar 'Ruby Tuesdays' gift card some well meaning mom
donated, I turn to the guy that won it and say:
"Sharp bidding there, fella. You got yourself a real bargain.
That's gotta feel pretty good, you cheap sack of crap. What
about the rest of you, you feel okay with that? Sitting on your
milk-white never worked an honest day in your life hands when
I'm up here trying to raise money for your kids? Okay. Okay. If
that's how it's gonna be."
And then I smile. And I probably get some nervous laughs. 'Cause
this is a no kids event. The Elks are even running a nice little
cash bar. We're all grown ups, right? It's just a little grown
up joke. Hell, it even feels kind of nice to loosen your ties,
let your hair down a little, like you did back before you had
kids and your whole life slowly morphed into the kind of thing
you used to make fun of. "Hey, you're a good sport," I tell the
guy "Go buy the wife a rum and coke. Hell, I did."
And you can see them thinking, can't you? Even as I start
pitching the next item, some free dry cleaning certificates or
lawn care or babysitting, some other piece of suburban happy
crappy. You can see 'em turning it over, what did that mean? Did
he mean he bought his wife a rum and coke? Did he mean he bought
that guy's wife a rum and coke? 'Cause it's not exactly a local
secret Stella Hotchkins is a little fond of the sauce, that's
why no one lets her carpool their kids to soccer, but he
couldn't have been saying that could he?
And it's kind of fun to watch from up there under the lights,
kind of makes it okay that it's a kind of hot, kind of sweaty,
so why not push just a little harder?
"Seventy five dollars? Seriously? The Johnsons are putting up
one of their time-share weekends at the lake and seventy-five
dollars is as high as we're going here? Really? Okay, Eighty,
that's more like it, you're a sport Davis, wise move, nudge it
up just five bucks. What about it Selikmans, you gonna let the
Davis family crush your nuts like that? Franklins, doesn't your
kid have special needs? That shit's not cheap, get into the
Ooooh. Tough crowd. Tough room.
Tell you what all; I think I see what the deal is here. Ya'll
know Mister Johnson would rather slit his throat then spend a
weekend vacation with Mrs. Johnson so you figure the cash value is
only the tax write off anyway. Selikman's saving his money for
#32 right? Case of wine? That oughta be good for a whole
Thursday night. Hell, I'll throw in a pair of Sun Glasses so
your wife won't be embarrassed when she picks Tony and Jane up
the next day.
LAUGH, YOU CHEAP BASTARDS! See, see now, the sunglasses, right,
that's a joke, 'cause see, Selikman's wife will need them to
hide the SHINER he gives her after drinking all the DAMN WINE!
THAT'S RIGHT, IT'S FUNNY, SEE, CAUSE IT'S TRUE! It's too true. Selikman over there is an alcoholic wife beater
AND OH LIKE
EVERYBODY DOESN'T KNOW THAT ALREADY! SOLD, the weekend getaway,
at EIGHTY BUCKS to Mr. Davis! Next up on the block, oh, say,
free Pet Grooming at "Wee Klip 'Em". How about you Mrs. Davis,
it'll give you something to do while your husbands up at the
lake. Don't hold back, check your program, you don't need to
save your money; we're not auctioning Mr. Peterson. OH, OH, LIKE
WE ALL DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT YOU AND PETERSON, NEXT THING YOU KNOW
YOU'LL TRY AND TELL ME YOU DIDN'T KNOW HE WAS BI!!
Honey? Sweetheart? You okay? Don't we have to be over there
'Cause I'm good to go now. No butterflies in this stomach. Gonna
be a great night. Magical.
Anything could happen.
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:
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