I have been hesitant to write about this because maybe it would insure that I’ll never work again. As usual Pete has inspired me (or I’m hacking his premise, you choose). I’ll write about my BIG ONE: Friday late night show.
First off: the first show was great. Some dude slapped the stage laughing at a joke. I said,”That’s not a knee slapping joke, that’s a stage slapping joke. That’s the best re-action that joke has ever gotten.” It was a good show.
The second show was packed with rowdy drunks. That’s cool. I looked at them and thought,”This is going to be fun.” No problem. I get on stage. I do my opening jokes. Okay. A dude is yahoo-ing on one side at strange times. I address it. The next thing I remember is that instead of the deafening SILENCE that so many comics fear. I hear the DEAFENING roar of folks talking among themselves. I’m dying but I’m not going into the light just yet.
Instead of whispering, like everyone else is, a woman at the side of the stage is telling a story at the top of her voice to the people she is sat with. They all crack up. I say,”You know I’m right here, it’s not like TV.”
“We were just talking about the Gong Show.” She yells. The whole room cracks up. It took me a couple of minutes until I realized just how fucking evil that was.
Anyway, I’ve completely lost the crowd by this time. Seconds pass like decades.
I say,”Hey, I’ve written some really funny stuff. If you want to hear it I can tell it to you. You have to shut the fuck up first.”
“Let’s move on!” Comes from the crowd.
“To the next joke or the next comedian?”
“Okay. Good night!” I walked off stage.
I go in the green room, where the staff have a stunned looks on their faces. I’m crushed. I don’t know if I should cry or kill myself or find a new combination of those two things. One of the waitresses says she’ll kick everyone of their hillbilly asses for me. The other staff are just shocked. They tell me they’ve never seen that before. Another comic, a local guy, starts laughing,”You challenged the audience?!”
“Yeah, it’s worked before.” I say.
I’m a pariah. No one will look at me at this point. I have this major deformity and it might be catching. I’m hurt. My ego is bruised. I hate my job. I hate my career choice and I wished I had musical talent.
I asked the local comic to take the headliner’s merchandise downstairs for me. I didn’t want to go downstairs. I wanted to go home. Not back to my hotel room. Home. The local comic said he would go down there so I wouldn’t have to.
Then I hear from the stage the headliner say,”You fuckers were mean to Tina, this is her first time in North Carolina. You better go down there after the show and apologize and buy some of her shit.”
“Bastard! Now I have to go out there!” I get up to leave. The GM of the club stops me.
“Tina, you don’t have to go down there. I don’t know what could happen if you do.”
I sit down.
This old road dog whose a friend of the headliner pipes up. “I saw Rosanne get booed off the stage once. See, they just asked you to leave. She got booed off the stage and then stood at the door after the show and smiled at everyone as they walked out.”
“Are you making that up?” I asked. He shook his head no. “Well I don’t care if you are. It’s partly Rosanne’s fault that I’m in this business.” I stomped, proudly down the stairs and set up our merchandise.
The show ended and there I was: trying to smile (even though I’m not a smiley person). The local comic and the old road dog right there with me probably trying to make sure no one tried to kick my ass (like I might be seen as the weak part of the herd they were about to kill off). People start to trickle out. They immediately grab my DVD and throw there money on the table. Some shake my hand. Some apologize. One particularly drunk guy yelped that I had big balls (a compliment, I believe). Another woman hugged me and made me promise not to think of North Carolina badly.
All and all I sold more merchandise out of sympathy that night, than I have at the good shows.
After the show, the headliner, the local comic, the MC, and the old road dog sat and talked. The headliner told his massive bombing stories. Same with the road dog. Then came the stories of famous comics eating shit. The headliner gave me some advice on what I could do better next time. I listened. He’s only been telling jokes to drunks for 25 years. I respect his experience and opinion.
I thought that this might be just a little funny at this point. Maybe they wouldn’t find me splattered on the pavement the next morning. Bet they didn’t think of that when they put me on the top floor of my hotel.
After the show the headliner and I went to the grocery store. While we’re in line the headliner bursts out with,”Well, Tina in 25 years of doing stand up comedy, I’ve never seen ANYONE do what you did on stage. First you ASKED the crowd if they wanted you to leave and when they said YES, you did what they asked you to do and left.”
So I bombed BIG. I bombed BADLY. But at least – at the very least – I bombed in a way that had just a touch of originality. Of all the things that anyone said to me, that is the one thing that really made me feel better. I have tried to convince myself that I at least bombed with dignity, if such a thing is possible.
I go back and forth from laughing about this to thinking I’m an impostor that doesn’t deserve to ever work again. From thinking that I am a decent comedian to thinking I’m totally delusional. People keep on telling me that bombing is inevitable and it makes you stronger. I can tell you that it hurts. The digestion – HURTS. The imprint of 130 drunken fuckheads hating me in unison – stings. In most professions people get rejected by one sober some what reasonable person at a time. Maybe if you’re really important a committee of those people. It’s not something most people ever experience…unless you’re a road comic or Democratic presidential candidate.