Friday, December 7, 2012

Doing Standup at Holiday Parties, the Epilogue

Two days ago I told you I was going to perform at an office's holiday party, and promised to report back after the show. I wondered, "How awful will it be?" as it was only a question of magnitude. I can now answer that question.
I got to the restaurant at 8:15, by which time the guests were supposed to be done eating. However they actually hadn't even started dinner yet, so we had to push the performance time back to 9:15.
So far so good.
Let me describe the room I was going to perform in: It was a long, narrow room with a big table running the length of it. If you stood at one end everyone could see you, but the people at the other end were too far away to hear you, because there was no microphone. If you walked to the middle of the room half the crowd had their back to you.
So far so good.
When I returned an hour later people were still eating. I said, "They're still eating," and the host replied, "Yeah, but it's just dessert." This doesn't change the fact that people don't like to laugh with their mouths full, but it was less problematic then the fact that everyone was talking, walking around, and at a level of drunk you can only reach if you're wearing khakis.
I told my host to introduce me. He said, "Doogie Howser is here!" and that was it.
I tried to start my set but nobody was listening. They were talking, standing, eating dessert. I tried to do a little crowd work, at least get some people looking in my direction.
"What did you guys have for dinner?"
Somewhere, a lady said, "Fish."
"Was it good?"
"Yes."
"Uh . . . how was it prepared?"
I had nothing. They were ignoring me. I was a man standing near a table, talking loudly to myself.
I screamed, "I am fucking hilarious! I'm so funny you're going to shit yourselves! I hope you enjoyed that fancy fucking meal, because you're going to see it again in 5 seconds!"
There was an audible gasp and the clink of someone dropping a fork on their plate. The room went dead quiet, and in the silence an old lady said, "I thought this was supposed to be a G-rated comedy show?"
"In my defense," I said, "I've only said 'fuck' twice so far."
"Well it doesn't have to be G-rated," someone said diplomatically, "but it's gotta be at least PG-13."
"Which one of you is 12?" I asked the room of 40 year-old office workers.
People started talking again. A girl whispered something to the guy next to her and they laughed. I moved towards the center of the room, talking as I walked, but in my mind I was sliding down the side of a glass skyscraper, scrabbling for handholds. "I'm taking a creative writing class. The first story I wrote was about a Russian submarine captain who falls in love with a mermaid . . ."
Now that I was in the middle of the table, half the audience had their backs to me. And guess what? They didn't turn around.
I suddenly realized there was a radio over my shoulder, softly playing Fiona Apple. I've been a bad, bad girl. I've been careless with a delicate man.
A guy stood up and started talking to two old ladies. I stopped my act and watched them have a conversation for a solid minute, then loudly asked him, "ARE THOSE FRIENDS OF YOURS?" He didn't look at me and left the room.
I scanned the long table: people shoving ice cream in their mouths; a guy in a turtleneck chugging merlot; a woman with her face buried against her shoulder like a sleeping bird. I knew if I didn't leave soon I would start screaming insults at them, so I threw my hand up, said "Goodnight!" and walked out, an exit that went unnoticed by most of them.
I passed the restaurant owner on the way out and he asked, "How were they?"
"I hope they burn in hell," I said, which was the most diplomatic response I could think of, although it may not have sounded as equitable as I had intended.
It's the first show I've ever walked out on.

7 comments:

  1. did you get paid for the gig before time?

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  2. Terrible. Reminds me of the time I performed in between Dr. Dog and the Teeth at Doc Watsons.To this day it's the most I've ever been paid to yell drunken insults at people who couldn't even hear me. 50 bucks.

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    1. Of course the truth of the matter is you'd insult people for free, just for the love of the game.

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  3. Fiona Apple was at the party?

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  4. I think we've all been, at one time or another, "a man standing near a table, talking loudly to himself."

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  5. If it's any consolation, I'm sure that old lady will be dead soon. As well she should be.

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