This past week, I had the fortune of visiting Los Angeles, my former home town for many years. I was doing workshops at a corp gig as part of the Atheist Alliance International, (there will be a post on this on the GodlessGrief Myspace page, and blog). But as part of my trip, I wrote to about 30 or so clubs asking if there were spots open that I could try some material in- and got some great responses, and some not great ones. But, I took two offers up, and I write about them as a warning and as delightful surprise that could aid my co-comics out in the future.
The first, is the good, because no one seems to talk about good stuff anymore. But there's a small room in a church basement of an episcopal church. I know, you don't usually hear ME talking about going to some church, but this was different. David Corrado runs a little show Friday Nights in St. Bede's in Mar Vista, with a combination of music and comedy as the theme for the evening, and it's just terrific. I didn't really bring A- material, because, really, had no idea what the room was, and didn't really plan for anything other than working out a brand new bit...but that was perfect.
David and I first met years back when I had a room in Westminster, in a Bennigans, (commence Butters imitations now), and people like Martin Moreno, Steve Marmel, and Courtney Cronin were regulars- along with Tanyalee Davis, Roz Browne, Julie Kidd, and a few other interesting folks. The room worked because there was no pressure on anyone. It was JUST a work out room and just a place where doing new material is the right thing to do. Headliners came down, did a 15 minute set, and then went back to the Store, the Factory, or the Improv, and killed. It worked because everyone was there from start to finish to support one another, and as emcee and host, I never wanted it any other way.
David's Church Basement show was more than that because there were musicians doing the same gig. I had never been in that atmosphere- and it was kind of hip and wild, and cool, and a throwback to all things I miss about "performance art" which I was so much ensconced in during the 80's. No one was there to do their auditions, and no one was trying to be a tv star, like you'll see ruining the comedy rooms around the city- it was just people who wanted to play on stage, and have a great place to do so. David brought that into fruition, big time. He's a humble host, and a funny guy, who gets why people do comedy. If you get a chance to do his space- DO it. The crowd may be small but it's just perfect. And, I'll be back, along with Grace Fraga, and Dana Snow, to do some newer and older stuff, and to feel at home again.
Then comes the opposite of the spectrum. In every year, since 1979, the first year I was on a comedy stage, I have never once did a show where someone said to me, "you must bring at least X number of people or you won't get on stage". Ever. These are prominent in the music community and it was not unusual to see bands walking up and down Sunset, or in Venice Beach, GIVING people money to go see their shows at the Whiskey or Palomino club- the bands did that- the comics didn't. Why? Comedy clubs HAD audiences... people wanted to laugh and didn't care if it was a black guy, a white girl, or a jewish nun doing the show.
So it's now 2008, and I got a response back from one club in North Hollywood, whose name rhymes with "Blah Blah", saying, sure come on down. Wednesday night gig. Okay. Weird night of the week, but okay. And, the only other thing in the email, "do you advertise when you play?" I wrote back, of course, it's all over MySpace, Facebook, etc... and people tell me they'll be there, and usually they make it. Well, Kyle Cease was at the improv, Gabriel Iglesias was at another improv, and the new Laugh Factory Long Beach was luring people with comps that night so I didn't have high hopes that there would be a big "me" crowd- just figured ah, they're open Wednesdays, they must advertise something, too. Silly me.
I told a couple of folks where I'd be...and heard crickets. Just nothing. No warnings. This is why I write. This place is the worst place for ANY comedian to perform for MORE than just a "bringer show" atmosphere. They charge comics a $5 per SODA fee. I have no idea what the liquor costs, but it wasn't that cheap, either I'm sure. There were comics getting charged a COVER fee..uhm... no. NOT cool. And, twenty minutes AFTER the show starts, no one was even told their times on the slots for the night.
A full twenty minutes after a show starts, someone needs to know the slots, and the comics need to know they are going up. But ten minutes after THAT... some guy who was doing part of Mark Pitta's, Jason Stuarts, and even a bit of K-von's act- mostly just posing and pretending he was cute- comes up to me and tells me, "You don't have any people up here yet. Do you expect them to show up soon?"
Uhm. I drove from Las Vegas specificially because on TUESDAY when I called the club to confirm I was told, "Oh yeah, we're doing a show at 9pm. You're set for the gig." I said, "My husband just got out of surgery, do you have any slots later in the week?" The nameless voice, (by the way, the email wasn't signed by anyone either..just blah- blah cafe.... ), saying, "no, we're booked solid two weeks so you have to take this or nothing." I say, "I'll be there an hour early".
I show up... there's a security guard. I ask who I check in with- he says the bartender. The bartender says someone named Eric, (aforementioned hack), and the Eric guy never made an appearance until well after the show began..so I just slunk into the back. Now, anyone will tell you- whether you are Dennis Blair or Celeste Davis, I'm going to stay from the first comic to the last because I know comedians need audiences. I learned when I was playing the 2am slots at the Improv ANY audience is better than NO audience..and never once have left a show before it ended unless I was scheduled somewhere else.
So that said... it's 45 minutes in- no one I know is there..and that kid goes up on stage to do the gay boy dancing routine. Uhm. It's an older bit, and Jason does it better. So does half the Logo TV comics where he probably got it from. And Ian Harvie does the "I'm coming to get you" line with more believability. It was not a great set. He disappears. Never returns. Never tells me I'm going up...and never says anything about me driving JUST for this show. Unproffessional on every level.
I have texts and calls into Roz, Grace, Gulden, and Ant. Gulden tells me to pass the phone to Jack. Well Jack is apparently outside getting screamed at or flirting with someone else on the phone. Never did acknowledge me..or welcome me...or anything..and he's supposed to be the big guy. Okay. So I have a place in Long Beach I have to get to by midnight because there are babies there...
The kicker? I got my cd which is part of the newer bit..the d-jay, aka the security guard, tells me "Oh you're not going on?" He didn't have a set list of who is up... not even the people WORKING know who is going up.
So recapping- Ant, Roz, Gulden, Grace, Dana, David- supportive and wonderful. St. Bede's Friday Night show... really fun, and David is an awesome host. DO that room. Blah Blah club is only in the business of making money OFF of the comedians, and although ONE guy (someone named Hutch? who looked a lot like Cabin Boy...) was funny and had some stage experience, the club wasn't paying attention to anyone. At all. Not worth going all the way up to North Hollywood unless you're looking for an overpriced drink and free parking. Seriously. You can do that on in Vegas- the drive is cheaper- or at your grandma's local bar.
Meanwhile- The Short Bus Comics Show opened this past Friday. I'm emceeing on the 10th. I hope to see the Vegas locals and visiting folks then. Should be a HOOT. GREAT comedians, GREAT body on the nekked one. And, no more cafe gig for YOU or me. (warning warning warning) Just hit the St. Bedes if you want to test material out..you'll be happy. Very.