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Archive for the ‘Zimmy Speaks’ Category
Zimmy Page, comic author and wielder of puppets has another amusing tale from the road for us today. As a side note, I was in Nelson that year and I was never kidnapped by Lesbians… Hmmmm… I did distinguish myself by getting to the end of a show and puking about 60% of the way through my Hat Pass though… Heat exhaustion was the diagnosis… I just remember feeling like crap. Funny how different people remember an event in such different ways… Zimmy’s story is WAY more entertaining that mine.
d. – checkerhead
“The King Of The Lesbians”
Nelson, British Columbia, 1999. I am kidnapped by lesbians. (more…)
After the last piece by Zimmy Page which was a bit dark I got the following piece which is a lovely response to as he put it “The horror, the horror of the last one.” He wanted to get it up quick to as he put it “Replace the Stink of the last ink,” so here you go! More from the comedic mind of the Zimster!
September 2004. I pull up in the number two lane in my number two car to the red light at La Brea and Sunset.
I have no radio; I have a burgled Tercel…I have my thoughts as usual, and I have too many as usual. How can I afford to pay for my dental surgery? I have to remember to buy cigarettes before Debra Jo yells at me again…More thoughts intrude…Then I hit upon a really good one! I don’t remember what was so damn funny, but as I looked to my left up Sunset, I started laughing really hard. Alone, in a car in broad daylight…in a car without a radio, in hysterics! I looked forward through the windshield to be sure I hadn’t missed my cue…nope, red…permission to continue laughing at nothing granted…so I do! Now I glance right to the number one lane…at a number one car. The Very Very Rich Guy is staring at me, smiling.
Sitting in his bright red Benz convertible, he’s smiling in just szuch a way, I know he not only approves, he…he actually…
I lean in closer to my very open passenger side window. (I couldn’t afford any fucking air conditioning either…)
He’s just so rich and his sports car is just so vanity-plated…he’s obviously smart. He’s just beaming as he says -
Zimmy Page Strikes again! Mr. Page is becoming a regular on the blog and this time around he discusses his familiarity with letting dark humour help make dark situations just a little bit more bearable… Ya gotta laugh cause if you don’ t you’ll cry.
d. – checkerhead
Her goal was to be alone. Robin had recently lost her Mother and her life was getting pretty complicated. We were all done teaching for the day, so she decided to walk the half a kilometer to the hotel and think alone in peace. Neal Rempel, the creator of this project, hears this and decides to forbid it! “A camper of mine…not happy?! She needs to be alone?! Forget it!” She’s walking on the side of the road, in deep snow and with snow falling furiously as he creeps up on her left in a van filled with circus hooligans. He is just riding the brake, inching along beside her doing about four kph as the whole CAMP staff laughs as hard as we ever have. She keeps moving forward, determined to be alone and if possible, melancholy. No way, ma nigs!
“Dad”, as he is sometimes referred to, is just so proud of himself. Phil jumps out to hand our little “Terry Fox” a bottle of Ninon’s water. ( Well, I assume it was hers.) Now Robin starts limping and the van is just rocking with howling laughter. She keeps limping along like a broken Bicycle but we absolutely refuse to give her any privacy. She finally gives it up, just a hundred yards from the hotel and dives into the passenger side window, giggling. Now why would we treat a beloved co-worker in szuch a way? We have to–”She’s our friend!”
Hits and misses, successes and failures…we have fun and we take the piss out of each other while touring around Northern Manitoba, going to aboriginal reservations to teach circus skills. The Circus And Magic Partnership has an incredible power to it. How many weeks are there in a year? Wrong. There are only TWO! The two best weeks of the year… The things we see are harsh, the conditions of the villages we visit are miserable and the kids look hopeless when we first see them. It’s backward and brutal: it’s a lot like being on M.A.S.H. Rough conditions, best of intentions. If you make jokes about it, water it down a bit, it’s almost funny. If you take it straight you could really hurt yourself.
Her name was Crystal, this student of mine in my first year. She had gold flecks of paint in and around her nose. “What’s that all about?” I found out…Someone somewhere at sometime had taught her that you can get high if you huff spray paint, and that gold paint works the best. She learned that. That means she could learn something else. Maybe she could learn a useful skill…but only if we get to meet up with her first. I took it all wrong, feeling nothing but emptiness and despair for this little lottery loser. Then the other artist/instructors came to my rescue, making cruel and insensitive remarks about it just to dull the pain and get me back to the real mission at hand–make these kids smile. So we made a few quips about how her friend smelled from huffed gasoline, and how incredibly stupid that is–and that’s how you get around the horror…the horror.
Way up in Thompson, in one of the earliest crew line-ups, Chris the magic instructor stumbles into a room, his head three feet in front of his body as usual, where most of us are watching “Full Metal Jacket.” “I was in the bar downstairs and I was thisclose to a blowjob!” “What’s the matter? The taste turn you off?” “Fuck you, Lee!” I had to do it of course–he’s our friend! His name became “Private Pyle”, after the OTHER numbnut with the major malfunction in the film. Oh, the things we say to each other…the horrible horrible things we say to each other after school hours about the kids and all the miseries we’ve witnessed. The hardest I have EVER laughed has been with these people, year after year…but the things that we laugh at are AWFUL. Awful funny, but I mean–Ouch! There is one now-legendary joke I will not credit OR repeat because it is in fact the single WORST thing I ever heard. I also laughed way too hard at it! It can be found in a very simple code in this essay. You figure it out.
Harder jokes from our fearless leader include, “If you see a kid with a sharpie and he tells you he got it from his Dad, just take it from him and say, But you don’t HAVE a Dad!” “If a kid tries to get into the school without a CAMP shirt, don’t believe any excuse he gives you. “My shirt is inside there, orrr I need to get my hat, orrrr I’m having Decker’s baby.” The shocked look on Decker’s little ferret face–he was the only performer/instructor that wasn’t bent over in hysterics. Is that wrong? No! We HAVE to do that. When my father died, Neal was the nicest guy in the world, called me up that next day and offered his kindest support. Three months later, I walk into a CAMP classroom and he says, “Hey! Where’d you get that sharpie? You don’t HAVE A dad!”
Then I cringed….and I laughed a little, too. Before you judge him, consider this. Neal might say something like, “This year I’m gonna call Phil “Tea Bag.” We all assumed Neal knew what it meant in nasty sexual street lingo, but he swears he didn’t. It was sooo great listening to every single kid say,”Hi Tea Bag. It’s my turn now right, Tea Bag?” The phrase “Hey Tea Bag, how much minutes ’til it’s my turn?” became staff lore. Names. CBG, aka Dave Aiken had a brief run under the nickname “Pac-Man Aiken”, because he took it upon himself to pack up the vans that year. The next year, he didn’t seem to enjoy his new nickname anywhere near as much–”Clay Aiken.” He’s probably glad it didn’t take.
That can happen–I am strictly forbidden from telling how I got the embarrassing nickname “Man Hole”, but I CAN tell you that Dean is called “Sugar”, ’cause he gives it up, so sweet!’ “Smithers” was so-named because he did all the little things that Neal/Mr. Burns found distasteful, such as pumping gas in the cold…”You do it, Smithers!” Smithers only worked that one year, so we named his replacement ‘Snowball II’, as in the Simpson’s replacement cat. We’ve had a lot of ‘Snowballs’ since then…and one Sting. Colin is “Sting” because he once said that Nirvana was overrated–then he said something nice about the Police. I won’t repeat it for fear of “Neal/Col. Kurtz’s” reaction–braking dangerously on a highway from 130 kmh to zero in something like twelve feet just to run out of the van, throw open the side doors and viciously attack “Sting.”
Before we knew it, other names were given–F’n Bob, 9-iron, Gay Little Grin, Flaaaaaaaaaaaaaan-ders…he HATES that so don’t use it…Mug O’ Meat, RobNut, Bitter Fly, L. Ron Pearson, Clumpy, Snarky Clark, “Annie”…nicknames are given, used, forgotten and resurrected and they’re usually mean. Why is that? Why do we have to be so mean? Because–you’re our friend!
He’s the funniest man known to me but like most of his staff, Neal’s a burnt marshmallow. Blackened and hard on the outside, complete goo in the middle. If you peel away the hard black part, you’re unprotected if say, Stacy Clark gets an autistic kid up on a trapeze…that kid was literally running through the air! You see something like that and you might get veklempt. You might cramp up in your throat fighting off tears…You may have to duck out like Kurtz almost did, or look away, like Man Hole did…lest anyone see the goo pouring out of you. Way to go, “Snark”!
Rapes can even be made ‘funny’ in the hands of the masters. Even death can be funny. We even managed to survive a student’s suicide one year at the camp that Sugar puts on in Calgary, but only after treating ourselves to a fresh coat of protective comedy blackness.
Her name was Linda, and she was having fun when I saw her last…That’s the objective according to the Main Man. To give each kid a moment. One moment that stands out in their memories should their lives become too dark; a single moment where they were happy that they can have, hold and relive in a crisis. “Just keep them moving in a looooove direction!” Linda was laughing and making plans for her performance as she left school that day, but that night…Oh Linda, how could you hurt yourself like that? Jebus Linda, how could I have done better for you? What did someone forget to tell you about life and pain and survival? Didn’t you even give a shred of thought to how this will hurt all of us? How dare you kill yourself…oh, man. That one really threw us. This was a spin-off of Neal’s program, he was merely consulting, so he was not present when it happened. I called “Dad” in Winnipeg, just as my other ‘brothers’ had done…he was expecting my call. “Dude…it’s no one’s fault. It has nothing to do with you or the program. We do all that we can. We just met her too late.”
Zimmy Page Strikes again! The Sunday guest blogger tradition continues with this fantastic take on traveling as a performer! Hope you love this piece as much as I did!
d. – checkerhead
I don’t remember much. There were all these strange little creatures buzzing about, speaking some crazy-sounding language. I had this awful feeling of dread as they took me into this big room with all these bright white lights. Then this other one, I guess he must have been their leader or something because his uniform was a little different. He leads me into this other smaller room. They stripped me down, turned me about and began to probe me. At one point, I turned around and there must have been about five or six of these creepy little beings all gang-probing me. It was ter-rib-le…weep, weep, weep!
No doubt about it; going through customs in Singapore was the worst.
(You know, they stamp a skull and bones right on your passport just to remind you that they kill people for drugs there. “Welcome to Singapore, imperialist dog! If you brought any herb with you, prepare to die. Have a nice day.”)
Traveling is far and away the best and worst thing about choosing street performance as a career. My buddy Mickey O’Connor quotes the adage–”I don’t get paid to perform, I get paid to travel.” That’s because it just plain SUCKS to travel now. It used to be so glamorous, “jetting” here or “jetting” there. Something bad must have happened in like, late 2001, because ever since then, moving a whole show of props, a week’s worth of regular people luggage and my own ass through airports just about kills the joy of getting to see this planet on someone else’s dime.
Still, it is great once you’re there. Wherever you land is usually pretty fantastic. I mean, how great and smart are British audiences? Plus, you’re in the U.K. Congratulations! Top of the food chain, baby. Ever been to Japan? Dave Aiken is HUGE there…he towers over his audiences. I hear that buskers are beloved in Brazil and cities like Barcelona and Prague.
Personally, I love Canada the best. The people are probably the nicest anywhere. As audiences, they’re razor sharp like an L.A. audience, but they’re unarmed. I like that.
Most countries will love you more if you make an effort to speak the local language. Knowing how to say your hat lines in Quebec-quois gives them the sense that you’re no tourist, man. You care about them. Now you’re a welcome guest. (Yes, I called Quebec a country…but only because it IS one.)
Same thing if you learn those same lines in Parisian, they WILL notice the effort…unless of course, you’re from the States. For the last time, I wish to explain this. I do not create U.S. foreign policy. I just live there. I don’t even vote. Voting is for suckers! Remember George W. Bush? We didn’t elect him–TWICE! They do whatever the hell they want, man. I’m just here to learn parts of my show in your language, make you smile and then bugger off. I may foul one or two of your local women, but I won’t endorse or enforce any of my countries’ insane politics. (Okay, maybe three women if I can lose the last of this beer weight.)
Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not some farcical hipster doofus marionette ceremony!
It was in Cannes, France that I experienced the worst anti-American contempt of my life. They lost the ONLY key they had to my quaint little hotel room, right during the half hour I was supposed to be on stage at the MIP-TV convention. That same key re-appeared on cue just seconds after my gig was ruined. I think it was done to me just because of my passport.
The worst part is, the British producer who hired me understood. He knew it was possible and therefore, true. That’s okay, I got even with ‘em. I kidnapped a French guy and actually bathed him. Gave him a splash of deodorant…he was instantly deported.
Here’s a great example of my performance persona standing in conflict with my nationality. I was working in Vlissengen, Holland. I went into a restaurant with a fellow busker from Scotland. He ordered his meal in his thick accent and with no problem.
I tried to order, even attempting to read it as written–I wanted a hot dog. Of course, the word for hot dog in Dutch is something like “hottendorgen doggendonkendonkendurgan.” (I think one of the ‘o’s had a line through it…I mean, what the hell is that?)
I guess I said it wrong because all of the other patrons gave me foul glares…my own accent so rich in U.S.-itude.
I apologized profusely, citing “how difficult I found the language to pronounce.”
The owner replies, and correctly so, “Really? Because I see it being spoken every day by very, very small children.” He was right. He was also a fascist douche bag who deserved my wrath. The whole place howled, and all twenty patrons made me feel like a political rodent. I held my tongue though, as I didn’t want any “spitten hocken” on my sammitch, okay?
We walk around the corner and are stopped cold by two couples…four well-dressed perfect human specimens, the kind of people you only see in beer ads and Holland.
“You! You are The Puppet Guy! Everyone on the boardwalk is talking about the show you make here today! Let us take you out…let us show you around!”
And they did. They were fantastic and warm, wonderful hosts. I didn’t have the heart to feel anything but overjoyed…I instantly forgot the ugly events of five minutes earlier.
That’s because Lee Zimmerman is just some obnoxious loudmouth from the United States.
The Puppet Guy is a citizen of Earth.
The third instalment from Zimmy Page… A wonderful look at the world that materializes when Street Performers Gather!
I tried to explain to a normal person what it’s like to travel around and hang out with other street performers all the time. I quickly realized that it almost defies description. And if you’ve ever appeared at one of these international class street performer festivals yourself, then you know that I’m right.
Most people live their whole lives, maybe they get to meet ten interesting, unique characters. Other people stop in the middle of the boulevard, draw attention to themselves somehow, get folks to watch them and get paid to do it. Other people are different.
Going to a place where a lot of The Others are congregating is better than the circus coming to town. A lot better.
First of all, you’ll be spending a good stretch of time with anywhere from twelve to fifty hilarious, unusual people, some of them with amusing accents. We’re talking about people who had to invent a job for themselves in order to survive in a normal world. Many of them are heavy drinkers and physically beautiful as well, so you may not wish to attempt this lifestyle while married.
And the skills that some of these people have are often baffling…not just the amazing weird-ass show that they came up with, but all the other mutant, strange gifts they possess.
How many of them are musicians–75 percent? 80?
It takes a musician’s timing to launch a street show, so that doesn’t surprise. A lot of buskers seem to have created amazing kids, too. And that does surprise.
There are so many world class performers that can do incredible, cutting edge computer shit. People who can sew and design clothing, sculptors, true artists who use glass, iron and wood…AND they can gather up strangers into a ring. How about those super-smart builders who can construct virtually anything the mind can dream up, like Peter Boulanger and Tom Comet? And almost all of these people are funny. Almost.
That’s why it’s never fun to go to the first meeting–’orientation.’
Most of my peers aren’t very Oriented to begin with…except for Master Lee. Most of us are decidedly DIS-oriented and we like it. It takes effort and costs good money. Money you do not want to waste. The last buzz-kill you need is to be stuck in a room filled with a dozen class clowns TRYING to outdo one other in the “Circle Of Judgment.”
The co-ordinator is rambling on as you paw absently through your envelope, “yes yes yes I won’t set up there no no no I won’t pull the kids pants down like that guy did that year that time no no no I won’t be racist…I swear, whenever I see any Jews around I promise to shut up, okay?” …blah blah blah.
No, the real joy of being a street performer at a street performer festival is found in the tents and green rooms between shows. Even better is the hang back at the hotel. Watching the stilt guy learn to juggle from the yo-yo guy who’s also a killer dancer…his bendy chick girlfriend wants you to stand still so she can do body curls hanging backwards off of your torso. Sure, baby.
If she likes you and the room is quiet enough, Emma Lloyd can lean into your ear and create the sound of mice tap dancing. Rhys Thomas can recite pages and pages of memorized dialogue like Shel Silverstien poetry for instance…but only in linear form. If he misses a line he has to start over again. Pee-Wee Murray can lay on his back…and leap up into the air using only his back muscles. He gets serious air, too! Eric Amber, who normally speaks with the hushed reverence of a bishop, can fashion the “C” word into over a hundred meanings, tenses and uses.
It’s so great to just absorb all the laughter the riffing the scheming the pissing contests, and of course everyone has a Jimmy Wong story or a Kim Kelley anecdote, and some of them are actually not unpleasant…naaaah, not really. They’re all pretty bad.
It’s never failed to stop me in my tracks at some point during the week–”This is all way too cool to take for granted.”
And then at night, guitars appear. This can be great. But what if it’s God-awful ukuleles, oy! People cluster up into teams as in every micro-culture.
The drunks always find each other and figure out if they have enough booze left.
The nerds always find each other to play “Settlers” and figure out if they have enough wheat left to play other nerdly board games.
The sluts always find each other to play “Bodies”. “Look there, nature lovers–she’s displaying!”
There are even outsiders. Can you believe that?!
Buskers that are also outsiders– sitting alone and dejected while surrounded by many other seemingly happy outsiders.
“Thirty certifiable nut jobs we got here, gathered up drunk in a room, and you can’t talk to any of them? Well, you go right ahead and just sit there staring. It’s your lucky day, smelly. We don’t ALLOW that around here. Wipe that gloopy look off your face and pull up a chair! We’ll make you have fun!”
This goes on for three, maybe thirteen days in some places, man. It’s so exciting to be inside this bubble, and the first few times you do one of these fests, it really affects you. It can change the way you think about yourself, your show, or even your place in the world.
You may even change countries.
Think of this: think of all the buskers who have pollinated, pollinated again and even cross-pollinated. Too many to count, but just enough to launch a really creepy porno site.
The examples that we all know of are hilarious to some, painful to others. Of course when it’s painful to some, that’s when it becomes even more hilarious to others.
I just love the Others. I used to hate the Others–now I’m their leader.
Just kidding–I don’t lead anybody.
But just like the rest of my street performing family and friends, I don’t follow anybody either.
Another great piece by my friend Lee Zimmerman… I’m reminded of that quote from Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come.” Sundays on the blog are starting to turn into the home for guest bloggers and I’m excited by the content that’s being generated. Fantastic stories from the road that help capture just why that old stand by – “There’s no business like show business!”
Talk about your memorable appearances. I got a gig working at the Glen Eden Nature Resort outside of Los Angeles: a family nudist colony. I asked if they expected me to work without clothing, because if you want me naked well, that requires more floor space.They said no, they just needed my regular street show, something for families, not too long, one or two hours, three short sets, people milling about ga blarka blarka.
“Sure, perfect; I’m gonna bring my wife if that’s okay.” Like I had a choice! My wife, (at that time), hears about this job and she insists that she go with me to see the freak show that it promises to be. I wondered if I could do this show politely. I don’t want to burst out laughing, but I surely will. How to prepare myself mentally?
I brought out my regular gear, set up my regular puppet show and cued up my regular sound track, only with one additional sound byte. Everyone knows the old adage about speaking in front of a live audience–if you get nervous, just picture the audience in their underwear.
I hit play. Barney Gumbel from The Simpsons pipes up in a slow, slap echoed voice…”Picture dem in dere undawear!”
And I did. I had to, man! Do you know how few people there are on this Earth that should parade around naked? It’s like three in a hundred, and I didn’t see any of those three here.
There I stood, fully clothed and blushing as I feigned eye contact and stared at my feet…it was just too freaking WEIRD. Teens, oldsters, you name it. I am performing for 50, maybe 60 nekkid families. People of all ages–and most of them were the wrong age to be nekkid!
Too young! I feel creeped out. Or too old…”aren’t YOU creeped out?”
Some of the brown wrinkled flesh bits were hanging down and swinging about, drained of every ounce of natural fluid they ever had and they just dangled, covering the bits you wouldn’t want to see anyway. Teenage girls were asking questions and picking up my props.
I was pretty flustered so I just stared down…then waaaay up…then down…”keep looking over their heads now shift your gaze back down to the stage, yes behold the beautiful dented stage…don’t look at Debra Jo or you’ll fall off your ladder laughing…okay, good…now look up and over their heads…great.”
The shows went fine and I got my cash. I only had one show left to go. Then this one silver-haired Lothario finds out who my ex-wife is, and freaks out. He has her cover issue of Playboy back in his Winnebago, “Could she sign it and could she let him drive her around the facilities?!” Some naked guy just stole my wife. I can see the look of terror in her eyes as he tears off with her in a golf cart. She thinks he’s the naked guy who’s paying us, so she figures she has to be nice. The naked woman who DID hire me says, “Look out, that guy’s a player!” Eeeeeeewww!
He looks a little like a nude bronze “Larry”–Jack Tripper’s horny neighbor on “Three’s Company”…with hideous bushy chest hair and his shirt unbuttoned right down to there–if he HAD a shirt. He wore a few chains and cologne and I must admit, he had a great rack. Debra Jo picks it up here.
“He takes me the loooong way around the park, pointing out this and that. He’s flirting with me, drivin’ around with all this gray body hair and stinky cologne, and his thing is just sitting right out there! He’s telling all the people who are standing in front of their mobile homes, cooking on grills, to head on down to the pool, ”There’s a big puppet show over by the pool!”
“There were two young girls wearing clothes and they go, “Great! Let’s go!”
But he says, “No! You know the rules, you can’t wear your clothes around the pool!”
“Oh yes we can!” “No, you can’t.” It was making me SICK!”
I did my last show for a lot less folks while Debra Jo signed little scraps of paper for all these nice, but admittedly unusual people…I was off the hook.
The naked worshipers wanted to revere their naked goddess. Listen–I understand the fascination. She’s my best friend, always will be and when we talked about this the other day she was in hysterics, having forgotten her own great joke.
We had to back out of the nekkid parking lot, with throngs of saddle-skinned sun-lovers trailing along by our side. So close was the Silver Fox Guy to our car that I almost ran over him.
Debra said the funniest thing she ever said in the eighteen years I’ve known her.
“Don’t hit him! He can’t go to the hospital…he’s not wearing clean underwear!”
(This post was contributed by Mr. Lee Zimmerman about his experience when he first moved to LA many moons ago… It’s a treat to have him contribute this post to the blog and I hope the feedback is such that he is encouraged to write more…. d. – checkerhead)
Back in 1991, I got a chance that few people ever get. I met a magazine editor named Richard Waner. He said he really loved my show after seeing me perform in Venice, Ca. and that he could hook me up with “something better than the street.” I had only arrived in town about five weeks earlier from Philly, so I didn’t know if I could believe anybody. But, boom!–he had great connections. He arranged for me to perform a six minute showcase at The Improvisation in Hollywood.
I was never as nervous before or since as I was when I saw who was performing there that night, their names scrawled loosely on a chalkboard next to the bar. Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Lovitz, Bill Maher and six other people I admired…I read the name Roseanne Arnold, which was the style at the time.
It was obvious that I was a little freaked out. Budd Friedman the club owner said, ”Why don’t you take a quick walk around the block, you got time” and I sharped, “Great idea!” I shot out the door ka-CHUNG! for a fast walk and tried to calm down…yeah, right.
I turned right and walked up Melrose Blvd, contemplating my entire life up to that moment. It’s the first week of June. I remember that the sun was just heading into the golden hour. I turned left on Fairfax and saw the Hollywood sign for the very first time since moving to L.A. That made me feel better, actually… It felt like I’m getting closer to my dreams, and why not? I really had worked hard, put in the hours, paid my dues, suffered for my craft, performed in the cold. I actually did try new things, develop and enhance my material as best I could for years, hell; maybe I CAN do this. And if I CAN do this, why I never have to question my talent or worth as an entertainer again! If I pull off even a decent show, the Mayor Of Show Business will cut a sash with my name on it, kiss my cheeks and squeeze my bum. I never have to do another thing in this industry. It will mean that nine years of hard work equal true validation, once and for all. Anyone who ever mocked my dreams could just take a great big ol’ SUCK.
And I can have ALL OF THIS if I can just get my heart to slow down to a survivable rate for a mere six minutes. Impossible!
I skulked in, grabbed my stage gear and hovered by the main door with Budd. He said, “Don’t worry. If you fuck up, only two or three people will be fired.”
They announce my name and I saunter up to the stage, but I’ve never really worked with a mike before. I muttered something about being a little scared.
“What are these people thinking, hiring a puppet show to work at the Improv?”
They giggled nervously for me.
I set up my little stage and cued the sound guy for Jimi Hendrix, “Rock Me, Baby.” Right off, I can tell it’s working. They start moving and even screaming at every new sight gag and I’m thinking to myself, I swear I thought this–”all those years of street–having to be funny every eight seconds! Other comics take their time, a laugh every fifteen seconds because they can…not on the street, man. I am absolutely killing right now! This can’t actually be happening!”
Everybody there wanted me to do well, you could just feel it. They were feeding me energy in waves. I am nothing if not foolishly honest, and I tell you this–I could physically feel the power of that audience wash over me. So, I kept on hitting it really hard and really fast…God bless Street Training!
The audience is whooping it up, just loving every little thing, getting up on their feet to see it all, and I’m giggling nervously, having an out of body experience. I’m barely able to stop smiling. I don’t think I ever did actually–except in the really sensual parts, where Jimi’s solos force me to make that Jimmy Page face that I make when I’m on stage. Goofy guitar hero gushy faces and winces and a pile of expressive whatever it is…can’t help those, man…and I always always always do a little dance on my ladder. This is no exception.
I’m giving up a solid performance, maybe a seven or an eight. I mean, we all know our skill level and if you judge as harshly as I do, I gave ‘em a nice strong eight. I can live with an eight. I am OPENING with my finale and doing so with no tangles, nice and clean. When I hit the last note–BAM–the puppet drops, Jimi’s paper mini-amps fall over. There’s a split second beat, a vacuum gasp of air from the audience and then ‘WHAHH!’ APPLAUSE! There in the dark, a bunch of standing people. The volume and intensity actually knocked a little bit of wind out of my chest. Validated! Mark Lonow is standing in the light of the sound booth. He’s the other owner of The Improv and after more roars from the crowd, he opens up the sound man’s mike, because it’s obvious to everyone that I couldn’t actually speak.
“I think we found someone new!” More applause. I gulped it together, but I had to wipe my eyes as I bent down behind my backdrop, reaching for the next puppet.
I won’t lie; my eyes were a little wet from the sheer ecstasy of this moment and I giggled up a twisted little release of air. I just stood there for a second beaming, trembling with relief…I said something that got a nice laugh, then I did David Byrne, “Who Is It?” One minute, forty-four seconds. It absolutely KILLED. The audience reactions were getting bigger and bigger and then it ended with a giant crescendo of laughs and applause–Boomf!
6 and half perfect minutes on stage. I walked on clouds on top of feathers braised with marshmallows for the next five hours. The staff was flipping out, I finally relaxed and I got to meet all my comedy heroes–Jerry Seinfeld was on that stage just a few comics later.
I had just set foot in town six weeks earlier, with a broken heart and 243 dollars. This was the day that I really arrived in Los Angeles.