The answer to the title of this blog is, six. Yup, that’s all you need. At least, that’s all I needed. Last night was my Headlining debut at a local El Paso, Texas bar called Coconuts. The promoter has run that show for over 3 years now, every week on Tuesdays. For the most part, the place is typically full of people on Tuesday’s Comedy Nights. On this night particular night, however, the NBA playoffs were going on and a well known rock group was in town to perform at another venue. The bar had at least half the size that we had grown accustomed to. As the NBA games were finishing and as showtime approached, the place got a little emptier. The show, however, must still go on.
Our host for the evening took to the stage and did his best to set the mood. He immediately had to deal with a drunk heckler who was relentless in shouting out what she thought of the show so far. Our host dealt with the distraction well enough to move on. By the time he introduced the first comic, more people were beginning to leave. Our first comic did his thing and plugged along despite very little reaction from a crowd that seemed distant and unamused. Like the professional that he is, he earned his laughs and never wavered from doing what he has been perfecting for so long. The comic ended his set with a smile on his face and left a few smiles in his wake. The seats, however got a little more empty.
Our feature and promoter then took to the stage and took complete control, as he has always been able to do. This was his room. He had tamed this room every Tuesday night, every week, for 3 years and has perfected the task. On this night, considering that the crowd had now dwindled down to six people, he finished his set quicker than usual and got off the stage leaving a good vibe in the room. Now, it was the Headliner’s turn…me.
By the time my slot came up, there was absolutely no one sitting in the tables in front of the stage. Several other local comics had shown up and occupied the stools at the end of bar and were doing their own thing. I never count them as audience members anyway. After all, they’ve only heard my jokes over a 100 times. Along the front of the bar were six people; two couples and a pair of buddies who had been there for the entire show. Before I was introduced by the host, I grabbed the mic stand off the stage and placed it right in front of the bar in the area where all the empty seats were. If the front of the stage was to be empty, I was going to move the stage to an area of the bar that wasn’t. I had no opening joke. There was no need for one. I simply started out by saying, “I’m performing for you six people today. Ignore the guys at the end of the bar. They are all comics and don’t give a crap about what I’m going to say so, let’s see who we’ve got left? We’ve got a couple here at the end. Are you all a couple or just touching pee pee’s? Oh, hooking up? So, you found each other on Craigslist or Mocospace? Cool. How about this other couple? Oh, married five years? Wait, your husband just got out of prison after two years, so you’ve technically been married for three years? Were you married to some dude in prison or was your lady here really patient? And here we have our third couple. I see that you are sitting next to each other with a “buffer” stool in between, so you’re not gay, right? You know, this place only has one urinal and no “buffer” urinal? It made it very awkward when I went in there and peed at the same urinal with another dude that was in there. I think he left?”
None of these lines were comedy gold by any means, and most of it was hack, but we were all having a conversation and, rather than heckle, they were all having a conversation right back with me. Every now and then, they would mention something that led me right in to one of my prepared jokes and the whole thing seemed like I was thinking it up right on the spot! It took a few minutes, but before you knew it, all six of them were laughing hysterically! After about fifteen minutes I said, “I think this would be a good time to end the show.” They didn’t let me. They actually said, “No, no! Keep going, keep going!” So, I kept going… for the first time in my seven years of doing stand up comedy, I had reached my audience on a personal level. One of the six had just gotten out of prison, one claimed to have been a stripper, one was unemployed, one was there just to “hook up”, one was there as the patient prison wife and the other was a computer programmer enjoying the laughs. I had gotten to know each of these individuals in the way a comic usually doesn’t get a chance to. That night, I was their friend and they were mine. And they let me talk. They let me perform. They let me entertain them.
They did more for me than I could have ever done for them. They laughed with me…