I didn’t perform comedy onstage once in 2021, and despite how it was the first year of the 21st century where that was the case, I was perfectly cool with that. I went to one standup gig (in East Lansing, mostly to catch up with friends), and my partner and I had tickets to see Shane Torres in Grand Rapids, but he had to cancel. C’est la vie.
Seeing as how I’ve been on an extended live standup hiatus since September 2020, I didn’t have too much to share here. I started a boutique comedy cassette label, and my manifesto about punk and stand-up comedy I wrote for Razorcake is still on sale, but I’ve already written about both of those things here. I’ve been focusing on teaching, writing, and just being a good domestic partner and cat-dad. I still talk to a handful of lifelong friends I happened to meet doing comedy on a near-daily basis, which makes me happy.
My assorted memories of comedy come raging back in occasional moments, but I did have an epiphany recently. So many of the friends and acquaintances I made over the years (some who stopped standup altogether and others who’ve channeled it into some form of career) tend to dwell on missed opportunities and bad luck. I remembered two different moments of extraordinary luck I had as a producer. There may have been others, but these two reign supreme for me.
Sometime in 2008, Alexandria, VA
Sometime in 2008, the semimonthly showcase I ran at the Laughing Lizard lounge in Alexandria was well-established and in prime position to get cancelled by the bar’s shitty new ownership group that year. Some friends and I would sometimes take moments to appreciate how relatively few “incidents” there had been for a Saturday night show in Old Town Alexandria. For example, not once had a bachelorette party dribbled in off of King Street, which was remarkable considering how we had no safeguards against that specific strain of live-comedy poison.
That luck changed one night in (what I believe was) early 2008, when a group of women staggered in halfway through a showcase, the bride-to-be loudly proclaiming “IT’S MY BACHELORETTE PARTY!” I was sitting in the back of the room, right next to this, and decided to take the high road and not immediately shut her down. My decision may have been motivated by the fact that Rob Maher was onstage at the time – perhaps the best comic in the entire greater DC area to have had onstage in that moment. As much as I tended to dislike crowd-work comics (and still do), Rob is an absolute wizard at it. He kept the energy going AND diffused the obnoxious potential of the bachelorette party, inviting her onstage to take crazy pictures and ended his set by saying, “Congratulations for the next 4-6 years until the law gets involved” or something like that. It blew the roof off the place when a solid majority of comics would have made a mess of that situation. I still think about it from time to time.
July 16, 2018, Knoxville, TN
On Monday, July 16, 2018 (thanks, Facebook event search!), I experienced another piece of extraordinary producer-luck. For our “Friendlytown’s Genealogy Test” episode, every performer submitted three “heritages” into a fishbowl before the show. These could be anything – actual heritages, silly images, or entities that whomever picked them would have to wrestle logic into that thing being a part of their ancestry. The three slips I submitted were “The 1993 Montreal Canadiens,” “A Fuckin’ Cool Dude,” and I don’t remember the third.
Once the show started, I realized that I may have painted a potential performer into the corner with my suggestions, despite how most anybody would have been able to get laughs implying a 90’s hockey team was their ethnic heritage. Fortunately, the person who did pull that tab was Todd Lewis – perhaps the best comic in the entire Southeastern United States to have had onstage in that moment to pull the ’93 Canadiens. He fucking name-checked Eric Desjardins, who I hadn’t even thought about since he 2004 (which is saying something, since he retired in 2006).
I stopped typing there, initially, but because today is Todd’s birthday, I’m gonna go ahead and hit “Publish” and generate some of that good ol’ content. See you all back here in six months, if the last two years are any indication.