Monday, June 4, 2012

My 15 Minutes with a Headliner: What I Learned

Fame is weird.

I am not famous, nowhere near it, don't think I ever will be, but I am an amateur comedian and was in the ACME Comedy Contest two weeks ago (it goes all summer and a lot of really funny open-mikers that I know are also taking part). Oh, and humble brag, my name is in an ad in Lavender magazine this week because I'm doing a gay-themed show at CAMP Bar in St. Paul hosted by Matt Iverson (SHAMELESS PLUG!). Still, I am an open-miker, amateur with a capital "A", and I write this post not to claim that I am anything other than that, but because I was in the car with a national headliner for approximately 20 minutes the same week I was in the contest and I wanted to learn anything I possibly could.

I have been following him on Twitter on Facebook for a little over a year, and while I wish I could tell you I discovered him because I'm such a loyal student of national touring comedians, I found him on Brent Everett's Twitter (I am NOT linking to it. And DON'T Google it. Although he did call me "babe" once. Brent, that is, not the comedian. Also, Brent calls everyone "babe" but I'm gonna still relish the moment) and thought he was really good at what he does -- he's raw and ravenous but somehow I'm not comfortable calling it vulgar, because there's more to it than that -- and I also learned my first lesson, which was:

Lesson #1: You Want to Get Anywhere in This Business? Work Your Ass Off.

The guy is in a different town every week, and often gives away tickets to his fans and encourages them to bring friends so they can bring new ones. He's very good at interacting with his fans on Twitter and Facebook, which is how I ended up in the position of driving him from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to his hotel on Tuesday of the week of my contest (my night was that Thursday).

I was nervous, of course. I'm a terrible driver. What if I got us injured? Also, while I'm sure he's liberal and just a week before he had done a pro-gay Facebook post, I was still nervous about the big pink elephant in the Honda CR-V. What if he felt weird without being in the car with a gay dude? Should I use my guy voice? Thankfully, I knew I wouldn't be attracted to him or anything.


OH, WAIT, HE LOOKS LIKE A MODEL. Colin Kane isn't just ridiculously good-looking for a comedian -- seriously, comedians are graded on a curve in the looks department, and I say that with love, fellas! -- he's ridiculously good-looking for a person on this earth. I was definitely going to lower my voice three octaves, be "Jake" the whole time, and convince him I was heterosexual and knew all the stats of the Minnesota Twins. Besides, I'm still bitter about "The Gay Mob" never being produced, and decided that this new endeavor would now be my greatest role.

I am proud to say that I lasted 28 seconds. The passenger door inexplicably wouldn't open (which, of course, has never happened, and the only time it does is when I'm chauffeuring a celebrity. Thanks, world). He sat in the passenger seat and was far too gracious to mention he was uncomfortable, but I could tell he was, folded up like an accordion.

"You can move the seat back," I said. "How tall are you?"
"6'3," he said.
Then I swooned. Five seconds later he (very, very heterosexually) asked if I had a boyfriend. 28 SECONDS, Y'ALL. That would be record time at a rodeo.

Still, I wanted to learn, learn, learn, and not talk shop per se, or pretend to be remotely at the same level of my career. In the 20 minutes of the car, I learned the importance of having a strong work ethic, and doing stand-up anywhere and everywhere you can. I didn't do any of my shtick or jokes (I imagined that would be obnoxious), but when he asked if my act was all about being gay and I said yes somewhat sheepishly, he told me that shouldn't matter, because you have to do "you" onstage. I really appreciated that.

However, the big lessons, about life, and fame, and quasi-fame, weren't fully learned until later that day.

Lesson #2: If You Know a 6'3" Man is Going to Be in Your Car, Be Polite and Recline the Seat Beforehand.

Lesson #3: Swooning Makes You Gay.

Lesson #4 (the real stuff): Fame, Or Quasi-Fame, Or Being Remotely Attached to Fame, Can Have a Very Strange Effect On People.

I did not announce on Facebook or Twitter that I was going to be driving a headliner comedian to the airport, because it's tackier than a Bobby Trendy self-portrait (blogging about it two weeks after, however, is completely acceptable).  That being said, the day of my contest, another open-miker, one who I will very creatively refer to as Hacky McHackerson, sent me the weirdest Facebook message. I'm going to be purposely cagey about the details of it because it's not even worth talking about it, but it was full of mixed messages -- in one sentence saying I was a funny comedian, in the other saying I would never work in this town -- and I was woefully confused and stressed out about it. I wanted to feel good about the ACME show, and instead I was spazzing about this awful person, and then he said he was going to go to the show and get comp tickets (I had 20 to give out), and I almost wanted to call the ticket booth and get his name blacklisted for a comp ticket, as if I were that important.

Not five minutes after he sent me this message, he Facebooks Colin Kane, erroneously thinking he's a judge in the comedy contest (the headlining comedian could give two shits about the four amateurs doing their three minutes of yuk-em-'ups before his or her feature act revs up the crowd), and tells him "Be sure to vote for my good buddy Jakey Emmert!". Yes, the "good buddy" who you've totally turned into a nervous wreck the day of his performance. Also, don't bring me into this! I don't want Colin Kane thinking I'm friends with YOU! This was now high school, and while I was 99% being an adult about everything, there was that 1% of myself that was affected with my brush with fame, my 20 minutes of being in the presence of someone who I have long admired, and I was livid that I was now going to be associated with Hacky McHackerson, one who tweets Daniel Tosh jokes and is like "Oh, I watch so many comedy specials that I forget which jokes are actually mine" when called to the carpet on it. If I learned anything from my conversation with the headliner, it is that comedy is about being uniquely original, and I was so mad about it I could have signed up for a kickboxing class.

I called the only other person in local comedy who I would refer to as a "good buddy" (I get along very well with most people I see on the scene, but he's the only one I text and call about things not related to tonight's gig), and he calmed me down while he was on the way to Fargo to drive his comedy mentor. Then we discussed shaving pubic hair, riffing about how only people from the cities shave their bushes and everyone in Fargo probably still does it '70s-style, and somehow that was cathartic. I removed Hacky McHackerson from my Facebook because I don't need toxicity in my life, and went on the day, preparing my three minutes but not nearly enough, stressing about my outfit, and wondering how much I wanted to drink at The Saloon that night.

As for the contest, I was ruled best of the four and got a free T-shirt. The feature comic (whose name I don't remember because I'm an asshole) complimented my set, which meant a lot. Colin fist-bumped me in the green room, and therefore this meant we were totally best friends. He goes onstage and starts making fun of the audience to get them riled up for an hour of debauchery.

"Are you here to cheer for your friends?" he asked mockingly. A good portion of the crowd cheers, including the wonderful support system that had graciously come to see my three minutes of gay jokes. "Yeah, they're never gonna make it."

I was offended for two seconds, but then I thought about it, and realized that I was overthinking it an being oversensitive because I am a Cancer that way, and in the .0001% chance that I am to be anything in this business, it will make a delightful anecdote that I will tell Andy Cohen about it over cocktails. After the show, Colin and the feature (the really nice guy from New York! Whose name I cannot recall for the life of me!) were outside shaking hands with fans, and when I got to Colin and told him I won the free T-shirt he gave me the same "Thanks for coming" that he had given everybody else. And I realized that it was totally fine, because my ultimate lesson of the entire week was that

Lesson #5: Famous People Owe You Shit.

Did Hacky McHackerson think I "owed" him something because we did a few shows together and my parents had to sit through his cunnilingus jokes? I was wrong to expect any sense of camaraderie or familiarity from someone who literally meets thousands of strangers a week (and we had the fist-bump!). I was wrong to think the comedy club would ask for my size before I got a free T-shirt (it's an X-tra Large. I will wear it as a nightshirt with nothing under it when I have a boy over and want to be sexy but will also be sloppy drunk and lazy). The best advice I ever got about comedy was from another local comic's blog, who wrote "Never think about it as a competition, unless it's with yourself". Both the Tuesday and the Thursday of that week were wonderful, for their own different reasons, and there is nowhere to go but up.

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