Celebrating 20 Years In Show Biz
The year was 1992. Bill Clinton was just a few months from being elected President. Alternative rock emerged as a force on the music scene. John Wayne Bobbit got his dick cut off. And yours truly was hired for his first ever gig in show business.
I grew up in Colfax, Iowa– a small town about 22 miles east of Des Moines. Central Iowa was not exactly a hot-bed of opportunities for an aspiring performer like myself. At 17 years old, I had very little experience on stage, with the exception of participating in a few community theatre productions. And I hadn’t even thought about doing stand-up comedy. At the same time, my parents were hassling me about getting a job for the summer.
So, even though I didn’t want a summer job, I started scouring the newspaper to find one. I came across an ad looking for 17-21 year old “actors” to fill the role of the mascot at the Des Moines amusement park, Adventureland. I wrote down the information and that Saturday, I went to the audition with my friend, Mike.
Most of the other performers were singers and dancers trying out for the 50’s and 60’s Rock-n-Roll Review show. Mike and I were the only ones in line waiting to audition for the role of the park mascot, Henry the Dog. Coincidentally, we were also the only hetero-sexual males at the auditions.
The responsibilities of the Adventureland mascot included wearing a thick polyester fur suit that typically caused the wearer to suffer heatstroke several times throughout the summer. The people in charge of casting were amazed that any one even wanted the job. We were pretty much hired together on the spot.
Without any real performance training or background, Mike and I set out to entertain the thousands of thrill-seekers that entered the Adventureland front gates every morning as “Henry the Dog” and “Ted E. Bear.” We sweated our asses off for minimum wage while hugging little kids, posing for pictures, and getting kicked in the balls. By the end of the first day we were wearing nut-cups. The job absolutely sucked and I loved every minute of it.
The upside was the never-ending supply of high school and college girls who visited the park throughout the summer. It feels creepy to be writing this 20 years later, but that dog costume was a chick magnet. In fact, it worked so well, that I became the only person in history to do that job two summers in a row.
At the end of the summer of 1993, I was off to college. On a whim, I decided to sneak the costume out to my car and wear it to a party one weekend. OF course it was a hit, I got laid, and decided to therefore not return what had to be one of the most bizarre chick-magnets in the history of bizarre chick-magnets. Keep in mind, 90-percent of the girls fled after they realized the cute cuddly puppy dog was really just another horny teenage boy. Let’s just say the little pink missile had a tendency to pop out at the wrong times. When I joined my fraternity Alpha Zeta Chi, I was given the name “Jer-Dog” and it stuck.
About a year later, I was secretly signed up for an amateur hour at the Funny Bone in Des Moines. (I’ll tell that story next month.) My frat brother didn’t know my real name, so just wrote “Jer-Dog” on the piece of paper, which is how the emcee introduced me. Later, when I started giving stand-up comedy a serious shot, and tried to use my real name, emcees everywhere seemed to have trouble remembering and pronouncing “Jeremy Danley.” I was constantly introduced as “Jerry Danielson… “, “Jimmy Delaney…”, and “Jared Dailey…”
What’s so fucking hard about “Jeremy Danley’ ?!
I mean these were professional goddamn public speakers and they couldn’t properly pronounce two very easy names. No wonder I rose through the ranks so quickly. I gave in and started using “Jer-Dog” every time I went on stage. I even wore the costume sometimes as my opening bit.
I still have that Henry the Dog costume stored in my closet. Due to several years worth of stains (I’m not going to go into details), the fact that it’s never been washed, and I’m married, the costume has lost it’s powers of seduction. In fact, it recently caught on fire when it fell off the top shelf in my closet and rested against a light bulb that had been left on.
But the name “Jer-Dog” has obviously stuck for 20 years now, and has actually turned into a pretty good hook. Then again, maybe it’s time for me to grow up and just start going by my real name. No fuck that. If I have to hear one more emcee introduce me as “Jiminy Stanley,” I’ll be writing my next letter to you from jail.