Breaking My Comedy Cherry (part 1)
It was this month 20 years ago, at the tender age of 17, that was I first introduced into the brutal world of stand-up comedy. My high school’s yearbook was published and passed around. A noticeable number of my well-intentioned friends, wrote in my yearbook, suggesting I should be a comedian.
My parents were hounding me about getting a job, and I absolutely did not want to go thru another summer de-tasseling corn and bailing hay. I thought maybe there was something to my friends’ suggestions about pursuing stand-up comedy.
So I called The Des Moines Funny Bone to get the ball rolling. I can only imagine what went through the mind of the person who answered the phone and heard me asking for an application for a position as a comedian. Amazingly, they didn’t hang up on me, but encouraged me to attend that weekend’s show, where I would be able to get started.
With ignorant enthusiasm on my side, that Friday night, I hopped in my 1978 Monte Carlo and hauled ass to the first show at the Funny Bone. When I arrived, I confidently swaggered in, as if I was already headlining. I got stopped at the box office, and even though I explained I was there to apply for a job and enter the comedian’s training program, which unbeknownst to me didn’t actually exist. I was told I still had to buy a ticket, which was $18. Not realizing ahead of time that I would be required to buy a ticket, I came unprepared. I only had a little over $20 on me. But at least I wasn’t going to get turned away.
I was given a ticket and escorted to my seat in the back of the club at a small cramped table. The waitress came over to take my order, and all I could afford was the free water. Even though the soda was at least $5.00!! She informed me that there was a two-drink minimum. I told her I didn’t have enough money for that. She looked at me like I was a jackass, which I was, and then walked away.
Looking at my watch, I realized the show was about to start and no one had yet come over to explain how I was going to get started in this magical world of show business. However, a few minutes later, the manager of the club approached my table. “Aha! This is it!” I thought as the lights dimmed for the show to start. “How the hell am I going to be able to see the application to fill it out?! It’s too dark in here!”
The manager asked my name and to see my driver’s license. No problem. All the other jobs I’d ever had required a drivers’ license, so this made sense. Instead of taking it to make a photocopy or use to fill in the necessary information on an application, he shined a flashlight on it and inspected it like it was possible crime evidence. As he handed it back to me, he asked how old I was.
I admitted I was 17, and he nodded, then walked away. The waitress came back with my water, and the emcee was starting the show. I was still excited but confused. I had no clue what was going on, but I just knew my dream was coming true. It was exactly like the first time I got laid.
Not two minutes into the emcee’s introduction, the manager came back to my table and told me that I wasn’t old enough to be in the club after 8:00 p.m., and therefore had to leave. I asked about the comedy training program, and he looked more confused than I was. Then he laughed and said “Now that’s funny!”
He told me they didn’t offer a comedy training program and that I must have been given the wrong information. “No shit?!” I thought. I asked about getting a refund for the ticket I paid for, and was told that my ticket was non-refundable. And by the way, I owed $4.00 for my water. I left with an empty wallet and a crushed dream… just like the first time I got laid.