Breaking My Comedy Cherry (part 2) “The 1st Time Always Hurts”
My very first attempt at entering the nefarious world of stand-up comedy resulted in the expulsion of my underage ass from the Des Moines Funny Bone. I was left disillusioned and broke. It would be over a year before I tried my hand at live comedy with even more disastrous, yet memorable results.
Over a full year went by, and I had long since forgotten about my pursuit of the spotlight. I decided to enjoy my final summer in my home town of Colfax, Iowa, before heading off to enroll in college. It was the summer of ’93 and before graduating high school, I was invited to perform at the Iowa All-State Speech Festival, and thus was the subject of an article in the Jasper County Tribune, our local paper. That article got the attention of the committee that planned the county fair. A year after I was thrown out of the Funny Bone, I was invited to present a 5-minute routine at the Jasper County Fair. I reluctantly accepted.
For the next 6 weeks, I diligently worked on the material I was going to do. The summer of ’93 saw at least half of Colfax underwater due to massive rainfall and the flooding of the Skunk River. So my plan was to do some material about that, and I had also seen a Gallagher special that made me decide to use props and make a mess. So my idea was to throw water balloons at the crowd. Looking back, I wish I had just worked on jokes.
My first few jokes flopped. My best one was, “People make fun of me for having big ears. But I gotta say, it’s nice to wake up in the morning and listen to birds sing… In Europe.”
Finally, I got to my big closing bit featuring my water balloons. I started throwing the water balloons at the crowd gathered at the amphitheater. However, the venue was so gi-normous that everyone had plenty of time to dodge, duck, dip, and dive to avoid getting drenched. Everyone except an 80-year-old woman with a walker.
This poor old woman became the unwitting and accidental target of a water grenade that hit her smack in the middle of the chest. It was part funny and part tragic at first, but soon became absolutely hilarious. As the water soaked through her shirt, it was obvious to everyone that she was bra-less. Even though it was my first ever real stand-up comedy performance, I knew enough to end my set on a big laugh.
That was 19 years ago. I doubt that old woman is even still alive. I’m surprised my comedy career is. After that performance, another year or so would pass before I graced the stage for my second stand-up performance. I was unknowingly signed up for an amateur contest by my fraternity brothers. I did great, but pissed off the club owner.
And I’ll tell that story in part 3 of “Breaking My Comedy Cherry.”