Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Am Surprised Stand-Up Comics Were Never Killed At Gigs

Living on the road can be a conquest of survival.
Today I was chatting with an old stand-up comedy buddy of mine. We were discussing a gruesome murder of one of my friends that made national news. Reminiscing about our days on the road, he said, "I am surprised stand-up comics were never killed at gigs."

Stand-up comedy looks like a lot of fun, and it is. I loved being on stage and taking a crowd where I wanted to with my material, facial expressions and gestures. After the show, audience members often took us places, too. Common sense should have made us question more often, "Where are we going and why?"

When you're on the road, you go from town to town and they eventually become a blur. You meets lots and lots of new people. Most of us comics partied a lot. Some were always lookout for something to satisfy their libido. But all of us were in strange places, with strange people and there were a lot of strange things that happened.

Every comic that has spent time on the road has stories. Some of them are hilarious, others are scary and then there are the ones that are downright sick. None of us, however, have a story about a comic being killed at a gig or while on the road.

Comics have been beaten up at the club or somewhere outside the club. Comics have performed at gunpoint - I know I did in Haw River, North Carolina. A guy up front pulled out a gun and set it on his table and said, "You fuckin' Yankees better be funny." I danced and smiled under the Confederate flag above the stage and won the crowd over. But it was scary.

Another time, a guy wanted me to give a woman a ride home. He said, "She lives in a bad neighborhood, you'll probably need this..." and he handed me a loaded gun. - - - No thanks. But I did have a great time with the woman.

I heard a story about a comic that was on stage and the guy up front didn't like him at all. He pulled out a big Bowie knife, grabbed the mic cord, cut it and said, "Shows over dumbass."

In Madison, WI, I was headlining following a guy that used a dart board in his act. The dart board wound up in the back of the room at the hotel where we were performing. Someone grabbed a dart and threw it at me on stage. When you're on stage, you can't see crap because of the spotlights. The dart stuck in the stage about three inches from my right foot.

I've had people rush the stage, but were halted by the wait staff and club bouncers. And I've had a few people get really ugly at a bar or restaurant after a show.

A friend of mine and I were doing a show in Marietta, OH at a hotel across the river from West Virginia. My friend does an off-the-boat Italian character on stage, with a heavy accent. It's a character, not really him. We were in the hotel restaurant, eating after the show, and some of the locals heard us talking. A couple of the guys started yelling at us, "He don't talk with that I-talian accent. He's a fake. He thought he could make fools outta us." They wanted to fight. Management had them removed from the restaurant.

Considering all the places comics go and all of the unknown variables that strangers in strange places bring to the equation, I am surprised stand-up comics were never killed at gigs. There were, however, some very scary moments. More road stories to come.


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