On Thursday of last week I travelled to Columbus, Ohio to audition for feature work at the Columbus Funny Bone. Any comedian who has ever attempted to work the road should be familiar with the club. The manager there books feature work for 15 A clubs around the country so it is an important stop for people who want to get a lot of road work (and don’t have a manager, agent AND still believe in the antiquated philosophy that performing comedy is the best way to establish a career in comedy). This was actually my third time auditioning at the club since 2007, so I think a brief chronology of how I found myself at the Easton Mall in Columbus, Ohio on April 7, 2016 is in order.
2007: Not Ready
In 2007 I went to the Columbus Funny Bone for the 2nd time. The first time was as an audience member several years later to watch Greg Giraldo, a birthday present from my college girlfriend who was attending OSU Medical School while I was at Georgetown Law. Well, in 2007 it was time for another lawyer-comedian whose career would eventually die to take the stage. I had lots of material, but had not actually performed a 30 minute set yet. So like a human centipede version of my bringer sets I simply stitched together 3 ten minutes sets together. The result was an uneven, poorly paced set, with some good laughs, but overall somewhat incompetent. On that same show was NYC comedian Keith Alberstadt and I saw that he was much more comfortable with the time. When I met the manager after the show to receive my $50 for the gig, he specifically singled out Keith as someone who did get passed because he seemed ready. In a rare moment of humility (but I am never above being humbled, just not falsely) I was in complete agreement. So for 2+ years I worked on getting some road work at C and B rooms and doing lots of time in NYC. And like Rocky I may have lost the first installment, but I learned a lot and came back ready to win in the sequel…
2009: Of Course I Got Passed
When I made my way out to Columbus in 2009 I was armed with a lot more confidence and I got passed. The best feeling was that I knew it before I spoke with the manager because I had killed. I got my $50 and was told to look for work in 2010.
2010-2015: Good Start and then Screwed by Children of the Corn
In 2010 I worked the Hartford Funny Bone and the Toledo Funny Bone. Killed both weeks. I then got an unsolicited e-mail from the manager saying that he had received great feedback on me and I was being bumped up his list. I figured that had to be a good thing. For 2011 I got booked at Hartford again, the Huntington, West Virginia Funny Bone and the Des Moines Funny Bone. The Hartford week went great, but in a moment that was indicative of the general luck of my comedy career, the West Virginia club closed before I could work there (my career is like The Nothing in The Neverending Story). Then came the Des Moines Funny Bone. The gig started well – I was opening for Jim Short, an Australian comic I had met a few years earlier at the San Francisco Comedy Competition. So paired with a funny headliner who was fun to hang with (when he spilled popcorn at a movie, his rage was one of the funniest things of the entire week) the week was going well, though I was not killing like I had at the other clubs (but can you completely trust the sense of humor of a state that over the course of my comedy career has selected Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Ted Cruz in their caucuses?). And then I closed my final set with my communications with an attempted groupie in Iowa:
When I left Iowa I felt pretty good. Sold some merchandise, avoided cheating on my girlfriend (watch the video so you get this joke – not actually treating fidelity like an accomplishment). Little did I know I would not be booked as a feature again from that March week in 2011.
2016: Don’t Call It a Comeback. Seriously, don’t. I Was Already Passed Here.
Since 2013 I have volunteered to re-audition (around 10 years into comedy is when pride and dignity are completely beat out of you if all you have is your Hotmail account booking you on gigs). It took over two years to get back on (granted for a while the manager was not re-auditioning and then the club underwent massive renovations (it looks really terrific now), but on April 7, 2016 I made it back. I had a pre-show meal at the Cheesecake Factory (after the usual sprint across a freeway that are commonplace for my road work trips – WE ARE A FAT NATION BECAUSE THE MIDDLE STATES DONT BELIEVE IN SIDEWALKS) and then got ready to perform. I was the first to the green room, but then I was greeted by Miguel Dalmau, a NYC-turned-Indianapolis comedian and a comedian from Florida (who promptly dropped 3 names of headliners he works with, perhaps just nerves or conversation, but it felt like he had spent too much time in LA), both of whom were auditioning.
All sets went well (the crowd was a pretty easy laugh) and I was re-passed? The manager informed me that, although he didn’t recall (I told him, that’s ok – you have to keep track of hundreds of comedians; I just keep track of one), I must have received bad reviews at a club. I said “Des Moines, 2011.” I then received my
$50 $25 for the gig and spent it on popcorn, water and a ticket to Hardcore Henry, an atrocious action movie which is reviewed on this site on the movie review page. Because no matter how good or productive a comedy trip is, I always like it to end poorly.
Epilogue: Accela Train Blues
On Friday I had an 11:05 am flight out of Columbus to BWI and then an Amtrak ticket from BWI to NYC. The reasons I do this are as follows:
- Most trips to Ohio from NYC are on small planes. I don’t fit well on small planes and I hate how they have turbulence, even on clear sky days.
- Southwest, which flies to all the Ohio cities I perform in, use 737s, which are solid sized planes.
- But Southwest only goes to Columbus via Chicago if leaving LaGuardia and
- I have a lot of Amtrak points so
- I take Amtrak to and from BWI and Southwest to and from Ohio out of BWI
Well, I woke up in my Extended Stay hotel on Friday morning and saw that my plane was delayed 80 minutes, which is exactly the window I left myself to get to the 1:30pm poor people Amtrak. When I called Amtrak to change trains, the only train available after that for many hours was the 3:20 Accela (the rich people train) for a healthy $160 add on. So for anyone who wants a tally – that’s $190 on airfare, $160 on train fare, $100 on hotel, $35 on salmon and cheesecake, $25 on Hardcore Henry, $30 on Columbus cab fares and $25 in comedy pay. So for -$515.00 I was able to turn the clock back to 2009. Pretty cheap for time travel!