Monday, December 13, 2010

Ultimate Hell Gig by RON PLACONE

It was an all-day festival, middle of summer in Pennsylvania about 20 minutes outside of Pittsburgh at a large fair ground.  They never tried anything like this before, the entertainment was to be all comedy, beginning at 10:30am and ending at 6:00pm.  The booker called all of us participating into a meeting the night before and she gave us our slots.  I was given the 4:00 slot and was to do 30 minutes.  There were two people after me.  All of the comics on the show, including myself, were pretty much at the same level in terms of work we were getting and how far along we were on the ladder.  To put it more bluntly and in comedian terms, no headliner/TV credits on this show.  I usually don't let this kind of stuff get to me but one of the people after me happened to be a comic I didn't care for very much.  Not only his act but as a human being I thought he needed kicked in the throat a couple of times.  I was pissed he was after me as the boooker seemed to have given us our slots based on her perception of our skill.
The next day, I showed up at 10:00am as that was check-in time.  The booker approached me, "Ron, I was kind of hoping you'd do the warm-up in addition to your slot, you need to be on at 10:30am, that cool?"  I said sure.  I figured I just had to introduce the event, thank people for coming, ummm, in a situation like this should one tell people to silence their cell phones?  I figured I had a few minutes to decide.  As I was about to go on stage the booker approached me again.  "Ok, so go until about noon."  "What?"  "Go until about noon."  "That's an hour-and-a-half, that's an awfully long time for a stand-up, it takes years and years for people to develop a full hour-and-a-half they can do all at once."  "Well, you're not allowed to do any of your material, so that's fine."  "What?"  "Your 4:00pm slot is for your material, this 10:30am-noon slot is for crowd work only.  You said you would do it, if you back out that's fine but I wouldn't bother contacting me for dates in 2011."  I didn't want to lose a year's worth of dates from a booker I worked for regularly, so I sucked it up and went on stage.  The stage was about 10 feet from the ground.  The closest audience member was a solid 20 yards at least away from me.  An hour-and-a-half of crowd work.  I greeted the crowd, backs were turned, reverb from the microphone, somebody coughed.  A couple children were playing in the fields a ways off.  I was mostly ignored.  I turned to the sound guy and asked if the booker was still around.  "Nope, she left."  I bailed.  I didn't know what time it was, but I bailed.  I told the people the comedy would start back up at noon and I'd be on at 4 and to stick around.  A couple people clapped.  I took the subway back into the city and went to my apartment.  My girlfriend was just waking up and asked me why I was home. "It's going to be a long day, are you coming to the show?"  "I wasn't planning on it."  "Well, you won't be missing much, when it's over, I'm going to need a drink."  "What's your slot?"  "4."  "I'm surprised you're not closing out of that bunch."  "Whatever, we all get paid the same I think." 
I returned to the grounds and nobody seemed to have cared that I bailed on my hour-and-a-half of crowd work.  I saw the comic I didn't care for that was going on after me.  "I'm pumped I'm closing this, it pays twice of what the rest of you guys are making, isn't that weird?  I mean, I do the same amount of time, but I get paid twice as much, dude, maybe she'll let you close next year."  What a dick.  I try not to be petty when it comes to stuff like that and of course jealously gets one nowhere, but this guy's just a flat out chode.  I agreed with him that it was odd and walked away.  It wasn't worth it to retaliate, why stoop to his level?  I waited around for a few hours, bought some candy, the crowd seldom paid attention to any of the comics.  At one point a water-gun fight broke out.  Later, a couple started making out near the stage and the dude went right up the girl's shirt in front of everybody.  At about 3:45 I started to get closer to the stage.  Just then I noticed my parents had arrived.  "We saw this in the paper, saw you were on it, thought we'd get out of town for an afternoon, how's it going?"  "Eh, to be honest, I'm not looking forward to this, sometimes it really feels like a job, this is one of those times."  "When are you going on?"  "4."  Brief moment of silence.
Then my dad piped up, "wow, it's pathetic you're not closing this shit."  "What?"  "Seriously, that guy (comic I don't like) is a total hack, I'm pretty sure he stole his closer from CK, he sucks."  "I agree."  "Yet he's closing the show and you're not.  Seriously, it's pathetic."  "It's one booker's opinion."  "It's pretty sad Ron, we need to get going actually, we're going to miss your set."  "You just got here."  "Yeah, I forgot we have stuff to do."  Unbelievable.  So what if one booker thinks I shouldn't be closing the show?  I can't let this crap get to me, especially not now.  As I'm trapped in thought I get a tap on the shoulder, it's the MC, "hey man, I need your intro."  I looked towards the stage and the comedian on stage was humping the stole with three people watching and laughing and applauding and the rest of the audience still had their backs turned.
I woke up.  I was thirsty.  Yup, friends, it was a dream.  There is no subway in or around Pittsburgh, that's the kicker.  Not to mention I don't think either of my parents are familiar with the term "closing" in terms of it being used as comedy-lingo near synonymous but not quite with "headlining."  Although, to all my comedy friends out there, I'm a bit disturbed at how possible that dream could actually be.  Oh, and neither the comic I didn't like nor the booker were actual people, all sole residents of my subconscious, though I guess if they were people I probably wouldn't divulge their identity anyway.  If you need me I'll be at the park doing 90 minutes of crowd work.

Ron is a comedian and writer that has returned to Pittsburgh after blowing-up comedy in Seattle, WA.


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