Whether you’re Dane Cook headlining Madison Square Garden to a teeming throng of adoring fans or a local unknown powering through a forty-five minute set at a regulars bar where the patrons didn’t even expect comedy, there’s still just one name for the job: Comedian.
Yesterday I woke up in New York (where I was visiting Gaby and my buddy Mark), wrote, had lunch with the aforementioned Gaby and Mark, then took a bus home. From the bus I took the subway to my car, sucked down a coffee, and began my work day at seven in the evening. I hosted my weekly open mic at Sally O’Brien’s in Somerville, and then I went back to my house with friend and comedian Dan Boulger to regroup for our second show.
“But Josh, where in Boston would you do a second show after 10pm on a Monday?” you may ask.
Well, internet readers. Sometimes a high school decides that after graduation or prom, its students need to be locked in a secure location to keep the kids from drunkenly driving around town while having sexual intercourse and committing treason. They call this event a “lock-in.” Around 2am, they bring in a professional entertainer because they figure the kids are bored of whatever stimulus has already been provided, and the chaperones worry about kids choking each other out for a head rush, I imagine.
So at a quarter past midnight, Dan and I strike out for a small town in Connecticut. I’m driving, so I’ve already sucked down two Coca-Colas at a bar while Dan put down a beer or two in an effort to steel himself against the judgy eyes of sleepy, horny, ostensibly sober high school seniors. We stopped for coffee almost immediately.
We both felt a little nervy on the ride down. The trouble with high school (and sometimes college) crowds is often that you’re asked to be clean by the administration, but there’s nothing the audience wants more than dirty jokes. Dan and I crossed our fingers for the best and prepared for…let’s just say…not the best. (A quick aside: Dan and I had our first paid gig on the same night at the United States Military Academy at West Point. We performed under a giant portrait of President Eisenhower. So…it gets weird sometimes.)
We pulled up to a giant athletics complex. Outside, surrounded by a fence, sat six students smoking cigarettes. Half of the males were shirtless. The chaperone introduced himself. He was very nice. “Do whatever,” he told us. “Just not too many f-bombs.” Dan and I breathed a sigh or relief.
We walked into the complex and saw before us: Astroturf fields for football, soccer, and frisbee. Basketball courts. Bouncy castles. A mechanical bull. Our eyes lit up. In the span of one minute, this went from potentially a hell gig to what my friend Andy Sandford calls a “swell gig.”
We rode a the mechanical bull. We had an obstacle course race in a bouncy castle (where a chaperone yelled at me to take off my glasses). We dunked on 8 foot basketball rims. Then, we did an hour of comedy, and it was pretty good. The students were remarkably attentive given the hour. The administrators seemed happy. Then we got in the car and drove home. I fell asleep at about 5:30 am, having woken up at 8 the morning before.
And sometimes, gang, that’s comedy.