Archives for posts with tag: toby mcelroy

A few months ago, a comic asked if I would tape a show they were planning on doing in Crowley, LA. Soon the day came and we headed out on the road. Things started out a bit hairy, because I met the guys at a gas station where they’d just got rear ended by a lady in an MG. Fortunately, we weren’t held up too much.

I got to spend the next five and a half hours with two comics that I have met in the past and would consider friends, but we weren’t great friends by any means. All that changes when you’re trapped in a vehicle for an extended amount of time.

I first met Anthony Torino and Bobby Henline at the first location of Corridor Comedy Club. We had talked briefly, as most comics do at comedy clubs. Off and on over the next year we’d see each other and chat for a bit. I had taped a couple of shows for both of them, which is why they’d asked me to tape the Crowley show.

Over the course of the almost 400 miles, we talked about just about anything and everything one could talk about. There were moments where we just sat there. And there were lots of moments when we cracked jokes – we’re comics, what can I say. We got to know each other better, and because of it, I feel closer to both Tony and Bobby.

On the way back to San Antonio, we picked up another comic, Dave Evans. I had only met him briefly once outside of the Velveeta Room before this trip. So the trip back to SA was even better. I gave Dave a lift to his car, at which time he asked if I wanted to go to Corpus on Wednesday.

And so Wednesday, I went to Corpus.

Originally, I thought it was just going to be Dave, but when the car pulled up, it was Derek Phelps, Taegon McLaughlin, as well as Dave. I was excited to go, but when Taegon and Derek were added to the car, I was even more excited! Why? Because both Taegon and Derek are some of my favorite guys from Austin. I’d say Dave too, but I had only known Dave from the trip back to SA (I forgot to mention we spent an extra hour or so in Houston because they shut I-10 down to one lane to paint stripes. On a Saturday¬†afternoon? sheesh.)

It was about a 3 hr trip to Corpus, and Taegon slept a good portion of that. It was a great trip down and a great trip back. And the comedy show was “The Beer and Berto Show” hosted by Berto Garcia. Berto’s another comic that I’ve known about through other comics, but had only met briefly outside the Velveeta Room. I have to say, even though I didn’t get to go on a long road trip with Berto, I hope that one day I do. He’s a very positive and encouraging person.

I learned quite a bit on these trips. Tony and I have similar beliefs and get along great. We disagree on a few things, but we’re both mature enough to understand that having disagreements are just part of being human. Bobby is a great guy, and despite having endured a tragedy that would have ended most people’s lives, he’s an incredibly fun person to be around. Even if he was in the Army. Dave is a quiet guy, for the most part, and blows me away when he makes little comments. He just cracks me up, and I do my best to say funny things around him because he has this funny head shaking laugh thing he does…

Taegon slept a lot, both down and back to Corpus. Despite his unconsciousness, he was a lot of fun – as I’d come to understand about him. Derek is another quiet man. He talks, but quietly. Most of the trip down, I had to lean in to really hear what he was saying. Fortunately on the way back, I sat in the front and didn’t have to miss what he was saying.

But what I learned the most on these road trips is that I talk a lot.

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Staged.

Is this thing on?

Last night was the weekly open mic at Corridor – my comedy home. Every week is fun, but last night was a bit different.

I started off my evening of comedy by heading over to Michael Nieto’s place. The one and only Wade Word was over and they were recording their podcast, “Before the Show” (caution, language). I was surprised to see Curtis Hammill there. So this particular episode of BTS could be quite interesting. I know I had a good time. We wrapped up and headed out to Corridor.

As always, the show started late. ¬†There were quite a few people in the main room at J’s Bistro, but the lounge was strictly comics. There was a new guy, who slightly resembled a Zack Galifianakis. The people in the main room? His friends. The kicker? None of them wanted to pay the $5 to get in. At first. Then they all relented and got themselves inside. And of course, Galifianakis-man had to comment on that. He was the first guy up for the night.

This guy wasn't there.

I had asked my good friend, Nick Kukowski to come out and run the camera so that I could concentrate on comedy. Last week, I showed up without the camera and it was a great time. I wanted to keep that going, so I asked Nick to help out. The deal was I’d split the cash we made. Which was $14. Go us! But I must admit, it was nice to be able to just do what I do without having to stress about the camera. I didn’t realize how much of a toll that takes on the comic side of myself.

I got everything set up, and Nick rolled in. I showed him how I had things set up and chatted for a bit while we all waited for Galifianakis, Jr. to get his people inside. And then we started.

Oh, I should mention, the guy who runs the place, Nick Aluotto, has been choosing the host of the open mic a few minutes before the show starts. That was another thing we were waiting on. He picked Paul Roca, and once he got the list together, we got rolling.

And what a ride it was.

I didn’t stay in the lounge area often, I stayed in the main room and talked with the other comics. It’s refreshing to talk comedy and life while comedy and life is happening. While Galifianakis Jr. was on, Curtis walked up to me and voiced his concern, which was the same concern I had just had myself.

We were both concerned that when this guy was done on stage, all his friends would leave and we’d all be stuck doing comedy for each other. It’s fine, we’ve done that before, but it’s an odd thing. Comics don’t really do comedy when it’s just comics, they talk smack and just do a bunch of ‘inside’ jokes. So even if someone walks in, they don’t get the comedy. Fortunately, the friends stayed and the show rolled on.

Later on, Curtis and I would realize that since the guys were scraping up funds to see a show, they’d get the most of their money and stay the whole two and a half hours. That’s two bucks an hour. What a bargain.

If I may digress here, one thing I’ve noticed about stand up comics is that when someone first starts doing comedy, they bring friends. Sometimes it’s four or five friends, but many times it’s something like 8 to 10. Then for the second outing, there’s fewer friends, if it was 8 before, it’s 5 now. And this trend continues until the comic can’t even get the spouse to show. And as time goes on, you get a bunch of comics watching comedy with a bunch of comics. Especially in San Marcos where comedy takes a back seat to drinking and dancing. In Austin, it’s not a big deal, because there are plenty of people who wander in, or specifically look for comedy.

Perspective

Like these people, comedy isn't always straight up.

I wandered in and out of the room, and noticed that the crowd wasn’t shy – meaning a couple of people didn’t mind joining in the show, even though they weren’t invited. One guy in particular was constantly heckling. I’m not sure what his deal was, but he was the sort of heckler that thinks he’s adding to the performance. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.

I’m going to take a minute and break the illusion of comedy. The reason comedy works so well is because it’s well rehearsed. It’s rehearsed to be energetic and off-the-cuff. Bad comedy is bad not so much because of the material, but because the performance. Imagine if Louie CK just mumbled his jokes in a very sloppy way. Or if Brian Regan just sat in a chair relating his Pie Joke in a very A.D.D. manner? It wouldn’t play. The reason it’s funny is because it comes of as new. Fresh. As if the comic just thought it up on the way over. If you notice, comics will almost always say something happened recently. They saw something on the way in. They had something happen yesterday. Or last week. It’s always timely. That’s part of the illusion. I saw a comic last year, and saw him again recently. He has an airplane joke. It was the same both times. And both times it happened last week. To the uninitiated, it comes off as he just thought it up. To the comics, we know that it probably never happened. But the illusion is there.

This is part of the problem with the heckler. The heckler believes in the illusion, and that the comic really is living in the moment. Sadly, most comics aren’t that great on their feet and can’t really handle the immediacy of an idiot in the crowd. Even more sad is the fact that the comics that can, usually default to verbally abusing the heckler. It works, and most times shuts up the heckler, but not always.

Heckler UMP

Not your typical Heckler.

So this guy was talking all night. Adding little comments here and there. I can’t say how the other comics handled it, because I was in and out of the room. I know a couple comics addressed it and did their best to shut him up. I imagine others just ignored the guy. Either way, it’s not a fun experience for the comic, and truthfully, the audience tends to really frown on it too. Any heckler video you see on YouTube usually ends with the crowd cheering the comic, because they really can’t do anything to the heckler to make them stop. It’s up to the comic or the establishment.

Which brings me to another point. A lot of comics look forward to dealing with a heckler. When they know there’s a heckler in the audience, they start ignoring their material and start concentrating on that heckler. They want to get some practice in dealing with these guys. The truth is, as a comic, you’re going to see a heckler fairly often. More often than one would like usually. So when a comic does get the chance, the comic will take it.

It’s not always the case. It’s not always funny. And it’s not always the best thing for the night. The trick to dealing with a heckler is to walk that line between doing material, handling the heckler, and not offending the audience. It’s a tricky, fun walk to take. I’ve personally had two hecklers in my short time on stage. Once was from a drunk lady who had been a bit distracting and practically ruined David McQuary’s set that night. She was leaving when I got on stage and I sort of agged her on. She stayed and magic happened.

Last night was my second time handling a heckler. I don’t have video up yet, but I will, and I’ll post the link in the comments. Hopefully.

After the show, the heckler stuck around and then apologized to various people about what he did. He actually told me, “I’m funny, I’m actually funny!” which was really annoying, because this is our craft. Imagine if you’re a CPA and some guy comes in and starts manipulating your numbers and then says, “I’m good with numbers, I really am!” Yeah, not funny either way.

But we all encouraged him to show up next week and get on stage. I don’t know if he will, but if he does, I’ll put his video up just on principle.

Hey, thanks for reading folks – I really appreciate it.