Thursday, February 2, 2012
I love dive bars. I love small towns. I love comedy. Tonight, I would find out if I love doing comedy in small town dive bars. I got the call a couple of weeks ago that a bar in Pleasant Hope, MO, population 604, wanted to have a comedy night. The woman on the phone asked if I could go for three hours. I laughed and told her no. I said, “How about 2 hours, and I get two friends to help me?” She agreed and the deal was made.
I got my friends, Tyler and George on board. I did not get them because I thought they would appeal to the audience, but because I like them and thought we would have fun. I was worried that Tyler’s style of talking about hipsters, George’s style of talking about dating in a city, and my style of, I don’t know, weird, wouldn’t play to this particular crowd. But, you know what, when you’re looking for work, and need money, and love small town dive bars, you just sign up and figure out the details later.
6:45 pm: Our trio arrives at my house to take off. George arrived first at my house, so we democratically elected Tyler to drive, since he arrived last.
7:01: We’re well outside of town now. In my head, I’m trying to think of jokes that people out here would like. I decide against adopting the name and persona, Garry, the Dish Network Guy.
7:24: We are giddy. The building is a good old small town, cinder block bar. I love these places, but I’ve rarely had the opportunity to have a legitimate reason to go into one.
7:28: We open the door, half expecting the jukebox to stop as everyone turns to look at us. We introduce ourselves to the woman who booked the show. Her name is Sandy, but goes by Sam, which is clearly a nickname typo. There are about 15-20 people there. A handful are in coveralls, and a handful in overalls. Immediately in front of us is the bar, which has a counter running on three sides of it. There is a pool table, a dart board, and a shuffle board. It’s all open, but kind of divided halfway, with the bar to the left, and the stage, and table area to the right.
7:31: I explain to George and Tyler that I want to perform comedy in dive bars every night.
7:39: We’re told that the crowd should be arriving any minute.
7:41: We sit down at the bar next to an old timer, with an impressive mustache. He looks like a cross between Sam Elliot and a Vietnam vet. I don’t remember his name, but I’m sure he has an animal based nickname like Otter, or Muskrat. It turns out he’s also a comedian of sorts, as in he sits in his spot at the bar and teases people. After a litany of jokes, he tells us that he takes 23 pills a day, including pain meds for various ailments. It makes a lot of sense to us. It explains the man more than a bio could.
7:43: Two people walk in. Three walk out.
7:51: As I look around the room at the people that will surely not be listening, and probably will not like our brands of humor, I declare to George and Tyler that I would like to leave and never come back.
7:52: We have a serious discussion about whether or not they would realize if we just left. Would they notice? If they did, would they give chase?
7:54: We remember that we’re getting paid, so we stay, not for the sake of integrity as much as financial desperation.
7:59: I talk to Sandy/Sam. We’re supposed to start at 8 pm, but the promised crowd has not arrived, so we decide to hold for ten minutes or so.
8:10: We decide to start at 8:30.
8:31: I hop up to the mic with energy, “How are you guys doing tonight? Woo! Pleasant Hope! Hey guys, we’ve got a great show for you tonight.” George and Tyler clap. “Hey everyone, come on over.” George and Tyler clap. “We’ve got plenty of seats over here.” George and Tyler look up at me scared.
8:32: There are four people sitting together, who came to watch the stand up. There is a man who came to our side of the bar, but he seems more interested in his cigarette, annoyed that we have invaded his cigarette infatuation zone. There is also a couple straddling the bridge between the loud, happening, section of the bar, and our desolate pity inducing side. That puts the people watching our stand up at 9.5, including comics.
8:36: I introduce George. George launches in to his stuff about dating in Springfield. Based on the reaction, it turns out that dating in Pleasant Hope is different. George powers through, as Tyler and I try to instigate some crowd involvement.
8:46: George has given up on his material and starting doing some crowd work. He talks to the paying attention to us table. We learn that the three girls and one guy are named, Michael, Beth, Casey, and Jesse. Michael is not the guy.
9:02: I’m up. At this point, I’m ecstatic because I love awkwardness about as much as I love success. I know my set. I know where it works. I’m fairly certain it won’t work here. George has great material and not many paid attention to his set. If Jeff, George, and Tyler were replaced with Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, and Chris Rock, the results would be about the same.
9:04: My talking is met with silence. My silence is met with the noise of the crowd in the other side of the bar. I decide to just power through it.
9:18: I’ve survived it, barely.
9:23: It’s time to find out what this coverall wearing, small town dive bar loving crowd will like a 22 year old English teacher, who likes to rap on the side. Tyler gets about the same response as George and I, although I will say that Tyler and George got a better response than me.
9:34: The other side of the bar is having quite the party. To be fair, we’re the ones who interrupted their Thursday night bar night. It’s kind of like when you’re at a wedding reception and notice that the other tables are laughing and talking loud and you realize that you got sat at the boring table.
9:48: Tyler pulled it off, he finished. We giggle as he returns to our table. I declare to them, that I would like to perform comedy to small town dive bars all the time.
9:52: I announce that we will be taking a 15 minute intermission. We were paid for two hours, so we will give them two hours. My announcement of an intermission was translated to the bar goers on the other side, “The city boys will shut up for awhile now.”
9:56: Back at the table, we’re laughing as Otter comes and grabs a seat.
9:59: “Boy, you guys just aren’t funny, huh?” asks Otter. “You don’t think I was listening at the bar? I was listening.” Otter is clearly one of those guys who makes his mark by ‘telling it like it is,’ which really means, ‘I will insult you in a way that makes you wonder if I’m insulting, or just being country charming.’ We assume the best and laugh along as he roasts us.
10:05: Otter has been laying into us for awhile, so George leaves to talk to other, nicer strangers.
10:08: Otter says to me, “I knew when you got up there with your tie on…” I interrupt, “Alright, I’m going to get a drink.” Otter replies, “Oh, well, looks like I offended somebody.”
10:09: I decide I’ve had enough of Otter.
10:18: We decide to do some improv to finish out our time. It is received the same way our stand up is received, which is to say, not received.
10:33: We’re done, we did it. Pleasant Hope will never be the same.
10:38: We talk to the table of girls with boy names and boy with unisex name. They said we were great and should come back. Ha! Take that, Otter, the people that were paying attention actually liked us.
10:42: I talk to Sam/Sandy, who booked us. Get this, she would like to have us back.
11:22: We’re driving home, and we determine three things. One, it is better to bomb with friends, than succeed alone. Two, we would like to do it again. Three, we should egg Otter’s house.