Hey weirdo. Did you just click on this thinking I was going to tell you about my first sexual encounter? Well, I’m flattered, but that’s not the kind of “First Time” story I’m gonna tell you. Put your pants on.
This is the story about the first time I did stand up comedy back in 2000. I was working at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Evansville, Indiana. You wouldn’t think that Evansville would have a comedy joint, but it made sense. Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati all surrounded Evansville. We had a bunch of great comics come through there. I have to admit I took it for granted. I quit my job at Circuit City where I was making more money than a college student should make, for the prospect of working my way onto the stage while earning about $100 a week. Terrible.
I started as a server and if you’ve ever waited tables at a comedy club, it really sucks. I mean, it really, really sucks. If you’ve never waited tables, shame on you. Everyone needs to do it once so you can understand what an asshole you are as a customer. Comedy Clubs are the worst because unlike a regular restaurant that rotates customers in sections, your entire section gets sat at once. EVERYONE gets sat at the same time. In a comedy club that holds 200 people, there are 200 flippin drink orders being placed at once. There’s usually two bartenders on call, so these poor guys have to make 200 drinks in about 10 minutes or else the customers begin complaining. All you’re doing is hustling back and forth between tables trying to at least get water and soda out while waiting on drinks. In our particular set up, people would order food at the neighboring restaurant… and I had to run next door to get my food too. Ass.
I was a glutton for punishment because I waited tables and was the house emcee. It worked out well for the club because they never paid me. I only made money waiting tables. It was awful. I really figured that my section would tip me more because they’d be like “Oh man… our server is the comedian too. This guy needs $100 tips!!” but instead the running joke at the club was that if you weren’t sure which section was mine, just wait until I got up on stage and it was the section that wasn’t laughing. Those jerkoffs would just stare at me with a look on their face that said “Where is my Busch Light asshole?” Sometimes they were less subtle and would just say “Where’s my Busch Light asshole?”
The upside besides the subpar tips and verbal abuse was the fact that I would perform in front of relatively full audiences 7 times a week. This fact alone makes me regret my firing. Well, I guess you can’t regret something not in your control, but I shouldn’t have chased that redneck out the door and threatened him with bodily harm. I would assume I would have kept my job for a longer period of time. Who am I kidding? That guy was a turd. I should have hit him with my car too. But still, I was opening for nationwide headliners like Marc Curry, Mike Armstrong, Kevin Meany, Bill Bellamy, Larry the Cable Guy and the complete assface Pauly Shore. Nothing against Pauly Shore, but he was a complete bastard to me. Otherwise, I’m sure he’s a lovely person. He can apologize for promising to go to Sky’s after the show, driving by in his bus, then making me look like an idiot when he just kept driving. Whatever. I’m over it. Regardless, I was up on stage Monday thru Sunday, twice on Friday and Saturday. My learning curve was steep but fast and it happened all too fast.
I started at the Funny Bone as a server in January and had made my intentions known from day one. The boss’ name was Mike something or other. I can’t remember who the feature was, but the Headliner was Mike Armstrong. If you’ve never seen him, it’s too bad for you. Today, he is still my favorite comedian. He’s clean, he’s funny, he’s nice and he helped me out a bunch. I went to work in my 2nd week and the emcee they had lined up had called off. The manager went into the server area and said “Casperson, you’re the emcee tonight.” Shit. I had made my intention clear, but I didn’t actually begin writing anything until that moment. I took my server notepad and just started writing shit down. I didn’t have jokes. I was just kind of funny. So I started writing. Of course, I was running between tables taking orders. Did I mention they seat everyone at the SAME TIME? FUUUUUHHHHHH!!!!
So I’m going table to table and the only thing I can say is “I’m doing stand up for my first time tonight!!” and instead of great excitement most people were like “Is it open mic night?” or “Oh no.” Really gave me warm fuzzies. Stand Up crowds in Evansville want two things; beer and fart jokes. I was delivering neither. I was so nervous.
Finally, they announced me on stage… “Now welcome to the stage, the gayest man that ever lived…” I mentioned this was in Evansville, Indiana right?
I hop up on stage. No lights. No Mic. The dipshits kept everything dark. They just kept the intro music playing (it’s raining men FYI). So, I did what any person would do and began dancing. The audience could still kind of see me so they began chuckling. The music stopped, the lights came up and I went to greet the audience. Oh yeah, this was the first time I was in front of a live microphone too. I had no clue how loud I was, umm am.
I did the obligatory “how’s everyone doing?” thing and of course everyone was like “eat shit”. Audiences can smell fear and they turn quick if you don’t get a hold of them. This crowd hated me so much.
I started the announcements up front so I didn’t forget those. Announcements done. Then I started my set… that I had written 10 minutes prior. I had one joke pretty well memorized so I just let it out… and it tanked. So I immediately went for my notepad… “Strawberry Daiquiri… nope.” The only laughs in the entire set I got was me talking out loud as I read drink orders desperately filling the air with words while trying to find my set… which I never did.
I take the laughter part back. The management, servers and the headliner were crying with laughter the whole time. It was so awful. So awful. And here I am 13 years later still doing it. It was my first time on stage. I had no friends, nothing prepared, a staff that hated me and a section of tables purposely not laughing. If you ever want to start a stand up career, I promise you it won’t be as bad as my first time and I’m still here.
If it’s your resolution to try it out, it’s worth it when it works out. It’s a hard earned lesson when it doesn’t.