This weekend I took part in a comedy festival. It was pretty fun. The first night, I was the musical guest for Kyle Kinane’s show, which was called Dancing Around the Shit Fire, for some reason. The way it was gonna work was this: Kyle comes out, tells jokes, then I’d come out and do a song w my acoustic guitar. Then someone else comes out and does jokes, then I come out and do a song, then Kyle comes back out and does some more shit, and then I close the fucker out with a badass, anthemic, mother-impregnating SONG. And then the show’s over and we all go get drunk. Here’s how it actually went:
My friend Toby suggested that I sit in the audience, because, shit, I’m a man of the goddamn people. I’ll sit in the crowd and then get up, play, sit back in the crowd, watch the show, play etc. It’s my embeddedness that makes me human, after all, right? So I sit, front row and Kyle comes out and he’s just so fucking FUNNY. I mean, I don’t want to toot my own horn (I already toot it like 3 times a day on a slow day) but I’m kinda funny on a stage here and there, but in the face of watching a great comedian being great, sheeeeeeit…I stood no chance. I froze. I went up, played my first song (The Profiteers), and I noticed that a comedy audience is extremely attentive. A rock audience is all drunk and yelling and talking shit to each other. Comedy crowds come to stare in silence at you and wait for you to elicit responses. I kind of meekly said a few words and walked backstage rather than back to my seat, just to kind of dust off my dick and reset a bit.
Once I got backstage, I was treated to my first real entertainment-world culture shock, namely: the difference between being backstage at comedy shows and music shows. The main difference is the catering and general mood. Backstage at a rock show, there is a LOT of beer, and there’s booze and everyone’s getting psyched and dicking around being stupid and laughing or laying on the ground moaning or sitting there shirtless, or whatever, but it’s LAZY and relaxed, generally…and there’s an assortment of healthy snacks and, well, that’s about it. Backstage at the comedy festival, everyone is quiet, not MEAN, but more guarded. No one seemed relaxed. Part of this is because you apparently have to be super quiet backstage at the comedy show, or you fuck up the people on stage, which is completely understandable, but part of it was definitely a fundamentally different attitude. Comedy is much colder than music, I think. And I don’t mean that as a dig on the comedians who were there, at all…everyone was nice, but, well…shit. It was different.
The catering was one small cooler of Goose Island beers (which was consistently refilled, which seemed to me like a huge waste of energy…why not just put out a big fucking tub of beer, right? I don’t know…) and then a cereal bowl of slim jims and chili cheese fritos. Whoever was on stage next was doing their thing, and Kyle was watching through the curtain and seemed to be having fun, but I decided I’d just sit in the back and drink beer and try to unpsyche myself. I also had a slim Jim.
When the second comedian was done, I went out and asked if anyone there knew who I was. Surprisingly, there was a decent crowd who did. I asked if they wanted to hear anything and through the course of explaining to people why I can’t do Fireflies (“I don’t even sing that song, man”) and so forth, I relaxed. I settled on LA-Z Boy 500 and as I started it, I realized that I hadn’t played that song in any context in close to a year, and as a result, it was fairly sloppy. So I stopped and pointed this out to the crowd and then said something to the effect of “so, wow…this is an even more impressive version than you already thought it was, huh?” which THEN opened the door for me to just stop the song and tell jokes pretty much whenever I wanted, which was about 2 more times during the song. It may sound like a total groan-fest, but as it was a comedy show, people were receptive to jokes and the whole thing was pretty fun.
I went backstage while this other comedian went out and killed (this is based only on how loud the laughter was. At this point I’d figured out that watching comedians would kill my own embryonic mojo). I ate another slim jim (they were the small, penis sized ones) and then Kyle came out and thanked everyone. THEN, I went out and started to play Suffer The Children, which I also periodically stopped to explain. THEN, I just stopped that one entirely and decided to play this song called “Cutting Myself” that I wrote when I was like 15. It’s a pretty terrible song, but I think everyone there was under the distinct impression that it was written from a completely sincere point of view (sample lyric: “maybe now these pimples will clear up. Maybe my stupid sister will keep her big mouth shut”) which made for a deeply bizarre audience reaction that included cringing, laughing, embarrassed looks and more. It was TRULY a weird way to end shit, which I think is great.
Afterwards I went out and got beers with Kyle’s mom. Then I lost my credit card. Cool shit.
The next day I did this thing called the Blackout Diaries (also with Kyle) where I told the story about when Anna Nicole Smith kissed me. Once again, same tiny, eternally-full cooler of Goose Islands, same bowl of slimjims and fritos, same kind of weird vibe backstage. This time, I didn’t even TRY to watch anyone, lest I become too psyched out to perform. This was to be my very first ever time performing without any musical accompaniment of any kind. I went out and told the story and it was cool. People laughed. I kind of left out some crucial details, but the story is weird enough by itself that it doesn’t really matter. After that, I went to Gingerman and then home. Now it’s Tuesday and I’m STILL hung over from those two days of being out late. Here’s a little write up the AV club did about the festival, which includes a small paragraph about me, which is really nice. Thanks dudes/ladies!
Final take: Comedy is fun. It’s much scarier in every way, backstage and on stage than music. It’s intimidating and it’s a little bit dark, but there’s a rush from doing it that’s pretty fucking great. I understand why so many comedians are fucking nuts.
Tomorrow I go to Italy for ten days. It’s safe to say I won’t see you guys for a while, unless you live in Torino, in which case, get at me.
Okay, love you. Thanks for coming and being nice to me this weekend.