Ever Mainard is a fantastic, former Chicago stand up. Now she’s a fantastic Los Angeles stand up. See her in not Chicago or LA tomorrow night. She’ll be at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Laugh-In Live with Eric Andre. -ed.
I think my nightmare gig is any time I self reflect. Kidding! Kidding! You know me. I would never self reflect. In fact I don’t even remember typing that. So what was the question? Oh, that’s right something about me! Your favorite topic! See how funny I am!?!?
OK. Down to business. My nightmare gigs usually occur in honkey tonks in Texas or in casinos in the Upper Peninsula (that’s in Michigan!) I know what you’re thinking- All those chain smokers and pickup trucks! You’re not Alan Jackson! Get out of there! You’re gonna get killed!
My thoughts exactly.
When I was first starting out I was fortunate enough to go on tour with a much more established comedian. Our tour consisted of seven casinos in seven days in the U.P. Oh and it was in the middle of winter.
Even though our comedy styles were completely different-she’s been on County Music Television and I
told tell jokes about farting and ghosts-I jumped at the chance. I couldn’t wait to see what life on the road was all about.
I told all my friends, coworkers, and all of my customers about my big fancy tour. I would even find tricky ways to bring up my tour in casual conversation. One time I was looking at my gloves at a coffee shop and asked the barista if she thought the gloves would last in the U.P.
“What’s in the U.P.?”
She bought it hook, line, and sinker.
“Oh, I’m going on tour- a comedy tour.” (No doubt she was going to ask for my number)
“In the U.P.? Good luck with THAT one.”
It started to seem like everyone knew something I didn’t.
“It’s like Ted Nugent’s paradise.” (She did not ask for my number)
Ruh row! That’s when the thoughts started creeping in. Instead of being grateful for the experience, I had started resenting the audiences I hadn’t even met.
So what if I bombed? It’s not like they’re going to “get me” anyways. I kept telling myself that at least I would get some good material out of the trip that my regular audience would love. Oh you guys don’t know my regular audience? What a dumb sentence to write and an even dumber sentence to believe.
I had started to mentally prepare in the worst way. I was building up a list of why we would hate each other and how I shouldn’t have to change my act for “those people.”
I imagined recounting my tale back in Chicago to strangers on the street. Each reacting with a knowing look and sympathetic nod while we lamented about “those people.”
You mean they didn’t get you? No! They wouldn’t stop smoking? It was allowed! Ugh. THOSE people.
After seven hours of driving we arrived at our first venue. We had a packed room, but the only thing I could focus on was the ding ding dings of the Glitter Kitty slot machines and the prerecorded messages from the Duck Hunter electric poker machine. (Man, that Uncle Si is a cut up!)
I walked onstage and surveyed my audience (which was easy because the house lights were on) and saw a sea of camo. I tried commenting on the weather, “Hey! At least they’re isn’t snow on the ground!” and was immediately boo’d.
Did you guys know that when there is no snow in those small towns they can’t make any money at their ski resorts? WHOOPSIE! Sorry about finding joy in your loss! Hope you don’t lose your home!
I kept on with my set and, as expected, wasn’t getting any laughs. I decided just to keep going and do my time. I was getting angrier and angrier and being able to see every single disappointed face plummeted my self-esteem.
It’s because I’m gay and they hate me! What a bunch of bigots!
Uh, actually, Ever its because you’re talking AT them and not connecting. At some point I gave up and decided to talk to the audience. What could go wrong, right? I asked one man what he did for a living and the answer seemed sent by an angel.
“I’m a beaver hunter!”
“Oh really? Me too! I love a good beaver.” (High fives all around!)
“Yeah! I like ‘em nice and young!”
“Only way to have ‘em!” (Wait, whaaaaa?)
AH! A beaver hunter! Pro Tip: A good joke about carpet munchin’ can really turn a room around and connect a group of strangers.
Turns out “those people” were actually pretty nice. I was the one who was being a misunderstanding dick. I was so filled with preconceived notions about the audience that by time I walked on stage I was already defensive. I felt miserable not only because I had bombed, but also because I know how hard it is to bring back a room.
By no means did the rest of the shows go well. I continued to eat shit the remainder of the tour and refused to learn anything from the previous show. Some nights were better than others, but I do remember one woman heckling me by shouting “WE DON’T LIKE YOUR KIND” when I walked onto the stage, so I was glad her teeth fell out.
In the end I learned that I had created my own nightmare gig by setting myself up for failure instead of letting myself have a good time. Now that I’m a little more seasoned I try to remind myself that everybody has the same built-in emotions and that we all in some way or another have the same experiences, but every now and then I hear that voice start creeping up.
Whenever I play honky tonks or casinos (which doesn’t happen often) I just have to remind myself that it’s not the audience’s job to “get me.” It’s my job to get them too. That, and a good beav joke can win over any crowd.