Ian Abramson is a confident man. The performer recently married his career. That’s confidence. Before he was that confident he performed in a dog bar. You can see Ian tonight, Friday, December 19 at SubT Lounge and in January at RIOT LA. -ed.
I performed at a bar designed for middle aged singles to take their dogs and mingle.
An acquaintance of mine from the suburbs of Chicago had done stand-up a handful of times, and asked if I wanted to do stand up at a bar owned by a family friend of hers.
She asked me to book two others, so I contacted Tim Barnes, and Mitch Kurka, two of the funniest people I know.
The deal was, we’d take the train to the bar, do 20 minutes each, get paid, and be driven back to the city. Mitch, Tim, and I were all pretty new to stand-up, so the idea of doing comedy outside of the city was new, but not as exciting as getting paid to perform for the first time. The fact that none of us had done 20 minutes didn’t really worry us, because we were pretty confident we’d be able to stretch that long. At least I was. We spent the train ride laughing over a copy of Entertainment Weekly rather than writing out a set list so I don’t imagine any of us we’re very concerned.
We get to the bar, and it’s beautiful. There are hip lamps, an orange/brown motif that I’m real into, and hand painted dog bowls everywhere.
This is a dog bar.
They are very nice to us. They give us food, drinks, on the house, and it’s all wonderful. I just want to be clear here that this was a great bar, filled with great people, that never should have booked a comedy show, let alone three early 20 somethings.
The patrons at the bar are all cool middle aged people, all of whom give off the feeling of “recently divorced” or “don’t we seem young and cool?” They’re buying appetizers at a dog bar, you know what I mean?
The owner tells us that a women’s book group meets at the bar once a week, and because they’re regulars, he can’t tell them to not speak through the show. “Okay, we can make that work” I say to him. Internally, this is when I realize it will be a disaster.
We each go up, and we do our time. For most people at the bar, this is their one night out, and they came here to see friends, and didn’t realize a comedy show was happening. I can’t even say they’re being rude for having quiet conversations away from the stage.
If I did this show now, I wouldn’t call it bombing. There were three or four people paying attention, being polite, and humoring us by pretending to find us humorous. It was just never going to be an ideal place for a comedy show.
What makes this so much worse than your average bad show is how well we were treated. They had already bought us dinner, given us drinks, treated us like these wonderful special guests, and when we got off stage, the staff all told us specific jokes they liked and such (which, I mean, they were just being polite. We were pretty new to stand-up, and had no idea what we were doing).
Then they pay us, and it feels incredible. We just bombed for a book group, a dachshund, and several dads wearing Newsie hats, and they they hand us cash.
Then the owner says he’s too tired to drive us back, but has hired us a car. He then let’s us know he’d like to have us back again in two weeks.
They give us dinner, treat us like kings, pay us, invite us back, and then send us outside to the car hired, and we get a ride from the suburbs back to Chicago inside of a stretch limo.
And two weeks later, we did it all again. Bombing with the same 20 minutes that is like maybe five minutes of decent material, and driven back again in a limo.