Kalee Rinehart is a former stand up and current BYT contributor. It’s easy to blame Will Oldham for either.
In September 2011, I went to the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival in Asbury Park, New Jersey. While chilling in Asbury Lanes, a bowling alley, listening to a DJ set from Awesome Tapes from Africa, I noticed that Will Oldham—of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and that one Kanye music video with Zach Galifianakis—was also there.
The man I was dating at the time told me that Will Oldham liked cheesy jokes. I was a little drunk and had recently started doing stand-up, so I thought “Hey, this is the perfect opportunity for me to say something dumb to a cool musician.” I walked up to Will and said, “I heard you like jokes. Can I tell you one?” He said yes.
“What did the Buddha say to the hotdog vendor?”
“I don’t know. What?”
“Make me one with everything.”
I don’t really remember his verbal response, but I’m pretty sure he smiled slightly. He continued to talk to me, so I was feeling awesome. During our conversation, I mentioned that I would be attending his show at The Birchmere a few days later and also dropped in that I had a burgeoning stand-up career.
He asked me if I was any good and I explained that I had only been on stage three times and no, I wasn’t, but I was having fun. He must have thought I was just being humble, because he eventually asked if I wanted to do a quick set before his show. I repeated that I was very new and also kind of terrible, but I was so flattered, I agreed. He said when I went to the venue, I should just ask for Shane, his tour manager.
Two days later, I walked into the venue scared as shit, desperately hoping that Will had forgotten about me. But, no such luck. When I asked for “Shane,” a portly, energetic man excitedly met me and led me to the dressing room. There, I was introduced to the opening band, Phantom Family Halo, and a pre-solo career Angel Olsen, who was very pretty, very aloof, and very uninterested in me.
She asked how long I had been doing stand-up and was not impressed when I replied “Oh, only about a month or two”, as she just nodded her head and looked away.
“We’re playing a game of Catan,” one of the Phantom dudes told me.
“Oh yeah. I know that game. But, I usually play by myself. On my phone.” I said.
Everyone in the room stared at me, and then went back to their game.
I sat there silently sweating my ass off for nearly an hour before I finally went on stage. I went through my five minutes worth of material to mild laughter, introduced Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy to the stage, and then ran off to watch the rest of the show.
At the end of the night, I saw Will talking to some fans, so I went to thank him. He said “You’re welcome”, shook my hand, and went back to his conversation.
I knew then that I had totally bombed. Hard. In front of probably 300 people. This was confirmed for me when I later Googled the show and found this review, in which the writer refers to me as the worst opening act he’s ever seen.
Now, in retrospect, it makes sense that a bunch of music nerds would REALLY HATE having their show interrupted by a very new and totally unprepared comic, but at the time, I was mortified. I did stand-up for maybe another six months before I completely lost my nerve. If I could go back in time, would I do it again? Yeah, probably. It was embarrassing but I like to tell the story because I am a masochist.