Megan Gailey is one of my favorite comics and favorite people. She’s one of the few comics who has parents are supportive enough to attend her shows in multiple states (Hi, Megan’s parents! Remember me from D.C.? Megan was on my show in the spring of 2011. She was fantastic that night. You’ve raised a lovely person. Thanks for reading!) She’s one of the few Chicago comics that actually does adult things like go to the gym and wear things other than hoodies. She also makes poor decisions because she has a large heart. Being a kind person leads to comedy shows in bowling alleys. She now lives in Brooklyn and doesn’t perform in as many Midwestern bowling alleys. Watch Megan tonight, October 22, on Conan! -ed.
Five minutes before I took the stage at a suburban Chicago drug rehabilitation center, the DJ (not a required part of a comedy show or rehab) announced to the audience of recovering addicts that Whitney Houston had just died of an overdose. People sobbed, howled with pain of the loss but they brought everyone cake and sober people love sugar. That show doesn’t even crack my top 10 worst gigs.
I was performing in a converted barn in a town outside Detroit and 10 minutes in to a 25-minute set a man yelled, “You look lonely.” That weekend, I had missed my best friend’s surprise engagement, the club forgot to book my hotel, the host had no neck and no jokes (never found a neck!) and I cried in the parking lot of a froyo place because their credit card machine was down. So he was right.
I actually choked down tears for about 10 seconds and then asked:
“Do you have a daughter?”
His wife held up 2 fingers.
“Well I hope your daughters love you as much as I love my dad.”
He just nodded with a look of pure shame on his face. I was so proud of myself for taking the moral high road. Then I wondered aloud how he ever got a woman to suck his dick, moved on, cried in my car in between sets, performed the second show, then got pulled over on the way home with the headliner in my car because he had gotten a DUI the last time he worked this club. But the cop let me go, probably because I looked lonely.
I actually love terrible shows. I strive in pizza parlors, mob-owned drug fronts, people’s backyards! I’m so good at awful shows; I’m awful on good shows!
I got asked to headline a show at a Rockford, Il bowling alley. The booker emailed me two weeks before and warned me that the first two shows of the “comedy experiment” had been horrible and he wanted to cancel. If the venue you’re performing at is calling this their “comedy experiment,” THIS IS A BAD SIGN. If the person making money off the show, doesn’t want to do the show THIS IS A BAD sign. But my brother and his wife and my niece and nephew lived nearby and I was using it as a fun Aunt Megan field trip. And the last time I performed at a bowling alley, Sheboygan, Wi, I got asked to sign an autograph for a man wearing a Packers hat, Packers sweatshirt and University of Wisconsin pants, so I said, “It’ll be great!”
The bowling alley bar had 100 TV’s on, most of them showing off track horse betting that everyone in the bar was very in to. All these TV’s and sound stayed on for the entirety of the show. There were 7 people out of the 100 people in the bar there to see comedy. I knew or was related to all 7. When the feature was on stage a racially charged argument started between him and two drunk men in the bar who can only be described as white rats wearing purple Express shirts. A very kindhearted woman took to the defense of the black man performing (who was 6’5” and needed no help) and started yelling at the Express rats that they were out of line. The kind woman’s husband pulled her away and then the Express rats wanted to fight the husband for being with the woman against racism. This kind woman was my sister-in-law and this kind man, my brother. This all happened 3 minutes before I went on stage.
I’ve never felt my safety threatened at any point while performing. I’ve felt extremely protected and well cared for by almost everyone I have ever worked with and this night was actually no exception. The manager came over and said, “This is getting ugly, you don’t have to go on,” but at this point I’d already driven to Rockford, put on makeup, drank two glasses of Pinot Grigio, written a set list and had three new audience members who just arrived and I’m mentally ill (we all are) so I made my Liza Minnelli at the end of Cabaret creepy showtime face and walked on the square of stage provided.
And boy was it not worth it. The three new audience members were actually two men who were both trying to have sex with the one woman. I let one of the guys charge his cell phone in the outlet on the stage so he came up there with me about 5 or 6 times and I would let him and the other audience know anytime he got a text. But I got to wear his XXL Pelle Pelle leather jacket for the entirety of my set. I got the threesome to decided which guy got the girl (cell phone man gave up and turned his sights on me!), I got my sister-in-law to make up with the Express rats (everyone did a shot) and I actually got a family of 4 to listen to me as they bet on the TV horses. I did walk one man (he moved to the other side of the bar) because I told him I could not accept his flirtatious advances while I wore the leather coat of my new boyfriend. I did 50 minutes and told one joke. They didn’t care about the joke. My brother did because he’s my brother but at that point it had gone from “comedy experiment” to conflict resolution session. Afterwards, a woman I thought hadn’t listened to anything gave me the necklace she was wearing! She said it was a gift for my performance. It said RATCHET! They never did another comedy show but I still got that necklace son!
This piece originally ran January 7, 2015.