Tim Barnes is a stand up and host of the WBEZ podcast It’s All True. The next live recording of the show is Wednesday, February 25 at The Annoyance Theatre. It will not be a lock-in. -ed.
It’s always the nightmare gig that pays well. In this case “well” is $175.00 at an after prom lock-in in Robinson, Il.
My friend Ian Abramson and I were asked to fill an hour for students whose parents decided that locking them in a building full of soda pop and pizza was an excellent choice after prom compared to the frightening alternative of who knows what.
The plan was to split the time and also bring Jake McKenzie to MC and do some time up top. Ian would rent a zipcar and drive us nearly four hours from Chicago into the abyss of Illinois to do the gig.
It’s rides like these where comics truly connect. We would jump from discussing how we got into comedy, to the comics we love, to the comics we hate, to “let’s go to Burger King!,” to laughing maniacally at absolutely nothing.
Somewhere during the maniacal laughter I began to wonder if we were the wrong kind of act for this type of gig. At the time my biggest closer was a joke about why I think white people should reclaim the “N” word. Ian is a great absurdest who sharpies a mustache on his face with no explanation, and Jake has nuances in facial expression and tone that are absolutely wonderful. Is this what high schoolers want to see after a prom?
Here’s a picture of us during sound check:
I was nearly in heaven as we settled in back stage. So much soda. So much pizza. “Maybe I would have loved an after prom lock in,” I thought to myself. Meanwhile Ian frantically wrote down every joke he could possibly say.
While getting my fourth slice of pizza, and student pointed out that I look JUST like another student named [insert black persons name]. So I thought here’s my ticket!
Jake kicked off the show and the audience seemed mildly ready for an hour of alt comedy. Now it was my turn and it’s at this point that I notice the audience is completely lit. This is not a comedy show, or a comedy club, or a theatre. It’s a fucking auditorium.
I walked to the mic and said, “Hello, in case you’re wondering I am not [insert name of black student].” It killed.
After that I bounced back and forth between jokes that hit and jokes that didn’t knowing in the back of my mind that if I don’t fill 25 minutes I’m putting a burden on Ian who’s up after me. I’m also repeating to myself “Don’t say the N word bit! Don’t say the N word bit!”
I didn’t end up saying the “N” word bit, as much as a wish I did for the sake of this story. I did, however end up shouting “Where my nerds at!?” and reciting the entire introduction to The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring.
I did my time. Ian did his. We got our checks and and began driving back through the abyss of Illinois to sweet home Chicago. It’s drives like this where comics truly connect. We each had our own versions of the sentence, “What the fuck did we just do?”
Ian, who had been following the speed limit like a champ got caught in a trap. There was a section of the road about four blocks in length that had a significantly lower speed limit which means that by ignoring it he had broken the law. Cop lights flashed behind us.
During our conversation with the officer, it seemed like he was less of a scary authority figure and more of lonely guy who just wanted friends to talk to. He still gave Ian a ticket and we saw the sun rise as we finally made it back to Chicago.