Work the Hell Gigs
Stagetime!! Work the hell gigs and you’ll cruise in the A rooms.” – Alonzo Bodden.
I met Alonzo at the Parlor Live in Bellevue. I was in the middle of what I’ll call a “Custody Battle” between giggles and the parlor. The parlor was the new hot club, Giggles was the old club where things were done the old fashioned way. Terry was the owner of Giggles and had a very public battle with the previous owner of Giggles. Terry was the type to cut off his own nose to spite his face. So when he finally realized he would have to give up Giggles after being sued several times. He did almost everything in his power to drive the club into the ground. He was jealous of the success of other clubs, even though he had to know he was responsible.
The parlor came in and had an interesting strategy. You do some promotion work for us and we’ll give you some stage time and cool pictures for your facebook. So in return for getting stage time comics would hand out flyers. Myself included. The parlor would also offer free tickets to almost all of their shows. So you could get friends in for free. They weren’t the best seats in the house but that was still pretty cool. No other club would do that at the time. Especially not Giggles.
The thing about Giggles is that there was much more opportunity for regular stagetime. Which is key in a young comic’s development. You can write all day, but you have to perform it. George Carlin’s book has a quote I wrote down that hit me. “The audience helps shape the material. They were part of the process. I write they edit.”
Now because the parlor was coming in swooping up some of the giggles regular comics and open micers. They were promoting all the shows on their facebook and promoting the club with their pictures on facebook. They were doing a lot of leg work for the parlor. Smart on behalf of the parlor. Way to make a splash with the brand. However, this doesn’t make Terry feel very important as his audiences continue to dwindle.
Terry made a new rule. If you go to the parlor to perform. You’re banned from Giggles. Nobody knew if the threat was real. But nobody wanted to be the first to test him. It was a tough decision. I asked the parlor for advice, but honestly what do you think they’re going to say. That’s when I decided to talk to Alonzo about it.
He said a couple things and then he signed the book. He said “If you have to choose. Why wouldn’t you choose this place? It’s an A room with national headliners every week. The room is always full. It’s a great place to perform. Giggles is damp, dark and gloomy with no audiences.”
Gee. That seems straight forward. Then he wrote in the book. “Stagetime!!” See what I mean? If I’m banned there goes lots of stage time. Then “Work the hell gigs and cruise in the A rooms.” Which actually went a lot deeper than the Giggles vs Parlor fued. But in that context. It seems he was telling me to work Giggles and it would make me a better comic.
I continued to do sets at giggles until I was eventually banned again for not playing by unwritten rules like “Give Don Rickles tickets to the Club Owner” but by then I had an even shittier room to focus on. Hooters. I started booking a show in a Hooters Casino and hosting it every week. Talk about distractions. That 6 months did more for my career than any one thing.
Then my friend Susan decided I was ready for road work. Where you show up in shitty rooms across montana, Idaho, wyoming, dakotas to do a comedy show. My friend Susan refers to it as the comedy training ground. Which I think is what Alonzo was talking about. I’ve done shows during the NCAA finals (while the game is on in the room) and done well.
“I learned a lesson. It was easy to be great. Every entertainer has a night when everything is clicking. These nights are accidental and statistical. Like lucky cards in poker, you can count on them occurring over time. What was hard was to be good. Consistently good. Night after night. No matter the abominable circumstances.” – Steve Martin “Born Standing Up”
If you can go into a shitty bar in Montana and do well. You can’t WAIT to get back to a comedy club. A place where people know comedy is going on and came there for the specific reason to watch comedy. A comedy club becomes EASY. People say who cares about doing shows in the middle of nowhere. Do it. It’s better than comedy any bootcamp. Whenever you get the opportunity. It makes you a better comic.