Almost 20 years ago, I was sitting half-way back in the balcony of the Royal Theatre in Victoria waiting for the show to begin. My mom had bought us tickets to see Howie Mandel live.
I had never seen a comedian live before, and truth be told, I didn’t really know who Howie Mandel was. What I did know was that the audience was packed and there was an excitement in the air that was palpable. The opening act came on and was funny, but not too funny and then the lights dimmed, the big voice came over the speaker and introduced the star and the crowd went crazy as Howie took the stage.
I remember almost everything from the show. I remember that he wore black leather pants and a purple silk shirt (It was also a strange combo then as well). It seemed like every joke he told was made up on the spot. I had never experienced a live comedy crowd before and it was something that would change my life forever. I didn’t know that I would become a comedian that night, or for many years after, and I never thought that in one month from now I would be playing the same theatre.
The business side of show business tells me that all I should share with you is what’s in the press release and whatever sells the sizzle! But I have never been like that. I over share. The reality of it is I’m terrified. And terrified in the silliest of ways. Terrified that I won’t sell enough tickets. Terrified that I will sell enough, but then I will bomb. There is no reasoning with the stressed out brain. Not only am I performing for a huge audience but we are filming all of it on six HD cameras for television, so we only get one shot to make it work!
The other day somebody said that I was going to get a big head doing all the shows I do and I told him that I don’t think he understands how fans pay compliments. I don’t know why, but most comedy fans have a very difficult time expressing themselves when they talk to a comedian. I was sitting with a good friend at a comedy club a few weeks back. He was the headliner for the night and is a huge name in the business. A woman walked up to him and asked for his autograph saying that her husband would never believe she had the courage to come up and say hello. As my friend signed the ticket stub she said, “We have been fans of yours for years! We have seen you on the Halifax Comedy Festival, Just For Laughs, all of your stuff on Comedy Central, and we love listening to you on CBC … I hope you make it some day!” and then she left.
We sat there and laughed to tears. He has made it. It’s why she had spent a small fortune on that ticket, but we understood what she meant. The moment you think you are doing well there is always a well intentioned fan that will accidentally cut you down with a well intentioned compliment.
The other night after doing very well at a show and feeling pretty darn good about myself, I walked into the lobby and a fan came up to me and said, “I listen to podcasts every night before bed. I listened to you last night and it put me right to sleep. Thank you!”
No, no … thank you.