Last night I did something that I’ve done hundreds of times before, at least hundreds. I went to a comedy show. It wasn’t even the first time I’ve seen these two comics. The venue was essentially a giant tent in a parking lot. I should say that it wasn’t just some tent pitched in a parking lot. The tent is quite robust and comfortably seated the 1,700 audience members. It was air conditioned although it was still a bit hot in there. Any place on a 90+ degree day and holding 1,700 people would be hot.
The crowd was there for the headliner. He’s big name act. I was there for the opener. He’s a smaller name act but no less of a comic. The two have known each other for years and when the big name comes to town he calls the small name to work with him. That in its self says something, more than most know.
My seat was great, 9th row center and courtesy of the venue management which as an aside I must say was exceptional. The show started and out comes the opener. The woman seated next to me excitedly told her husband that she’d seen this guy before and he’s “so funny”. The woman to my other side slapped her leg uncontrollably during his
entire set. I’m fairly certain she left bruised. He didn’t just get these two people, he had everyone. The tent was filled with laughter and applause during his entire set. He was great.
As a comic, I look at things a bit differently. I know the set up and the obstacles that have to be overcome. I gauge the success or failure differently that the average spectator. I can’t help it. It’s like a chef who can’t just enjoy a meal anymore…or more accurately to my case, a fry cook who can’t enjoy a fry. There is the ever watchful eye, the critical thinking, the inevitable judgment. Opening is hard enough. The crowd isn’t ready. For a big headliner show, they don’t even know who the opener is and they don’t really care. They are there for the main course, the beef bourguignon that the NY Times food critic has written about. The opener is just the appetizer to get the taste buds going. You don’t even think about the salad before you get there. You’re not even certain they have salad. Well last night the appetizer was just as good as the entrée. He was so good I’d order it again and beg for a bigger portion. The salad was awesome. Of course the headliner was great. Most people had seen him before and will go see him again. I certainly will. He wove in newer material on top of polished gold flawlessly. He knew what people were on board with and what wasn’t selling. He acknowledged it without losing a soul and kept selling it anyway. Again, the critical eye opened and I didn’t (couldn’t) just sit back and enjoy, but instead admired the mastery. I saw what great comedy is made of. It was a real treat, like watching Eric Ripert cook at Le Bernardin.
The most interesting part of the night happened before the show sitting in a little trailer/green room. There were the comics and the men who run the business behind them. It was fascinating to hear stories of the changes in the Boston comedy scene and the pitfalls and profitability of the business. The topics ranged from huge comics to legendary musicians to the demise of a family business. It was also almost surreal to see the wheeler and dealer next to the commodities being brokered. It was like watching Ray Kroc eat a hamburger. Fascinating.
As with every fine meal, the night ended with dessert. A quick stop at a malt shop, a black and white frappe and I was homeward bound, still thinking about how great that salad was.