Most of the stand-up comedy I do these days is at private, corporate events which are quite pleasant: professionally run, appreciative, a quick turnaround. Perfect for someone whose goal is to not only work as little as possible, but desires not to be gone long from home and hearth.
It was either that or a Senate seat.
And most of these engagements are for, as you may have gleaned, corporations. From Nintendo to Hewlett Packard to — you name it, I may very well have done it. Same sort of corporate audience in the same sort of corporate setting, eating the same sort of corporate function food in the “Grand Ballroom” of the convention center.
So when I drove to Greenville to perform for the South Carolina State Fair Annual Convention I had no idea what to expect. There’s a convention for state fairs? What topics do they cover? Safety? Exciting new rides? Avoiding dangerous upper respiratory conditions? I was intrigued!
It was actually rather fascinating. My affable contact, J.P., met me in the lobby and showed me to where the stage was set up and if I wanted to kill time I could wander, he said, through the trade show area before the showcases began on the main stage.
And so I did.
Funnily enough, it never struck me that there would be showcases for state fairs. I’m a fellow performer, and while at my normal height I could look a stilt walker straight in the eye, in never occurred to me that I would find stilt walkers sitting behind a booth with videos, photographs and resumes, hoping to get booked at as many fairs as possible.
There were a couple of clowns, natch, a frisbee catching dog troupe, a comedy hypnotist and an act I’d once seen in Vegas: a guy who rides motorcycles inside a giant, metal globe. Down another aisle, there was a woman who had miniature horses and a big, black Friesian with flowing mane and tail (not behind the booth, in photographs) that performed some sort of show with them.
I didn’t have enough time to really study them all which was a bit of a relief as I felt terrible meeting hopeful eyes only to say, “Sorry, I’m not a booker. I’m a comic, I’m about to go on. No, I’m afraid my agent doesn’t handle fire eaters. No, not Lama trainers, either. Best of luck.”
There were three showcase acts that went on before I hit the stage and I realized that my audience was mostly agents and bookers for South Carolina state fairs. Editing quickly in my head whether I should begin my act as I normally do or insert a corndog joke or two, I bobbed my head along with the first band, Diamonds and Whiskey, who were really quite good, and found myself out of breath from laughter with the following act, John Cassidy.
We comics can be a bit smug in the “funny” department, I suppose the way a corporate attorney might scorn what he perceives to be an ambulance chaser or the way a ballet dancer glances at Jazzercise. Or, frankly, the way any of us glance at Jazzercise. (For heaven’s sake, don’t email in anger about Jazzercise — I did their corporate convention years ago in San Diego and it was wonderful, and even they can laugh at themselves, so back off.)
Anyway, when John took the stage with a trunk filled with props second only to Carrot Top and pulled out two fistfuls of balloons, I sighed. Another balloon prop guy, but, sure, I could see where this could work to grab a fair crowd’s attention.
Let me just say this. I don’t know this guy, have never met him, but his showcase was probably the funniest 15 minutes of hard-hitting, jack-hammer (including two hammers he actually threw at his “volunteer”) comedy I can remember seeing. There was hardly a moment to catch one’s breath and he took the roof off the “Grand Ballroom.”
I was also enormously relieved there was a country music sister act still to come before I was due on stage. How would you like to go on after a guy who actually climbed inside a giant balloon before having his assistant (wife) detonate it to smithereens with a blowtorch that came out of the mouth of a vintage Rainbow Brite doll?
Check out his YouTube. Hell, book him. No, I’m not making any commission. I just think guys like him deserve a ton of work.
And that way I can make sure I never have to follow him.