There’s something about making money doing what you love that means more than the actual dollar amount. I know several comedians who gave up perfectly stable and respectable jobs to have a shot at telling jokes for forty bucks. No sense torturing yourself at a 9 to 5 job when you can torture yourself in a comedy club.
I was a year in to doing comedy when the club owner, Howard, came down to assess the new talent. I had heard a few things about him- he was picky, had zero tolerance for comics who ran the light (great news for me, as I was still barely hitting it) but he knew comedy. This was the home club of people like Mike MacDonald, Norm MacDonald and Tracey MacDonald. This place was heavy on the MacDonalds. Hopefully a Walkinshaw still had a chance.
Howard booked the weekend spots and some one nighters in glamorous places I had yet to go, like Cornwall and Carleton Place. (Not to be confused with my school Carleton University.)
At the time, I was still going to school and working part-time at CD Warehouse, slinging Britney’s first album. The day her “Hit Me Baby One More Time” single came in I told my co-workers, “This girl is gonna be a star.” (I was a little off with my S Club 7 predictions.)
These were pre-Shazam years too. Do you how many people used to come in and ask,
“Do you know that song that goes “I ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh…and I don’t go to sleeeee to dreeeee?”
I was living my own personal Empire Records, and I was good at it. (Minus being confrontational with shoplifters. I’d just pray they never did it again.)
Like any comedian still working another job, I incorporated jokes about it.
“I work at CD Warehouse so you know I’m not HMV positive.”
(That reference might only work for Canadians and Europeans cuz I don’t think that store existed in the states.)
And since it’s tax season:
“Went to visit my H&R Block Parent…”
The jokes get better. I promise. And not that I want to fast forward my story, but in case I forget later, and agent in L.A. will one day tell me I should never tell the audience I have a day job.
“You shouldn’t disillusion the audience into believing you’re not a full-time comedian.”
So lie to the crowd. Noted.
Reversely, when people came into my day job, I would NOT tell them I’m a comedian. Tom Green regularly came into CD Warehouse, but no matter how much my co-workers nudged me to say something to him, I never had the courage to spring my small boob material on him. (I’m sure he’s thankful I didn’t.)
This was also the job I got the nick name “Bubbles,” either from being bubbly, or from accidentally putting hand dish soap in the dishwasher, which flooded the staff room with bubbles. My co-worker Robin gave me the name, while I called him Fart Knocker. (FK for short, respectfully, cuz he was a manager.)
This was also the job I received my favorite compliment of my entire life. Was it technically a compliment? I’m not actually sure.
It was Christmas time, so we were busy. My co-worker Dave and I were ringing up CD’s side by side. The exact same job, only I’m enthusiast about it, he is not. Finally, he stops de-magnetizing Andrea Bocelli and says:
Christina… things seem real fun in your world…
He’s right. I can make a lot of seemingly shit days feel okay.
Why am I babbling about my part-time job in a blog that’s supposed to be about my life as a stand up comic?
- You should expect to have one for a while.
2. I didn’t get into stand up for money.
(You might actually enjoy it more when you’re not throttling it for rent money.)
I’ve always appreciated my part time jobs for supporting this crazy dream.
So when Howard officially introduced himself to me, and offered me my first weekend spots, it wasn’t the forty dollars I was excited about. It was the fact I had made it past my first gate keeper.
Plus I’ll never forget him saying this:
“I need more women.”
Don’t worry, he said it in a professional, business manner. I’m sure out of context that could sound pervy. I know a lot club owners are notorious for booking mostly male comics, but this little Ottawa club was special. Back then Howard brought in headliners like Heidi Foss, Tracy Smith, Margaret Smith, Lisa Gay Tremblay- women who inspired me early on.
I’ll never forget driving Margaret Smith to the airport one Sunday morning. She checked out all the bumper stickers on my Ford Festiva, noting one in particular.
“Don’t hate me cuz I’m beautiful, hate me cuz I’m sleeping with your boyfriend…. Well, thank god I’m not driving.”
It’s a good thing Howard never saw all the tacky bumper stickers on my car. He might have worried about my taste in comedy and slowed down my promotions.
But I got lucky. After my two paid guest spots I was gifted a cheque for $40. Maybe he purposely didn’t pay cash on the chance we’d get sentimental, and just frame it. (Casey Corbin’s is in a photo album at his mom’s house.)
But it’s an exciting moment.
Because the first time you get paid to do stand up is when you start to think,
“I can do this.”
(And I was right. I still sometimes make $40.)
I don’t have a catchy phrase for ending these blogs yet, like I did with my Tinder dates. (Keep Calm and Tinder On…) But I’m open to suggestions.
That being said, that’s it, folks. I like to limit these blogs to 1200 words cuz I know people don’t like to read. I was also scared this week’s entry wasn’t going to be as juicy as the upcoming ones I have plotted, but just like season 2 of The Crown, we gotta get through it.
I’ll be back next week to discuss shitty intros and the women who gave them to me.
(That’s not a typo.)
I’ve been Christina Walkinshaw,
Thank you and goodnight.
P.S. The one shoplifter I naively believed might have coincidentally walked in the store with a purse full of CDS did return, and that time we caught her.
(Such a bummer I don’t have old pics of me working at CD Warehouse, but back in those days we didn’t take pictures 62 times a day. But thank you FK for whipping this up!)