I was starting to get more comfortable hanging out at Yuk Yuk’s. The wait staff finally knew my name (they probably warmed up to me after I stopped standing in their way,) and I was enjoying singing my newly written Britney parody song in the greenroom.
(To the tune of “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”)
I’m not an amateur…
Not yet a headliner…
All I neeeeeeed is time,
Twenty minutes that is mine,
While I’m in between…
I was also figuring out some idiosyncrasies of the people in the crowd. Like why was I doing so well on some nights, but falling flat on others? I was starting to really look at the crowd, as opposed to staring into the abyss of the glaring lights.
I’d see a lot of people on dates. As mentioned last week, I started comedy before the “women support women” movement, and some nights you could also feel that from the audience.
Comedy clubs are a great date night spot. The more I got on stage, the more I made eye contact with my fellow gender from the wooden pedestal people who tell dick jokes get to stand on. Jawbreaker was currently in theatre, and while seeing a bunch of women in a movie was palatable, comedy clubs were a different game. There’s an accessibility with stand up comics that’s more intimate than other forms of entertainment. We’re actual human beings. We’re so close. We might even talk to you.
I noticed women gripping the legs of their boyfriends under the table, seemingly not happy their man was staring up at another woman. It was a weird energy since most of my jokes were for women, by a woman. Even though I heard crap like,
“All female comics do is talk about their periods.”
I was unscathed. I was quite sure my period jokes were funny. Classic hits like:
“My sister actually refers to her period as “blow job season…” NOBODY lends her chapstick.”
(Honestly that was about me, I just said it was my sister.)
But still, it seemed like some chicks in the crowd just hated me. While having drinks after a show at D’Arcy McGee’s (a local haunt for comics around the corner from the club,) I vented about how I felt. Tracey MacDonald straight up gave me a clue.
“That’s cuz you wear see-thru tops on stage.”
What? No I don’t. I was so confused. I wasn’t tonight… but then I re-thought some of my wardrobe…
Yes, I would often dress for the bar. Sometimes I’d have to go straight from Yuk Yuk’s to On Tap. (I was out-growing Olivers.) Maybe this is why I have a collection of big purses. I’m always packing a wardrobe that will appease everyone I see in a day.
But then I figured out what she mean by “see-thru” tops. There was a particular style of shirt that was popular back then. It was a full collared blouse, buttons down the front, (that I kept done up!) but it was mesh from the ribs down. Does anyone remember this? I swear I scoured the internet looking for a pic, but couldn’t find one. I hopped into a few vintage shops in my hood this week- they knew what I was talking about, but they are not left to be found on the racks. It seems as though my late 90’s/early 2000’s styles are NOT making a comeback.
But she was on to something. These women in the crowd were not appreciating my Le Chateau stylings. Even worse, the shirts from Stitches and Dynamite. I swear from the waist down I was all Silver jeans and chunky Steve Madden heels. I needed the Silver jeans specifically for my denim dick bit.
“Ladies, do you ever sit down in a pair of jeans and get one of these… the Denim Dick?”
(Me sitting on the stool, while my jeans gave me a boner. I had the opposite of camel toe.)
“Pops up every time like a foreplay airbag… So you start trying to push it back in, but that just makes you look weirder. And what’s worse, I’m looking around the room right now thinking, “OH NO… Mine’s bigger than his…”
(Nikki Payne still calls me Denim Dick to this day. I love it.)
Between Tracey calling out my partially mesh tops, and suffering intense insomnia over the way women in the crowd were perceiving me, I knew the wardrobe needed a re-vamp. It was about this time my style as a comedian drastically changed. I started dressing down- wearing sneakers, hoodies and always put my hair in a ponytail. To this day, I still feel more comfortable performing this way.
I don’t want people to just look at me…
I want them to listen to me.
I wish I had that epiphany before this one particular weekend.
I was finally getting road work. It always felt weird saying “the road” as a Canadian comic, because all I ever really did was drive a few hours to do a weekend of shows then drove back. I maybe went three days without seeing my apartment. It was swift, and sometimes we didn’t even get hotels, we just drove back and forth every night. (Maybe we were actually more “road comics” than Americans and their fancy Southwest flights.)
I was doing an all women’s weekend in Kingston, Ontario. Kingston is a cute, super fun university town. I even had a friend living there who I had a huge crush on. Luckily he came to the smokin’ good Thursday show, cuz something weird happened on the Friday night.
What I didn’t know at the time, is the late show Friday can suck.
(Like the blouse, I just scoured the internet looking for a quote I’m pretty sure is from Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up.” It came out much later in my comedy career, but in the book he says something like, “I’ll do comedy anytime, any place, any city- but I hate the late show Friday.” Please fix this quote if you know it.)
Being new to road gigs, I was enjoying the little things. I loved staying in hotels. I’d take the pen from each room as a souvenir. This particular hotel was attached to a Lone Star Cafe. I was so excited, cuz they had the best fajitas. Something about their flour tortillas that were better than everywhere else. Since I didn’t have the chance to eat there Thursday, Friday I was definitely feasting.
Probably not the best idea. I’m sure the whole front row thought I smelt like mesquite.
There was four of us on the show. The host did an unusually long amount of time off the top. (My recollection is 45 minutes, but honestly, I don’t have diaries pre- 2001 here in NYC, so I could be wrong.) Then me, my fellow split middle Wendi, and the headliner.
Compared to the Thursday show that was fire, this one was a bit of a dud. I figured Saturday would bounce back.
The next day we got a call from the club owner. I was sharing a room with Wendi, and we were informed together that they got SO many people phoning and complaining over last night’s show that tonight they were bringing in Jim McNally. We would all still perform, just with less time, then Jim would headline.
They were bringing in a man to headline the last night of an all women’s weekend.
And guess what else?
He would be staying in OUR hotel room, so me and Wendi would have to share a bed.
(I’m laughing my ass off as I write this cuz my iTunes is on shuffle and a Natalie Norman track just popped up. The newer generation of female comics would not stand for this.)
Me and Wendi weren’t exactly the fighting type. I think we gave the situation a full blown…
The Saturday night show was a blast from start to finish. Since the “male comic” went last, I know the show as it was supposed to be, would have been a success if given the chance.
For the record, Jim was a gentleman. He felt just as uncomfortable being in our room as we did. I think part of me felt guilty he even got the call. As we all tried to fall asleep, Jim made jokes from his bed, and me and Wendi laughed from ours. A classic comedian slumber party, incited by a weak comedy club owner.
There was no social media to start a riot when something didn’t go your way. Not that I would have posted about it back then anyway. It was embarrassing. It was better no one had to know. You could just go back to the city you live in, and pretend like everything went great.
Complaining probably wouldn’t have got you anywhere anyway.
All you could do was keep going.