The Holidays: a Time for Comedy Land Mines

Hi! I'm Jake!

I just got home from the downtown Denver Comedy Works, my favorite club in the country.

The holidays are a joyous time for loved ones, desserts, parties, clemency, and the neutering of stand-up comedy. Essentially, a lot of corporations look for activities for their staffs. So, they come down to the comedy clubs. This is cool because it puts more butts in the seats. The corporate staffs are excited to enjoy their company's reward. The club is happy because those companies spend a lot of money on their tab. That's all great.  Everybody's happy- well, kind of.

Because corporations are in the crowd spending beaucoup bucks, they have a say in what we comedians say. Even though their employees are public-embarrassment-DRUNK - we comedians have to be on our best our best behavior and work clean. Fuck!

Just for the record, clean doesn't just mean no swearing or sex talk. It can mean a lot of different things:

  • TV Clean: Sexual innuendoes, drug jokes, ass, crap, dick, and bastard may be okay depending on the show and the time of night the show airs. Or, if you are a band or an improv troupe, or just some stupid TV guest plugging their movie, you can just do whatever you want- just as long as you aren't a comedian.
  • Club Clean: This is basically PG-13. You can cuss once or twice, maybe do a couple drug references, but you can't do any graphic sex jokes, or race jokes).
  • Corporate Clean- You can get paid 1,000's of dollars not to offend ANYBODY in any way, shape, or form. No sex, drugs, abortion, racism, cussing, politics, derogatory remarks about the local sports team, accidental hand gestures, or even dirty looks.
  • Club corporate clean You get paid 10's of dollars to do the above corporate set. The only difference is you are at comedy club and some of the crowd isn't part of the company having the party. So they don't know why they don't get to hear your regular comedy club set.
Note: I am making a joke about the 10's of dollars thing. Doing a corporate set at a comedy club is extremely beneficial. It's a really good test to see how clean you can be. The holidays are a good time to practice your TV clean set. Also, sometimes, the holiday shows can lead to big money. Representatives from the corporate parties can see you at the show and they sometimes decide to use you for 1 of their events.  It's a good opportunity.

Corporate parties at the comedy club occasionally get crapfaced drunk. I was at Comedy Works South in Greenwood Village last week. I think it was Thursday, December 9th, 2010. I worked with Seattle/ New York comedian Joe Larson. He had a great set.

However, a gentleman in the front row talked throughout most of the show. He had his feet up on the stage like this was some sort of peanut shells on the floor kind of bar. Eventually, the staff asked him to leave. He replied "F4ck you! You guys suck," then turned to address Joe "But you were really funny" back to the staff "F4ck you!" I like how he appealed to Joe as if somehow Joe was going to help him. It's almost as if he expected Joe to say "Guys just let him stay. Despite this man's hickish disrespect towards your club, he does think I'm funny. His enjoyment cancels out his boorishness."

Fortunately, no comedians sweared in front of this guy.

That night, a party of 100 people from a mortgage company sat in the audience. For the most part, they were a complete delight, very well behaved. However, one lady from that party - let's call her Belinda- had way too much holiday cheer. When feet-on-stage guy got kicked out, 40-plus-year-old drunky Belinda asked "Can we come up there?" Joe welcomed them to the front row "Sure! Come on down!" Belinda then proceeded to get on stage with Joe. Joe then lamented "This was a mistake. This was a bad idea."

Belinda showed Joe that she had a talent. She started tap dancing. "Wooo! Hey I'm missing my friend Julie." Joe said "I think you're missing more than your friend Julie." Then he called back to one of his earlier jokes, "And I thought the South was scary."

Belinda started yapping as she left the stage. Joe replied "Keep talking and I'll get you kicked out too. I have more power than you'll ever know." The crowd was dying. Joe was killing. "I think it's this row of chairs. Anyone who sits here, their IQ drops 20 points." Huge laughter.

Here's something fun: Belinda did all that infront of her co-workers. The next day, she got to go back to work with all those people. Good job Belinda!  It's a good thing we didn't do any dirty jokes in front of her!

Towards the end of Joe's set, I went back into the green room. I watched his set on the TV back there. Belinda came into the green room.

Belinda: "Is this the bathroom?"
Me: "No. It is not."

Typically, comedy club patrons are not allowed in the green room. It's an "employees only" kind of thing. Unless you are on the show, or one of the club's regular comedians, or comedy club staff, you should not go in there. The green room is the closest thing to special treatment a comedian gets. It's our hallowed ground. Sure, some "green rooms" are just the comedy club's storage closet with enough space displaced for a 1980s Goodwill couch, but still, it's our storage closet. It's our haven for before, during, and after the show. Boozy milf tramps are not welcome- unless they provide a service the comedian(s) have requested.  Kidding. Gross.  Nevertheless, Belinda did not know her place. Belinda: "Hey, were you onstage earlier?"

Me: "Yes, I was."
Belinda: "Where's Debbie?"
Me: "I don't know."
Belinda: "I was the one who was tap dancing."

Then she pulled me into the green room's bathroom. Uh oh.

Belinda: "I want to show you something."
Me: "Uh oh."

I had encountered this kind of self-respect-less exhibitionist drunk before. See, when I was 17 or so, my buddy Dennis and I were wearing scary, Friday the 13th Jason masks while we drove through the Taco Bell drive-through. We've all been there. Suddenly, this lady and this dude drove up next to us and popped out the top of their sunroof. The lady had gigantic teats.

The teat lady from 1995: "Ooh! Scary masks! You want to see something really scary?"
Dennis and Me: "Sure." Then 1990s drive-through-teat-lady flashed us.

Her driver was still standing next to her, sticking out of the sunroof, grinning like a boozy dufus. We were not scared. I do remember later thinking I should have said "That wasn't scary. Show us something that will terrify us!" Let's return back to December, 2010. A drunky Belinda lady offered her talent services to me in the green room bathroom. Belinda: "I want to show you something." Belinda started pulling at her shirt.

Me: "Uh oh." Then, defying my expectations, she starts tapdancing again.
Me: "Phew!" Belinda left the room- and came back 2 minutes later with Debbie. Great. The more the scarier.
Tapdancer Belinda: "This is my friend. I love her. We're not going to make out."
Me (in my head): "Congratulations."
Belinda: "She was born in 1971. You're really happy when you find out why you're alive."
Me: "???"

Belinda and Debbie leave. Joe finishes his set. We're hanging out. Belinda and Debbie come back in. Great. Belinda starts blabbing about who knows what. She is wobbling/ standing and blurts out "For the longest time, I thought I was 18. Now I'm 40." Joe and I are doing our best not to slam her. Joe goes into the bathroom and hides until she leaves. He comes back out and says what he wanted to say as if she was still in the room "You're not 18 anymore." True that. She really did not look 18. Her skin looked like sun-cracked, desert clay.

Here's the thing: corporate parties fracture the audience and that creates a weird challenge. 90% of the people in the showroom are just regular people, there to see a comedy show. They are expecting business as usual. They don't realize that 10% of the crowd is drastically affecting our content. This past Wednesday, December 15th, 2010, I worked with a comedy favorite, Greg Warren. He crushed. Some of the other guys on the show were Chuck Roy, the emcee, me, and Steve Gastineau.

One of the corporate parties in the crowd was McDonald's. They turned out to be a genuinely fun part of the show. I had a McDonald's joke I was planning to do and totally forgot it. Dang it! Before Steve went up there, I told him about the McDonald's party. Steve got up there and explained how a cop busted him for not wearing his seatbelt while he was driving through a McDonald's drive-thru.

Steve: "If you really wanted to save my life, you'd shoot the Big Mac out of my hands." The McDonald's group booed. The rest of the crowd and I were dying. That was hilarious!

Greg took a different approach. He did some jokes to connect with the McDonald's group. First off, he said he heard there a were a bunch of people from McDonald's in the audience. They applauded and cheered loudly. Then he asked one of them what they did there.

Greg: "So what do you do?"
Mouthy McDonald's Lady: "Work at McDonald's" Greg rolled his eyes amicably.
Greg: "Next time I talk to you, make sure you have your headset on." Big laugh from the crowd.

Greg then asked why McDonald's has an obviously white commercial "Everybody in the commercial is like me, or, that guy in the argyle sweater basically, the whitest guy you know" and an obviously black commercial. Greg then starts rapping and beatboxing. I can't remember the words he said, but it was awesome. Greg killed that night.

Overall, I had a pretty good time. I did a bunch of my clean material. Greg said some nice things to me about my set. On Wednesday, Chuck Roy even gave me his best version of a compliment as I walked off stage.

Chuck: "Keep it going for Jake Sharon! Great set! I am as surprised as you people." Thanks, Chuck. That will warm me through the new year.

Of course, tonight was a little different. I don't have problem doing a clean show. I pretty much do that all the time anyway. However, when someone tells me not to do something, I just start thinking about doing that 1 thing.  Just to be on the safe side, I spent at least 30 minutes before each set going over and over my set to make sure I didn't offend anybody.

That's the thing about holiday shows: despite the best intentions, you can accidentally screw up in a big way. A comedy act is like a minefield. You work all year honing your act, adding to the field, making sure you destroy. Then, at the end of the year, the same material that has served you well for the past 11 months, can turn against you! Now you have to walk through your own minefield of jokes, ad-libs, asides. Every potentially offensive line is a mine. You just hope you remember where all of your mines are before you walk all over them.

Tonight, I opened for Greg again at the downtown Comedy Works. I planned on starting my set off with a particularly non-offensive one-liner. Then, out of the azure, I started with something completely different, a bit about fat chicks. Great. December is when all of Colorado's jolly fatties come out of hibernation! Fiddlesticks! Suddenly I got in my head. I spent my whole set fishtailing from one bit to the next. I did my whole set out of order and I had no idea what what would come out of my mouth next. My flow was completely off.  This affected my delivery and even my persona.

Some jokes got some okay laughs. Some of my jokes got huge laughs combined with applause. Still other jokes got groans- mainly from this tiny squadron of judgmental people sitting near the front of the showroom.  Regardless, I never let them see me sweat.

Me: "Just so you know, a groan is like half a laugh. So, I thank you."

Then, I did what anybody does when they have an off day at work: I blamed it on somebody else.  Check this out: I made up a fictitious argument I had with my very loving father. One of my jokes normally gets a pretty big laugh but tonight, a crowd member told me it was cheesy. "Yeah, that was corny. My dad wrote that one. He wanted me to do it. That's part of why we were arguing." Total lie! My dad and I did not have an argument! However, I threw my dad under the bus and got a laugh. What a sell-out move.

After my set, Chuck rewarded me with a sweet outro.

Chuck: "Jake Sharon everybody!" The crowd applauded then Chuck continued with his standard outro for me "At least he tried." Thanks, Chuck!

My childish childhood friend Dennis was really concerned by both the intro and the outro Chuck gave me.

Dennis: "Does Chuck have a problem with you or something?"
Me: "Nope. That's just Chuck. That's what he does."

Anyway, despite the weirdnesses of my set, I still had a pretty good time. Several people came up to me after the show and told me they had fun too.

Then, my friend Dennis drunkly told the bartender they need to work on their mojito recipe. Great. Thanks, Dennis. I don't have a huge following, but I always try to bring people to shows  33% of the people I brought tonight told the bartender how to do his job better. I had to go over to the bartender and sneak an apology for my friend's behavior.

On our way out, Greg gave Dennis a CD and thanked him for serving in the Army overseas.  Greg is a really cool guy.

Anyway, the season of restrictions is almost over. Yay! I can't wait for January! Also, we Denverites will have a quick reprieve on December 22nd and 26th. Chuck's hosting his annual "Chuck Roy and His Naughty Little Elves" at the Downtown Comedy Works. I am doing the show too and I can't wait! If you are in town, come check out the dirtiest comedy in Denver. Here's a link: .Tell them Jake said he has comps for you and get in free.

Note: I am not necessarily going dirty. I really am not that dirty. However, I do have some super-offensive, non-corporate content I never ever get to do- not even when it isn't the holiday season- and I can't wait to unleash it! It's an X-mas miracle! Thank X! Thank Chuck.

Bye! I'm Jake!

Now,  Dennis is drunk, on my living room couch.  The last 20 minutes of typing this were a real pain in the butt. He keeps distracting me while I try to finish this entry. He keeps asking me questions.  "Do you have any juice?  Are you glad you are my friend? Do you have any cigarettes?"

I keep saying "Just give me a second. Let me finish this up."

Dennis: "Sorry I am drunk. Am I being too annoying?"
Me (with a slight tone on my voice): "No Dennis. I am just trying to finish this up. Just give me a second."
Dennis: "I just want to try to help people this year.  Do you want to help people?"
Me: "Sure Dennis. Let me just finish this up and I'll go around helping people."
Dennis: "Do you have any scotch, whiskey,  or cigarettes?"
Me: "No, Dennis."
Dennis: "Do your roommates?"
Me: "Nope. They don't do that.  Let me finish typing this."
Dennis: "I'm sorry I am so drunk.  Sometimes when I get drink I get really wooo!"
Me: "That's okay Dennis."
Dennis: "I know sometimes in the old days I used to be intentionally annoying for artistic effect but I am not doing that now."
Dennis: "What is your roommate's name?"
Me: "Winthrop." This is another lie.  My roommate's name is Curt.
Dennis: "Hey Winthrop!  Do you have any scotch or whiskey or cigarrettes?"
Curt: "No."

This continued for awhile.  Ever have someone blather on while you are reading?  It's realy hard to focus. Now imagine you are trying to write something. Jeez!  

Dennis just started calling friends and leaving these super-loud voicemail messages for people. He told a bunch of people that he is drunk so I think I am safe typing it here.  

Final thought: Dennis is a good friend of mine.  He is one of my oldest friends. We have been friends since 4th grade.  I don't know what else I should write here. Um...  Oh yeah: Good thing I kept my set clean in front of him.  Yeah, that wraps the story up well.  Whatever.  It's an epilogue, a books version of a DVD's bonus features. If you are still reading this, you have already given me a ton of leeway so don't judge me now!

Bye again! I'm Jake again!