Sunday, April 25, 2010

"I Have A Tattoo On My Vagina! Wanna See?"

© 2010 Leighann Lord

Saturday Night, First Show: Beverages in hand, smiles on their faces, the audience is chatting animatedly with their friends. They're out having a good time and they know it's about to get better. House lights go down, stage lights come up, the hum of conversation is replaced by enthusiastic clapping as the MC takes the stage. It's show time, let the laughs begin.
And then there's Saturday Night, Second Show.

Saturday night second show at a comedy club can be a bit of a free for all. It's not as raucous as the almost extinct third show, but for a low-energy, high brow, monologist it can easily rank right above a root canal. At a recent SNSS, the audience was dominated by a large group of 17 to 25 year olds celebrating a friend's 21st birthday.

Youth is not necessarily an accurate predictor of how an audience will or will not behave. Any comic who’s played a Senior Center will attest that old folks get rowdy too. Any big monolithic group mixed in with a general audience can be high maintenance. Sometimes any attention you pay them only fuels their desire for more. While it would be kind to say that this particular group of young people was high-spirited, the truth is they were loud, obnoxious and disruptive.

The young women in the group were screamers. Anything the MC said to or about them elicited a loud and prolonged "Wooooooooo!" the young girl call of the wild usually heard during Spring break. Comedy icon, Larry Miller once said to me that he didn't like the screaming. "If they're screaming, they're not listening."

By contrast, the young men in the group started out sullen and silent. They were simply bidding their time, waiting for the alcohol to give them the courage to demonstrate how much funnier they were than the professionals on stage. As the evening wore on, the liquor obliged.

Who's responsibility is it to deal with a rowdy crowd? Some comedians relish to opportunity. I do not. I do comedy, not combat. I think a venue's obligation extends beyond merely seating and serving. Ideally, you shouldn't have to tell adults how to behave, but when management does nothing it is abdicating it's responsibility to the non-disruptive patrons who have also paid to see a show. Glancing around the club I could see quite a few people who were visibly annoyed that these Jersey Shore hopefuls were being allowed to dominate so much of the show. Unfortunately, seated front and center of the stage made it impossible for me or the other comics to ignore them, as would have been my preference.

Post show, I was sitting at the bar mulling over career paths not taken when a woman from the offending group staggered over and proceeded to tell me how great she thought I was. She couldn’t have been referring to my stand-up. I hadn’t done any. Her compliment must have been for my verbal jousting skills, my ability to shovel impromptu witticisms against the imbecilic tide.

She apologized for the behavior of her group but confessed she really didn't know them. They were friends of her boyfriend and they were "young and immature." Indeed. This is the same woman who inexplicably shouted out in the middle of my show, "Let's talk about sports."

"Hmm, let's not."

Since we were now friends she offered to show me her tattoos. "I have a Yankee tattoo on my vagina! Wanna see?"

Offers like these are why some guys become comedians. They live for the drunk girl at the bar willing to over-share. "Uh, no" I said.

But she really wanted to show me, and what drunk people want, drunk people get. She lifted up the front of her shirt, unbuttoned the top of her jeans and showed me a tattoo that was thankfully a modest two inches south of her belly button. I have nothing against alcohol, just the people who can't hold it. After a few decades Tattoo Girl wandered off to flash someone else.

I sat a while longer at the bar, sipping my coffee and decided in the end not to quit comedy just yet. Saturday Night, Second Show is just one of the hazards of the trade. No matter how bad it gets no comedian is ever literally eaten alive by the audience. It just feels that way.

Leighann Lord is a stand-up comedian. April 27-29 she'll be performing in Haiti with Armed Forces Entertainment. Check out her other upcoming shows @ Join her on FaceBook. Follow her on Twitter.

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