Just over a week ago I got an email from Brad Watts asking if I would be interested in doing some stand-up comedy for his Laughter Lounge, now being held at Vivendi. You know that feeling of a clammy, cold hand around your heart? Like you’re just about to do a bungee jump, or you’ve been asked to strip naked and go running down the street? I mean, it’s not that I haven’t been on stage numerous times, but stand-up comedy is a whoooole different ball of wax. “I’ll give you a day or two to think about it,” he said. Thus began the sleepless nights.
Those of you who have lived here for many years – about 20 now that I think about it – will remember the Coconuts Comedy Club in our beloved Holiday Inn. Back then that show was sold out every night, with people lining up in the hope of scoring seats at the last minute. Comedians were brought in from the US each week for a small salary and “free” room and board at the hotel. Some went on to do very well with their careers. Eddie Brill has been the warm-up act for David Letterman for years now and performs regularly at venues throughout the country. Louis Ramey was a finalist in Last Comic Standing, and Dennis Regan wrote for King of Queens and performed on Letterman. The name Mike “Mad Dog” Adams may also be familiar. He is still wildly popular wherever he goes with his “Every-day-above-ground-is-a-good-day” philosophy. Coconuts was my introduction to hosting comedy, and I was as shaky as a newborn foal on my first night. My friends thought I was funny, my family thought I was funny, and I thought I was funny. So why was I unable to control my shivering hand and rapidly beating heart as I got up on stage? Because there is a BIG difference between having a humorous conversation and performing in front of an audience that has paid good money to laugh. I remember I said something about being happy to be there even though my countenance screamed otherwise, and accelerated my way through the first comic’s bio so no one could even catch the name. I was 22 years old and I was having a heart attack.
Of course as the weeks progressed I became more and more confident (cocky) and expanded my repertoire, able to deal with hecklers or go off on tangents without wondering where the heck I’d left my routine and how was I going to get back there? When Coconuts eventually closed I went on to host at The Comedy Zone which resided in what is now the Marriott Beach Resort, but back then was a Radisson. We had an interesting troupe of comedians come through there…particularly ventriloquists. The Comedy Zone lasted for a while, but it too finally closed its doors. What were we to do for comedy now?
Big Kahuna decided to make the Cayman Islands his home, and began to perform once a week at Morritt’s Tortuga Club. He asked me to open for him, and I thought “Why not?” What was interesting was that I was singing with a band at the same time, and for one month I had Morritt’s and Legendz on the same night each week. I would drive up to Morritt’s, do 30-40 minutes of material, drive back to Legendz and sing until 1:00 in the morning. Oh yes, and I had a day job as well. Do you remember being young when we could handle such a schedule? I’d need a defibrillator if I ever decided to try THAT again.
Staff at the venues didn’t always get the way comedians work. I remember one particular evening when Kahuna was in the middle of his routine and one of the servers came up to let him know there was a phone message for him. On another evening I was telling a joke and the owner suddenly stood up and interrupted so he could sing “Happy Birthday” to a friend of his at the table. Good rule of thumb: When it’s your standard audience member you can pick on them. When it’s the owner you’d better open yer mouth and start singin’ like a canary!
So back to present day. Brad asked me if after years of hanging up my stand-up hat, did I want to dust it off and get on the stage again? (I can’t wait to get on the stage again, tum-tee-tum…) On Tuesday night I got no sleep. Every time the Sandman tried to visit I suddenly thought of another joke that might work; or the tomatoes that might be flung in my direction if it fell flat. At 5:00 a.m. I wondered if I really wanted to go through the terror, but then I realized that if I didn’t do it, it was because I wasn’t willing to take the risk and possibly make a fool of myself. What was the matter with me? I’ve spent my whole LIFE making a fool of myself! What fun is there in living if yer chicken?
I emailed Brad the next day and agreed to do the job. I then spent the rest of the week running my ideas past my friends until they knew the whole thing off by heart, having nervous moments, and generally regretting that I had ever said “yes.” Friday eventually came and it was upon me. I sat in the back of the room, sweaty-palmed as my name was announced. This was it! As I went running up to meet the spotlight and the (thank God) applause of many I knew in the audience, I tossed the nervousness aside and went for it!
How did it go? Let’s put it this way: Now I want a jumpsuit made entirely of sequins….