Essays

JEFF THE FUN DUDE

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Whenever a comedian’s flight gets canceled, I get paid extra to cover his shows as the fill-in headliner. It’s happened three times in the past two months. I’m not sure if it’s due to the current shortage of air traffic controllers or my voodoo doll shaped like a Delta jet.

The last time I covered for a headliner, I received a standing ovation. This means one of two things:

  1. The audience wanted me to know how much they loved my show.
  2. The audience wanted me to know how happy they were it was over.

Standing O’s aren’t easy to get. For a comedy club audience to rise to their feet, one of two things has to happen:

  1. The audience has to become so lost in the world the comic has created onstage that they experience an epiphany about the human experience that bonds them to the comic on a spiritual level.
  2. The comic has to close his show with an impression of Tom Petty getting a prostate exam.

I got my standing O the old-fashioned way: by not sucking as much as expected.  Guests never expect me to be as funny as our headliners so I play to these low expectations big time:

We’ve got a great show for you tonight, folks. It’s right after mine.

One of our comics missed the ship so I’m headlining tonight. I’d like to open with a message from the Captain: “No refunds!”

Don’t think of me as a replacement comedian, think of me as slightly less annoying alternative to karaoke.

Although it was a proud moment for me, my lone standing O seemed rather sad compared to the Nolan Ryan moment comedian Rob Little enjoyed earlier in the cruise. Rob received an unprecedented six consecutive standing O’s. All three adults-only shows for that cruise and all three adults-only shows for the previous cruise. If three standing O’s for one cruise is a no-hitter, then six standing O’s for two cruises is a perfect game. And one standing O for one cruise is Not Sucking as Much as Expected.

The following cruise, when the comic I replaced finally showed up, I made the mistake of bragging to him about Rob’s achievement. I might as well have been telling my fiancée I had done my own laundry.  She doesn’t believe in miracles either.

I should have known better. Most comics will choose jealousy over inspiration any day of the week. Dane Cook sells out Madison Square Garden, most comics are like, “Aw, he papered the room!”

I’m different: I see another comic succeed, I think, “If he can do it I can do it.” And I did. I got my own standing ovation right after watching Rob get six. I did not, however, get six standing O’s. On the other hand, my standing O was given to me by six people, so we’re even.

In the three weeks since Rob’s record-setting feat, no comedian I have regaled around the campfire with “The Legend of the Six” seemed the least bit impressed. The consensus was: “No way those standing O’s were legitimate!”

It didn't occur to these comics that calling Rob’s six standing ovations illegitimate made them look all the lamer for not getting one. I would much rather admit that I’m not worthy enough to get six standing O’s than admit I couldn't get any from guests who were apparently giving them away like tax breaks to oil companies.

I said to one of my comedy buddies, “If fooling or manipulating a crowd into giving you the ultimate seal of approval is so easy, why aren’t you getting a standing O after every set?”

He said, “Because I have integrity.”

I said, “Would this be the same integrity you displayed while disparaging the remarkable triumph of a fellow performer?”

Just then he jumped to his feet like he was ready to punch me.

Of course, I didn’t take it that way. In my mind, he was giving me a standing O.