Essays

JEFF THE FUN DUDE

Being a cruise-ship comedian is an easy gig. Perform two or three 30-minute sets a night, four nights a week, and you’re done.

That leaves you 163 hours of free time every week to…

  • Get to the airport at 4:00am and spend one hour admiring the efficiency of the TSA, one hour at the bar knocking back beers with the captain waiting for your plane to have its wings welded back on, and 12 hours luxuriating in coach class at the very back of the plane in that “Marquis de Sade” seat that doesn't recline, squeezed between a flatulent sumo wrestler and a Chatty Cathy with restless legs syndrome as you fly from Cleveland to Philadelphia to Atlanta to Detroit to Chicago to Houston to Miami to Maui to Nassau, saving your employer a whopping fifty bucks on your airfare.
  • Spend 30 minutes at the Nassau Airport waiting for the port agent to pick you up as you count the number of Bahamian cabbies who ask if you “want a taxi, mon?! Taxi! Taxi! Come on, my friend—taxi!” (678.)
  • Amuse yourself by swearing your head off with a Bahamian accent upon realizing your ship is in Freeport.
  • After bribing  a water taxi captain $100 and a picture of your stripper girlfriend to "James Bond" you to Nassau before your ship leaves, sit on the dock in the scorching heat for 20 minutes while some uniformed guy with a clipboard radios another guy, who radios another guy, who radios another guy, who then drives up in a golf cart, radios the first guy standing right next to him, and says that you’re not on the list.
  • Rack up international roaming charges trying to reach someone back at the office in Miami but every time you dial the emergency contact number listed on your itinerary you get the Papa John’s in Key Biscayne.
  • Try not to strangle the uniformed guy with the clipboard when he informs you that he was accidentally holding the list upside down so, OK, you can board now.
  • Spend the next 40 minutes tracking down someone from Housekeeping to clean your cabin after the outgoing comedian left it looking like David Lee Roth’s hotel room; because, for some reason, the regularly assigned cabin steward hasn't picked up on the pattern of one comedian leaving and another one coming even though that’s exactly what has happened cruise after cruise, month after month, year after year, ever since he first started working for the cruise line 15 years ago after quitting his job as “The Most Unobservant Man in Malaysia.”
  • Comb the entire ship in search of your show times because the comedy club manager forgot to leave your schedule for you at the gangway and so now you can’t take a nap without knowing if you have to perform tonight because you’re afraid that your jet lag will cause you to oversleep and be replaced by a juggling Italian from the engine room.
  • Spend five minutes explaining to a Filipino security guard with a hearing impairment that the reason you’re wearing blue jeans in a guest area is because you’re a fly-on comedian who just came aboard and is simply trying to find out when your show times are and get your cabin cleaned so you can take a much-needed nap. Mercifully, he unholsters his cell phone and calls for someone to assist you. After a few seconds you hear him say, “Hello, I have a Canadian here who just gave an ironing board and wants to know what time he can show how clean his cabin is to someone who reads a map.”
  • Wait for what seems like an eternity for the arrival of the comedy club manager and housekeeping manager, whose first words out of their mouths are: “You’re not supposed to be wearing blue jeans in a guest area!”
  • Stomp back to your cabin in a huff, lie down on your still unmade bunk and close your eyes for the first time in 48 hours just in time to hear the cruise director’s smiley-happy boat drill announcements blast through the distorted speaker right above your head like a CIA drone strike to the soul.
  • Meet with the aforementioned cruise director, who informs you that a few of your jokes are in bad taste and have been getting complaints from past guests. After you offer to drop the jokes he asks if he can use them in his travel talk.
  • Skip dinner for a 6:00pm sound check which never happens because the ship’s groups coordinator extended the swinging seniors single group’s polka-square dance-bingo-scrap booking jamboree until 6:30 which means the sound tech will be unavailable because at 6:15 he has to help a busty Russian waitress from the steakhouse unlock her new iPhone in the hopes of seeing her naked.
  • Call the cruise director after your first family show and explain that you had to perform your entire set with no stage lights and no microphone because the sound tech never showed up. And, to make matters worse, you had to shout over a front row filled with crying babies and screeching toddlers because the comedy club “manager” was in the back of the room hitting on a one-eyed Serbian waitress instead of doing his job. (Which is to introduce you to the one-eyed Serbian waitress.)
  • Resist the urge to kick a stroller down a flight of stairs after the cruise director reminds you that you are a professional comedian and professionals are supposed to handle anything. (Be sure to hang up before mentioning that you were booked to perform in a professional comedy club.)
  • After two more shows and six Red Bulls, lie awake in your bunk until 4:00am listening to dance hits of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s because everyone knows that the perfect accommodation for someone who just traveled all day, performed three shows, and has to get up at 6:00am for immigration is a cabin right above the disco on “Gangsta Hip-Hop Night.”
  • Show up to Immigration the next morning five minutes early and discover that you’re actually 10 minutes late because the meeting time changed and nobody told you, then get yelled at for not bringing the form you were supposed to bring because nobody gave it to you but now it’s your fault; because, if nobody told you that the meeting time changed and nobody gave you the form you needed, then “you should have said something.”
  • Meet with the hotel director after breakfast to address complaints from a guest you asked to stop heckling you during your midnight show. It doesn't matter that this guest was drunk, naked and loudly practicing his “Duck Dynasty” duck calls in the middle of your set; as an experienced professional, you should know that you can’t ask a guest who is talking, heckling, screaming or duck-calling to be quiet. This semi-illiterate, inbred, alcoholic sociopath is still a guest and all guests are important. (Except for the other 649 guests who were unable to enjoy the show because of him.)
  • Sulk dejectedly over to the coffee shop in search of an ice mocha latte to lift your spirits, and spend the next four hours listening to guests and crew members alike tell you what an easy life you have.

THE END (OF YOUR CAREER)