Our kids are going to see Louis C.K. in Wilkes-Barre in a few weeks. There was some half-hearted talk, early in the process, about me going with them. But, that’s not going to happen. I was picking up a faint “oh god, please no” vibe from them, so I backed out. There was little to no protest about my decision. Yes, I remember when they were young, and they’d get all excited when I came home from work…
In any case, it got me to thinking about the stand-up comedians I’ve had the pleasure of seeing during my life. It’s not many, but there were some good ones. Today I thought I’d give you guys a quick rundown, and ask you to do the same in the comments. Sound good? Let’s do it.
Steve Martin This was the first “concert” I ever attended. It was at the Huntington Civic Center, when I was in Jr. High School. Martin was at the height of his white suit, arrow-through-the-head, SNL, wild ‘n’ crazy guy fame. The place was pandemonium, and filled to the rafters. I later saw Billy Joel there, and Foreigner (w/Wet Willie and Nantucket!), The Doobie Bros., etc. Steve Martin rocked the joint harder than all of them.
Jay Leno I don’t know how this ever happened, but Leno performed two shows at a small restaurant in Charleston, WV called Michael B’s Deli, sometime in the early 1980s. This was before The Tonight Show, when he was still going on Letterman once a month, sharing his latest “beefs.” People don’t believe me, but Jay Leno was, back then, one of the best stand-ups working.
I went to the early show with my friends Bill and Vincent, and it was bizarre. It was a restaurant, with booths: not exactly an ideal set-up for comedy. But Leno did his set, probably on auto-pilot, and was very funny. I remember him talking about a recent “religious argument” that Charles Manson had gotten into in prison, resulting in somebody being set on fire. “There’s a couple of major theologians, eh?” he said. “Wonder what part of the scriptures they were arguing about when one of them threw gasoline in the other ones face?”
After the first show, as the staff was trying to clear the place, I saw Leno sitting at a table by himself, drinking a bottle of water. He looked sad. I walked over, and attempted to strike up a conversation. But he wasn’t having it. I wouldn’t say he was rude, exactly, he just made it clear he didn’t want to talk to a Jiffy-Pop haired shitkicker during the middle of the booking disaster to top all booking disasters.
Indeed, the next time Leno appeared on Letterman he talked about the experience. He said something about believing the pilot had made a mistake when they landed in Charleston, because it looked like the parking lot of a Denny’s. Then he talked about the booths, and how people were forced to turn around backwards, and look over the tops of their seats.
A lot of the locals were pissed at Leno, saying he mocked West Virginia. But I don’t remember it that way. Unless my memory is faulty, I believe he mostly just talked about the terrible club set-up, and the awkward situation he’d been plunged into. Whatever.
Sam Kinison This was another giant arena show (like Steve Martin), at Greensboro Coliseum. I got free tickets through the record store where I worked, and don’t remember much about it. I always liked Kinison, but this was near the end, I believe, after the drugs had taken their toll. I don’t remember being disappointed, and don’t remember busting a gut, either. He did ‘Wild Thing’ at the end, with some local rock band (I guess). That part was horrible.
Jeff Foxworthy When I worked for WEA there was always a national convention during the summer, in some random city somewhere. Bands would play every night, but the final night was a big deal. They would bring in a big name act, and attempt to keep it secret. Rumors would be flying, and anticipation would build.
Some of the final night acts I saw: Rod Stewart, Prince, Iggy Pop(!), Dwight Yoakam.
But when the convention was held in Atlanta (a ripoff, since I already lived there), it was Jeff Foxworthy. He was riding high at the time, the most popular comedian in the world. And it’s not something I would’ve paid to see, but I have to admit… he won me over. It was a fun show. The dude’s a seasoned professional.
Robert Schimmel This was also at a WEA convention, but wasn’t on the main stage. It was a show at a small bar inside the hotel, late at night. I think it was in Anaheim, California. And I’m not kidding, I’ve never laughed so hard in my life. The man was a force of nature, completely fearless and absolutely filthy. He had that room roaring. It was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever seen.
Schimmel, for the record, was diagnosed with cancer sometime after that show, beat it, and promptly died in a car crash. Apparently it was his time? It’s a shame. He wasn’t well known, but he was great. Really great.
And that’s what I’ve got. Please use the comments section to tell us about the comedians you’ve seen.
Oh yeah, I also visited a couple of comedy clubs in Atlanta a million years ago, but can’t remember who was performing there. Hell, it could’ve been Louis C.K.? I just don’t remember. Also, I met Chris Rock at WEA Atlanta, once. He wasn’t doing stand-up, he was just walking down the hall. He signed an 8×10 photo for me, and I have no idea what happened to it.
Have a great day, my friends.
I’ll see you again soon.