Paying Back In Pittsburgh
Saturday October 31st, 2009 - Cranberry, PA
Small crowd, BIG fun. That’s not usually how the equation works, but tonight made my long drive to West Virginia and then here totally worth it. Wow, what a vibe these people had. They were there to see comedy and they gave it up start to finish. What a fun night.
This is the drug to which I am hopelessly addicted. An audience like this is worth going across the country for, and around the world. We clicked from the first five seconds and it never let up. I could do anything I wanted and I had as much fun as they did. We bonded.
What made it really satisfying is that Keith Schneider was in the room and saw most of the show. He and his brother Jeff owned the Funny Bone in Milwaukee where I cut most of my comedy teeth on the way up the ranks in the ‘80s. They switched off in running the club so I worked for each of them both onstage and off. They’ve known me from the start.
Before the show Keith and I were talking about my first road trip to their club on Route 51 on the south side of Pittsburgh. I was SO not ready and on my first night I was short on time by about 8 minutes. I was the opener and very green and I just got frazzled and froze.
I remember Keith getting in my face about it and scolding me for not doing my time. He was right and I knew he was right and it didn’t happen again…until I worked there for my first time as a feature act. I was supposed to do 30 minutes but I ran out of steam at about 17 or 18 and got off stage. Again, it was Keith who was right there to tell me what I did.
Again, no complaints from me. I knew I blew it and it felt terrible, but at the time that’s the best I could do. I was ok the rest of the week, but nothing special. I was just another in an endless parade of mediocre to poor Caucasian comedian wannabes during that time of the comedy boom in the ‘80s. Most of the others have dropped out by now, but I stayed.
Of the two brothers, Jeff was is the one who wanted to be a comedian. Keith joined him as a business partner, that’s about it. They’re two distinctly different people, but I’ve been around them both so long I can relate to each of them on an individual level. Keith is very much into flying and is a licensed pilot. We‘ll talk about his plane, but rarely any comedy.
During the show tonight I saw Keith walk through the rear of the club and grab a table at the very back. I don’t recall him doing that very often if ever, so it got my attention. He usually just waits in the office or counts out the receipts or whatever club managers do.
Tonight I heard him laugh out loud countless times and after the show he came right up and shook my hand and told me how far I’d come since that first time and how much he enjoyed the whole show. In a strange way, it really made me feel like it was all worth it.
As luck would have it, I went a little long tonight because the audience was so fantastic. I told Keith it was me paying him back for the time I went short in 1984. I didn’t make a ton of money this week, but I got a lot of work done and am still in a positive mindset.