Sunday July 28th, 2013 – Fort Walton Beach, FL
I’ll bet it had been twenty years since I’d been to Fort Walton Beach, FL but tonight I managed to find my way back. It was a different venue than I’d performed at last time, but pretty much the same kind - a giant entertainment complex located on the beach that has a weekly comedy night.
These shows can go either way for no discernible reason, and often do. I remember having one particularly rough go of it in the two times I remember being here, while the other one happened to come off without a hitch. A lot of factors go into a successful comedy show, and only one has to be amiss and life can be downright miserable. Tonight it all came together and life was good.
The venue tonight was a dueling piano bar called “Howl at the Moon”. It was packed, but with a younger audience that appeared to be drinking heavily. There was a lot of miscellaneous noise, from multiple blenders behind the bar to constant crowd chatter. This wasn’t a gig for the subtle, so before the show I braced myself for battle. I had no idea in what direction tonight would head.
The degree of difficulty in situations like this is beyond sky high, but few understand. Bookers seldom if ever care, as all they want is their commission. They should technically be in charge of educating the venue operators as to how to properly run a comedy show, but that’s often the first and most glaring ingredient lacking. They assume we don’t need assistance, and that’s incorrect.
One babbling drunk can throw a night like this to the wolves, and since the comedy shows start right after the dueling pianos perform that’s par for the course. The piano show is an entertaining concept, and as a fan of quality entertainment I enjoy them very much. As a comic, they’re hell.
For the entire show, the audience is encouraged to yell things out and sing along and be part of the mix. That’s the last thing comedians want, but we’ve got it. How can we blame the audience, as they’ve just been programmed for participation? Asking them to be quiet becomes impossible.
Shouldn’t someone somewhere up the entertainment food chain have thought of this huge issue before scheduling a standup comedy show immediately after a dueling piano show? That’s like a kindergarten teacher passing out cookies and Kool Aid directly before story time. It’s buzz city.
In my opinion, if anyone is going to offer standup comedy and music on the same night there’s no question that comedy should go first 100 times out of 100. It can serve as a perfect lead in for the pianos, and then if people want to yell things out it doesn’t matter. That’s a win/win for all.
Tonight happened to go very well. I’ve done enough of these types of shows to know the exact formula, and it worked perfectly. They wanted quick, loud and animated, and that’s exactly what I gave them. Once my rhythm was established, I was able to sustain it for the rest of the evening.
The shift manager was one of the co-owners named Steve and he was really easy to work with. He enjoys comedy and totally gets it. He told us before the show he’d bounce anyone who might get out of hand, and knowing that goes a long way with me. It shows respect, and I appreciate it.
I’m sure they have a legitimate business reason for putting comedy on after music, and it’s not my place to complain. It’s their venue, and we got treated extremely well. I was here for the cash and I got it immediately after the show. They put us in a sweet hotel, and I’m delighted to get the work when I really needed it. Rent will be paid this month, but now I have that long drive home.