October 3-5 in Laughlin, Nevada, I was proud to be part of the Laughlin Laugh Fest. The festival brought together something like fifty comics from all over the country. I was entered in the headliner contest — twenty comics competed for $10,000 in prize money. There were three rounds in the contest, ten comics moved on to the semi-finals, five comics competed in the final round, top three comics earned money. All three rounds were hosted by Felipe Esparza (winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, 2010). Dale Jones won first place, I took 2nd prize, Julia Scotti finished third.
There are two reasons I am so very proud of my 2nd place win. Most importantly, the panel of five judges were esteemed comedy industry professionals, all of whom I greatly respect and whose opinions I greatly value. I’ve been at this crazy comedy game for more than 25 years. It’s nice to know that some comedy VIPs think my unique style of joke slinging is a good (funny) thing. Judging all three rounds were: Michelle Scarbrough, agent at ICM Partners; Randi Siegel of Ranid Siegel Entertainment; Joel Pace booking agent at Comedy Zone Worldwide; and comedians Randy Lubas and Richy Leis. The other reason I am so proud of my finish is the guy that came in 1st place is (in my opinion) the funniest guy out there — and I mean fantastically funny and way “out there.” Different is GOOD! Jones received a partial standing ovation in the final round. I posted to my Facebook page the pic below, “Congrats to Dale Jones for winning the Laughlin Laugh Fest. And thanks for making finishing 2nd my biggest win!”
The Laughlin Laugh Fest had had something for everybody. For comedy fans it had three days of great shows: New Faces, Female Comedy Show, After Hours MA Rated, Comedy Contest, Open Mic Lightning Round, Don Barnhart Comedy Hypnotist. Plus TWO BIG shows at the Laughlin Event Center: Friday night with with Dana Carvey, Tim Meadows, Kris Katton; and on Saturday night Larry the Cable Guy with Reno Coulier and Don Banhart. For the young comics there was a business seminar and Q&A on Saturday and Sunday afternoon with Michelle Scarbrough, Randi Siegel , Barry Neal, Joel Pace, Don Barnhart, Richie Lies (who books Flappers Comedy Club) and Randy Lubas (who books Ventura Harbor Comedy Club). For the comics that were invited to the festival, there were terrific venues for comedy shows at classy casinos that provided us with great crowds.
Great thanks to all who made the Laughlin Laugh Fest such a success: Barry Neal, Christine Nichols, Michele Borja of Entertainment Max who produced the event; Golden Nugget Laughlin, Tropicana Laughlin, Harrah’s Laughlin, Pioneer Gambling Hall, Edgewater Casino who provided excellent venues and had terrific and helpful staffs. Mary Ellen Hooper, Fillipe Espeza, and Johnny Watson who hosted shows. CONGRATULATIONS to the Laughlin Laugh Fest on its first year’s success!
BOTTOM LINE: I rate the Laughlin Laugh Fest five stars. I laughed. I learned. I fretted. I celebrated. I had a blast. Great thanks to all my lucky stars!
During an interview this morning on the John Hines Show (WCCO; Twin Cities) Colin Quinn said, “My favorite underrated comedian of all time is from Minnesota, Dwight York.” You can listen to the interview on the John Hines Show Audio on Demand page. Mr Quinn mentions my name starting at about the 8:45 mark.
You can read the story about how I met Colin Quinn, from an earlier post, Me, My Book and Colin Quinn.
You can see Colin Quinn Unconstitutional on Monday, April 7, at the Guthrie Theater, in Minneapolis. You can read an interview with Colin Quinn, and find out more about his show, and how he feels about other Minnesotans, at the Star Tribune.
You can see me at a comedy club somewhere, sometime…. Just as soon as I get back down to earth. I am rushing to publish this post, while the story is new. I was hoping to think of a clever and funny way to thank one of my comedy idols, in a public forum…. But I guess, I’ll go with simple sincerity. Thanks Colin. Means a lot.
I just returned from an Armed Forces Entertainment Comedy Tour of military installations in Alaska. The tour included myself and two other “Blue Collar” themed comics. We had shows at Eielson Air Force Base, Fort Wainwright Army Base, and Clear Air Force Station. Thanks to Frank from AFE and SPECIAL THANKS to our tour producer, Keith, who made it all possible.
It was a honor and privilege to be a member of this tour AND what great timing — on-and-around Veteran’s Day. Being able to thank so many active duty soldiers and airman for their service was an honor and privilege I shall forever cherish. The humbling experience of having so many who serve our country thank us, is one I shall never forget.
Vice Commander, 354th Fighter Wing, Colonel Jay Aanrud was a gracious host and provided us with one of the many highlights of our trip.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, on a Sunday night in the backroom of a Mexican restaurant in South Minneapolis, I stood on the comedy stage for the first time. Next Saturday, September 14, I will be back doing comedy at Pepito’s. But this time instead of doing an open stage in the back bar, I will be headlining the theater next door.
Minneapolis has always had one of the best stand-up comedy scenes in the country. Thanks to Joe Minjares – restaurant owner, comic, actor, playwright and now theater impresario - Pepitos has a long history of supporting that local comedy scene. For more than 25 years Pepito’s Restaurant has hosted a variety of comedy nights and open stages. A few years ago, Minjares bought and renovated (saved) the beautiful old landmark Parkway Theater next door. Besides showing great movies, Pepito’s Parkway Theater is now one of the coolest venues imaginable to experience live comedy (plus other great performance arts shows and special events).
History of the Parkway (from their website): The Parkway Theater opened for business in February 1931 and has been operating as a neighborhood cinema ever since. Although originally designed with a Spanish Mediterranean exterior for reasons unknown to us, it was erected with a deco modern facade which we revealed in the summer of 2006 when we removed the metal facing covering it installed in the 1950′s.
For the last four decades the Parkway theater was owned and run by Bill Irvine who took the reins in 1972 and brought it back from the clutches of an adult film venue and turned the Parkway into one of the finest independent and offbeat film venues in the Midwest.
So, now it’s our turn to add to the long legacy of the Parkway theater, one of the last single screen movie houses in the Twin Cities. We want future generations to be able to look back and feel the history we tried to save. Hopefully the energy which we put forth today in our efforts will be felt for many years to come.
Joining me on stage this Saturday night will be feature act, Jenn Schaal and special guests Rana May and Ali Sultan. Advance tickets can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets or at the Parkway Box Office. Hope you like jokes, because here we go again!
Invite your friends! @Facebook Event
Most good jokes are tiny stories with surprise endings and adverse consequence. They contain two parts; the set-up and the punch-line. The set-up takes your mind down a path of predictable outcome. The punch-line changes the outcome to something unexpected, while at the same time detrimental. In other words, a little trick was played on your mind, revealing that someone got hurt.
I wrote the above paragraph for the introduction to my first joke book, The Vile File – Jokes Too Sick for the Stage (1999; Trailer House Press). Then I went on to explain the importance of adverse consequence, and why many – especially the comedy jaded – are especially fond of dark comedy. I put it this way, “There is a child-like mischievous delight in thinking that something is so wrong to laugh at – I can’t believe I thought or heard or said it – that strikes hard at the funny bone.”
Because I’m a one-liner comic with some decent bits in my act, I sometimes get asked for advice on writing one-liners. Besides the obvious goal of “brevity being the soul of wit” and the essential formula of surprise plus consequence, my advice is simple. Consume as much comedy as you can. If you have talent, the fundamentals will be absorbed.
I have read several “how to” books on comedy writing, but learned little from them. Mostly they reinforced what I instinctively knew. I’m guessing, I am not alone. The way I figured out how to write jokes was by studying comedy. And by “studying,” I mean enjoying those who best create and perform it.
Keith Richards is one of the most influential guitar players in the history of rock ‘n’ roll. In his terrific autobiography, Life (which I wrote about in a post), Richards credits his song writing success to his love of Chicago Blues and spent a lifetime listening to the recording artists he admired. Stephen King, in his terrific book On Writing says, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot (emphasis mine) and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” I have to believe that the same rule applies to joke writing.
As I began my joke writing journey, my three biggest influences were Rodney Dangerfield, Steven Wright and Emo Phillips. If it’s great jokes you want to write, I suggest you study these masters. I highly recommend: Rodney Dangerfield’s autobiography (which is filled with jokes), Not Easy Being Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Lots of Drugs and Sex, and his classic album, No Respect; Steven Wright’s classic CD/DVD I Have a Pony; and anything and everything by my personal hero, Emo Phillips (he also has a terrific recipe for cole slaw, which I also recommend).
I also humbly suggest you read my new joke book, More From the Vile File (published by Stand Up! Books). Certainly, there are lots of joke books on the market, but I’d like to believe mine is special. The typical joke book is a collection of old street jokes, the “author” collected and edited, but didn’t write. No doubt, most of these joke books contain some funny stuff, but inevitably they contain a whole lot of filler (terrible) jokes too. Plus most of the jokes, good and bad, tend to be ridiculously long and horribly contrived. “A hooker and a Martian walk into a bar….” I’ll admit that my book contains some “filler” too, but at least you didn’t waste much time in reading one of my groaners.
There are a few good joke books which are collections of the “best of” comedy bits and one-liners from stand-up comedians. I suggest you read those too. I contributed to one such publication, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jokes (Alpha Books; 2006; edited by Larry Getlen). But to get into the mind of the comedy writer, I believe it’s essential to immerse yourself in a singular “comedy voice.”
Why is one voice so important? I propose a test to my theory. Remember back to when you first heard Mitch Hedberg perform comedy? Did you not find yourself thinking of Mitch Hedberg-esque jokes the rest of the day… or week… or your entire open mic comedy career? If you can’t answer this question, and aren’t familiar with the brilliant comedy of the late great Mitch Hedberg, add him to my “highly recommend list” and buy Strategic Grill Locations first.
My best joke writing burst of creativity occurred 20 years ago, on my drive home from a Steven Wright concert. Fully formed one-liners spilled out of my head, including one of my career best bits, which I opened with the first time I did The Bob and Tom Show. That joke helped make that appearance a big success, and was included on Bob and Tom Show CD You Guys Rock. “I had job once selling security alarms door-to-door. I was really good at it. If there was nobody home I’d leave a brochure on the kitchen table.” I wrote that entirely thanks to the inspiration of Steven Wright. My subconscious was trying to channel his genius. It remains one of my goals to this day.
Twenty-five years in the writing, my new book is more than a sequel, it’s also a compilation of the best jokes from my first book, and the best bits from my live comedy CD. Chapter One contains 150 jokes and is titled, Best of The Vile File – Jokes Too Sick for the Stage. Chapter Two contains 75 “tried and true” jokes and is titled, Best Sick Jokes from Quickies. Chapter Three contains 275 jokes.
For a limited time, and for this promotion campaign, I am offering it as an e-book from Kindle for the low price of $2.99. It is also priced inexpensively from Google Play, $3.84. Speaking of Google Play, I’d like to think my little joke book would be a nifty thing to have on your smart phone. You know, like when you’re bored while waiting at a bus stop or for an open stage to begin. You have an app for that!
Why am I targeting my book to comedy writers and aspiring comedy writers? The obvious reason is that I hope to sell a few books, which should (hopefully) get me some (positive) reviews, which would in theory, boost my Amazon/Kindle/NOOK/iBook/Google book’s rankings, which should further help generate sales. Naturally, I would like to profit from my work, but honestly, at this stage of my career, it isn’t all about the money. I don’t know how much longer I can stay alive in this crazy business (especially with my unique style of doing only one-liners) and have begun to think about my legacy. It is my great hope that when all is said and done, I might contribute a little something to the art of comedy which I have spent a lifetime pursuing. Of course, I realize that it’s unlikely you will read my book, cover to cover, in one sitting, laughing until your belly hurts, like you might hope to do at a comedy club. But I would like to believe that some of the jokes in More From The Vile File – and the style in which I write and perform them – will stand the test of time.
More From The Vile File: 500 Sick Jokes is available in paperback from my website using PayPal (autographed copy); and from Amazon. The e-book is available from Kindle, NOOK, iBook & Google Play. I will be happy to send free copies for review or promotional purposes. If you’re an accomplished professional in the field of comedy, or a reviewer, reporter, blogger or podcaster (or anybody who promises an honest review on my Amazon page), send me a request and I will send you a copy (digital or paper back). You can also read free samples at both the Kindle Store and Google Play. The best sample is at Google Books.
If you like writing jokes, I hope this helps.
A great joke writer. – Tom Griswold on The Bob and Tom Show, May 16, 2013
That’s a funny book. – Colin Quinn, outside the Comedy Cellar in New York City, commenting on The Vile File, Jokes too Sick for the Stage (see blog post), the summer of 2000
Dwight York, as inventive as he is suggestive, is what Steven Wright would be if Wright had Robert Schimmel’s blue streak, and that’s a compliment to all three master comics. – Laughspin review of Quickies (2009; Stand Up! Records)
York delivers a rapid paced series of very funny and original one liners, most of which you will want to repeat to your friends and a few of which you can share at the office. There may be a couple of groaners and moaners on this CD but even those jokes are quite good. – The Serious Comedy Site review of Quickies
This joke book is a lot of fun. – The Serious Comedy Site review of More From The Vile File: 500 Sick Jokes
This year will be my 5th year slinging jokes at The Sturgis Buffalo Chip® for the 73rd Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. In addition to being part of the best entertainment line-up in motorcycling, I’m happy to announce that I will help capture the fun and excitement on video too.
From the Sturgis Rider News Blog: The Sturgis Buffalo Chip® will broadcast an exciting new web series highlighting all the fun and excitement that goes on daily at the legendary campground during the 2013 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The twelve episode series, hosted by former Miss Buffalo Chip model contestant, Cat Chassis, and titled Sturgis Rider TV All Access, will run from August 1-11, 2013 and will highlight all the unique entertainment and wild happenings that fans love about the Best Party Anywhere™.
Camera crews are no rare sight at the legendary campground and patrons of the establishment are often able to catch glimpses of themselves caught on video while viewing the Sturgis Buffalo Chip channel on YouTube. This year the Chip has decided to step it up a notch. The series will feature celebrities, musicians, concerts and guest segments hosted by comedian Dwight York, local radio personality and Man on the Prowl Jersey Steve, and Mayor of Fun Bean’re, to name a few.
Two years ago, I converted my website to a WordPress site so I could blog. The plan was to write something new every week. But the demands of life and lack of enough cool stuff worth writing about made me lazy. So instead of every week, I decided to write a new post only whenever something groovy was about to happen (or happened). Well, it’s happening again.
This Saturday night, at a big casino for a tattoo convention, my unique brand of joke slinging will be part of a big stage show featuring comedy, music, Burlesque and professional wrestling. The audience will be comprised of people who know how to have fun and love having cool stuff done to their bodies. And I’m not just talking about the Burlesque dancers. If that’s not groovy, I give up.
Jokes, Pokes and Chokes happens Saturday May 4-5, Black Bear Casino’s, Otter Creek Convention Center. It’s brought to you by Tattoo You Minnesota. For a $15 weekend pass, you can find the the perfect artist for your new ink, watch others get inked, get ideas for new ink…. meet and commune with cool people…. Saturday, starting at 6:30 PM, the party kicks into high gear with live music, me slinging jokes, Northern Light Burlesque and H.O.W. Pro Wrestling.
Dustin “Gold Dust” Runnels
Besides getting a new tattoo, you can buy some groovy-cool T-shirts. Like the one below. It was designed by the tattoo artist Sam IAM Dunn, North East Tattoo. That’s me under the gun. The proceeds for the sale of the T-shirt goes to the promoter. I’m not trying to hawk T-shirts after my show. But I will be selling my new joke book, More From the Vile File, and my CD Quickies. Maybe we can work out some package deal?
“I really don’t know what it feels like to get a tattoo, but I have some painful memories involving camel toes.” – Dwight York
Tattoo artists/shops attending: Sam Iam Dunn of Northeast Tattoo Minneapolis, MN; Black Lagoon Tattoo – Superior WI; C.M. Rutledge of Beloved Studios – St. Paul, MN; Good Times Tattoo – Oak Park, MN; Dave Zappia Tattooing – Two Harbors, MN; Forever Yours Tattoo – Anoka, MN; Tattoo Asylum Studios – Spring Lake Park, MN; A.A. Custom Tattoos – Minneapolis, MN; Fox Valley Tattoos – Appleton, WI; Defiant Tattoos – Minneapolis, MN; Ghost Dog Tattoos – Cloquet, MN; Thee Dragon’s Lair – Owatonna, MN; Queen of Hearts Tattoos – Fridley, MN; Stay Local Tattoos – Denver, CO; Hogfish Tattoos – Strasberg, VA; Cat’s Tats – Owatonna, MN; Seth Snell Studios – Rochester, MN; Ink Spot – Carlton, MN; Tattoos by Mike MaGee – Thunder Bay, ONT; Shaun Benesh of Primo Ink, Grand Rapids, MN; Modify Tattoos – Becker, MN; Your Mom’s Tattoo Atelier – Bemidji, MN; Images Everlasting Tattoos – Faribault, MN; Permanent Skin Art – Maplewood, MN; Infinity Tattoos Rochester, MN; Angela Turn Boom of Ouch Ink – Hibbing, MN
Other Vendors and Artists: Jes Durfee Glass – Duluth, MN; Mizz Hot Rocks – Duluth, MN
Majestic’s Sketches – Duluth, MN; Hill of a Design – Superior, WI
I have to believe with an event like this, I’ll be adding a post next week with photos and video. Although, I imagine I’ll need a few days to recuperate…. There’s a private show after the pro wrestling for the tattoo artists (my comedy and Burlesque dancers).
I am very pleased to make the official announcement. The months of waiting are over. It’s a book.
Thanks to my publisher, Stand Up! Books (a brand new division of Stand Up! Records) for making my dream a reality. And for producing such a cool looking product. The cover was designed by Ian Rans. Illustration by Aaron Caswell. The cover design was the brainchild of Rans. It’s a parody of a Chick tract (fundamentalist Christian comic book).
Thanks also to Greg Fideler, Dave Mordal, Chad Daniels and Pete Lee for providing quotes for the back cover. I begged them to read my book with the hope they might say something nice. I never dared dream that they’d come up with anything so FANTASTIC!
Speaking of fantastic (and humbling). Thanks also to Letta Page, who wrote the product description (below). She also helped edit the book. Thanks also to Bryan Miller, who helped in editing too.
You can pre-order my new joke book from Amazon. I have copies now, and will be selling them after my show. Amazon will have them within days. UPDATE: Tuesday, Sept 18: They are available TODAY!
Hope you like jokes! Because here we go…
May 1-5: Diamond Jo Casino; Dubuque, IA. Last week I was happy to take part in the Comedy $10K. More than fifty comics gathered to compete for a share of $10,000 in prize money. It was also an opportunity to see old friends, network with other comedians and schmooze with comedy business VIPs. It cost $50 to enter, plus we had to pay for our own travel expenses. Comics got a discount rate for lodging, but I found a nice campground nearby and slept in my tent. That saved me a few bucks, plus added to the legend. The one where “I was homeless for awhile, but didn’t want people to know so I slept in front of a Ticketmaster.”
The Comedy $10K competition started on Tuesday. There were eight preliminary rounds. One comic per show advanced to the semi-finals and won a share of the prize money. Though all of the participants had dreams of winning, you didn’t need to take 1st place to make it worth your while. The Comedy $10K had assembled an impressive panel of judges. This was a great opportunity to be seen by people who could help make your career.
Judging the contest were: Bruce Ayers, of Stardome Comedy Club, Birmingham, AL; Brian Dorfman, of Zanies Comedy Club, Nashville; Chuck Johnson, of Summitt Comedy, NC; Chris DiPetta, of Punchline Comedy Club, Atlanta; Cyndi Nelson, of Zanies, Chicago; Brian Heffron, Heffron Talent and The Comedy Zone, Charlotte, NC and; John MacDonald, of MacDonald Entertainment and creator of The Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Also in attendance was festival producer Jeff Johnson, of USA Entertainment. And if you were fortunate enough to be one of the top three to reach the finals, Dave Coulier would also judge your set.
Although I assume the main reason for most who entered the Comedy $10K was the opportunity to be seen, there were some who were there strictly to win. These guys were seasoned professionals and had already been seen by the esteemed panel of judges. I called them the “heavy favorites” and if you were a betting man and wanted to wager on the outcome, there were a couple of guys you’d be smart to put your money on. In the end, all four of these comics finished ahead of me, but that was OK. I had a different agenda for the Comedy $10K. I just wanted to be funny.
Of course, I admit I too had dreams of finishing in 1st place and hoped that winning the Comedy $10K would orchestrate my big career break. But I have been dreaming for over twenty years and have learned not to pin much hope on dreams. Too many times, I’ve burned my hand on that hot stove. Instead of dreaming of how my career might take off, I was more thinking of how it might end. I don’t know how much longer I can stay in this crazy business and I’ve begun to consider my legacy. I hope it never happens, but should I have to quit comedy, I want to be well remembered.
For I do worry about how the people in the comedy industry think of me. Especially those who aren’t fans of what I do and don’t offer me work. Over the years, I’ve earned a reputation: York’s “hit or miss” and “not every crowd is going to get him.” Which I’m sure was a fair assessment at one point in time. But most of those opinions were forged a long time ago. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for twenty-three years. In recent years, my shows are much more “hit” than “miss.” And although my stage persona is still on the dark side, I’ve learned to sell that character better. Being different is one of my strengths, after all. There is a reason I have stuck with my crazy look and unique style and there is a reason I’ve stayed in this business. And I want people to know why. Having a killer set in front of some of the people who’ve been – in effect – judging me for my entire career was worth more to me than money or future work. It was worth my self-respect and sanity.
My first show for the Comedy $10K was Friday night. It was the last preliminary round and everything I’d hoped it’d be. The place was packed and the crowd was fantastic. I had a choice spot in the line-up; second to last. I was able to get into my joke slinging rhythm, ride waves of laughter and in the end, I won my round. It was one of those happiest nights of my life occasions and it felt like, for once in my career, the pressure was off. That sense of calm lasted for about 18 hours.
I spent some time Saturday afternoon going over my jokes, but I didn’t decide on a definite set list. Instead I just relaxed. My plan was to trust my instincts and decide which jokes I’d do that night. I wanted to gauge the audience, see where I was in the line-up. And most importantly, I wanted to see if the other comics were going to repeat material or not. The judges for the semi-finals, for the most part, were the same as the preliminaries. That begged the question: Should I do different jokes this round? Or should I stick with the set that got me here? The set I did the night before was my “showcase” set and I’d been working on it for months (see Quest for TV Clean Video Put to Rest). My gut told me I should probably do some combination… but I wanted to wait and see, maybe ask around…. I did have two other concerns about the semi-finals. I didn’t want to go first and I didn’t want to follow Dale Jones (he was the clear “heavy favorite” to win). But I had no control over that and refused to let myself worry too much about “what ifs.” For some inexplicable reason, I felt that my luck was going to hold.
I arrived at the Mississippi Moon Bar about thirty minutes before showtime and ran into my old friend (another one of the “favorites”) Kevin Bozeman. Bozeman said he’d seen the line-up and I was going up after him and he was seventh. So much for thinking my luck was going to hold. Dead last. Following Bozeman. Damn it! That was almost as bad as going first or having to follow Dale Jones. But I didn’t worry too much, right away. I’d figured I’d have plenty of time for that type of angst once the show began. Or so I thought.
Although I didn’t relish the idea of following Kevin Bozeman, I felt a bit of relief in going last. At least I’d have plenty of time to judge the crowd and decide on which jokes to do. Plus I thought I had an ace up my sleeve when it came to following Bozeman. He likes to work edgy. I like to work edgy (but probably not for a contest). Following him would give me an excuse to pull out my crowd pleasing sex jokes. I decided I could follow Bozeman even if that set would not score well enough for me to join him in the finals (I was sure he’d make it). It was ten minutes before the show began and still not once, did the thought, “I might eat it tonight,” enter my head.
It also had not yet occurred to me that if my objective for this festival was to prove my act was no longer “hit or miss,” one bad set, regardless of how well I did the night before, wouldn’t change that perception. In fact, it would REINFORCE it. But I wouldn’t have much time to worry about that happening. Eighteen minutes was all the time I had to contemplate a catastrohpe of that epic proportion. Five minutes before showtime, the comics gathered in the green room. That’s when I found out Bozeman had been given bad information about the line-up. I wasn’t going last or following him, I was going second and I was following THE HEAVY FAVORITE Dale Jones. That’s when the horribly unbearable thought, “I might eat it tonight,” popped into my head.
I’ve never jumped out of an airplane, but if I was to, I assume I’d only be half as scared as I was standing behind the curtain waiting to follow Dale Jones. Not only is he out-of-this-world talented and insanely funny, but he’s also super high energy and has a rapid-fire delivery. AND if you can believe this: his act is more quirky/weird than mine. I really can’t describe how I was feeling in those eight minutes Jones was on stage because I don’t remember much. Too many thoughts were swirling around my head for me to be able to think straight.
I did not watch Jones’ set (I’d seen it before…) although I wanted to. It’d have been nice to see what he was doing and how the crowd was reacting. But I needed to decide which jokes I was going to do instead. Should I work clean? It was an early show and the crowd was older. But I used my most favorite clean/clever jokes the night before. I had tentatively planned to work a little bluer for Saturday night….. And what about my opener? I like to mug for the crowd before I say my first words. In a perfect night, that gets a laugh and is my opener. But Jones was killing (that much I knew) with his crazy facial expressions which are Olympic gold medal winning in proportion to mine (state fair blue ribbon). I had no idea how I was going to open my show until the moment I picked up the microphone. Then I just said what came off the top of my head. “Welcome to quirky guy night.” It didn’t get a laugh, but it allowed me to catch my breath and think. Then my first joke did OK and a catastrophe was avoided.
I guess I’d have to say I had a decent set, although I never got into a rhythm, nor did I ever feel like I had the crowd in my back pocket. I did a few jokes I’d done the night before, but mostly I did different ones. I was able to get laughs without seeming to offend the crowd and I scored well enough to place 5th. That’s a very respectable finish considering who scored ahead of me: Dale Jones 1st, Kevin Bozeman 2nd, Dan Chopin 3rd and People’s Choice Winner, Mark Sweeney finished 4th.
I don’t know if I would have done any better if I had a different spot in the line-up. I am going to guess that the judges would’ve scored me about the same. But I am pretty sure I would’ve gotten a better reaction from the crowd. But maybe that was only because I let where I was in the line-up mess with my head? Maybe how funny I did had nothing to do with who I followed or when I went up. Nobody wants to go first, but Dale Jones went first and he won the contest. Nobody wants to follow one of the “heavy favorites,” but Dan Chopin followed Kevin Bozeman and made it to the finals. I do know this for sure. I’d feel better about my luck, if I’d have drawn a better spot. I often curse my luck. But I guess, I should thank my lucky stars I did as well as I did and that I get to tell jokes for a “living.” Probably going forward I should work on feeling grateful instead of worrying about my luck. You can’t control luck. And wondering “what if” will only make you crazy. Besides and after all, being a positive guy in this brutal business would be a better way to be remembered than being bitter.
Thanks to everyone involved in the Comedy $10K: The producers, sponsors, judges, comics, and my new friends at Lafnjag.com. And thanks to the staff at the Diamond Jo Casino who made the festival such a success. You people are the best! And a very special thanks to everyone who came out to the shows and supported the Comedy $10K. I’ve done comedy in lots of places. Nowhere are the audiences better than Dubuque. That’s good news for me because I’m booked at Diamond Jo Casino, September 5. I know I’ll still be in the business at least until then. That paycheck will be guaranteed.