Comedy and Steroids Don’t Mix
THE WORLD OF STAND-UP COMEDY can take you to places and situations you never would have dreamed of – while sober.
In the late 1980s I was doing a lot of performing in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was not unusual to be able to get stage time in four or five places a night. Some of those venues were very nice, others were not. Some places paid performers in cash while others…ahem…did not. I preferred cash. Some performers accepted drugs, a place to sleep, food or even close personal, albeit temporary, relationships in payment.
I always sought out those places that paid in American legal tender – cash – preferably in small, unmarked bills. Never take a check. I’m still owed money by some producers who have since died. I think some of them kicked the bucket to just avoid paying the comedians.
One way to get paid was to enter the so-called “Comedy Competitions” that clubs would sponsor just to get a bunch of comedians to perform while only having to pay the “winners.” I hated those shows, but it was a way to maybe get paid in cash.
I once entered a competition that was being held at a reasonably legitimate club in Oakland. I was leery of most Oakland clubs, the majority of them were “punch palaces”, but I took this one because the publicity had announced that the “Judges” were going to be players from the Oakland Raiders football team.
The night of the show one of the comedians who had a car gave a bunch of us a ride across the Bay. Sure enough, when we arrived the place was packed and we were introduced to the “Judges” – Three retired members of the Raiders (along with their wives and/or girlfriends. I wasn’t sure which and I didn’t ask.) – Ben Davidson, with his trademark handlebar moustache, John Matuszak, known as one of the “Bad Boys” of the NFL who was famed for his escapades off the field as well as earning two Super Bowl Championships, and Quarterback Jim Plunkett who really seemed out of place.
My first impression was, “Good God, these are the largest people I’ve ever seen.” In shaking hands with them I watched my hand disappear into their huge paws. They were all very calm and polite – thank God.
I should have known that things could only go downhill from there. We weren’t ten minutes into the show when one of the comedians onstage snatched a woman’s purse from her ringside table. He was planning on playing with her about the contents of her bag. He opened it with a flourish, looked inside, then quickly closed it, handed it back to her and nervously apologized. When he came offstage he told us that the first thing he saw in the purse was a nice and shiny .38 caliber pistol.
Things went badly from there.
I went on and got through my set without incident. The fuse on the bomb was lit by the guy up just after me.
Too many comedians fall back on blue material when things don’t work out right.
I knew it was a mistake when that comedian, who still performs and shall remain nameless, directed an incredibly tasteless remark at the woman who was there with John Matuszak. A palpable chill descended over the crowd.
Cutting to the chase…
For reasons known but to God I came in third place. The comedian who had tossed the obscene remark at Matuszak’s date – he didn’t win, but got paid anyway out in front of the club after the show.
The comedians were loitering outside, rehashing the show, when John Matuszak came over and, with a fist the size of a baked ham, flattened the face of the offending comedian with one punch.
I drove the car back into the City because, with his face rearranged into a cross between a map of France and mashed potatoes, the guy who drove us over was in no condition to be behind the wheel.
I have been told that the comedian has no recollection of that night, let alone being punched out by a huge man on steroids with “anger issues.”
What? And give up Showbiz?