August 24, 2009
It has become my pre-show ritual to psyche myself out before a show; having a constantly negative inner monologue helps to ease the stress and pressure of performing in front of a room full of strangers with expectations. But I had reason to think this past show would be awful.
I had been recommended to compete in the first annual Brew Haha Comedy Festival in Morgantown, WV. Being physically unable to say “no” to a potential booker, I agreed. At 12 noon on Saturday August 8th my journey began.
After an hour and a half of singing along to an eclectic and non-artistic mix of pop punk, ska, and the occasional musical theater tune, I arrived in Morgantown. The parking meter had a 10 hour limit. I rummaged up $4.35 from my exact change at Wendy’s fund and fed the meter.
2 blocks later I was standing at the venue. Did I say “venue”? I meant parking lot. An afternoon show in the hot sun in the middle of a parking lot in Morgantown – my dream come true. I had arrived a half hour early. The place was empty. The stage was set up in front of the broad side of a local business. On the building was a several hundred feet mural. The lack of the 3rd dimension in the painting indicated a pre-renaissance artist. The lack of talent indicated a 5th grade art class. I sat down on a folding chair and waited for the day to begin.
It wasn’t long before the 14 other comics showed up for the contest. Contests are typically not for comics at all; they’re just a ploy to get comedians to bring their friends to shows. Especially when the contest is by audience vote. I had no one there for me. I mean no one. The only other person I knew was my friend Chase who was MCing the event. Maybe if I draw a good number I’ll have a sweet spot right when the audience is warmed up and right before the audience stops paying attention and realizes the comics are simply getting in their way of hitting on some drunk chick.
No time to think. Chase was calling me over to the sound booth. Without warning I had a microphone in my face and was being interviewed by the local radio. I did my best to sound natural without swearing. I wasn’t funny, but I rarely am in those situations. But I was pleased with myself for successfully completing my first radio drop. Things might be looking up.
The asphalt arena began to fill up quickly as hundreds of people squeezed through the gate hoping to attend the event. I later found out this was due to the fact that it was the first time open beverage containers were allowed in public and not due to some undying appreciation of the arts. A kid can dream.
Chase took the stage an hour after the event was supposed to start. Good old comedy time. Always reliably late. Out of the 1000 people there, a good 900 were in line for beer. No laughs were heard. Only broken fragments of drunken conversation disrupted the air. Chase was a champ. Did 15 minutes in front of an awful crowd. These are the shows that build your character or break your soul. There is no in between.
The first contestant went up. “I want to tell you about the 5 stages of drinking.”
5 minutes of a 20 year-old Larry Miller bit. Who could ask for a better opener?
Me. That’s who. But I had to make do.
I took the stage and looked out at the mass of functioning alcoholics. Surprisingly, some had their eyes turned to the stage, including a 6 year old girl with her mom. Baby sitters cost less than therapists. I go into my reliable 7 minutes. It’s autopilot now. It helps me to ignore the fact that I’m being ignored.
I stepped off of the stage and tried to make my way to get a drink to erase the pain. On the way there, someone grabbed my arm and said “Hey! Great job!” I turned my head just in time to see 3 beautiful women walk away. Typical.
The show ended 2 hours later after a gauntlet of performers. The radio people had all said they loved me. Random people said they liked my material. I felt pretty good about my odds. But they wouldn’t announce the winner until the main event with Jeff Ross. So I was doomed to wait unknowingly for another 2 hours.
Just then, another hand touches my arm. It was the girls from earlier. This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve had girls talk to me after a show, but usually I screw things up and they go find another man. Standard operating procedure. Now I had a second chance at the same girl. I could not mess this up.
“So Tim is this the girl you’re taking with you as your date to the Jeff Ross show tonight?” says Justin, a comedian that I met about 3 hours ago. That’s a move only your best friends should pull off. It’s not awkward at all. My skin turned the color of a drunk Asian and my throat cracked. How the hell am I supposed to get out of this one?
“They call him Big Dick Dimond.”
Good follow through. Normally, I’m the one who screws up my chances. But Justin, the team player that he is, doesn’t want all of the burden to rest on my shoulders. He’d let me sit this one out.
“So are you taking her?” he says, right in front of her.
“So. Uh, um. Yeah. I have a ticket if you want to go?” I ask.
“Well, if you would rather take a friend or someone you know a little better-”
“No. I’ll take you I guess.”
Wow I’m smooth. How could any woman resist my charm?
We went over to the theater. It was packed. 900 plus. They didn’t have any reserved for us so I was placed in the middle of the 7th row. I had some brief chitchat with the new lady and before I knew it: show time. I may be ignoring her a bit, but it’s really hard to try to care about one person when you want the attention of the 900 other ones in the room.
The lights went down. My muscles tightened. I was nervous as hell. Chase, the MC from before, took the stage and did an opening 10 that destroyed. At least 3 distinct applause breaks as the 1st comedian up is quite impressive. Then my moment came. Josh Knotts came onto the stage and announced the top 3 contestants. I stood as my name was called and tried to squeeze past the drunks sitting next to me. I figured they were going to have all 3 of us come up on the stage and then announce the winner from there. I was halfway down the aisle.
“And the winner is – Tim Dimond!”
So much for suspense.
Stepping onto that stage was amazing. Close to 1000 people cheering for me before I’d done anything. This was going to be a piece of cake. I took the mic and went right into my set. The spotlight was so bright that I couldn’t make out any of the audience, but after my first joke they made their presence known. Eruptions of applause and laughter sprung from unseen corners of the room. Nothing can compare to that rush. Nothing. Nothing has. Nothing ever will. Nothing comes close to controlling the joys of hundreds of people. My 7 minute set was extended to 10 simply by applause breaks. I was on cloud 9 and 10.
As quickly as it started, it was over. I wrapped it up; the audience was introduced to Jeff Ross. Before I could even exit, he was calling me back onto stage. “A pothead comedian. 15 jokes about pot and only 3 are funny.” He thought 3 of my jokes were funny. Score. I take it as an honor to be made fun of by other comedians. It’s even more of an honor when a guy known for his crushing insults can only come up with a mild barb for me.
I walked into the wings of the theater ecstatic. I could not contain my happiness.
“So are you gonna go back to your seat?” someone asked me.
Shit. I had completely forgot that I was technically on a date. I had to go back. But we were in the 7th row. In the middle of the aisle. If I go went the whole row would have to stand. Jeff Ross would see the girl I’m with and make fun of her, forever ruining my chances. I should text her instead. No. If I texted then her phone would go off. So I decided on the safest course: ignore her completely. Certainly not my most gentlemanly move, but it had to be done. After all, what’s one person’s happiness when you won over 900 others?
– Tim Dimond
P.S. I ended up going out to the bar with her. I’m not that heartless. We drank Jameson, ate peanuts, and watched the sunrise while discussing the possibility of wormholes. A perfect end to a perfect night.