March 22, 2011
I’m in Brookville, PA at some nondescript country club. I’m already on stage and it’s going…well…I guess. I finish a joke and the old ladies sitting at the table in the front just stare at me. They are not as amused as the rest of the younger, drunker audience. The laughter dies down and I try to explain the punchline.
“See Lady Gaga is a pop singer that all the kids are listening too nowadays,” I trail off. Get your bearings, Jeff. Plow ahead.
It’s the typical dilemma of a needy comedian. 95% of the audience is having a great time, but I don’t care. I need to win over that 5% that hates me. I want them to leave happy. I want them to say, “Good job!” as I leave the venue.
The four Blue-Hairs all wear different expressions on their face but they convey the same emotion: uncomfortable disappointment. “I used the last of my Aqua Net for this?”
Supposedly these ladies called the country club earlier in the day and asked if there were any tickets left for “the Theater Show.” Of course, rather than inform the ladies that it was a stand-up comedy show, prone to vulgarities and mild debauchery, the club instead told them to “Come on down! You may hate the show, but at least we’ll get your money.”
I honestly think that everyone would be a better person if their grandma watched them all the time. But they wouldn’t be funny. Tonight, I have four grandma’s watching my every move.
I sometimes think that we treat older people with kid gloves though. We act like they’ve never cursed in their life. But c’mon! You’re telling me when Hitler invaded Poland a few of those ladies didn’t drop the F-bomb? You’re telling me that during the Great Depression none of them said, “That Herbert Hoover is a real A**hole.”
Back to reality.
“I feel like you ladies aren’t going to laugh at anything,” I say and point to them. “I feel like you’re just going to judge my penmanship.”
Everyone else is laughing. But the Octagenarians aren’t. Not at all.
I’m such a jerk. These poor old ladies. My comedy is pure torture to them. I’m a loud, poorly-mannered, whippersnapper and the more I try to turn on the charm the more they seem to retract.
This room is ominous. It has timber joists supporting a chapel-style roof. It’s dusty and there are several antiquated American flags hanging from the balcony. The building looks like it was built during the Civil War. Maybe I can impress them with my knowledge of American History.
“You know, you ladies are free to laugh,” I say. “I know it feels like someone’s going to get assassinated in here. But this is not Ford’s theater and my act is not ‘My American Cousin.’”
I could make a cheap joke about them being as old as the Civil War. But I won’t. I can’t. I’ve already done enough damage. Attacking a four-pack of grannies would bring me to a new low. I decide to cut my losses. Focus on the 95% and make sure that they like you.
I get a nice applause from the rest of the audience as I close my set but I feel awful. I’ve lost that crucial 5%. I retreat to the shadows of the balcony. I can’t stand to look into those four sets of old grey eyes and have them reflect the ungrateful grandson that I am.
They get up and leave before Lee Terbosic, a highly entertaining comedy magician, takes the stage. They’ve had enough though. I’ve ruined their night. And my heart breaks just a little bit.
I stay until the show ends. I say goodbye to the other comics and start to sulk out the door. Another blue-haired woman comes up to me. Oh no. Here it is. I’m going to get a talking to. Something about how I don’t need to act like that. How in her day you didn’t speak like that. We young people have no respect. And she’s right. I’m about to realize what a scumbag I am.
“Hello,” she starts. “I just wanted to let you know that those old b*****s wouldn’t know funny if it spit on their shoe.”
Thank God for dirty old ladies.