Death and Comedy

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Forgive me for being so morbid. Most people do vanity Googling, but I enjoy dysfunctional vanity Googling. You can call it DVG, for short. I will combine my name and an additional search parameter of a grisly nature. Paul+Ogata+tumor is a good one; I totally forgot about that homeless guy and his $20. Yesterday, I Googled Paul+Ogata+obituary only to find out that yes, a guy named Paul Ogata in Los Angeles just died a week ago. On the plus side, I made the LA Times! Sort of.

Anyway, on the death tip, just this morning I found out (not through any DVG) that a New Jersey politician died last night right in the statehouse restroom after hours of whatever it is politicians do. I guess as far as bad things happening to you on the job, that’s right up at the top of the list for any profession.

It made me think of the bad things that can happen to a comedian on the job. Sure, there’s the dying on stage. Either literally or figuratively. But outside of that, then what? Well, this:

Things That Can Go Wrong At A Comedy Show

1. The microphone goes dead in the middle of the show. Then the replacement microphone goes dead shortly after that, leaving you to shout to a full room of people at a venue located next to a busy rail line. (Actually, this sounds horrible on the surface but it turned out to be one of my favorite shows ever.)

2. The obese comic before you has an act which includes a lot of jumping up and down on the cheap stage. (Clubs like to invest as little as they can in producing comedy shows. I did a show once where the stage was a sheet of plywood on top of milk crates. Stop it, you cheap bastards!) So a minute into your set, the stage riser collapses, sending you hurtling head-first into the front row.

3. The live snake around an audience member’s neck gets tangled in his dangly earring and begins to panic, twitching like an unmanned fire hose. (As a side note, at this same show there was also a grown man who brought a stuffed donkey to the show as his date. Ah, Oxnard.)

4. You bleed profusely throughout the show because you cut your hand on the microphone grill, which is dented up because a hundred bad comedians wanted to be like Chris Rock (or Ralphie May) and throw the mic on the ground. (Attention bad comedians: Rock and May make a nice chunk of change when they perform and can afford to pay for a new mic. Most of you are paying $5 to perform. Stop it.)

5. The club owner’s wife, who has absolutely zero comedy skills and who has alternately either claimed to receive messages from Jesus or actually BE Jesus, and who also went crazy(er) after seeing space aliens landing in her backyard, demands to open every show with her guitar parodies. And by that, I mean it is so bad she is a parody of people who can actually play the guitar.

There’s more, and this isn’t even the worst of it. Next time you’re talking to a comedian at the bar after a show, ask them what are some of the bad things to happen to them on the job. And buy them a drink, it helps to lubricate their throat for a good story telling.

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