So, a couple of weeks ago (in fact it was the night of game 3 of the ALCS, hereafter to be known as the hiccup in the Red Sox postseason), I drove down to Uncasville Connecticut to do a private show for a group called the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association. No shit, there really is a club for everything you might like to do. Anyway, I was booked for the show by a guy who books a lot of fundraisers for civic organizations and whatnot, and he tends to pay well and on time, and the shows are always pretty good, and so I figured this would all be fine too. I was also recovering from a cold that my roommate passed on to me, because apparently, the British don't believe in covering your mouth when you sneeze and cough. So my head was a little light, and my voice didn't have the smooth, deep, rich quality that made me one of the most popular weekend dj's on stations nobody ever listens to for many years. But I'm a professional, so I know I can hack it (no pun intended).
Now bear in mind, I had done a show for this same booking agent the previous night, which was a benefit for his church, and it went just fine. In fact, it was great, and the agent in question was there and saw the whole show. He wasn't, however at the Horseshoe show, but as I said, I'm a professional, and all the signs pointed to another fine night of comedy. The crowd seemed nice, a good mix of younger and older folks, everyone was very friendly, and the guy running the show, who was also a member of the organization, seemed pretty cool. Unfortunately, when the booker isn't at a show like this, you're kind of at the mercy of the folks from the organization and when they want to start. You can make all the suggestions you want, based on how you know it should go, and what it will take to get everyone to settle and pay attention, but invariably, you will be introduced just as the servers are bussing the tables, and the noise of plates and silverware being dumped into the service cart placed strategically right in front of you tends to distract folks. And that's what happened on this night too.
Anyway, the show went okay. Not my best show to date, but there were some definite laughs from the crowd, and afterwards, people came up and told me they'd enjoyed it, and I said thanks and got in my car and went home. Okay, I thought, I've done better, but I've done worse, and assumed it had to do with the awkward start of the show. The following Monday, I get an email from the booker telling me that the Horseshoe folks were very upset with me, and that the agent took what he called a "Big Hit" for the show. Whether that means he lost out on the possibility of any future bookings for their events, or someone actually struck him, he didn't specify, but he mentioned things like "I wouldn't have asked you if I didn't think you could handle it." To me, that's like telling me he didn't know I sucked. Now bear in mind, he'd seen me just the previous night, where I got applause breaks for the very same material, and now he was questioning my abilities as a comic. I don't think I have to tell you, but them's fightin' words. So I made a point to remind him of the great job he'd told me I'd done on the previous show, and that all I did was add in some of the more racy language that I'd deleted for the church folks (Usually, these types of shows want you a little cleaner than your club act. I try to go a little dirtier than the booker asks, because bookers tend to be nervous nellies. It usually works pretty well). Were they upset because I'd said "fuck" once or twice? Not even close.
Turns out, I didn't say it nearly enough for their liking. The comic who'd done the show the previous year was a woman I've worked with many times, who tends to be quite dirty and gets on the crowd a bit. I did know this going in, but the guy who was running the show said, and this is a near exact quote, "She was great, but you don't want the same thing every time." Well I guess they most certainly did want the same thing they got last year, and were furious with me because they didn't get it.
Honestly, I'm really baffled by this. I have never, NEVER had someone complain that I was too clean. In fact, I've never even heard of anyone getting in trouble for something like that. Too dirty? Sure, that happens to everyone. You try to judge how far you can take the crowd, and sometimes you overshoot it a bit. No biggie. But too clean? Jesus H Christ on a skateboard, that's NEVER HAPPENED IN COMEDY HISTORY. I have to say, the whole things thrown me for quite a loop, because having grown up in a Boston Irish Catholic family, I can almost guaran-goddamn-tee you I know swear words some of you have never heard in your life, and that's from my mother's side. I can work some variation of the work fuck into just about any situation, and I quite often do in normal conversation. I even asked some of my peers for their input, and none of them had ever heard of anything like it.
Ah well, I guess it's just another interesting story I can tell young comics someday when I turn old and bitter (shut up, McIntire). And the following week I did a show in Manchester and said fuck the normal amount of times and everyone seemed to be satisfied with it, so I guess I shouldn't let this one experience throw me too hard. But if I ever get booked for a show involving the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association again (unlikely), I'll definitely remember to crank it up, the fuckers.