Working Comic: Hi-Jacking the Birthday Party. – by Shawn Carter.

Have you ever made a conversation all about you?   Forcing everyone involved to listen to you as you talk about your life.  Of course you have, everyone does this from time to time whether they realize it or not.  Have you ever made someone else’s party all about you?  Hopefully less of you answered in the affirmative to that last question.  Ok, last question.  Have you ever been paid money to walk into someone else’s party and make it all about you?  Oh, I have and I’m sure there’s plenty of other comics that have dealt with this situation as well.  But for those of you unfamiliar, let me explain so you can better understand how uncomfortable it is.

Last Thursday I received a phone call, a friend of mine was booked for a gig but had a scheduling conflict and wanted to know if I would be interested in doing it.  The gig was on Saturday night, and it paid, and although I was already booked elsewhere the two gigs were only 30 minutes away from each other so I could easily do both.

Great!  What’s the gig?  “It’s a guy I know who wants comedy at his dad’s 80th birthday party.”  Ok.  I’m not in a situation where I can afford to turn down paying gigs simply because it’s not my ideal show.  I’ll do it!

I show up early of course, head inside and meet the man that booked me for the show.  No one else in the room seems to know or care that a comedy show is going to happen.  I am told that they are going to serve food after the comedy show.  After a few minutes the man gives a short speech about his dad (the birthday boy) and then announces that “there’s a comedian here to entertain everyone and then we can eat.”.  The food is on a buffet table behind where I stand to tell jokes.  I’m both literally and figuratively standing between these nice people and their dinner.  Every word that comes out of my mouth is postponing their nourishment.

Now I’m “onstage”,  everyone is staring at me.  I realize that no one wants to listen to me.  They all came here for Charlie’s birthday celebration.  Charlie is great.  Good ol’ Charlie.  And I’m standing there coming to understand how entirely unnecessary (and probably annoying) this interruption that is my comedy set must be to everyone else in attendance.  First I tell Charlie “Happy Birthday”  and talk about how it’s great that all these people came out to celebrate with him.  The 12 people sitting applaud in agreement.  The 20 people standing at the bar clap or order another drink or continue their conversation.  For a moment I think it would be a good idea to comment on the set up of this comedy show.  “I’ve never done comedy while standing behind a birthday cake before”  no one seems to agree that there is a birthday cake in front of me.   Three small children run across the room in front of me while there mother tells them to calm down.  I continue…

I was asked to do 20 minutes, if time flies when your having fun then this plane was being held on the runway due to a suspicious package found in the luggage.  It was very likely this aircraft was going to go down in flames.  As the seconds dragged on I racked my brain to find the jokes this nice patient group of people would like to hear.   MIT joke – nothing.  I mention that I’m 34 years old and divorced and I hear a little chatter to my left followed by a woman that couldn’t be much older than me saying “he’s too young for me”  Divorce joke – nothing.  Phone sex joke – I got a laugh!!  Cat joke – nothing.  I’m bombing like I’ve never bombed before.*  I tell another joke to no laughter but a child uses a noisemaker with perfect timing for the end of the joke and that gets a laugh.  The child’s mother tells them to stop it and I plead with her to let the child use the noisemaker after every one of my jokes. I mention Dawson’s Creek and feel as though I’ve been transported to another dimension where that show never existed.  I scan the room and realize there is no one in the room between the ages of 25 and 40, no one here knows what I’m talking about.

Mercifully after 15 minutes I get the sign to wrap it up within 5 minutes.  A few minutes later I get the sign to finish up.  I do so and walk over to the bar.  I resist the urge to order 4 shots for myself.  A woman approaches me and tells me she enjoyed my comedy and would like to see me again somewhere else that isn’t a birthday party.  I tell her about the show at Stadium in Quincy where I host every Tuesday night at 8pm.  She seems interested in coming by some time.  At this point the guy that booked me comes over and pays me and thanks me for doing the gig, he really was very nice about everything.  I take the money and drive a half an hour to the next show.  That next show isn’t perfect but even with all of it’s flaws it’s a welcome relief to holding everyone’s dinner hostage with a wireless microphone.


Thanks for reading, if you enjoy this blog come join the fun some Tuesday night at Stadium in Quincy.  1495 Hancock Street.


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