Last weekend myself and 6 other comics were booked on a show up in the remote woods of Connecticut.The venue was a local Jewish Community Centre in a small, remote town called Sherman.
The booker of the show, also a comic, was generous enough to let me hitch a ride with him up to the show. It was about a 2-hour drive, which of course included my obligatory stop for clam chowder and coffee.
We arrived at the venue for soundcheck to find a small hall with a raised stage with a baby grand piano and a Japanese divider screen, and one single old man sitting asleep in the front row. I guess he wanted a good seat.
The other 4 comics trickled in as the hall filled up with elderly patrons. We surveyed the sea of blue rinse and baldness with growing concern about what material we might use in the show that would go over with this octogenarian crowd. We were told to work 'clean'.
Once everyone was seated, a voice from behind us said "5 minutes to showtime!"
I slunk over to my friend and fellow comic, Neil Rubenstein to say hello and prepare for my inevitable spectacular bomb.
The lights were dimmed as a small, bespectacled lady in her 80s shuffled out in front of the crowd, now adjusting their hearing aids, and addressed them with a warm welcome.
But then... she said,
I froze. This could not be good.
Dumbfounded, I turned to my left to see Neil's reaction...
I turned back to the old lady as she continued with her welcoming address...
A wave of audible gasps could be heard rolling around the now mortified audience. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Was she being serious?
I turned and grabbed Neil's arm to find him stifling a laugh, convulsing in an effort to suppress a gig-ending guffaw.
Neil and I briefly excused ourselves from the room as we breathed out and conferred with each other in the break room -- "Is this really happening? Is she honestly doing this right now?" He replied, "This is going to be a bloodbath."
We composed ourselves and snuck back through the doors to see that our hostess had now decided to bring out a brochure, showing a series of old violins from a museum in Connecticut.
We caught the end of her sentence...
At this point, Neil was giggling uncontrollably and trying desperately not to make any noise, but it was too late. The only two young audience members (in their 40's) in the audience had spotted Neil laughing and it had become contagious. They began stifling their own uncontrollable chortles.
The hostess added, "And you would be able to see those at the Museum of Recovered Art..." whereupon Neil leaned over, and after three attempts finally got the words out,
"... but, sadly, the museum burned down."
at which point I burst out laughing, along with the rest of the back row of comics, sick of mind and bereft of soul.
Then, just as we thought it was all over, there was one last addition to her devastating spiel...
Because of course it was.
She then straightened up, looked to her left and said...
I did not do well.