I thought I’d repressed this memory, but it came back to me the other day.
It was a few years ago back in the “Rounders” days. Myself, Kathleen McGee, and Andrew Iwanyk were more-or-less just starting out in comedy and thirsting for places to perform (*).
Somehow Kathleen found out about a talent show to raise funds for HIV Edmonton at an infamous, but now-defunct gay nightclub called The Roost
I showed up by myself, feeling more than a little uncomfortable. What was the procedure for getting into these clubs? Did I have to get a black X on my hand to show I was straight like underaged kids at a punk show?
Instead, I waited for Andrew to show up and we went in together. Since we weren’t members, we had to sign in as guests. Naturally, both of us were mature and dignified about this…we signed in under other local comedians’ names.
As I stepped into the bar, I have to admit I was curious what the décor would be like. Lavender curtains? Exfoliants in the washrooms (marked “Pitchers” and “Catchers”)?
Nope. It was as dirty and rundown as a normal bar. I thought gay people were supposed to be fastidious.
The talent show was hosted by a large drag queen. Come to think of it, drag queens were a large portion of the evening’s entertainment.
But not the only kind. After I did my performance to a mostly indifferent audience (I blame the sound system), I was followed by a muscular young nineteen year old who immediately peeled down to his underwear and started gyrating.
I sat down at the comics’ table and buried my face in my hands.
“What’s going on?” Andrew--who was so slouched down in his chair he looked like he was trying to turn himself inside out and disappear-- asked me.
“That guy is taking off his clothes,” I told him.
“Figures,” said Andrew.
But that wasn’t the end of the humiliation. It turned out we had to do more than just perform. Part of the competition involved all of us getting up there again. Lined up on stage like cattle, we were each handed two Jell-O shooters and given two minutes to sell them to the club patrons.
It was junior high all over again.
I found walking up and down the bar not making eye contact hoping against hope someone would save me. In the end, I got rid of my drinks, but only cause the male stripper sold four, so he grabbed mine out of my hand without even a thank you.
In the end, we had to stand up on stage while the host made lewd comments and the crowd chose the winners by applause. Guess who wasn’t one of them.
I remember turning to Andrew as we stood up there and saying, “This is a new low for me.”
Andrew shook his head. “Not for me. It’s just the same low over and over again. Somehow that makes it even more depressing.”
That was one of the most agonizingly uncomfortable nights of my life.
Yet I’m glad the memory came back. It shows how far I’ve come as a performer (I’m now a comedy Sex Panther (**)--sixty percent of the time I get laughs all of the time) and as a shy person (I’m a lot less self-conscious these days, and better able to get into the spirit of things when encountering a new social situation).
Besides, as my brother once said, “Good stories don‘t grow on trees, so you need to appreciate the ones you get.”
I’ll drink to that. But if that drink happens to be Jell-O shooters, you’re buying.
(*) More accurately, Kathleen and I were just starting out. Andrew was a few years in, but is not known for turning down opportunities to perform.
(**) If anyone out there would like to start calling me “Sex Panther” as my new nickname, I wouldn’t object. Just FYI.
Tuesday, February 24 - The Comic Strip, Edmonton
Monday, March 30 - The Comic Strip, Edmonton
Dan Brodribb's Geek Love, a column on relationships appears in the culture section at www.suicidegirls.com. Check out the latest column here.
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Saturday, March 28 - OSCW Wrestling - Hazeldean Community League, Edmonton