My Old Job
It was dark, and I could barely see the crowd of perhaps 30 or 35 people sitting in chairs in an establishment in Waikiki. My name had just been called, and I was poised, ready to speak, when one of those darkened figures yelled out to me, “Hey, Mister Rogers.”
Big mistake. He should have waited. Now I had to take him out. Like the character of Kreese in the original Karate Kid film, I was thinking, “No mercy.” And much like the brutish karate students in that film, I would have to sweep the leg — at least, metaphorically speaking.
I assume you are wondering what I’m painting these word pictures about. A low-rent professional wrestling event? Boxing match? Underground fight club?
No, I am writing about the first time I did stand-up comedy.
That unknown man who called me “Mister Rogers” made the mistake of trying to heckle me before I said anything — before I even got the microphone out of the stand. It felt a little like we were gunslingers facing off in some Western in that brief moment. So, without having time to think of a reply, I “drew” — I reacted by telling him, “Oh yeah? Well, welcome to my neighborhood.”
The audience burst out in yells and applause. I had vanquished my foe and the townsfolk liked it. I then proceeded to tell my three-minute allotment of jokes. They laughed at most of them, and I said my good-nights and left the stage.
That was the beginning of what would become 10 years of performing stand-up throughout Honolulu and a few times on the West Coast.
I had done stand-up in comedy clubs and nightclubs throughout the years, and wound up being what is called an “alternative comedian.” My venues got more interesting — I once performed in a small art gallery downtown, once did a show for high school kids and even did time telling jokes at a party at UHManoa.
Why did I give it up? Less money, more politics. I had a career and never saw comedy as a replacement. Also, the comedy scene changed in Honolulu, and the environment became less fun: Comedians seemed to be angry and bitter with each other over the flimsiest of reasons. It was more reality show than comedy show.
I’m fine with being an ex-comic. I don’t get people on the street asking me to make them laugh anymore. I had a wise-ass response to that: Anytime anyone found out I was a comic and demanded I tell them a joke, I would simply reply, “OK — a joke,” and walk away.
I miss that.
Albert Lanier is a freelance writer, journalist and ghost writer. He can be reached at email@example.com and at Facebook, Twitter and Google+.
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