Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Show Must Go On - Onstage


Sit me with the misfits.  I can't stand the sight or smell of milquetoasts or mediocrity. 

San Rafael has a nightclub on fourth street.  They bill comedy.  As a card carrying comedic performer, I tolerated the methamphetamine eyed doorman who could not tear his felony stare away from my wallet as I dished out 15 bucks for the show, hoping to Gaia at least five dollars of that was going to the comic onstage that night.

When you bill comedy, you are obliged as a venue to the traditions the high bar in entertainment requires, such as starting the show at the time you bill.  People set their evening schedule of entertainment and want to trust and rely on it.  They may have to bracket other things around it on their night out.

In film exhibition agreements pro forma, the exhibition timetable is precise for a reason - dollars and exposure depend on it.  It is a long established professional and entertainment industry standard.  Even in this day and age of franchise uber alles.

It was a pretty packed house, with no Yemenesque drought of 'the bubble people' (and I refer here to the tenor of context the great comedian Paul Lynde used when he referred to 'the fog people') slobbering over each other with a zeal rivaling the Sacramento Assembly at the Capitol.

However, this is IJ territory, none of the bee's wax.  We often try to avoid monetization metastasizing.  Because we can and should as cultured humans, at least from time to time.

In the packed house, I slipped past the contemptuous stare of the ticket taker to the bar, where I ordered a glass of red wine, glad to pay the overprice for the underrated local wine distributor commission-offering-du-jour in the rigged game of alcohol distribution we call freedom of choice in political and marketing work.

Taking a seat near the back to avoid drowning in self-congratulatory saliva tsunamis emanating from the self enchanted set that has migrated here since 9/11 and ruined everything but the outdoors, I looked at my watch and it was five after eight.  

Patiently waiting for the billed headliner the minutes ticked by until twenty after eight, then eight thirty.  

Then, in order to cleanse myself the group think masturbatory fantasy of social recognition multi-gasmically prancing around the small but adequate main room, I finally took a sip from my glass of wine to find my lip bleeding and gum cut from the broken rim of my glass the bartender, in consummate professionalism never considered checking as part of wine service.

Being formerly employed as a surgical aide, I tested the wound with a napkin to determine whether stitches were necessary, and they were not.  If my 4 times daily salt water gargle (a must for all vocal artists, singing, spoken word, storyteller, comic, presenter or otherwise) did not clear out any potential infection, then I would call my doctor and engage an attorney.

The bartender stared at me dumbfounded as I brought the glass of wine back.  The realist comedian in me wanted to throw down the concealed bloody napkin on the bar as if to say, "Hey bub, can you put together what happened if I point to my lip as a clue?" but his dumb stare and the proximity of a woman who actually qualified to wear red lipstick the same candy apple red as her wool turtleneck sweater instead of the usual Marin seventy going on seventeen poser, ready to go "EWW!" (the socially acceptable form of pre-screaming in polite society; also known in girl code as 'almost a mouse!') at anything outside her paradigm of bubblety convinced me unspoken metaphors were beyond tonight's lexicon, at least at this address. 

So I took instead the civil, professional approach.  "What's wrong with this?", I asked him.

He stared at the wine glass for several long seconds and did nothing.  His lantern jaw'dness with the style politically correct three day beard stared a minute more at the glass like everyone but Alexander the Great did at the Gordian knot.  He uttered nothing.  I had him perplexed in just four words!

I realized guidance was in order.  "Touch the rim," I said encouragingly.  He did and found the worst kind of chip a wine glass can have, in terms of impromptu surgical malpractice, the vertical crack with V edges and bubble pop curvature, all in one.  Really sophisticated in it's deadliness, and the surest sign of cheap stemware manufacture.  Probably price was the primary consideration, and somebody club budget influencing said with a knowing and evil grin, "It will be dark at night."

"Ohh-eww!!", he uttered.  Ah, the dawning of realization just keeps on delivering, doesn't it comedy fans?

'Breakthrough', I surmised in comedic Freudity.  Or is it Freudy cat?!?

He said nothing more, and more surprisingly, did nothing more.  No illuminating thought to offer to exchange the glass or pour anew.  I waited.  Nothing.  Nothing at all.  Hmmm.  

I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as he had the look of a long term coke recoveree about him, and pointed to the easiest to get to table in the whole place, the one that waiter after waiter had passed by (approximately a dozen times) as I foodie signaled distress menu machinations left and right a rhino in a tux would have interpreted as a buy signal and done something about the bottom line with.

I pointed to that table and said, "I'll be over there."  

I left, thinking, 'at least he will put it together eventually, and perhaps before the show actually starts, oh, in say, judging by the homage to show business tradition I had been witnessing so far, in about another half an hour.'

Meanwhile, the saliva was sweeping the Marin Sanitary District pickup for the next week out to sea, no doubt to deposit on the pristine shores of billionaire island.  It should make a killer photo op for a space tourist.

I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.

In the meanwhile, I watched the club management prancing around entranced by the sell out, packed house delusional syndrome never to approach the realism of that scenario ne'er to be at the pace of pre-consciousness.

No self respecting comedy venue would let itself violate the rule no comedian ever does - the show must go on, and it must go on at the time it's billed.  People count you at your word in this business as in life for the reality aware.

By this time, it was eight forty.  The audience, affluent for certain, was ignorant of the entertainment performance protocols in a county where the titans of the business move to raise their kids, educate them and instill their values in a relatively safe and lovely environment. 

Dear Titans, teach your neighbors that the opening of a door does not require bunting and a band-fare.  Teach them to sit down and expect entertainment when it is billed.  It is not a movie, where the screen reminds you three times to shut off your cell phone, it is live comedy, where attention is required if you are to laugh, ironically, the very purpose for which you came.  

The show is on the stage, not in the darlings you do over each other.  It looks like a pope convention with the blessing genie let out the bottle.  Thank god there was at least one stunning woman to look at to abate this social environmental blight.

The rest wore make up.

That's not performance.  That's not audience.

Respect the act.  Respect the traditions of entertainment venue billing.  Respect the show.  You haven't put forth the effort to learn the craft and art of a good set, so stop making yourself the center of the room.  There's an old saying in Tinseltown, "You don't deserve the spotlight if you can't handle the limelight."

Learn from the LC.  Stop demeaning the show experience for others.  Sit down, shut up and get what you paid for.  Preening doesn't look good when it's pathological.

As for this club, I pity you.  After speaking with the GM in the gentlest objectivity, I was given the schmooze like comping me when I came back worked everywhere or was even the right thing to offer.  But this is not Antioch, this is Marin.  We pay more for it because we expect it to be done right the first time.  

Second chances aren't given to a bombing comic, why should they be given to a bombing venue?

I tried to explain this standard of our community to the GM, but he manipulated the conversation around as if I were taking it personally, and I wasn't.  If I was taking it personally, he would have been in conversation with my lawyer.

He must have needed the psychological territory (deserved or not) because he had never been told about what happened to me, the surest sign that someone does not know what is going on inside their own night club, and by the looks of this septuagenarian henna-ing his way down to fifty, it either was beyond his current capacities or he didn't care if it didn't involve him.  Why would he have?  The dumbfounded bartender never said or did another thing for me, either.  And I was the vict-erm, customer.

I'm not going back there, and I will certainly tell my comedian friends how much respect this hack of a venue has for observing tradition for professional reasons.  

This night club is the first to open at it's own closing. 

The LC will never perform here.

What has all this got to do with with Tribal Leadership?

It is a quintessential example of the status quo.  The status quo is the biggest single hurdle in ceasing the retrogressive culture we are floundering in here on this planet.  This is an example of extreme inauthenticism.  That is the opposite of progressive culture.  They recognized no accountability, no standard of service, no commitment to values, no fundamental courteous response to a plain as day wronging. Last but not least they don't understand or respect the show business values that put entertainment on the cultural and financial map in civilization.  We are not to tolerate ignorance, or put more devinitively, suffer fools-by-exculpatory design.

So remember, one strong tribe is stronger than the world, but culture will make tribes dumb unless you as a leader realign values.  Sometimes the only thing you can do is kick somebody out of your tribe, if you are trying to make a tribe that changes the world.  The tribe at George's, they are stage 3 on a good day, and will never get any higher. This club is kicked out of the future of significant culture henceforth by their own hand.  But I believe they just wanted to open a pedestal for themselves anyway.

The greatest challenge in innovation, even innovation that is targeted at changing social dysfunctional behavior is moving somebody from stage 3 to stage 4 behavior.  If you need to know, and you should know, what all the stages are, if you are going to be an effective tribe leader, simply type in the search params (without the quotes) "tribal leadership" into youtube, and watch the TEDx USC presentation by Professor David Logan.  

This group needs to find something greater than themselves, and this is what leaders must teach.  When you find values that cannot accomplish guidance, it is time to kick out of your tribe the person you are engaging, for their value will never align past stage 3.  

This means values are not united, and they will never have the power to change the world.  But the status quo doesn't want the world to change.  Connect people to something greater than themselves, and watch the world change.  People connected to their self perception of greatness keep the world the way it is.

With no reservations I place the comic's curse on that club.
The Lone Comic
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