I attended my company Christmas party on Wednesday night. No, not out here in the country to celebrate my yearly tractorship. And no, not down at the Manteca Bulletin so they can laud my rise up the journalistic ladder – I hear they actually plan to move the office soon and not tell me. But the Christmas party for the job I love to hate – Stand-Up Comedy.
The Annual Laughs Unlimited Christmas Party in Sacramento. In recent years, several 209 comics and myself have turned that 916 comedy institution into our home away from home. The fact that the 209 has no comedy club, and the need for little fish to seek bigger ponds are the mitigating factor in our area code hop. Just getting the invite is a pleat in this farm boy’s cape. I’m part of the recently fabricated Deaf Puppy Comedy Troupe – 209 comics Saul Trujillo, Jason Sohm, Nick Larson, Ant K, and even Roberto Arreola round out this rabble pile of comics. The true joy in heading up to Sac for such events, is knowing that deep down, the 916 comics consider us outsiders. Interlopers. Trespassers. Invaders...However you slice it – they love to hate us – and we love to hate them.
The Love/Hate between the area code factions, makes the Laughs Unlimited party a walk through a mine field in magnetic boots. I think most of us are accustomed to an alcohol soaked Christmas party, loaded from end to end, with BS session after BS session. A sewing circle of women in a corner judging everyone’s attire. A group of alpha males hacking apart each others every sentence. Well the Laughs party is a room full of “A” game comics. Have your guard up at all times, and be ready to fire away when an opening appears. Or you will soon become cannon fodder.
“No rest for the wicked!”
The Deaf Puppy litter had one thing in our favor this evening – we’d be showing up with Sac comedy legend Jason Resler. Resler is a Sac native that used to call Laughs his home club. It’s always nice to enter the hornet’s nest with a Hall of Fame beekeeper at your side. Like a group of young SF giants walking into Dodger Stadium with Willie Mays. Sure they’re still gonna hate us – but they’ll probably mind their manners for at least the first few innings.
How wrong I was. We weren’t even in the door when D.J. Sandhu sent one my way high and tight - “Nice head Teicheira – the Macy’s Christmas Parade isn’t until next week though.”...My abnormally large cranium can be seen from space. It warranted a chuckle, and was basically a way of announcing “Play Ball!” to everyone there. In truth, after the first few innings of verbal bludgeoning, all affiliations are off. but unlike your normal social setting, where judging others is frowned upon – this is the world of stand-up comedy, and judging others is our business. Except there is only one criteria that matters: Be funny!
When we are amongst our own, ie; Comics – there are no races, ethnicities, genders, religions..No preferred age, sexuality, or social status...Just Comics. It is the one great equalizer. You are either funny or not. It provides a certain blanket of comfort and trust in the room. And off color jokes are thrown around with frequency in comedy greenroom atmospheres. With one understood caveat – it better Be Funny! because if you are being off color with your material – you’d better tread lightly, and stick the landing with some subtlety and tact. Because above all, everybody hates a “Hack”
...yet I digress
We found an open table in the center of the room, and set up 209 base camp. No sooner had we pressed our first drinks to our lips, did Santa Claus belly up to our table - “Hey Saul, the food is in the other room – we’ve set up a trough for you in the alley if you wanna get started” said old St.Nick (916 comic Larry Manzano). It was a hackneyed shot at Saul’s large carriage, but did the trick. Saul responded with “Thanks Larry, from janitor to Santa Claus in just 10 years. Keep it up and they may let you do comedy here someday. Now get me a drink!” (Larry is the Head Bartender at Laughs)
It’s exchanges such as these that make comedy a joy to be part of. We are currently mired in a world where everyone is encouraged to speak with kid’s gloves – and the politically correct police state is afoot. I miss the days of playground politics. When being quick witted, sharp, and having a bite – weren’t frowned upon. When you could win the argument without facts, but with a nice turn of phrase. The art of a spirited BS session is being lost one Facebook keystroke at a time. But here we were surrounded by verbal assassins at every turn.
I walked by one of my favorite Sac comics Steph Garcia and asked “Is the food line long?”...a legitimate question from a hungry boy. She didn’t hesitate to karate kick my soul — “Nope, it’s as short as your......”, and as I went mouth agape expecting the obvious punchline, she finished with “....last 3 relationships.”...Ouch!...but at least I knew I’d be able to get food right away.
Resler had positioned himself in a corner with the likes of “Chicago” Steve Barkley, Stephen B, and Brad Bonar – that is a Murder’s Row of people to avoid if you aren’t thick skinned. Most people stared at their shoes while passing that table. I didn’t, and Chicago Steve asked about my deaf puppy – and like an idiot I tried to answer. He nailed me with “She’s not deaf Teicheira, she’s just faking cause she has to live with you...I’d assume you’d have caught on to women ‘faking’ by now – in all forms”...I headed back to the safety of 209 base camp at once.
And as the night got later, the jokes got crueler – but the smiles grew bigger. You always hurt those you love, and the hurtins’ were being passed around the room like hugs. When out of nowhere we realized there was a non-comic sitting around us. He had been walking around Old Sac, and came across Laughs Unlimited. Having no idea it was a private party he’d made his way in. If he hadn’t figured out on his own that he’d crashed a Christmas Party, we’d have never known – comics are always caught up in their own world. Hell, a goat riding a donkey could be in the room, and most comics wouldn’t bat an eye. This gentleman however said those magic words that predator comics love to hear, “My friends say I’m pretty funny, I’ve always wanted to try comedy.”
You could actually see everybody’s mouths begin to drool. Pawing at his psyche like a pack of hyenas. “Let’s hear one” or “I could tell as soon as you spoke you had the gift”. Let’s be clear folks, your friends telling you that you’re really funny, and that you should give comedy a shot is on par with your grandma telling you how wonderful your voice was in your 4th grade Christmas play at school.
A stage and a mic strips your clothes off, shines a spotlight on your faults, and says “Now go – dig your way out of this hole with humor”. Be sure to make no mistakes. Don’t fumble your words. Don’t stammer. Don’t show your fear and anxiety – because you are exposed to your core. They say public speaking is the #1 fear. Well standup comedy is public speaking on a high wire with no safety net...and if you try it, you will fall – but oh what a rush!
Oddly enough, I had to leave the table. I’m fine with saying the cruelest things to my closest of friends. But watching this non-comic be torn apart by a group of seasoned assassins was too much – like an ASPCA commercial at midnight, I wanted to find him shelter....but it was too late. The last I heard they were giving him details to an upcoming open mic he could try. One that I plan on attending, because everybody loves a trainwreck.
From the Wonderfully Sublime Dept.: I visited the Ripon Post Office to ship out a few of my books this week. While standing in line, a 70 year old blue haired Riponite lady asked “What are those books?”...I respond “Manteca to a T...the book that Manteca kid wrote”...and with crinkled nose and furled brow an “Oh, I can’t stand that guy’s column!” was uttered. A woman behind her recognized me - we locked eyes and laughed together on the inside. I didn’t say a thing. “Ripon to a T”
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”