success

AmazonBeach

Mole’s Used Records.  

I leafed through the K’s – King Crimson, Kings, Kinks

“Hey – man – ” said a UC student with afro and a ripped flannel shirt, “I saw you – I saw you – at the eye last night!  Plrknib!”  

“Yeah.”

“Good stuff, man!  Yer okay!”

“Thanks.”

He reached past me into the K bin, pulled out a Kings album.

“Oh shit!  Amazon Beach!  It’s out of print!”

“Any good?”

“Sucks!  But it’s out of print!”

Nearby, Mike flipped through comedy albums.  He held up a Shelly Berman disc, checked for scratches.

“Mike,” I said.  “This guy knew me.  Has anyone recognized you yet?”

“Sure.  Everywhere.”

“And they say stuff?”

“Yeah!”

“That’s pretty cool…”

“It’s real cool.”

 

By 1980, Saturday Night Live had become a cultural phenomenon.  National Lampoon was selling magazines, albums and making movies.  Monty Python and Second City – not to mention the Congress of Wonders, Groundlings, Firesign Theatre, Cheech & Chong, the Credibility Gap, etc. – were popping up all over TV and making movies.  Comedy albums abounded.  Cable TV – still in its infancy – fueled the gold rush.  And comedy clubs – once limited to San Francisco, New York, LA and Vegas – were opening across the country.  

In Cincinnati, after only two and a half months, the eye was packing in crowds.  The club was getting favorable press from every publication in Cincinnati – from Everybody’s News to the Enquirer and Post to a long feature story with pictures in Cincinnati Magazine.  The eye was giving people a live, local fix for what they were seeing on SNL every week.  

Now, when Roger announced comics, he prefaced almost everyone with

And now let’s welcome another up and coming comedian

and he meant it.

Don raised ticket prices and brought in cheap headliners until he could figure out whether or not all of this was actually going to work.  He hadn’t been paying anyone other than Roger and the wait staff more than $5 a night.  But headliners – even bottom feeders – might cost $50-$100.  Even with drinks flowing and cash coming in he might have to reach into his own pockets for that.   He certainly couldn’t afford hotel or airfare, but maybe they could sleep in the eye’s back room – or at Roger’s place – even his place if absolutely necessary.  

And with the success of the eye, every bar in town began hosting a comedy night – the Lakewood, the Blue Wisp, the Sandbar, even the crummy Wishing Well up on Reading near Galbraith.  Sure, the eye was home.  But when the phones started ringing we knew we weren’t under contract.

 

Mike calling me at home:

“Wanna do five minutes at the Well?”

“When?”

“Now.”

“It’s 10 o’clock!”

“Yeah?”

“I’m settled in for the evening!”

“C’mon!”

“Mike – the Wishing Well’s a dump!”

“It was the Tri-State’s greatest steak house in its day!”

“Its day was forty years ago!”

C’mon – they got a grand ballroom upstairs.  They’re paying double the eye!”

“Ten bucks?”

“Yeah.”

“I dunno…”

“Never pass up a chance to perform!”

“Which rule is that?”

“32.”

 

Tim Stamfield, outside the school cafeteria:

“You do youth groups?”

“Youth groups?”

“My youth group’s doing a retreat in three weeks – and we wanted a band – but I told ‘em you’d be better.”

“Thanks – ”

“And probably less expensive.”

“What kind of youth group?”

“My church.”

“Oh.  Oh.  Okay.  I – ”

“It pays $50.”

“Oh, sure.  I can do it.  No problem.”

“Great!”

 

Dave in the hallway:  

“Buffy wants you to do Ursuline’s talent show.”

“She does?”

“She said No is not an option.”

After the radio show took off, Dave had become more and more involved with Buffy’s friends – a large clique at Ursuline, the nearby Catholic school she attended.  The Ursuline girls were legion – all with names ending in y – Buffy, Bitsy, Mindy, Muffy.  And they partied hard, and certainly liked Dave well enough.

“Don’t you have to go to Ursuline to be in the show?”

“I have no idea.  But you have to do it.  She’s your biggest fan.”

“Uhm.”

“It’s an all-girl school.”

“Sure.  Okay.  Fine.”

The Ursuline show was ad hoc, relaxed.  Because of Buffy I was a celebrity before I even got on stage.  And for once I did the smart thing – I asked what was going on at the school ahead of time and then made references onstage.

And it’s too bad none of the lockers open!

WAH HA HA HA HA!  It’s true!  Cheers.  Applause.

Even though I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.

 

By the way, on the subject of religion and comedy, I was not only the youngest comic at the eye, I was also the only Jew.  Which you’d think might give me some sort of leg up – license to be smart, angry, obnoxious – simply for hereditary reasons.  Unfortunately, the audiences in conservative, Germanic, Kentucky-bordering Porkopolis weren’t very Jewish either.  And jokes like Scottie’s tissue

“Scottie’s tissue is no ordinary bathroom tissue, dearie!”

When I take a shit I want ordinary bathroom tissue.

– tended to get a much bigger laugh than

All dogs in NY are Jewish

 

Paul Adams, Amateur Magician, in Pre-Cal:

“Wanna do a double-bill with me, Sunday?”

“Uhm – ”

“Ten minutes at a kids party?”

“Kids?”

“We can do a one-two punch.  Hang out!”

“How old are the kids?”

“Six.  Seven.  But extremely cool.  Do ten minutes!”

“No cursing then?”

“Mm….no…”

 

And then there were kids who didn’t ask about youth groups, because they didn’t belong to any.  

“That shit is funny, man!  That fuckin’ rips!”

Kids with intense acne, who smoked tremendous amounts of pot, got shitty grades and never got invited to prep parties.  They didn’t say too much.  But they were there, angry, beaten down.  Some resented me –

Who the fuck are you, man?!  Asshole.  Skipping class!  Shut the fuck up!  

But others were fans.  

That shit is serious!  Y’know, you were a real prick once upon a time, man!  But that is some serious fuckin’ bizness y’got goin’.  You could do anything with that man!  Anything!  You heard his shit?  He’s got the preps – the fuckin’ preps! – on tape!  It’s retarded, man!  And he played it on live fuckin’ radio!  Shit!  You gotten laid from any of that, man?!  That shit is serious!

 

Outside, in the school’s smoking lounge:

“That is a great, great fuckin’ scam, man,” said Mickey Blakee. “Think I can get in WHY for selling weed?  Shit, I’d sell day or night, man.  Doesn’t matter to me!”

“No – no – ” said Keith Farino.  “Y’know what?  He’s doin’ a public service, man.  What he’s doing.  Listen.  It’s not just funny.  It’s fuckin’ important.”

“Important?”

“You’re not just a comedian, man.  You’re a representative.  A voice of the rejected.  Mickey – if it was Brin-fuckin’-Adams would you give a shit what he was sayin’?”

“Fuck no!”

“But it’s Alex-fuckin’-used-to-be-an-asshole-dickweed-like-the-rest-of-us, man.”

Still a dickweed, man!” said Mickey, laughing proudly.

“Nothin’ wrong with that!” said Keith.  “Nothing wrong with that.”

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