1981: stand up comics at d.w. eye

On Saturday nights, the pros invade the d.w. eye spotlight and the occasional hearty chuckle is supplanted by the outright belly laugh…  The quality of Saturday nights at d.w. eye proves that there are a plethora of anonymous looney tooners out in the Midwestern Hinterlands.

Here’s the full April, 1981 Cincinnati Magazine article by Britt Robson that first introduced d.w. eye to the public.  The eye was doing well before this article was published.  After the issue came out, the club exploded.

Read the full article here.  Even the ads are cool.

Here’s the cover.  Baseball season, 1981!

And don’t forget to get your tickets to the d.w. eye reunion, June 23rd at the 20th Century Theatre!

 

All material © Cincinnati Magazine, Britt Robson

 

 

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saturday night

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The show, of course, was a complete disaster.  Worse than anything I could have imagined.  And not just because – with one exception – every joke I told died; every word that issued from my mouth bleated like some garbled alien language that no one could comprehend.

And not just because I was mentally and physically exhausted, and experiencing the cataclysmic self-doubt of a death row prisoner who’s chance for a reprieve had long since slipped irrefutably away.  

It wasn’t simply a disaster because of the shame – the palpable shame – one feels as they watch themselves fumbling the game-winning touchdown right at the buzzer; the shame that I was to the audience, the club, the other comics, Don, my family, Cincinnati, God, myself, and, most of all, Roger.  How much damage was I doing to him?  Screwing up one of his vaunted Saturday nights and all the Cincinnati-Magazine-driven goodwill?  Would he ever let me perform again?    

For all those reasons, it was a miserable show.  But it was an unimpeachable disaster because it was slow.   Continue reading

saturday afternoon

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Dr. Weiss’ office.

“So, what’s the plan?” he asked.

“Perform like my life depended on it.”

“Do you have enough material to – ”

“I think so.  I dunno.  Maybe – ”

“Maybe you could tell the guy that for this one last show – ”

“No.  I can’t do that.  He was very clear.”

“Hmm.  Well – y’know what?  I think you’re gonna do just fine.”

“Really?  You believe that?”

“I do.  I believe it.  Or – ”

“Or?”

“Or…well…hmm…  Honestly?  You might be screwed.”

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friday

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The eye.  

I was third, as usual, and pumped.  Jack, of course, wasn’t there.  And I tried not to feel guilty about getting the opening spot at his expense.  Would Roger really have put me up in another month?  Was he just throwing me a bone for all of my begging?  It didn’t matter.  The fact was if he didn’t think I was ready he wouldn’t have given me the spot.  

My ten minutes that night went fine.  Three-and-a-half stars, maybe three-and-three-quarters, even.  I was excited for Saturday, and playing to Roger as much as anyone else.  My bits were tight and I was full of energy.  He wanted my A-game, and here was ten pure minutes of it.  And, of course, all of the New York bits were in there:  CETA, DC-10, Make Me a Sandwich, and Plrknib.  Now, I needed to be as tight and strong as possible.  Ethical or not, it was no time to back off of bits that worked.

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thursday

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I had finished my act and was in the back playing Missile Command.  (I couldn’t touch Mike’s high score – but could beat just about anyone else’s.)  Roger had introduced Jack as the weekend’s opener.  But now the room was quiet – like when Durst had the audience entranced – but different.  I could hear murmurs, an angry shout followed by broken, awkward laughs.  Drew, near the bar, waved me over.  Jack, on stage, was shouting at the audience.  

What were we talking about?  Shit – I forgot the – forgot the punchline – oh yeah – C’mon, everybody!  C’mon – heard the fucker so many times – you could do the joke better’n me!  C’mon!  What do y’want?  New shit?  New shit? Buy me a fuckin’ jokebook, motherfucker.  Was that rude?  Fuck.  Excuse me.

The comics looked on, eyes wide.  Jack was loaded, as drunk as I’d ever seen him.

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jack to open

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By late April, 1981, I had performed 40 times.

After the Corral Show I tried to drop Plrknib and DC-10 and Make me a sandwich and toss in newer bits – a VD joke, a Neediest Kids of All joke, more commercials.  But if a show was going south I found myself jumping back into Plrknib, automatically.  

I was playing Scrabble with my identical twin sister

It was still a life raft.  The laughs were too big.  

And meanwhile, Drew had gotten a Saturday opening spot.  And now, on Wednesday night, Roger announced that Jack Previty had gotten one, too.

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rule of threes

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Thursday night.  The eye

In a dark, back corner of the bar, Roger, pissed, reprimanded Jack.  Jack grinned, embarrassed, a schoolboy talking to the principal.  He hid a bottle of Corona behind his back and nodded sheepishly at everything Roger said.  

Mike and I watched from a table.

“What’s he saying?” I asked.

“He’s telling Jack he’s getting too sloppy on stage.  He’s gotta cut back.”

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