Archive for August, 2010
Harry Basil, one of our best L.A. comedians, called me one day with a little heads up – that in a few days a good friend of his would probably be coming by our comedy club in Waikiki and ask to do a few minutes on stage.
That friend was Rodney Dangerfield.
Rodney hadn’t done stand-up in a while and needed some stage time to tune up for a series of upcoming shows. He was in Hawaii on vacation asked Harry to grease the skids.
Bo Irvine was on stage in the middle of his show when Rodney arrived at the club. Because Rodney didn’t want to wait 30 more minutes for Bo to finish, he asked me if I could get Bo off stage sooner.
“Yes sir, Mr. Dangerfield.”
I gave Bo the light. The “It’s Time to Wrap Up & Get Off Stage” light. Bo saw The Light. Bo ignored The Light. He had only been on stage for 15 minutes and was scheduled to do 50.
A second light. Now he’s getting annoyed. And I suspect Rodney is, too.
I give the waitress a note to deliver to him on stage. He breaks from his material and takes a moment to read, “Rodney Dangerfield is here and wants to do some time.”
Now he thinks it’s a set up. A practical joke of some kind is on its way and he is to be on the receiving end. It’s not his birthday, but something’s up. But he’s killing and he’s still not getting off. This is not good. Really not good.
Desperate time, desperate measure. I go to the sound booth and flip on the sound booth’s light angling it to face me so I am visible to the stage. Our eyes meet and I point to where Rodney is sitting in the audience. Bo looks over and… oh crap.
“Ladies and gentleman,” he announces. “I’m going to cut my show short this evening and bring to the stage a comedy legend. Please give a warm Honolulu Comedy Club welcome to Rodney Dangerfield!”
During our drive home to Kailua he asks, “Why didn’t you let me know?”
A hilarious clip of Bo Irvine talking about some of his experiences in Texas:
I hate Open Mic Nights.
I love Open Mic Nights.
I remember one Open Mic Night that went particular well.
I love Open Mic Nights.
21 auditioning comics on the bill.
The entire evening – no laughs.
Oh how I hate Open Mic Nights.
As you can see, when it comes to this topic I am really a basket case. We do it to find new talent and it is a no pain, no gain kind of situation. This particular Open Mic Night that went well sucked. Really. It was horrid.
We had been putting it off for months until the demand for wannabe comics forced us to put it on the schedule. And again, I can’t stress this enough, I am totally wrong on my Open Mic Night stance. I should embrace them, not loathe them. And here’s why.
As mentioned above, there were 21 comics on the bill. We gave them 3 minutes each. I sat in the back with Oahu-based headliner Bo Irvine and our club manager, Meredith. We watched one awful comic after another try out their comedy material to an audience that was pretty much silent. For each of the 21. Nothing. Pin drop. Because, to the audience’s credit, there was hardly anything to laugh at.
When it was over Bo, Mer and I compared notes. While no one got laughs, and I mean no one, there was one auditioner who, I dunno, he stood out above the rest. I was unusually comfortable when he was on stage. That’s because he was comfortable. He didn’t really do any traditional comedy material, per se. He kind of just told stories, and they were amusing. Three minutes. He had me. I liked him. In front of a good audience I could see him getting laughs.
Bo and Mer felt the exact same. We’d have been happier if we felt that way about 5-10 of the hopefuls, but there was just one and that was better than zero.
Mer called him the next day and invited him to do some time during a real show, with real comedians, with a good audience.
The kid was up to the challenge. He went over well. We gave him more stage time. He developed. His name was Augie Tulba.
And that’s why I’m wrong about Open Mic Nights.
It’s nice to know when you play even a small role in the making of a star. Especially when that star is also a good person.
As a comedy club owner, I simply hate Open Mic Nights. And I shouldn’t. I’m wrong. I should love them. But Open Mic Nights go against my nature. My DNA is wired to only put comedians on stage who are the best of the best, to ensure that audience responses are frenzied, so frenzied you can cut the electricity in the air with a knife.
Open Mic Nights don’t produce that kind of electricity. It’s closer to, oh, pain and agony. Please sir, I’d prefer that you slip bamboo shoots under my fingernails.
And yet, I’m wrong because today’s Open Mic Nights produce tomorrow’s stars. Next blog, an example of such.
Dennys. The bane of a comedian’s existence. It’s the only late night eatery guaranteed to be open when the last show is over and the last hand has been shaken. It’s not Ruth’s Chris but beggars can’t be choosers. But night after night, city after city. It wears on you. Wears on comedians like the legendary Larry Beezer who, in my humble opinion, had the best Dennys line of any comic:
“There’s always a line to get in at Dennys. It’s bad enough that you have to eat at Denny’s. But to have to wait to eat at Dennys…”
These types of observations were the essence of the The Beez’s comedy material. Beez. A man who lived high, and lived low. And whose internet presence today is far too sparse in light of his greatness. To wit, there’s only one YouTube clip of him. I hope this blog entry inspires others to write more about him. Larry did comedy in Waikiki once a year, sometimes more when he needed the money.
Genius in action. The YouTube clip features Sound Effects Wizard Larry Beezer doing his impression of a man on the subway desperately trying to find a place to relieve himself. Makes me wish I had videotaped him during one of the many times he graced our Honolulu Comedy Club stage back in the 80’s and 90’s.
When I say he lived high and lived low, let me explain. In the early 70’s Beez landed The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson three times rather quickly. As a result, he was big on the club scene. Very big. The club scene – where drinks were free and willpower was questionable. Beez had ups and downs. At the Honolulu Comedy Club we saw them both.
Larry Beezer could relate to the man on the streets.
Laundromats, where he made the random observation, “No one in the Laundromat is wearing underwear.”
His car, always breaking down on the freeways, where he would listen to the radio while waiting for a tow truck and hear the traffic report from the guy in the helicopter (he would beat on his chest to create an authentic helicopter reporter sound), “Traffic on the 405 is backed up, and, oh hey, there’s Beezer’s car again, smoking and spewing!”
He never having enough forms of identification to cash a check at the bank to satisfy the teller. They’re always asking for more. “Alright, I’m ready this time. Here’s my drivers license, my social security card, three credit cards, and my passport.” Then he’d give the response from female bank teller in falsetto: “I’m sorry, do you have a bowling trophy?”
Larry Beezer was one of the favorite acts of the guys from Ballooney Tunes, who came to our Waikiki comedy club en masse every week for, gosh, at least three years running. Rocky Toomey, Jamie, Rob, and the rest of the gang.
Thanks to comic Myk Powell and radio exec Ron Burley for seeing him through his downs while doing comedy in Hawaii. And to the guys at the Ice House Comedy & Magic Club in Pasadena for believing in him.
The Beez passed away about 10 years ago. I’ll speak for the group. We miss him.
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