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December 1, 2014Bob Popyk - Member Local 78 (Syracuse, NY)
Jerry Seinfeld does a show called Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. You can find it online at: ComediansinCarsGettingCoffee.com.
The basic format is that he picks up a well-known comedian in an old classic car, and they talk and joke on the way to a coffee shop. They banter back and forth when they get there, then chat and kibitz back in the car. It’s really (as Seinfeld writer Larry David says) “a show about nothing.” Seinfeld has done bits with Howard Stern, Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, Don Rickles, Jon Stewart, and a whole bunch of others. It’s very cool and very funny, as well.
One of the ones I got a real kick out of was when he picked up Jay Leno in a 1949 Porsche. Back then, the first Porsches (this was number 40) looked like driving an alien space ship, compared to a ’49 Ford or Chevy.
During the joking around in a Hollywood coffee shop, Leno says to Seinfeld: “Did you ever have any awful gigs?”
Seinfeld replies, “There are no awful gigs.”
Leno responds, “The heck there aren’t!” and went on to say he’s had a lot of awful gigs as a stand-up comic.
Leno talked about doing a stint in a Playboy club where he was graded from “A” to “F” every night on his performance. One night the audience was mostly Portuguese. They didn’t get the jokes. It was hell. He got an “F” and the program director told Leno that he should have been more prepared. Leno said he let the director know how ticked off he was. It was really awful.
Seinfeld says, “Hey, you got paid didn’t you? Stop your belly-aching.”
Okay, okay, I get it. Maybe there are no “awful” gigs, but some are worse than others. I’m sure you can relate. Maybe you had to fight to get paid at the end of the night. Maybe your audience wasn’t what you expected. Maybe there was chicken wire in front of the stage so you wouldn’t get hit with flying beer bottles. It could be that one of your musicians didn’t show up for the gig. In the end, maybe it was an “awful” gig, but at least you took something from it. You can always chalk it up to a learning experience.
Man, I’ve been out there. I’ve had fire alarms go off where I ended up spending an hour in the parking lot. I’ve had electrical failures where we ended up playing in the dark, and club dates where no one came in. I’ve had staggering drunks who thought they could play better (and feel they should let everyone know), and customers starting fights. I’ve had drinks spilled on my keyboard.
Once I worked in a ballroom where a water pipe burst and the ceiling started to collapse. Big deal. If you play a job that turns out to be an “awful” gig, don’t tell people about it. Forget it. Ninety percent of the people you tell your problems to don’t care, and the other 10% are glad you have the problems anyway.
So in the end, the “awful” gig helped you make rent, a car payment, or pay a few bills, and you go on. Learn from it. I’ve had my share of “awful gigs,” horrible gigs, and really strange gigs. In hindsight, some were just worse than others. Maybe some were a lot worse. I’m sure you’ve had some treacherous, grinding, “awful” playing experiences as well.
If you want to get it out of your system, send me an e-mail about it. If yours is really out of the box, I just may run it in the next column (with your permission). At least you can get it off your chest. (And, hopefully you got paid.) Send your e-mail to: RPopyk@aol.com. Put “awful gigs” in the subject line.
Remember, the nice part about a bad gig (or a bad day) is that it makes the good ones seem great. (I got that from the recent Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day movie.)
Good luck on your next gig. A better one is always just around the corner!
AFM Working Musician Connection
Starting in January, the International Musician will be launching a new AFM Working Musician Connection weekly e-newsletter sent by request to current members and to all new AFM members. This AFM Working Musician Connection will offer advice to get more gigs, promote the benefits of AFM membership, and help musicians feel more connect to the AFM. Sign up today by sending an e-mail with the subject line “Working Musician” to: firstname.lastname@example.org.