Sunday, December 13, 2009

Standup in Stripperland

Performing standup comedy in a strip club isn’t as glamorous or exciting as one would think, especially when the audience consists of the extras from the movie Roadhouse.
Yet plunged into a seedy world of humor, beer and grinding women in Lycra g-strings was how I spent Saturday night when a comedian buddy of mine who also hosts his own radio show works part time at this gentleman’s club in Mays Landing. He’s also a former Marine and used the venue for a U.S. Marine’s Toys for Tots holiday toy drive comedy benefit.
The lineup consisted of my buddy as the MC, four other comics and me. I separated myself from the lineup because I haven’t performed onstage since late 2007.
I have a love-hate relationship with standup comedy. When I first began writing jokes and performing, I struggled with my personal life and letting go and actually allowing myself to become comfortable on stage. After a rough series of trainwrecks, I decided instead of performing as myself, I’d instead perform as an alternate persona, a clueless yet goofy comic named Lazlo. I put on a few shows as the Lazlo character and had fun on stage. Yet whenever I’m performing as myself, everything falls apart like Michael Jackson’s cosmetic surgery. What? Too soon?
So my buddy asks me to perform at his benefit and I agree. It’ll be good to get back on stage and embarrass myself in front of a new group of strangers. They might not heckle me like that fat lady with the hairy chin did last time. In every audience I’ve performed for, there’s always a fat lady with a hairy chin. That’s southern New Jersey for you.
I arrive at the gig and go on first. I figure I’d get this ordeal over with fast. I put my set list on the stage where I can see it and immediately notice my first problem: there’s a pole on the stage. It’s a gentlemen’s club, where glassy-eyed high school dropouts grind their hips and perform lustful acrobatic feats of overtly sexual physical motion, on a pole smack dab in the middle of the stage.
My stage.
For those who know me, I’m a pacer. I move when I’m on stage. I like gesturing wildly and pacing around. I think better when I’m moving, and oddly it helps me relax.
Now I see this pole running from floor to ceiling in the middle of the stage and realize I’m doomed. I might as well pack up my video camera and weave my way through the crowd of bikers, hellraisers and drunk middle aged women and vamoose into the night.
Yet I don’t. I made a promise to my friend to perform at the benefit, pole or no pole.
Besides, it’s all for those snotty little kids, right? Bless those darling angels!
So I begin my assault on the unsuspecting audience by playing up the pole. I go on stage and pretend I’m a stripper, gyrating around the pole, hooking my leg around it and grinding my pelvis about as provocatively as a wombat on Vicodin. To my surprise, a few soused grandmothers applauded. I’d hoped one of them would put a dollar in my pants. Big laughs all around.
It went downhill from there faster than a bullet train to Auschwitz.
I pulled some of my older jokes out of retirement and realized why they were retired. The new material, including Tiger Woods and his hyperactive penis, received mild chuckles from a group of women sitting in front of the stage. I even pulled out the “turtle fucking” bit, a classic that I brought back by request, but since I performed sans microphone stand, I had to hold the mike and it just was awkward.
The set was, upon closer reflection, one of the cleanest I’ve performed. I used to spout more four-letter curse words than a Tourettes sufferer. This time, it was so clean it could have been performed for the 700 Club, except the part about fucking like a tortoise.
Afterwards, my buddy said I was rusty because I hadn’t performed so long, and he was right.
Did I bomb? Not really. I did get laughs, but they were few and far between. In the end, I was about as funny as a child’s autopsy.
However, it didn’t dissuade me from going on stage and subjecting future audiences to my brand of madcap humor.
When the benefit concluded, I drowned my sorrows in a beer and chatted with a lovely woman who sat next to me at the bar.
No sooner had the thong-covered ass hit the bar stool, she introduced herself and asked me my name. Now in the world of high-stakes poker and life as a road comic, one must never begin the opening gambit by revealing your true identity. Instead of replying that I was “Rodrigo Rivera, covert spy and gentleman of the evening,” I told her my real name.
“How about I get you started by taking you in the back room? I’ll get you hot and do you right,” she said with a smile that could eat through a man’s cotton briefs. “I can do things to you.”
“What kinds of things?” I asked, hoping she'd give me a full description of debase and immoral acts for my wicked imagination.
“You know, stuff like foreplay.”
“Foreplay? I prefer fiveplay,” was my witty riposte.
“Fiveplay? What’s that?” she asked, oblivious to wordplay.
“It’s one better than foreplay,” I said, explaining the joke to her.
She held her smile, yet I saw through her heavily coiffed bangs and glittering nosering. Sure, she was in her 20s and half naked, but that’s no excuse for not understanding basic puns.
“Is this going to cost anything?” I asked, knowing such acts aren’t for free unless you buy them a lobster dinner.
“It’s $25,” she replied.
Now $25 for a four-minute couch dance was highway robbery, I don’t care who you are. Catherine Zeta Jones and Angelina Jolie could lick me head to toe but not for $25 for four minutes. That translates to $6.50 per minute, and with today’s economic situation, it amounted to a frivolous luxury. How about a “recession special” couch dance? Airlines have “frequent flier” programs. How about “frequent pervert programs” for strip clubs?
I politely declined her request and she flashed me that smile that told the world cocaine was one of her favorite foods.
“Can you give me dollar?” she pouted, crushed at my rejection of her proposition to rob me blind by sitting on my lap.
Pulling out a dollar from my wallet and thinking about where George Washington would spend the evening, I folded the bill in half and stuck it between her g-string and her toned gluteus maximus.
She then took her leave of me and danced on stage, humping the pole like a chinchilla on Viagra.
“Give me some money, baby,” she cooed, and pulled the front of her g-string out far enough to create a small pouch to throw bills in.
Acting like an insensitive prick who just flopped on stage and didn’t want anyone else on the planet to feel any joy or satisfaction, I informed her that I already gave her a dollar.
“You can give me another dollar. Fives, tens, twenties, hundreds. It don’t matter,” she smiled, as another comedian threw a folded dollar bill at her.
After she contorted her lithe body into a pretzel shape that could give a dead man a hard-on, she slithered off the stage and out of the club.
Strippers are like ex-wives. You know you’re not getting sex from them and all they want is your money.
Performing at a strip club is another career high for me. So far, I’ve performed standup at a bowling alley, a coffee house, an Atlantic City comedy club that’s now closed and an open mic venue.
The way things are going with me, I’ll be performing behind your local Arby’s or Dunkin Donuts. Check this site for showtimes and ticket prices.

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