I find it interesting when people discover you’re some kind of talking stand-up guy. The first question is always “So, what’s the worst gig you have ever done?”, because nobody ever wants to hear the story where you won over a whole room of strangers and took them places they never expected to go. No, they just want to hear of your epic failure. So if I ever get asked this question, this is the story I tell.
Way back in the magical year of 2007, I was asked if I wanted to support USA anti-comedic, shock rock, underground cult hero Neil Hamburger for a handful of random gigs. Neil is well known for his deliberately bad setup and punchlines, and for spilling glasses of vodka while he coughs and splutters throughout his set.
I of course agreed and found myself waiting backstage at a venue in Ballarat. The gig went to be expected. Not the best, as most people who came were there to see their cult hero comedian Neil Hamburger, and I was basically a brick wall in front of their awesome view. I went on and gave it my best, thanked them for not stabbing me, and left. Neil Hamburger took to the stage and the crowd loved every minute of it.
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After the show back stage, it occurred to me that I didn’t have anywhere to stay that night, and the bus I had to catch back to Melbourne didn’t arrive until 4am. I thought I would just find the bus station, and try to stay awake until the bus comes.
This bus station was behind a large car park with one light hanging over my seat. It looked like a scene from a David Lynch film. There was nobody around except for the occasional Ute pumping out the hamster dance anthem at ear bleeding levels. By the time it reached 3am I was finding it hard to stay awake, but I didn’t want to fall asleep unless I missed my bus or otherwise woke up in a bathtub of ice with some vital organs missing.
I noticed a commotion over at the pub directly across the car park from me. A crazy old drunk was thrown out on his ear by some bouncers that where big enough to be extras in the film 300. The drunk man picks himself up from the curb and starts screaming a string of random words that weren’t meant to be used in the same sentence. The bouncers all laugh at him before going back inside. The drunk begins to pace up and down street, muttering to himself in true crazy fashion. I could see his wild eyes were as mad as a hatters. Suddenly it occurs to me that I may be in a bit of trouble.
It was at this point of the evening that some little lady was checking a bin near by for bottles or what ever she was looking for. Hope maybe?!? The angry drunk saw her and stomped over, and without a word headbutts the little old woman. She howled at the moon as she held her head in pain and shock, and then scurries off down a side street leaving the bag behind. Jesus, I thought . The next head to be butted would be my own. I tried my best to go unnoticed but it was too late for this. He had already noticed me. Lit up by this one street light i stood out like a well dressed pig for the slaughterhouse. I was waiting for the stock standard horror movie strings to soundtrack this moment. He stared at me for a long time. I started sending text messages to close friends saying if I die, you can have my Nine Inch Nails collection and Beatles vinyls. He power-walked towards me with furious speed. I begin to reflect on any confrontations I have had in the past, which had been few. In the past I could always come up come with some kind of clever comeback to dig myself out of any possible dangerous situation, but I could not see this working with the state this guy was in. I felt the fear begin to wash over me like a cold shower.
One thing I had learned from Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon is never lower your eyes to your opponent. I had to use as much energy as I had left to sculpt a pitiful face that would hopefully provoke empathy, or at the very least make him weigh up the pros and cons of not kicking the shit out of me.
By this time he was at arms reach and looked straight at me as he screamed “What the fuck are you looking at?” Spit covered my face and the smell of booze laced vomit is enough to make an alcoholic never drink again. I looked him right in the eyes and calmly say “Hey man, I have had the worst gig ever. I’m just waiting for my bus, which should be here soon.”
He looked at me for what felt like an extremely long time. I braced myself for the worse. In my head I could hear Jim Morrison crooning “This is the end”. Suddenly he all at once seemed to calm down and then say “well I hope today is a better day for you,” and then stormed off the way he came, crossed the road and started kicking in a metal bin. I watched on as the bin took a beating like a champion, knowing full well that that could have being my head.
Thankfully the bus came early. I stepped on and found i had received a handful of text messages from friends I had text-ed in my darkest hour, all asking what’s going on. I just wrote back, that I was fine… I’d just had one of the worst gigs ever.