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New Personal Record for Worst Gig

Guest Post from one of the Beards of Comedy, Joe Zimmerman.

Well, I set my new personal record on Friday, for worst gig I’ve ever performed at. I was asked to perform in an “auditorium” for “500 students” at American University. It was a Relay for Life benefit for the American Cancer Society, and they offered me $150. Okay, so good cause, good university, auditorium with 500 students, and I’m open that night, sounds good!

When I arrived, the “auditorium” was Bender Arena, which is a gym, not an auditorium. Critical difference between the two – the primary difference being, auditorium’s have stages, while gym’s have basketball courts. The event organizer was really nice and cheery, and didn’t look a day out of high school. I knew that the Relay for Life was a walk, but it never occurred to me that the majority of the “audience” would be walking, while I performed. I just assumed that no one would hire a comedian to perform for people who are walking. It’s never good to assume though – I learned this in grade school.

She initially asked me to perform at a podium, which was directly in the path of the walkers. Not wanting to be high maintenance, I asked, “Do you think that’s the best spot? Given that people will have to walk around me?” She then reconsidered, and asked me to perform center court, in the middle of the walking circle. Mmkay.

I was to follow a dance team – also not good – but I hadn’t given up. My plan was to find a way to make it work. My introduction didn’t help matters. I had been asked to email my intro a week in advance, so given the lead time, I thought they were really gonna nail it. The DJ cut off the Beyonce song and said, “Alright, this next guy is on tour with (long pause) the Beards of Comedy? He’s just coming from (long pause) the Detroit Comedy Festival? Whatever that means…Joel (long pause) Zimmer.”

Mmkay, thanks DJ. ‘Preciate you taking the time to memorize the ten word intro. Also, “whatever that means”? Really DJ? It means that I just came from the Detroit Comedy Festival, like it says.

Anywho, the problem with the intro wasn’t so much the poor delivery, but the fact that no one heard it, and thus no one was aware that comedy was about to happen. But happen it did! Unfortunately, as I walked onto the “stage” a game of beach volleyball had drifted on to center court. So I walked through a line of walkers, and into a game of volleyball.

Unfazed by the volleyball game, I said, “What’s up American!?”

There were some smattered cheers of recognition that American was indeed their University, but no one was looking at me. They were all walking and talking, understandably. I still hadn’t given up on the situation, because I have a bit about the “walk it out” song by DJ Unk, that would clearly fit this situation perfectly. But as I went into my bit about “walking it out”, a beach volleyball hit me, and a young man said, “Oh, sorry man!” Meanwhile, a game of pick up basketball had formed at the far end of the court. I never thought I would have to perform on a basketball court, while basketball was being played. I looked around for the event organizer, to see if she was going to ask the athletes to cut back, or if she might call an audible on the whole comedy thing, but she was nowhere to be found.

Now, if you ever do a “hell gig,” the main objective for the comic, is to get through the allotted time you were contracted to do – that way, no matter how bad it goes, at least you did everything in your power to do your job, and contractually get paid. Unfortunately, I had agreed in the email to 30 minutes. Thirty minutes posed a problem, given that after 45 seconds, I was out of material that might work. So I did color commentary on the volleyball (not because I thought it would dig me out of any hole, but because it was the only thing I could think to talk about, given it was what was happening, in my space). The game wasn’t so much “beach volleyball,” as a game that involved keeping a beach volleyball in the air, for as long as possible, which they had dubbed the unfortunate name of “keep it up.” I then walked around with the students interviewing them as they walked. The students talked about facebook, and what major their parents wanted them to take, and the American loss to Villanova the day before, and the fact remained that none of the students knew why I was walking around the middle of the basketball court with a microphone.

Twelve minutes into my “set”, the DJ said, “hey you wanna just play some more music?” I was like, “Sounds good to me!” So I spent the last eighteen minutes of my set, taking pictures from my cell phone.

Here I am, while people walk by me, not noticing me. In the back, you will see the volleyball game center “stage” that involves keeping a beach volleyball in the air for as long as possible.

Here I am on the far side of the stage, where a pick up game of basketball had formed.

Here is the podium where I was asked to perform, before they agreed maybe it wouldn’t be a great idea to perform where the line was passing…though in retrospect, given the volleyball, this spot would in fact have been better.

This picture was taken shortly after my set, when the DJ played “Backstreet’s Back.” Two nice young gentlemen came up to me and asked if they could borrow my microphone, to sing along. This is a picture of them, singing along to Backstreet Boys.

Here is me with two of my “fans” immediately following my “set.” By fans, I mean two girls who had no idea who I was, or why they were taking a picture with me.

Here is me, 20 minutes after my set, right before they turned out the lights for Sarah Mclachlan’s “I will remember you.” I am sad here, partly because the song is sad, and partly because I couldn’t find the event organizer to see if I was going to get paid. This song had special significance to everyone in the room who had lost a loved one, and special significance to me because I knew that I would remember American, but they would not remember me.


Comment from Jamison Yoder
Time: March 30, 2009, 12:23 pm


That’s awesome. Made more awesome by the fact that you included pictures. What’s up American, indeed.

Comment from Robert Buscemi
Time: March 30, 2009, 1:15 pm

Nice. Wow. Disastrous. You soldiered on well, and it sounds like a few students kind of engaged with you on some level, and that you rode it out as well as possible. At least no one was unpleasant to you. Hope you got your $150. But yeah, that’s a perfect storm of shiite performing conditions.

Comment from Joe Zimmerman
Time: March 30, 2009, 6:21 pm

Thanks Jamison, and thank goodness for camera phones to capture these moments. Hey, got any college work? I wish I had video taped so I could submit the DVD to you for your college work.

Robert, I appreciate it. The $150 was just sent to me in the mail, but when I left the gym that night I was chalking it up as a donation. I will have to make that donation to Relay for Life at a later date, when $150 isn’t my net worth.

Comment from Aaron Miller
Time: March 30, 2009, 7:15 pm

Great story Joe! I am usually not the one to read things over a paragraph, but that story drew me right in. That is probably one of the most unique comedy gigs I have ever heard of.

I had a bad gig tonight too (and by that I mean the gig was fine, but my jokes sucked…just kidding…but seriously, they did) It was at a coffee shop on a college campus and the person who went before me sang an emo song about cutting themselves or some shit, so it didn’t quite set the tone right.

Oh, open mics…I look forward to the day that I can say “yeah, i used to do those” and say “now I host them”. Just kidding, but seriously.

Wow this comment about your hilarious story quickly transitioned into a nonsensical journey about me. Sorry!

Great beard!

Comment from andy
Time: March 31, 2009, 11:29 am

Joe- classic story, hilarious photos. thanks for sharing.

ps. I can’t stop watching ‘Bad Ass Bears’

Comment from Joe Zimmerman
Time: March 31, 2009, 9:48 pm

Thank you Aaron,
I have great pride in my beard. Yes, any time you have to follow emo music, it doesn’t bode well for your set, but neither does emo music bode well for anything.

Andy, thank you for the comment and I am honored you like the bear clip. I will start writing more thinly veiled nonsensical care-bear references, specifically for Rooftop Comedy.

Comment from Emily
Time: April 1, 2009, 11:38 am

Blog comments are legally binding contracts where we come from. We’re gonna hold you to that, Joe.

Comment from Jessica O
Time: April 14, 2009, 9:14 am

I have organized some similarly tragic events that would have been perfect for a show like yours. Any interest in performing for 10,000 kids at this year’s Halloween Town?

Comment from cheating natalie
Time: April 26, 2009, 9:05 am

there you go, lol 99 things to do with a basket ball court… number 2 lol dont ask what the other 98 are though