In my six measly years of doing stand-up comedy, I've had the opportunity to meet and work with incredibly talented people, some that are "legends" and others that will probably be considered legends later on down the road. I don't get startstruck often, if ever. I don't ever take opportunities for granted but I tend to keep myself grounded. I started stand-up when I was 30, which some say is late, so I constantly feel I have this catching up to do so I don't have the energy to be starstruck. They're just people and it's just business.
It was mid April of 2014. I was mc'ing for the umpteenth time at Comedy On State in Madison. Arguably the best crowds in the country. Bobcat Goldthwait was headlining, a very funny guy who I'm sure you'll hear of soon, Mike Lebowitz, was featuring. And while I don't take any gig for granted, this particular weekend for some reason, what I did take for granted was just how influential Bobcat Goldthwait has been and still is, in the comedy world.
I get done with my set on the Thursday show, introduce Mike, and walk out to the bar and meet Bobcat. He tells me good set, I thank him but then it's straight to the business. I ask him what he wants for his intro and replies with, "Just my name." It's how he said it which I found endearing. Like it doesn't matter, we're just doing the thing. But it wasn't until halfway through Bobcat's set in the Friday late show that I started thinking of the things Bobcat has been in and I admitted to Lebowitz that I really took for granted just how huge and influential Goldthwait was in the 80's and now how he is still being an influence.
The rest of the shows were fantastic. Hanging out with Bobcat out on the fire escape between shows listening to Robin Williams stories while Bobcat smoked a cigar. The crowds were great. Goldthwait crowds are my people.
While hanging out in the green room before the last show of the weekend, I ask Bobcat what projects he's working on or got coming up next. He mentions a Bigfoot movie he's starting after he finishes this documentary Call Me Lucky on a friend of his, Barry Crimmins.
I had never heard of Barry and Bobcat fills me in on Crimmins and his story and how Barry wants to take down the Catholic church and overthrow the government etc.. Sounds like a hip guy to me. I look him up on Twitter and start following him. His tweets requesting the pope excommunicate him I found hilarious. Crimmins eventually follows me back, sees that I produce my own show in Madison. We start messaging and he gives me his phone number, says he wants to talk about possibly doing a show in Madison.
I call him up thinking this is going to be about a five minute conversation about possible show dates and promotion etc.. Nope. We end up talking for nearly five hours. We talk about everything; comedy, politics, religion, social media, my mayoral campaign, all of his tireless activism. He asks me about myself, where I come from. He asks what I like to write about. What I plan on doing in show business. Do I really want to be in show business? Does it make a difference? Can we make a difference? Can you make a difference? How do we make a difference?
I had never had anyone ask these kinds of questions. The whole conversation was like one of those late night conversations you have with your best friend sitting on the porch drinking and laughing. Or having a meeting with a professor of life who has tenure and will say anything he damn well pleases simply because it's the truth. It was refreshing. It was familiar. It was easy to talk and even easier to listen.
Coming up on nearly the fifth hour of discussion, we start winding up the conversation. Barry says he's looking at some dates when this documentary comes out then as we're saying the goodbye's Barry says, "Nick, you seem like a good guy with a good heart, if there is anything in this business that I can help you with, do not hesitate to ask." Knowing he is a (if, not, THE) Boston guy, I ask if he can recommend any places for stage time while I'm there in a few weeks. Without hesitation, Barry says "Yeah, I know the guy that runs the Comedy Studio. I'll send him an email, get you on. Let me know what dates you'll be in Boston."
I thank him, we hang up. My girlfriend comes home, who is from Boston. I tell her about the five hour conversation with Barry and that I'll be doing a set at The Comedy Studio. My girlfriend (who is in comedy and the Boston area as well) says it's actually fairly difficult to get into the Comedy Studio. I said, "Not if you know Barry Crimmins apparently." Barry emails me about 20 minutes after we hang up wanting to know the dates because he's already emailing the guy. He didn't put it on a To-Do list. He jumped right on it which he didn't have to do but he took the time, which in my experience in this business is rare.
We got to Boston, I report to the Comedy Studio. I meet the emcee, Rick. I'm 8th on the list to go up. As I'm about to go on, Rick comes over and says, "Tony V. is stopping by so I'm going to bump you back a spot." Tony V. goes up and absolutely melts faces. It's like he's not even trying. It's effortless and something happens to me that doesn't happen to me before performing; I get nervous. I have to follow this guy.
I'm introduced. My first joke hits okay. Second one hits a little better. Fuck these people! Fourth joke is stronger. These people are cool. There's peppered laughter but I look over to the right and Tony V. is sitting on a stool cracking up and to me that was better than going up there and blowing the roof off the place. In retrospect, he could've been laughing at me. Fuck those people!
Fast forward to present day:
The documentary on Barry Crimmins (Call Me Lucky) just became available on iTunes today and I've watched it at four in the morning. I'm sitting there seeing Bobcat and Tony V., Mark Maron, and Lenny Clark among many others in The Comedy Studio, talking about Barry and his life and his effects on their lives. While watching this movie and seeing what Barry's been through and what he's done for other people I realized I had no idea who I was talking to. This highly revered person that when talking to him, it felt like I had known him forever already. I now know it was an honor to get to meet Barry, let alone have an in-depth conversation about life with the man. The documentary Call Me Lucky will you humble you. I know it humbled me. Go watch it and then watch it again.