On October 8th of 2015 I started a small weekly comedy showcase (Bring Your Own Therapy) in Bright Red Studios on N. Ingersoll here in Madison. I did it for stage time. I wanted a weekly space that I could get up and do 10-15 minutes before putting up the rest of the local comics that stop by. At no point did I ever think that any sort of popular comedian let alone a comedy legend would stop by and do some time. But on March 10th, just five months after the first show, there he was, Barry Crimmins, putting on a clinic.
He was in town visiting and was looking for some stage time. We had talked previously about putting on a larger show at a larger venue but couldn't line up any dates. He called up and I said I have a small weekly show. He asked how much time he could do. I told him he can do as much time as he wants. He's Barry Crimmins for fuck's sake.
Barry asked if he was taking any stage time from any other comics. I said he didn't have to worry about that. The locals needed to see Barry.
Crimmins is coming to Bring Your Own Therapy. Some slight panic hit seeing as how I had no key to Bright Red Studios as well as no microphone and I definitely needed more chairs. Frandu, my fill-in host had the key and equipment at his house and then fucked off to New York. Fortunately my brother works for a production company hooked a brother up with an XLR, mic, and chairs.
That afternoon I take all the gear down to Bright Red Studios to clean and set up for the show. I set the room up three different ways before deciding it was best the first way I had it. About a half hour before doors, I met my brother and his girlfriend at the bar around the corner from Bright Red. I finished my drink quickly. I wanted to get back to the studio just in case Crimmins showed up early. I didn't want to keep him waiting.
I turned the corner onto Ingersoll and immediately saw a vehicle I didn't recognize. Hopefully that's not him sitting and waiting. I got to the door of BRS and opened it when I heard the car door open and turned around, of course, it was Crimmins waiting on my dumbass.
Barry came in with his lady friend. We shook hands and gave hugs. Barry immediately started scoping the space out like an anxious dog checking out a new house it has never been to or a K9 unit searching for contraband.
"We got any beer?" Barry asked. During our conversation on the phone I asked if he had a beer preference. He said we should worry about that later. Well now it is later, 9:30pm to be exact. I brought a 6-pack of Stella. Barry wanted some Dos Equis or Fat Tire. Madison stops selling beer after 9pm. I said I know a place. I hop in the car leaving Barry watching the door and head to Vic Pierce, the only place in Madison you can get beer past 9. I buy both Dos Equis and Fat Tire just to cover bases.
I get back to BRS. People have started showing up. Mostly local comics with a few civilians who had heard Barry was going to be in town. I introduce a few people to Barry that wanted to meet him. I give everyone the five minute warning that the show is going to begin. Barry asks how much time he can do. I say, "I'll light ya at 30, just to let you know where you're at. Do how ever much time you want."
The show starts. I go up, bitch about Florida. I introduce the local showcase, Steve, who does his time. Then Barry is introduced and the fun started. Barry goes up and takes charge of the room and doesn't even use the microphone. The microphone that I slightly panicked about and Barry used it once in his fifty minute set. It was beautiful. I was standing beside myself in the back of the room watching Crimmins pace back and forth speaking his gospel.
He wrapped up his set with some very inspiring and compassionate prose on the predicament, we as humans find ourselves in today. Barry thanks the crowd and receives a standing ovation from all 50 or so people cramped into this tiny art studio.
We take a ten minute break before starting the mic and Barry shakes hands and takes pictures with everyone that asks outside. Before he leaves I thank Barry for coming down and hand him $150. It was all I could afford. It was a thousand dollar performance, easily. Barry takes the cash and thumbs through it and hands me back sixty. "Thanks for putting me up Nick, I'll leave the beer for the kids." Barry says before hopping in his car and headed back to Milwaukee.
The next morning Barry called me and thanked me again for putting him up. I told him he blew a lot of young minds for the better. We talked about trying to set up another larger show again. I had the venue and date (June 2nd, Brink Lounge) but Barry is recording his stand-up special on that day. A special produced by Louis CK. That's something to look forward to.
Two weeks later, a young comic that went up for the very first time at BRS after Barry's set came in and thanked me. I said "you're welcome" though I had no idea what she was talking about. She said she came to the show with Barry and honestly had no idea who he was. Then she went and watched his documentary Call Me Lucky which had a profound impact on her. I told her no thanks was needed. But that's what's cool about the stand-up business. Sometimes, mostly in New York or LA, rarely Madison, Wisconsin, but sometimes. A legend stops by.