Had a show this past Tuesday night at Bay Path College in Longmeadow Massachusetts. The show was at 8 p.m., so I took to the highway at 3 and made it there by 6:30. They had a room for me at the Holiday Inn, that after missing the turn for, and being routed back onto the highway, I found, and checked into, by 7.
In room 406, after firing the thermostat from 62 to 78, I sat in front of the register and went over the show in my noggin. I was at the school in the parking lot behind the show location by 8:20, where I met my pretty and prompt contact, Chandler, who led me to the performance space, er, cafeteria.
Bay Path is an all girls college, and for cripes sakes I had no idea why they booked me. I guess a comedian is a comedian is a comedian.
I'm often asked if I get nervous before a show. No, is the general answer. More specifically I'd say if I was doing a play for the first time, or working on a film that required a great deal of memorizing lines for large scenes with intricate patterns of marks to hit, yes, I'd be a bit nervous. Not the type of nervous one is when having to sing "O Holy Night," at Christmas Eve service, when one is 16 years old, but still, nervous.
At Bay Path College I wouldn't say I was nervous, I'd say I was a bit anxious, anyway. There are few shows for which I'm not at least a slight bit anxious. You could be coming off a stretch of 20 sold-out/full-house, barn burning shows, and still not be totally sure the folks that night will like what you do. You're never sure - you're never totally sure folks will laugh. I think the rule is, if you're sure they'll laugh, you're losing your edge.
Even less sure was I the late teen early 20 something gals at Bay Path College were going to laugh. Though quite secure with performing, I was feeling a bit, miss-booked, for the Bay Path Show that would be populated by modern day college gals who were no doubt used to the typical, hold-the-mike stand-up comedy guys you see on TV.
By 8:30 gals started putt-ing into the hall, and instead of staying hidden, I just hung out and chatted them up. If there was a chance they'd not like my country comedy, I figured I'd at least offer them some fun with a bit of relaxed pre-show jibber jabbering.
The girls were looking for fun. They weren't the slightest bit on guard against the old rough around the edges guy that is me, and by the time 9 p.m. rolled around, I transitioned from common chit-chat, into my show material, smooth as butter.
There were a few girls from Vermont there, which was a sign I'd have at least those few chuckling, but gals from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, laughed too, as much as any old coot Vermonter from Eden Mills. What a relief.
One gal arrived a half-hour into the show. She was average height, blonde hair, slight, wearing worn jeans, and a tie-dye shirt. I have a good deal of hippie material in the show, and I picked on her by offering to go back and repeat the hippie stuff just for her, since I noted, she looked like she was a bit of a hippie herself. The other gals loved it, and she went along fine, laughing heartily at my teasing, and the subsequent material.
I busted out the guitar toward the end of the show, and capped the gig by throwing a Logger thong out to one gal, Jordan, who I'd been going back and forth with throughout. She went for it, and told me she was marrying a Vermonter this summer. To look at her, all fancy and urban-ish, you'd have never guessed she'd be with a Vermont dude.
The show ended, and the girls filed away. Chandler and her assistant friend, along with most of the Vermont girls, hung around for the 10 minutes it takes me to pack up. They walked me to my rig, we shook hands, and I was on the road.
The small Italian place I eyed on the way in to town was closed, so I pulled into a MacDonald's and went in to sit with a couple of cheeseburgers.
Ordering, I looked to the drive-thru window and there were two gals from the show. They saw me, laughed, and I motioned them to come join me. They did. One of them was a Vermonter, from Lyndon. The other was her roommate, from Connecticut.
We chatted about school, mostly about the rules like, no drinking or drugs (aren't they general life rules?), supped on our ratty fast food, and I left in a cloud of dust. It was 10:45.
The drive home is about 3.5 hours, and I had my heart set on a package of chocolate chip cookies made by a local woman, sold at a convenience store that lies 2 hours and 45 minutes up the road. By the time I hit that store and bought my milk and cookies, I was fully ready to enjoy them as much Thanksgiving dinner.
I got home at 2 a.m. or so.
Next day's report from the college booker was very positive. I was glad to see, through all the troubling reports we hear and read about education in our country, that here was a tidy campus, brimming with a diverse group of bright-eyed young women, happy and motivated enough to want to leave their rooms on a Tuesday night, to come and be entertained.
Seems to me any of the girls I saw at the show have all the ability in the world to give themselves one helluva chance to live out a fantastic life.
It was 11 hours total: seven driving, one performing, and three in limbo. Money in the bank.
I was glad the girls liked the show.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his Web site at www.thelogger.com.