Comedians have a reputation for being dark and brooding off-stage. I can tell you from firsthand experience that the stereotype, like most stereotypes, is false. Sure, there are some that idle on depression and have the social skills of an aloof cat, but most comedians I know are fun, free-spirited people that just need that special hug only a stranger can give them.
Back when I was starting out in the comedy world, I was working with a headliner who was fun, a little crazy, and always up for a good prank. We were working a string of one-nighters through Montana. It was the middle of February and winter was in full swing, with sub-zero temperatures and snow drifts that were higher than most of the buildings. The crowds at the clubs were light, and the few who showed up seemed to be more interested in numbing their winter woes with alcohol than laughter. We had a lot of tough crowds that had us wondering if comedy - at least that week - was worth it.
Then something amazing happened. Huddled in our hotel room in Helena, Montana, the headliner and I were tossing back beers, writing jokes, and reflecting on how bad the audience was a few hours earlier when out of nowhere we heard a loud alarm. We knew it wasn’t a car alarm or some sort of city alarm, and it was way too loud to be coming from the bank down the street. So, by process of elimination we figured it had to becoming from the Blockbuster video store next door to the hotel. Within a few minutes, three police cars arrived with lights and sirens blaring. We watched as Helena’s finest entered the video store to investigate. After a couple of minutes, the alarm was turned off and all we could see were flashlights moving through the store. The headliner looked at me and said, “Want to have some fun?” I said, “Sure, but I’m not leaving this room.”
He grabbed the phone book from the drawer inside the nightstand between our beds, looked up the number to the video store and dialed it from the phone in our room. We crowded next to the earpiece of the phone as we peeked through the crack of the curtain like a couple of peeping toms spying on a neighbor. After about a dozen or so rings we see one of the flashlights stop moving, and we hear the phone on the other end pickup. Silence, then, “This is officer [blah blah blah] of the Helena police force, how may I help you?” The headliner says, “Dude, there’s cops everywhere! Get out quick!” Then he quickly hung up the phone.We could barely contain ourselves as we watched the flashlights quickly begin to flick around the store in a chaotic fashion. The cops were there for about a half-hour after we made the call, and we laughed harder and harder by the minute. We never found out what set the alarm off to the store, but if we could have, we would have set it off again just to relive the whole thing.
The next night we had a show in Great Falls, Montana, continuing the week of deep winter comedy attempts. We both bombed … again. But we really didn’t care. We went back to our room, drank more beers and hoped for another alarm to go off.