Sometimes comedians will discuss a nightmare show; the "hell gig". Since we are all hungry for stage time, especially early in our careers, we take those shows. A show is a show. They are not considered when folks look at glorified life of stand up comedy. Whether its a bar that has TVs on during the show, rowdy crowds or white-clawing it through a snowstorm four hour drive through Wisconsin, they are all considered "hell gigs."
Unless you set your expectations low. Recently I had some shows that had been "hell gigs" for others and even myself in the past. I went into them, thinking that at least I am getting extended sets to work on my new jokes and my new hour. I also took the shows as part of a larger run of shows to fill schedule gaps. My personal experiences with one show made me prepare for the worst and having regrets even minutes before I started the show. My expectations were low, especially after having a run of amazing shows at comedy clubs.
Well, one "hell gig" turned into a really show with new super fans! Not only did I work on my new hour of material, but I had some new interactions or "crowd work" pieces that could turn into bits. I sold many of my "Better Call Paul" shirts, which donate all the proceeds to Parkinson's Foundation this month. Not all of the gigs have this happy ending and sometimes shows we look forward to, end up being the nightmare gigs. For now, I will take the wins where I can get them. I did a sketch about this a while ago with my friend Derick Lengwenus which I will post below. #mondaymotivation #careerchange #formerlawyer #standupcomedy
Hell gig --> https://youtu.be/CUoTD1RMJ_I
Sometimes you can work hard and be kind and forces out of your control can negate your efforts. No matter how well you do on stage as a comedian, people won't like you personally or your comedy or will even hold a grudge when they felt slighted. It is hard to accept these set backs, especially for people like me who need control.
Recently I had opportunities taken from me from a gatekeeper who does not know me well and has not seen my stand up comedy. The reasoning behind this is whats most puzzling, since again, I do not know this person well. Perhaps its because I assisted a friend who is this person's enemy or I rubbed the person wrong, I really am not sure. It sucks to have this happen and especially when the reasoning is so childish, but that's the nature of the business. I can't control other people's agendas but I can navigate other rooms. Other opportunities will arise and onward we move. If you have any connections for venues in the Midwest outside of Chicago, please send them my way! I am looking for new venues in the Spring and want to come to your towns! I look forward to my shows this weekend in St. Paul at Laugh Camp and next week at the Drop in South Bend Indiana. #standupcomedy #standu #laughs #careerchange #formerlawyer
April 1, 2011 - I was a partner at a law firm and I recently stopped playing music and managing bands. I started improv with a friend for fun and he was getting a short stand up set for a sold out Bob Saget theater show and he asked me to tag along to act as his manager and keep him calm.
As I entered the theater, a limo was also dropping off Bob Saget right in front of us. Having just left the Cubs home opener (they won) with a few drinks in me, I approached Bob and we talked about the upcoming show, guitars and baseball as we made our way to the green room together. I wish I remember more of the actual conversation but I do remember he was very kind and sincere in his questions to me.
Later, my friend who was opening was nervously prepping, as it was his first big show, so I hung out with Bob and his feature, Mike Toomey in their green room. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to be there, but I saw Bob was tuning up his guitar so I told him about my years as a musician and an anecdote about my music days. At one point, he laughed and said “you should do that bit tonight.” I reminded him that I was not the comedian on the show but he still goaded me into going on stage, saying he wanted to tag onto something I said when he went up later. Soon everyone in the room was trying to convince me to go on stage, knowing I had only done improv and NEVER done stand up before. I politely declined.
Maybe he was just hoping to see me bomb, maybe it was an April Fools prank, or maybe he was just being nice, I don’t really know. Because of the confidence of making Bob Saget laugh and having him think I was an actual comedian, I went to my first open mic the next day and I was hooked from that moment on. The day after that I went to another open mic at Merkle's Bar & Grill for a competition where I ended up winning and being the host (2 1/2 Persians) for the next three years.
I recently reached out to him to make sure he knew this story, as I have told it in nearly every interview about my "origin story." I heard once that he knew about it but I messaged him to make sure he knew what he meant to me, not just that day but with the Aristocrats, his autobiography, his tweets, and of course Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos.
For better or worse, Bob Saget is the reason I do stand up comedy today. Maybe I would have eventually found another way to stand up but my journey100% started with Bob Saget and I am forever grateful to him for his positive influence on me and the positive energy he spread while he was alive. Rest in peace, Bob.
I have never been a New Years Resolution person - maybe I should resolve to work out more, especially with all the weight I gained during my COVID stint! I also tend to never plan beyond my immediate future. I always hated the "where do you see yourself in five years" question because I could not think that far ahead. Instead, I always tried to process immediate experiences and opportunities and let them advance me personally and professionally. Happenstance played a big role in almost all of my professional advances from music, music management, law and comedy.
Lately, however, I have been trying to make better decisions about accepting opportunities to ensure that they will advance me. I also physically listed my short term and long term goals for the first time in my life. I guess that's the closest I will get to a New Years resolution. Hope to see you at the shows this month in Detroit (this weekend), Chicago (next), St. Paul (2 weeks) and Indiana. #newyears #careerchange #formerlawyer #standupcomedy
Paul Farahvar is a comedian hailing from Chicago, Ill.
Paul Farahvar Comedy