Comedy, Cowboys, and Liver Damage

Becoming a stand-up comic is a weird fucking life-choice. In my case, it was mostly accidental that I ended up being paid to stand on a stage say the same stupid shit to drunk bar patrons and club-goers that I’d say if I was sitting on a barstool. A friend of mine had decided he wanted to try his hand at being the next Sam Kinison, so I went to a few open mics with him and thought, as I watched the parade of bullshit go up night after night telling the same dick jokes while hoping to refine them into comedy gold that would land them an HBO special, I thought, “Ok, well I can suck at least this bad”.

And it turned I was mostly correct in that assumption.

I started carrying a notebook around with me, began writing thing down that I observed and found absurd, and word-smithed them into a few minutes of viable material that people actually laughed at. I could barely believe how well my first few times in front of an actual audience went, and I was even more delighted that, as a result, my booze was generally purchased for me and I’d get free food. Fucking glorious!

It wasn’t long before I was being asked to perform in shows that weren’t just a cavalcade of dudes working out shit about girls who they’d never fuck, and that was amazing to me. Seriously, you’re going to pay me, not just drink tickets, but with actual cash to make fun of penises and wax poetic about anal bleaching? The hell you say. Why didn’t I start doing this sooner?

But, as a new comic, though, you try to get stage-time any place you can. You keep doing the open mics, even the awful ones, to smooth out the kinks in the material you already have and to work on new stuff before you use it at a “real show”.  And you will leave from your day job to drive to a room across the state if someone offers you 15 minutes on a real stage at a real show, only to drive back home the same night, hopefully making it home in time to get a few hours of sleep before your real job starts up in the morning. Because that shit makes you better. It just does.

And you say yes to a lot of sketchy shit.

One of the grand things about the comedy business is that it’s chock full of comedians who are without a driver’s license. Most of us are fucked-up on some level, and there’s a lot of addiction issues in the community. That stereotype is absolutely spot-on.

Put that together with YAY, FREE BOOZE followed by having to drive home, you have yourself a simple recipe for a DUI.

The thing that makes this grand is that there are whole a lot of comics who have had their driving privileges revoked who also depend on road gigs to make a living and that opens up the opportunity for a new comic to get stage time at venues they wouldn’t normally be working yet; by driving the seasoned comic’s unlicensed ass to gigs in exchange for stage time at the beginning of the show. It’s a win-win situation for both.

I realized this and took advantage of it as often as I could. Of course, this meant driving a lot of weird dudes all over hell’s half-acre. And it was always dudes. Not because women never get DUIs, but because comedy is dick-heavy and that’s where my opportunities were.

My favorite comic to drive with was a guy we’ll just call Elton. Elton was funny as hell and the reason he was my favorite is because, when I’d work with him, I was playing some pretty fun stages and I always got actual cash for my time.

The routine on our trips was as follows:

I would pick Elton up at his house, we’d stop at a gas station because the deal was he would fill my tank before we headed out of town. He would then claim to forget he ever said he’d pay for gas, to which I would say, “Well, El, I guess we’re not going anywhere because my tank is on E,” Then he’d grumble, pay for the gas, and we’d head out.

I would drive while he spent the first hour going over his set for the evening, randomly cursing and crossing things out, adding things, erasing those additions, and eventually deciding on going with what he had on his set-list in the first place.

Next, Elton would start asking me which comedians in the local scene I wanted to fuck.  He was never satisfied with my answer of “There is literally no one in the scene I want to fuck.”  He’d say, “Well what about so and so,” and I’d tell him I had already fucked so and so, and then, ultimately, he would ask, “Would you fuck me?” to which I would answer, “No, I will not fuck you,” to which he’d ask again, my response wouldn’t change, he’d ask why, to which I’d say, “Because I don’t want to fuck you,” and then ask if I’d suck his dick, to which I’d tell him no, to which he’d ask, “What’s wrong with my dick?” to which I would answer, “I don’t know, but I don’t want it in my mouth,” to which he’d say that was just rude, and I’d shrug, and he’d ask again, and then I’d say, “You know what, Elton? I might get drunk enough to fuck you if I didn’t have to look at you during, but never drunk enough to suck your dick, that’s how much I don’t want your dick near my face” to which he’d REALLY be offended. “That’s fucked up, man…I mean what’s wrong with MY dick…there’s nothing wrong with my dick…”

Then he’d mumble under his breath at me over in the passenger seat for a bit, and then, finally, I’d hear snoring, which meant the rest of my drive would be peaceful.

Of course all of that is jacked up, but I honestly didn’t give a fuck at the time, and I can’t say I do now. That’s just how we rolled. It was our “relationship”.

On one particular comedy run, we traveled from Portland, Oregon to Clarkson, Washington – to perform at the luxurious and always delightful Lancer Lanes Bowling Alley and Casino. Yeah, you read that right.

Our drive went as described above, right down to the dick-talk and the snoring, and we arrived in Clarkson with about 2 hours to spare. The venue provided lodging to the comics this time and, despite Elton’s protests, they booked two separate rooms for us. We parked and went to our rooms to chill before the show. I told him I’d meet him there about thirty minutes before show time.

While sitting in my room, I worked on a few bits and, off the top of my head, I just came up with some random material making fun of cowboys. It was partially based on experience. I’m just not a fan of what I call “Cowboy Cosplay” seeing as most of the dudes that dress like this live in a cul-de-sac, not a ranch, and would be thrown from a horse if they were brave enough to go near one. It was just a little silly timewaster that wrote out well, and I thought, you know what, I think this works in the set I’m doing, so maybe I’ll try it out. Why not?

It’s nearly 7:30, so I head down to the show. I walk in, Elton’s already there having a drink, and I order two for myself: One for immediately, and one to take on stage with me, which was my usual M.O.

A little bit later, the show starts, some local dude who DJs in the area, kicks it off with a few minutes of comedy and general shit-talking of the locals, and he brings me up on stage, introducing me to the bar patrons, i.e. the audience.

I do my prepared set, it’s going well, and I decide to launch into my new “cowboy material”, specifically mocking 10 gallon hats and giant belt buckles and sexual prowess.

I swear to god, I’m five words into the bit, and in walks this cowboy. Guy had to be about 6 foot 6 and it was as if someone had gift wrapped him and sent to me as a present:  He was wearing a long sleeved, white button down shirt, Wrangler jeans, some well-worn cowboy boots, and, to accessorize, he wore a giant white cowboy hat and a belt buckle so big you could see it from space.

You have got to fucking be kidding me.

He hears where my set is going, walks straight up to the stage, and sits down about four feet in front of me and proceeds to stare me down.

Of course he does.

But I have committed to the bit and I stare right back at him, making appropriate hand gestures towards him for the benefit of the audience, and proceed to improvise a bit to personalize it a bit towards this perfect specimen who I am now fully abusing. It went over very well with the bar patrons as they all, including The Cowboy, seem to know each other.

I finish my set, exit the stage, and scoot towards the back of the room during the applause and wait til Elton is introduced as tonight’s headliner. I decide to use the bathroom and stay absent for a few, and then, when I return to the comedy room, I scoot back up to the bar and quietly order a drink as not to interrupt Elton’s set, which, as per usual, is going superbly.

Elton has opened up with his “One of these things is not like the other” bit that he does when he finds himself the only black face in a sea of paleness, which is often, and it always kills. It warms the audience up who seem relieved that he noticed he was black and they weren’t. “Whew. Thank goodness, now we can breathe, he knows.”

The bartender responds to my handing her a credit card, “Hon’, your first two drinks are on the house as it stands, but that gentleman over there said that he’s paying for all your drinks tonight. You and your African friend’s drinks, too.”

I look over, and The Cowboy tips his hat at me and nods.

Oh shit.

I raise my drink in a long distance air toast/thank you and hope this isn’t some prelude to my murder.

I take a seat on a bench towards the very back near the door so I can bail when an audience member invariably starts talking to me so that it doesn’t take away from the headliner’s set. I love getting kudos for making people laugh, but when they start being loud during someone else’s set, even if it’s to be complimentary, you gotta shut that shit down.

Cowboy sidles up to the bench I’m sitting on along the back wall, and asks if he can sit. Oh sweet jesus. “Sure, you’re fine.” He sits.

Cowboy smells really fucking good.

He leans over close enough to where I can feel his breath on my cheek and proceeds to tell me how he wasn’t so sure how he was supposed to take the stuff about his hat covering a comb-over or his belt buckle being the tombstone for a dead muscle. But he’s not angry, thank god, and he’s smiling, mostly with his eyes.

I tell him he can take it any way that helps him sleep at night. He chuckles and sits back and, still sitting on my bench with me, enjoys the rest of Elton’s set.

Once Elton exits the stage to thundering applause from rednecks that he has regaled with stories about the hilarities of life from his exotic-to-them point of view, The Cowboy stands up, reaches to shake his hand and pulls him into a side hug of sorts, taking Elton off guard, but steadying him again once he tells him that he’s paying for his drinks. Elton is nothing if not cheap, and is immediately grateful to be leaving town without a hefty bar tab to cut into his comedy paycheck.

The drinks start flowing even more, Cowboy and Elton are chatting it up, and I’m half paying attention to that conversation and half paying attention to the rest of the patrons. I mention shots of whiskey in my act, so that usually prompts random shots of whiskey to show up to my table which is both appreciated and not…the hangovers are becoming more painful as time marches on.

The next thing I know, Elton bellows from halfway across the bar, “Hey, woman. Get your purse. We’re going to Idaho to sing karaoke at a country bar with this cowboy.” I look over and Elton is wearing, with his very non-heehaw outfit, a cowboy hat.

Wait, where the fuck did he get that hat? Whatever, I’ve seen stranger things.

Cowboy asks, “You’re coming, right, ma’am? This just wouldn’t be the same without you. Trust me, this will be fun.”

So, because I’m drunk and make poor decisions on the regular, I grab my purse and get into a strange man’s truck, sitting up front sandwiched between Elton and the cowboy. And we were off.

Fortunately, we were not driven to our deaths, but rather to a country bar just across the bridge in Lewiston, Idaho. We walked in and, with me being dressed in a low cut red and black dress with knee-high black boots instead of the local uniform of denim and flannel, and with Elton being as far opposite as you can be from a lily-white redneck, all eyes turned our way and, if there had been a player piano playing, it would have abruptly stopped, perhaps with a tumbleweed cruising by for emphasis.

But, once the initial jolt of seeing us in a bar where we obviously did not blend in, things settled a bit. We had more drinks, from shots to whiskey to some delightful concoction that tasted like chocolate cake that some sweet boy named Clark bought for me. Good god, I was going to pay for this the next day.

Out of nowhere, a woman even drunker than I was at that moment runs up to me, grabs my arm, and says, “HEY, THAT AFRICAN MAN TOOK MY BOYFRIEND’S HAT AND NOW HE’S IN JAIL. HE’S GOING TO DIE IN THERE NOW. YOU KILLED MY BOYFRIEND, YOU FOREIGN WHORE.”


Before I can even react to this whimsical heehaw nonsense, her friends rush over and grab her. They apologize, saying, “Connie’s out of her mind. Ignore her.” Elton is laughing so hard at this point, and keeps yelling to everyone that he’s from New Jersey and has never even set foot in Africa. I watch as Drunk Connie leans over to throw up on one of her friends’ shoes as she’s being drug out the door. I decided it wasn’t important that her earlier accusation made no sense. She’s gone now and I’m just thankful she didn’t barf on me.

Once that excitement was over, we continued chatting with The Cowboy’s buddies, and, after a little while, I realized that Elton was gone. Shit, the rednecks have kidnapped Elton, and I have no idea how I’m going to explain this.

I start looking around for him when someone notices and waves their hands to get my attention and points up to the stage. I hadn’t thought to look there.

There he is, flanked by two local dudes wearing matching hats who had their arms around him. They were karaokeing to a song by George Jones. I had no idea how to process this, so I started laughing and cheering and yelling, “What the fuck am I watching?”

I grabbed my notebook out of my purse, closed one eye to focus, and wrote this down – ELTON SANG A GEORGE JONES SONG COWBOY KARAOKE IN IDAHO – for posterity because I was worried that, in my inebriated state, I would actually forget. And this was not a sight I could allow myself to forget.

Once he finished singing, Elton and his friends had a group embrace, and one of the dues yelled, “YOU ARE OUR BROTHER NOW! YOU ARE OUR BROTHER!

Elton bowed dramatically and headed back towards the table. As I continued cheering, he yelled, “Bitch, you tell NO one or I’ll kill you!”

“I AM TELLING EVERRRRYYYYONNNNNNE.” I scream-laughed.  Then I hugged him.  He looked at me and asks, “Does this mean my dick is ok now?” He grabbed my ass, and I punched him hard on the ear and told him to quit being a shit. “Bitch, you hit me!” He laughed and staggered backwards rubbing his head. I informed him that he’ll lose a hand next time he touches my ass, adding, “Dude, I love you, but that’s not yours. No touchy.”

The bartender screeched over the music, “Last call!” Jesus, what time WAS it?

So we finished our drinks and exited, piled into the truck, and The Cowboy drove us back to our hotel near Lancer Lanes. He parked and, due to the fact that I drink and make poor decisions, of COURSE I was fine when he walked back towards my room with me.

We arrive to the section of the hotel where both Elton and I were staying, I said goodnight to a confused looking Elton, and The Cowboy and I entered my room and locked the door.

In all honesty, I can’t recall a whole bunch about the actual sex other than I had a lot of fun and neither the part in my bit about the hat covering a comb-over (he DID take his hat off), nor the giant belt buckle being a tombstone to a dead muscle were accurate. He was funny, sweet, and though detail is blurry, I know it wasn’t disappointing. Maybe it wasn’t a poor decision after all.

About the time we were done enjoying each other’s company, I heard a knock on the door. I’m thinking to myself, great, I’ve been loud enough to garner the attention of hotel security.

I grab a sheet to wrap myself in and open the door a crack. It’s Elton.

“Hey, El, what’s going on…”

He’s standing, but barely. And he’s cradling a bottle of vodka. “Hey, is it my turn?”

“Dude, what???” I laughed. Where the fuck did he even GET that bottle of vodka?

“Aw man…I’m bored. Bitch, I have vodka. I’m coming in.” And he lurches forward but stumbles and hits his head on the door.

The Cowboy, now half-dressed wearing boxer briefs and his unbuttoned shirt (How am I only noticing how handsome this dude is just now? Oh, maybe it’s because he isn’t wearing a farmhand costume. Yes, this is much better), walks over to the door, and says, “Hey, Elton, you ok?”

Elton is sniffling and coughing – is he crying? – and he says, “Yeah…I’m just bored and I forgot to bring someone back to my room. You guys wanna just do whatever, I’m gonna sit over here in the corner and wait til you’re done. Just ignore me, I’ll be quiet as a rabbit. A little rabbit. Keep doin.”

Cowboy let’s him know that this isn’t how this is going to work, and “we’re gonna have to go back to our room now and get some sleep”. He puts his arm around Elton and guides him back out the door, and the whole time, Elton is mumbling, “But I thought I was next though. I brought vodka. Cowboy, I brought vodka…”  For fuckssake.

Once Elton was all tucked in to his own bed, Cowboy came back to the room and gathered the rest of his clothes to get dressed. He stood up, put his cowboy hat on and said, “This has been a pleasure, ma’am. I hope to call on you again if you come back this way.”

Lord. Are you an adorable Western cartoon?

I hugged him goodnight – because, even after an hour or so of naked gymnastics, a kiss seemed so formal – closed the door behind him, and passed out face-first on my extremely disheveled hotel bed.

The next morning, Elton met me at my car and we headed out to our next gig, which was to be in central Washington. We were both hungover as fuck, and in full agreement that the unseasonably bright sun was a bunch of bullshit. Everything was way too loud as well.

He was quiet for the first part of the trip. I thought he might be asleep, though there was an absence of snoring.  But, after an hour, finally he said, “Hey…I don’t know if you remember a cowboy from last night, but I think he gave me his hat after the show. And most of my vodka’s gone, though…I don’t even remember where I got it. I gotta be more careful…we had fun, right?”

Elton rubbed his head and grimaced. “Goddammit, ow. And why the fuck does my ear hurt?”

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