I got my job because of a contact created through "Yrkesdörren". It's an awesome program that I blogged about here that was created to help integrate skilled immigrants like myself into the seemingly impenetrable Swedish work force. I like the program so much that I agreed to be a part of a commercial they were doing about their success stories. Our work website did an article about the ad. In the article was a picture of me looking silly on stage. My boss Håkan suggested I comment that if my article gets over 100 likes then I would do a standup show in the restaurant. I looked at other articles. Most had under 30 likes. Seemed like it wouldn't happen anyway, so I posted the comment. 100 likes, free comedy show starring me. Bam.
The next day a gentleman from the marketing department wrote me an email titled "Grattis på 100 likes". I went to the website. 103 likes. How. The. Hell? In his email he suggested that I do the show around the time we have the Christmas lunch or mingle. He didn't even ask if I was serious or not! I was reeling. They really were going to go through this. Where was their sense of humor? Where was my sense of humor? How was this happening? Thanks Håkan!
I regularly ask fellow comedians about their worst gig. It's like gathering around a campfire and hearing a horror story. They put the flashlight under their chin and ALWAYS SAY:
- It was this corporate gig...
Everyone's worst gig is a corporate gig. It's at some Christmas party or year-end event and the audience had no idea it was a comedy show. In a lot of these stories the comedian comes out and interrupts people eating and socializing, then asks for their attention while trying to tell dick jokes or whatever. Then the audience is supposed to laugh in front of their boss. These stories scared me every time. I'm a slave to laughter. I don't want to stand their while people don't laugh and at the same time want me to leave the stage. AND I have to keep telling jokes because I've been paid to go through this torture for 30 minutes or whatever.
Now I had PUT MYSELF in this exact nightmare scenario. Why did I type that stupid comment?! But I was here now. There was no turning back. I had made that dumb ass promise and the guy from marketing was full steam ahead with this "show". I have had a few corporate gigs and none of them have been nightmares just yet. Well, one was close, but I blame the booker on that one. Adult comedians probably aren't the best choice of entertainment for a rec center full of pre-teens. Hire a clown. Anyway, my goal was to make this work gig feel like a successful corporate gig.
I remembered a gig that my friend Ato "The Champ" Karlsson had set up. It was at a church for an audience between 13-19 years old. Sounds scary, right? I took it for the experience. Another friend of mine, Daniel Sanchez was going to join us to complete the show. In my head, this was enough for a good show. These guys are funny. When we got there, Ato was like a bossy tour manager towards the guy setting up the show. He was very particular about everything. Stuff I wouldn't have thought of. How would they sit, what they needed to know before the show, lighting, sound, mics, EVERYTHING. In the end, I understood. The person setting up doesn't know about what makes a comedy club a fun place. Sure, the comedian brings the laugh, but the mood has to be right. Everything matters. It was a valuable lesson I learned from bossy ass Ato. That show was a success. Everyone had a great time. I made teenagers laugh at stories about my homeless uncle and my son calling me a pussy.
I took that same approach to the work gig. If I was going down, I was going down swinging. People had to know that this was going to be a comedy show. No surprises. Marketing helped out with a flyer that was put on the website. We got speakers, a microphone and some pallets from the dock to make a stage. We dimmed the lights and used a photography lamp as a spotlight. We rearranged a section of the restaurant to look like a comedy club. I called up my friends Ato and Daniel and they agreed to perform with me. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a comedy show!
I was more nervous about this than I was about my first headline gig (milestone for me). Bombing on that night would just mean I wasn't ready. I'd be sad until the next gig. It's not like I'd see that audience again. Bombing at work means I'd see THAT audience again. And they'd see me. The guy who thought he was funny. I'd see them. The motherfuckers that wouldn't laugh. NO! Why did I agree to this? Thanks Håkan!
The nervousness subsided on the day of the show. I knew it had to happen, so whatever. At least Ato and Daniel would be there to go down in flames with me. Setting up the restaurant provided a good enough distraction. Then a fire alarm went off. Almost EVERYONE that walked past me made a comment about the show and how I set off the alarm. Ha ha. Little did they know, I wouldn't have minded if the show got canceled. Oh well. I tried!
The show went on as planned. Once it was showtime (as usual) the nerves were gone. I'm comfortable on stage. I warmed up the crowd for a few minutes with some stuff about work. I was funny. They were laughing. I may have even found a new joke to add in due to that few minutes. Now I was feeling good. Thanks Håkan! The crowd was warm and ready for the show. I brought up Ato. He did his thing. I came back up and brought up Daniel. He did his thing. Ato came up and introduced me. The crowd/my coworkers that I see everyday was ready. I was ready. I went into my material and it worked. I got laughs throughout. After a year and a half of doing this, I still can't accurately explain how great that feels. Laughter at something I came up with. It's the best.
I won't forget making the people laugh that work in the same building as me. The combination of the laughter and the relief of them laughing was amazing. They normally see me at lunch or talk to me on the phone as I try to express myself in my second language. There's always a barrier there. They didn't get to see me. This was me. I was speaking my native language and revealing a side of me that none of them knew about. My material is personal to me. They got to learn a little bit about me in a unique way. It was just me telling jokes to some employees at my job, but it was also a snapshot of how cool diversity can be. This silly immigrant enriched the workplace a little bit more. Thanks Håkan (he filmed the clip below)! Until next time...