I’ve been such a bad blogger, it’s been over a year since my last “So That Happened”, and that night, a drunk girl named Lulu danced on stage while I performed. This is quite a bit different.
On Saturday, March 8th, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to play the Vogue Theatre, one of Vancouver’s premier venues, which holds about 1200 people. I was opening for my good friend and magician Wes Barker(www.stuntmagician.com), and it was easily one of the best experiences of my life.
Rewinding a bit, Wes asked me to play the show in November, in his usual, laid-back style. He sent me a Facebook message that read, “so we should probably talk about my Vogue show.” Of course, I had no idea he even HAD a Vogue show. We met up for dinner, discussed the show, and agreed right there to do the show together. I had met Wes back in the summer doing a comedy competition(Wes does a lot of stand-up as part of his act, and does non-magic stand-up shows as well), and we hit it off right away. I was not only excited to play the Vogue, but excited to work with him as well.
It was there he also informed me that he was going to record his set, and his film crew could do the same for me. I’ve tried to avoid having any of my material online because I didn’t want to have a conflict with my teaching job, but I figured this was a perfect opportunity. It would give me 4 months to carefully choose my material, and I think it’s a pretty bad-ass move to release no video for the first 3.5 years of my stand-up career, and then have the first thing I release be a professionally-shot show in a 1200-seat theatre. As bad-ass as I could ever get, anyway.
Heading into the show, a lot of people asked me if I was nervous, but truthfully, I only got nervous the day before. I generally relish any opportunity to be in front of a big crowd and I was also really excited to film my special. The day before, I had been feeling a bit under the weather so I took the Friday off of work just to relax, calm down, and prepare for the show. It ended up being the opposite of calm or relaxing. It was then I started to have those thoughts of, “oh man, what if my special goes terribly?” “What if this is a largely magic crowd and they don’t care for stand-up?”, etc.
My uncle is a professional comedian in Toronto who has been doing comedy at the highest levels on the biggest stages for 20 years, and I remember when I first started, he told me, “I never get nervous to fail. I know my material is good. I just get nervous about what the crowd will give me,” and this mantra couldn’t have held more true for me. I knew that my material was well-rehearsed, well-practiced, and solid. I was just worried the crowd may not be fully into me because they would be maybe a magic-heavy crowd, a lot of Wes’ friends who just wanted the show to get to Wes, or I don’t know, anything! Most comedians, when they tape a special, do two tapings, just to avoid that exact scenario. They can cut out a joke if there’s a heckler, or lean on one of the two shows if the crowd is more audible with their laughter. This was a one-shot deal, and I was nervous about it.
Luckily, none of that happened. I managed to calm down a bit Friday, and honestly, when I woke up Saturday, I felt refreshed and confident. It also helped that I had my good friend Jen there to take me for brunch, and the Whitecaps home opener to keep me distracted. A lot of people said to me, “you went to the Whitecaps game right before?”, and to me, it was an obvious thing to do. First, I’m a season ticket holder and massive fan, and this was the home opener. You don’t miss that. Second, sometimes the best thing for your mind is to keep it furthest from the task as long as you can. It was perfect.
Watching people filter into the Vogue is one of the most amazing and nerve-wracking experiences you can have, I think. Standing backstage and watching the seats fill up, thinking, “holy shit, these people are here to see me(well, Wes)”, and knowing it’s less than an hour until you perform, then less than half an hour, etc. is crazy. But it was pretty cool. I won’t say much about the show itself aside from the fact that it was the most fun I’ve ever had doing comedy. I was able to put together what was a largely clean set(I said “fuck” only once and had only the smallest amount of innuendo), did 25 minutes, and the crowd was amazing. They could not have been more supportive and it really felt like I could stay on that stage forever.
Wes had a great set himself, and it was overall, one of the best nights of my young comedy career. I thought there was only one thing that could make my night better, and that was a burger from one of my favorite burger joints, Harvey’s. Luckily, the only one in the Lower Mainland is three doors down from the Vogue. And crush that bacon cheeseburger I did.
There are so many people to thank, but most of all, I just want to thank Wes for the opportunity, and all of my friends and family for their support.
I want to give special mention to my comedy family as well. Comedy is such an interesting thing to do, because while most comedians are friends with each other(and in some cases, they can be your best friends), there is still always a slight sense of competition any time you do anything. You’re competing for some of the bigger carrots–tours, theatre shows, big opening gigs for touring pro comics, festival slots, winning competitions, etc., and so sometimes, that competitive instinct takes over and you’re not always as nice to everyone as you could be(myself included).**
**–don’t get me wrong, there are a few people in this business who are genuinely the best people and want the best for everyone at all times. So if you’re reading this and think you’re one of those people and I was being an asshole before, know that you probably are one of those people and I love you.
However, I was overwhelmed at the number of messages I got that day from comedians from not only Vancouver, but across Canada as well. It was truly amazing to get messages from comics I have looked up to since before I was even in the business wishing me well on my special, and I was humbled at the support.
So thanks to everyone for that. You warmed my heart that day, and it was quite a special day, indeed.
PS–I haven’t quite decided what to do with the tape yet in terms of what platform I will be releasing it on, but I do know a few things:
1) It will be called “John Cullen: Someone Else’s Special”
2) It will be released some time in late May/early June
3) I will be having a release event featuring the premiere of the special and special performances from some of my favorite comics in the city–date, venue, and time TBA
So stay tuned!