The human side of comedy

This is my first blog, and I think it is fitting that it is not so much about comedy as much as it is about people. I have been lucky enough to do stand up comedy for 14 years. During that period I Emceed for 6 years. I answered phones in a comedy club box office for 2 years. I was the assistant to a comedy booker/agent for 3 more. I have also seen an absurd amount of comedy in my lifetime. I feel like I am as qualified as any human being on this planet to comment on the subject of stand-up comedy. There are many wonderful things about being a professional comedian. As you could imagine its a really fun job.(as my comedy idol Bill Hicks would say,”You can’t beat the hour”) I wanted to write this blog because I have come to the realization that my favorite thing about being a stand-up comedian is the life long friendships I have made along the way. There are so many people I would have never met if I hadn’t chosen this particular career path. I have travelled all over the United states, I have performed on television, I have had the privelage of opening up for, and Introducing George Carlin(giving me the rare opprotunity to shake the hand of the very person that influenced me to try stand-up comedy). All of this doesn’t compare to the friendships and beautiful people I have met on my journey. At the end of the day we are not comedians, we are people, and great people make the comedy business great. This Blog is about one such person….
     I was booked to headline at the Des Moines Funny Bone last week and I realized it was not an ordinary week. First because of a massive snowstorm in Chicago, I would arrive a day late(Comedy Life!!!!). Also, it would be the first week I had worked at the club since longtime owner Paul Lane had passed away. I knew it would be difficult because Pauls wife Leisha had taken over the day to day operation of the club and at some point I knew we would end up talking about Paul. If you didn’t know Paul Lane he was Bigger than life. He had a vibrant personality, and a zest for life. He was funny, and most importantly to me, he loved stand up comedy. He cared about comedians and the overall quality of the show. Believe it or not there are people who own comedy clubs who dont even LIKE Stand-up comedy. I remember the first time I met Jeff Schneider the owner of the Pittsburgh Funny Bone, I shook his hand and he said, “Nobody wants to see stand-up comedy anymore. Its a dead art.” And pleasure meeting you sir…. Paul Lane was different. He cared. He had a wonderful positive attitude, that was impossible to ignore. Leisha, Pauls wife told me that Paul used to wake up excited about doing his job. He loved the comedy business, he loved the laughter, and his positive attitude trickled down to all his employees. There is very little employee turnover at the club and the employees are engaging and fun to be around. I really do believe it all started with Paul. He was truly one of the people on the road I would “look forward” to seeing. Paul was also one of the first club bookers who felt it was time to bump me up from feature act to headliner, so I will always owe paul a debt of grattitude.I am one of many, many comedians whos’ lives were affected by Paul Lane. But I loved Paul for his ridiculous sense of humor. He loved to take a joke and ride it into the ground. The first time I met Paul I liked him almost immediatly and after the first night, Paul called me over to the bar area where a few customers from the show were lingering, and he asked me to Read aloud the words he had written on a napkin. The napkin read: I AM SOFA KING WE TODD DID. Being that I was naieve, and just out on the road for the first time, I did as I was told, boldly pronouncing, ” I am sofa king we todd did”. Paul coached me along,”say it again”. Undeterred, and completly not understanding the joke I kept going, “I am sofa king we todd did”. “Im sofa king we todd did”. “I am sofa king we todd did”. At this point everyone at the bar is laughing, Paul is in near tears, as I come to the realization that I am saying the words I am so fucking retarded…. in the dialect of an actual retarded person. Paul loved making people laugh and he was just eating it up. He had an incredible booming laugh and it would absolutly fill the room. I looked forward to hanging around with paul. I remember he took me to do afternoon radio at the Iowa State Fair. He got such delight in being my tour guide through the sprawling complex of butter statues and livestock. He was almost childlike when we arrived at the award winning biggest pig, “look at the nuts on that thing”, he said. He bought me my first Guina Grinder. We laughed as we watched two hilbillys almost get into a fist fight while waiting in line to get mini-donuts. It was a day that I remembered to appreciate my career choice. Who else gets to travel around and experience so much? To me thats what paul lane represented, everything that was right with the comedy business. And that is the point of this blog. It is easy a for comedians to get caught up in their own career. We think about TV shows we would like to do,or getting a new agent, or bookers we want to “get in” with. Sometimes to the detriment to our personal relationships. But its important to remember, that everyone in this business is a potential friend. They are not just gate-keepers to line our pockets or further our career. We are all kind of in this thing together.
     The nicest thing I can say about Paul Lane is that he was a good father and a loving husband. That is what I admire. To me, that is what is important. I became friends with Paul because he happened to dedicate part of his life to the same thing I did…Comedy. And my life will alwas be richer because of it. His affect on me and so many others will last a lifetime. Paul will be a constant reminder to me to enjoy every day, to love this life, and most importantly… to laugh.
-John Evans