There are gigs, not enough, to which I am jetted to a beautiful city (Montreux) or put up at a beach-front hotel (Ft. Lauderdale), or play to smart crowds (Throckmorton). And then there are the rest, like the one where I was paid in pie. $60 bucks and pie. The pie was a surprise. A modern day twist on Oliver and Antoinette
The gig was at a Marie Callenders in Los Angeles. $60 bucks to feature. The headlining spot goes to big names like Larry Miller and other— talented, established guys who are there to work out new material. They get $100 and pie.
The emcee welcomes me. He’s running the show tonight. Proud and in-charge, he tells me I can have something to eat. On the house. Oh, and do I mind if his friend does a guest spot? For those of you not versed in the comedy vernacular, that means his friend would like to perform for an unpaid 10-minutes before I go on-stage. That’s right, he is purer than me because he’s not even working for pie. He’s doing it for the love of the game.
I go with a mini chicken pot pie and salad. I do my set, watch the headliner, and make my way to the emcee for my cash. As I’m talking with Mr. Emcee, the waiter interrupts, handing me a box. “Maureen, here’s your pie. It’s a chocolate silk pie, but you can have any pie you’d like.”
“A whole pie?” says I. “I thought it would be a slice, a wedge, a piece.”
“Nope,” says he, “You get a whole pie.”
“That’s very nice. Thank you.”
Mr. Emcee eyes my pie “You got a pie?”
“But you had dinner,” he reminds me.
“I did,” I say.
“It’s supposed to be dinner OR a pie, not dinner AND a pie,” he scolds.
“I can assure you I’m not scamming anyone,” I say. “The waiter gave it to me. I didn’t ask for it. ”
“Does he know you had dinner?”
“I assume so since he served me, I say. “Do you want me to give it back? I wouldn’t want this pie to affect future bookings.”
“No, it’s just that we didn’t get one,” he says motioning to Guest Spot Guy. “No, we didn’t get one, the purist confers. “I don’t think they normally give whole pies. This must be something new.”
Is this really happening? “I tell you what. Take my pie.” I say as I lunge it into their hungry hands. “Just take the damn pie.”
“The whole pie?” they say in unison.
“All of it. Share it. Equally, not equally. Eat some of it now, or none of it ever. Take it home. Binge. Purge, whatever arrangement works for you.”
“Wow” they say grabbing a couple of forks, “You want to have some with us?”
“Oh no. It’s all yours. Enjoy”
And enjoy they did. As I look through the window from the parking lot, I see Mr. Emcee and Guest Spot Guy circling the pie, forking the silk of chocolate into their no longer deprived pie holes and looking content, at least until the next gig that gives them an injustice they just can’t quite right in their minds.
That’s comedy. It’s a biz that too often elicits pathetic pangs of coveting from financially and creatively underpaid comics. We’re all that comic. Some days I get the pie, most times I don’t. Some, a selective number of comics, get all the pies they want whenever they want. That’s the rub. There is no rhyme or reason for what happens in comedy. We call it a business, but it’s not one that makes sense. We move ahead despite that, in the hopes of getting bigger pieces of life’s collective pie. Pies that go by the names of: Better Gigs, TV Exposure, Creative Fulfillment, Accolades and Banking Accounts.
Wondering when that will happen can make many a comic a crazy person. Truth is it won’t happen for most of us. On this night, I’m not the coveter but rather the covetee (not always an easy feat). On this night, I am able to focus on what I have rather than what I don’t : 4-thousand fewer calories and 50 extra bucks.** (and two pretty happy dudes).
Next gig I may likely be the comic saying “They gave your a burger? How did you get a burger?” It’s supposed to be a drink or a burger. You got both? How did you get both!
**(You thought it was $60, right? C’mon, I had to tip the waiter for all that pie.)