All 50 States Day 33:
My first comedy interaction with North Carolina was with a booker there that ran a comedy club and booked other clubs and dates in the South. I was starting to feature on the road, performing the 30-minute middle slot of the typical opener-feature-headliner format, and a comic in Chicago suggested I contact the North Carolina booker. “They’ll love you,” he insisted. Apparently this club was an early booster of Carrot Top, who in the mid-90s was one of the top grossing comedians in the country.
The club charged $25 to review a comedian’s tape, a suspicious and unsettling policy, but I sent in my tape and a check and waited to hear back. Months passed. Then more. I started going on the road and doing a few colleges, all the while writing new material and improving my act.
The club had cashed my check, I had a record of that, but as the one-year mark arrived I hadn’t heard anything back from the club. So I sent them an anniversary card.
I wrote lovingly of my year of anticipation and waiting for a reply. I did my best to balance my tone between lighthearted ribbing and “OMG, F you so much!” Whatever I wrote, the gambit worked and I got a reply.
After a year of waiting they gave me a modestly positive review, what felt like a B- to me. They told me to start sending in my avails (schedule and bookings) and maybe they’d find me some feature work. I had developed a lot as a comic over that year and the 15-20 minutes on the tape they had reviewed was no longer representative of my act so I felt that when I got booked at one of their clubs I’d improve in their estimation.
That chance never came since that booker never booked me, but I have played several shows in North Carolina over the years, from big universities like Wake Forest, UNC–Asheville, UNC—Charlotte, to smaller colleges like Elon and Greensboro College. I had a very unique show in an outdoor amphitheater at the Raleigh Little Theater back in 1999, part of a Comedy Central live event, and I once did an open mic in Asheville when I was passing through in 2010.
On a different trip to Asheville I spent a few extra days there when my car broke down only 40 miles into my drive back to New York. My engine shut off as I was coming down a mountain—just cut out completely—and I coasted to the bottom of the hill, down an off-ramp and onto the grass. The car wouldn’t restart. It was Sunday and people were starting to return home from church and several people stopped to check on me. One guy called his cousin who was mechanically inclined to ask for advice. I think I met everyone who lived in that holler, a diverse bunch and they were all very friendly, and eventually they helped me call a tow truck (it was the distributer).
I had my car towed to a Firestone that would open in the morning, I checked into a motel within walking distance, and took it as a good omen when my motel TV was playing a Cubs game on WGN.
I have few pictures of North Carolina but apparently plenty of stories! There was that other time in Asheville…
- Selife with the crew at Wake Forest, 2010
- Polaroid of the Blue Ridge Motor Lodge, 2010
- Polaroid of the Mount Vue Motel, 2010
- State Line!