Abbot and Costello Meet SpongeBob Vega$Pants!
Can it be? Is it…?
Yes, Virginia. You’re not hallucinating. It’s time for yet another chapter in the increasingly drawn-out saga of SpongeBob Vega$ Pants!!
Recently, on SpongeBob Vega$ Pants…
After a flight, a buffet, and an earlier than expected phone call…
A sad, sad, snubbing by WILLIAM FUCKING SHATNER….
Hours of autographs, where our hero met his long lost Japanese twin brother…
A tangent that went nowhere…
And a talk that started out badly , got worse, but ended up okay…
We find our hero with just a scant 90 minutes to eat, change, and rehearse before he is to take the stage with his sketch comedy group to perfom “MIND MELD: ASSIMILATE THIS!” for 500 Trekkies.
More, after this commercial message:
Logjamming rules. They host you for 5 bucks a month. Cool!
So I’ve just finished my talk, and it was okay. Not great, not terrible, but I don’t have time to worry about it, because I have a show to do.
I meet my friends from ACME, who I’ve brought out to Vega$ to do the show, backstage. We’ve all performed on the ACME stage many times together, but we’ve never performed this lineup of sketches, and they’ve never performed in front of Trekkies before. Matter of fact, most of them don’t even watch Star Trek, and this convention was their first ever experience with the show, and the unique following it has. We’ve never had a technical rehearsal, we don’t know if the body mics we’ve been expecting for over a year (that’s how long it took to plan the show) are giong to show up. The guy who is doing our music and our lights has never seen the show, or read the scripts, and we don’t how that’s going to work.
Here’s a brief note about sketch comedy: one of the most important aspects of sketch comedy is the blackout that ends the scene. When I write a sketch, I always end it with a big laugh, or a big surprise, and the lights must immediately come down. If they don’t, we are left standing onstage, with our proverbial dicks in our hands. Not funny, believe it or not, especially if you’re a woman. Try explaining the sudden appearance of a dick in your hand to the audience…yeah, not an easy thing. Especially if you’re performing at the church ice cream social. So, I’m scared shitless that the tech guy isn’t going to make some mistakes, even though I’ve made him a set list, complete with the last few lines of each scene, and when the blackout is supposed to occur. If you’ve read my FAQ, you know that I am a Type-A control freak, and I don’t like to leave anything up to chance…so I was freaking out, right up until the lights went up on the show.
We all went over to The Hard Rock Hotel, to eat, where I didn’t eat anything that I ordered, and headed back to the convention, so change, shave, put on makeup, and get ourselves together.
We are supposed to be let into the theatre at 7:30, so we can have a quick run through of some blackouts, get our props set, and have 5 minutes to catch our breath…but it’s now 7:45, and the show before us has run long, and we’re not even going to get into the theatre until 8:20, or 8:30…and I know from experience that an audience’s willingness to enjoy your show is inversely proportionaly to the amount of time you keep them waiting past the time on the ticket, which is 8PM.
But that shouldn’t matter, because Trekkies love everything that any of us from Star Trek do, right? I mean, all we have to do is show up, and they’ll go nuts, right?
Wrong. They can be the most hyper-critical audience, ever, and this audience is made up of people who’ve paid lots of money to see this show. Some of them bought tickets that cost as much as 1500 bucks. So they expect, and deserve, an amazing show, and I intend to give it to them.
Finally, after much waiting, we get to go into the theatre, and set up. We get our props set backstage. We find an appropriate lighting level. We give the list of blackouts to our tech guy, and we are ready to put our body mics on.
Problem is, our body mics aren’t there.
That’s right. The body mics were either unwilling to respond, or they were unable to respond.
Bottom line is, we have no body mics. Which means we have no mics at all. Which means that it’s highly unlikely that the back of the house will be able to hear us.
One of the good things about being under the gun is that you don’t have the luxury of freaking out. You see the challenge, you meet the challenge, and you move on. I think that’s why I work so well under pressure.
We all huddled, and decided, “Hey, we’re all good actors, and we’re all good improvisers. We’ll just perform to the back row.”
So that’s exactly what we did.
It’s now close to 8:30. I can feel the audience outside the theatre trading their “we love you, wil” signs for torches and pitchforks, so I decide that we’re not going to keep them any longer. We’re just going to get ourselves backstage, and open up the house.
I give my CD of “Warm Up The House” music to our tech guy, who I’ve come to know as Jim, and the doors open.
A few anxious moments pass, while we all go through our pre-show rituals…some of us stretch, some of us chant, some of us walk in a circle. I can’t remember what I do…it’s always different. I think I was pacing, running lines in my head.
Dave Scott comes backstage and asks us if we’re ready. We are. He goes onstage, makes his, “Tape this and we will track you down and kick you square in the nuts,” speech, and the lights go down.
I take the stage, and I see that Dave has decided to play a little practical joke on me: the entire audience is wearing “Groucho” glasses. It is insanely funny to me, seeing all these people, in various levels of space-suitery, enjoying a mass giggle, like a bunch of school kids putting one over on the substitute.
It was rad.
I’m looking out at them, and I get the sense that they’re all waiting for me to say something funny…so I take a long look around the room, lift the microphone to my face, and say, “You’re all related, aren’t you?”
Huge relief from me, that they’ve traded their torches and pitchforks for Groucho glasses.
I say some things, and the show starts.
The show goes amazingly well. Jim, the tech guy, is a natural. You’d never know that he hadn’t seen the show. He never misses a cue, and, a few times, he even anticipates when an imporivsed bit needs to end, and blacks it out like he’s been doing it for years.
We are extremely lucky to have Jim doing our lights. If we take this show on the road, we’ll take him with us, we decide.
All our sketches kill, except one, and that’s a great batting average for us. We’re happy.
There is one small problem, though…as the show is nearing its end, one of the other performers, Maz, and I both have to pee worse than we’ve ever had to pee before. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. All theatres have a backstage pisser…but we’re in a ballroom, behind pipe and drape…so we do the pee-pee dance for the last 25 minutes of the show. I seriously considered using the empty bottle of Crystal Geyser…but thought better of it.
The show closes with a sketch I wrote, called “Shut Up, Welsey.” I won’t tell too much about it, because you may see it someday, and I’d hate to spoil the surprise. I’m also shooting it as a short film, and you may be able to see that someday, too, so I’ll just say this: I loved writing it. It’s always fun to perform it, and I was terrified that the audience wouldn’t get it. I thought that they’d think I was making fun of them (I wasn’t), and those pitchforks would show up again…but they loved it.
As I write this, I am recalling the feeling I had as I performed that show, and it is so wonderful…so much has happened since that show…it’s been such a roller coaster for me, the last month or so…and enjoying that feeling all over again is really cool.
Anyway, the show is over, I come out to introduce the cast, and give a HUGE public thank you to Jim the Magnificent.
The most amazing thing happens: when I walk out there, they leap to their feet. They are screaming. They are applauding. They are whistling. They are howling. They stay on their feet for what feels like 5 minutes, but was probably more like 2…and I am struggling to keep it together, because I feel like crying. You have no idea the shit I’ve gotten over the last 15 years because of Star Trek, and you have no idea how risky it was for me to put up this show…and the validation I felt from this crowd was just overwhelming.
I’d say that over 80% of the email I get says something like, “I had no idea you were funny.” or “I expected you to be a tool” or something like that…and I’ve been working so goddamn hard to get people give me a chance to challenge their expectations of me, and hopefully change their minds about me, that getting that huge, genuine, passionate standing ovation from that group of people was simply magical. I will cherish that for the rest of my life.
Matter of fact, I was so overwhelmed by the response, that I introduced the entire group, and forgot to introduce Jim!
So, Jim, if you’re reading, here goes:
This show did not come together overnight, and it didn’t come together easily. We all worked really hard to make it happen, and the whole thing could have been easily ruined by a bad tech guy. Fortunately, we had the most amazing tech guy ever. Jim [here is where I’d point to the side of the stage, and call you up] has never lit a sketch show before, and he didn’t miss a beat tonight. If you enjoyed the show, Jim deserves your applause as much as any of us do. [Now, the entire house, and all of us onstage applaud for Jim].
The house empties out, and I run at mach 4 to the bathroom. When I get back into the ballroom, I get the most important review, of all. My wife comes up to me, puts her arms around me, and says, “Honey, you were great. I’ve never laughed so hard in my whole life.”
NEXT TIME: 3 Days in Vega$, and The Star Trek Experience.