As I was sitting down with a bowl of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese to watch Old School on the big screen in my basement at about 8pm Thursday night, it occurred to me that it was exactly one week ago that I was preparing to go on stage in Pittsburgh to make a complete ass of myself. And that absolutely blew my mind. One week ago already!
On the opening night of the AIGA Leadership Retreat, each chapter gets one minute to present something about the past year. In the years before I was on the board and went to the conference, the Nebraska board usually opted out, because everyone on the board was too shy to go on stage. Not me. My first conference, when I got to Austin TX and discovered that we got to go on stage but our president had opted out -- well, I was pissed. I vowed right then and there that we would have the funniest and best presentation the next year. Dammit.
So cut ahead one year to St. Louis. Once again, our President had opted us out. Upset, 30 minutes before the presentations started, I sought out my buddies on the National board to see if we still could somehow get a slot. They squeezed us in. And they would not regret it.
Standing in the reception room, with no script, we quickly reviewed what the chapter had done all year. Dick mentioned some event, and I responded, "Oh, yeah, that was fucking awesome!"
And it hit us. Why not do that on stage? Talk about the events, and have me yell profanities, gratuitously? Why not?
So I approached my buddy on the national board who had got us a time slot, and asked him if it would be OK if our presentation was a little blue. He said absolutely, go for it. So we did.
Nate told me that it was entirely possible that he would freeze up on stage and I would have to carry the production. I said cool. Improvisation is fun.
And we took our seats in the auditorium. Somewhere in the first batch, Cliff gets up to go to the bathroom, he's so nervous. And he's gone FOREVER. I start going through contingency plans in my head, ways to pull it off solo. After what seemed like a half hour, he returned grinning. We took the stage shortly thereafter.
Jen from Seattle had the presence of mind after the first ten seconds to realize this was the most freaking dominant presentation of the night, and quickly hit record to capture the rest on video. I ripped the audio into an MP3 so you can listen to it here.
We got on stage, and as far as I know Cliff is going to talk about our year while I yell obscenities. And out of nowhere, he busts out a KILLER George W Bush impression. A crazed cross between Will Ferrell's impression of W and Dana Carvey's impression of his dad. Just floored me. I made it through most of it without losing it, but when he improvised the line "we...we didn't do shit" I lost it. On the video -- I wish you could see it but the file's too big -- you can see me turn away to conceal my laughter. And his last line -- "and then we'll loop it around" -- just brilliant. After he thought he would choke out there, he just absolutely knocked them dead. I was proud of him.
Now, there are those people who would have you believe that I was the star, dropping the F-bomb so many times, channelling the spirit of Chris Farley and Will Ferrell and screaming maniacally. Certainly, all weekend, people came up to me yelling "Fucking Awesome!" like it was some kind of catch phrase. A nice moment of fame, no doubt, having a catch phrase, like "Lets hug it out, bitch" or something. But I always thought it was Nate that was the real star, my yelling was just more in-your-face so that's what people remembered.
If you missed the link, here's the MP3 of most of the sketch.
This year in Pittsburgh, Cliff didn't join us on the trip, so I needed a new co-star. Continental was too modest to go on stage, so Dick volunteered. I really wanted to do some good clean comedy -- swearing is too easy of a laugh. Its so much more satisfying as a performer to really work for a laugh rather than go for the cheap one, even if it means only 10 people get the joke.
But when we entered the hotel, people who remembered last year immediately came up wondering how we were going to top it. Indeed. When I told them there would be no swearing, no less an authority than two National board members told me -- nay, ordered me -- to go further over the top, to push the envelope even further. So armed with this mandate, I prepared to break the record and swear 10 times in 60 seconds. You bet.
I wanted to go on stage with no plan, and just grab the mic and see what happened. Now THAT would be fun. But Dick wanted a script. Fair enough. I held out until we were already in the audience, hoping he'd relent and let us improvise, but it wasn't to be. I composed the script on the back of a sheet of hotel stationery while we watched the first few sketches, and handed it to him ten minutes before we went on.
Again, its a partial recording: Continental on camera duty couldn't get it started right away, so he missed the first few seconds. No matter, the real funny stuff is there.
Showing off my considerable throwing arm, chucking KitChing candy bars into the audience.
Give me some love, people! Swear for me!
Come on, give me some love! Swear, dammit!
Seeing if I'm cool enough to have a mosh pit to jump off stage into to. I wasn't. I didn't.
The idea was for Dick to read from a script in the most monotone voice he could muster, never once looking up from the paper, and at the end of each bullet point, drop a descriptive swear exclamation in the same monotone voice. Then I'd interrupt, screaming the same exclamation, and throw a KitChing bar into the crowd each time.
The beauty of it was that I didn't even have to swear after the first couple of times. The audience was in the palm of my hand, and when I held the mic out toward the audience with my hand cupped to my ear, they obliged. Just beautiful. On the audio, you can hear the females going crazy. Its like a Monkees concert in 1967 or something.
The last time, I held out the mic and waved my free hand, inciting the audience and getting them all riled up. It was the greatest moment of my life. I felt like a rock star.