So I went out last night to hang out with a couple of old comedian friends, Don Reese and Ted Norkey. I see Don all the time but only once in a while do I see Ted, who is simply one of the funniest men on the planet. He came down with throat cancer a few years ago, and though he beat the cancer it did a lot of damage to his health so he can no longer perform. Trust me when I tell you that Ted was and is a comic genius who, sadly, never achieved the success he should have. So last night was a blast to hang out with the two of them.
But here’s the strange part. Don was headlining a one nighter in the middle of nowhere at a place that has a restaurant with a big room for bands and, one night a week, comedy. We met there before the show and the three of us were sitting at a table in the restaurant talking and a guy walks in the front door and starts to walk past us. I’m staring at him thinking, “No, that can’t be….John?” He turned around. It was John Bowman, another great comic from the old days coming to have dinner there with his girlfriend. Why there? I have no idea. He had no idea we were going to be there.
So by sheer coincidence, it turned in to an old comic’s reunion. John spends most of his time these days touring with his good friend Lewis Black as his opening act, but apparently had a break and was back home hanging out. A really bizarre chance meeting but very cool. It was also strange because the audience was very small. Audiences get smaller in the summer in comedy clubs anyway and we had just come off several days of oppressive heat, so I’m sure a lot of people were enjoying the outdoors. There were probably 50 people total, which makes it difficult. Then to make things worse, the club decided to put half the people up front by the stage and half of them all the way in the back with 30 feet of empty tables between them. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Terrible choice.
Lastly it was strange because of the comics. Ted Norkey is now working with some very young comics, teaching them the business, and one of them was the emcee. He was a fast-talking, very raunchy black comic with some charisma but virtually non-existent writing skills at this point. Not exactly the sort of thing that’s going to go over in a place called the Crazy Horse Saloon. Then he brought up another brand new comic who was really bad; you could practically hear crickets during his set. Then the feature act, Marques Bunn, went up and spent most of his act complaining about how bad the audience was. He had some fairly good material but nothing great; he ended with a bunch of really bad impressions though, which ruined the act. And he looked like Vince Vaughan’s stunt double from Swingers.
Don did well, as always, even with a small audience. Afterwards we sat around for a couple hours with Ted cracking us up with one vile, bitter comment after another. He’s like the bastard child of Don Rickles, but much darker than Rickles could ever be. Lots of good memories and old stories were shared. It was good to see Ted and John again.