Today (June 17th, 2010) I celebrate two very special anniversaries: 1) It’s been one year since I played Carnegie Hall in New York City, and 2) it’s been one year since I sold out Carnegie Hall in New York City.
It was a very cool accomplishment to even get booked into the Grand Old Barn, but I know me: if I walked out and saw empty seats, I’d have been all emo and “Nobody cares anymore…” I was able to sell out back-to-back Roy Thomson Hall dates in Toronto a mere four months before, and that place seats 2800. If I didn’t sell out Carnegie Hall, I might be forced to repatriate – as clearly the True North really liked whatever bullshit I was slinging.
So I started publishing a daily update of ticket sales – something a bunch of folks warned me against. For fringe/cult acts like me, ticket sales info is CLOSELY guarded data, because perception is power. If you know a band has only sold a quarter of the seats available at their forthcoming concert you’re thinking of attending, you may be swayed out of your potential purchase by hearing the show’s selling poorly – or at least feel no pressure to purchase tickets in advance. When you don’t buy tix in advance, your chances of actually mustering up the interest to leave the house come show day will almost certainly wane.
But I didn’t care: I knew the only way I was gonna sell out Carnegie Hall was with help. So every day, I updated the ticket tally, showing what a game of inches it was to get to 2800. It didn’t help that the economy was in the toilet as we were asking $60 per ticket for what sounded fucking bland (paying to see a Q&A? Yawn. And in-advance meh), and it took many weeks and a shit-ton of Tweets, but on the day of the show, producer Jared Geller told me that walk-up purchases pushed the gig to a sell out at the venerable old theater. As I stepped on stage that night, I did a completely uncharacteristic leap-land thing that was born of relief and joy: the selling was behind me – it was time to have some fun. It was time to talk about breaking a toilet on the world’s most famous stage.
As cliché as it sounds, the whole show’s a blur. I recall tidbits: being nervous at first; the aforementioned celebratory leap nearly cost me a knee; talking about people I dearly love and knowing they heard their names bandied about in a cornerstone of high society (which we redefined that night); wrapping by pointing out my Mother and my Wife sitting near one another in the audience, observing “There’s the pussy I came from, and there’s the pussy I go to.” But the rest of the show? A blank. Folks said they loved it, but what else are they gonna say to me, y’know? I can’t speak to the show quality myself because I was on a Holy-Shit-I’m-Doing-My-Thing-At-Carnegie-Hall HIGH. I could’ve been (and probably was) up there saying “Poopy! Pooooooo-PIIIIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!” for three hours – I don’t know.
What I do know is that show was (if you’ll forgive the use of a once-fun term that’s been appropriated and beaten into the ground by the synergy-speaking sales-bots of corporate America) a game-changer for me. After reading on the internet for a year straight how I’d become “irrelevant”, filling an expensive theater in one of the most competitive markets on the planet reminded me just who the fuck I am.
But the biggest impact I felt from the Carnegie Hall gig was in my sideline Q&A business. Selling out the Hall suddenly moved me beyond the college-campuses I’d roamed for years and into legitimate theaters (or at the very least, theaters George Carlin had played at, too). Because of this, I wound up doing more gigs between 2009 and 2010 than I’ve ever done in previous years, and enjoyed a renewed love affair with getting up and trying to make people laugh. I thank you for that – as I suspect many of you were out there in the audience those nights I Jabba-ed out onto the stage and told story after story. The fact that you dragged-asses out of your homes – that you continue to leave your houses/spouses/kids/good taste at home and give up your hard earned money to listen to me swear through the sweat – is the aspect of the Q&A win-bucket for which I will always be most grateful. You monetarily AND spiritually (not to mention enthusiastically) support me on a bunch of dopey ideas – some of which actually turn into something. I can say I’m a professional at this or that, but it’s all theoretical until someone pays you to do it. Thanks for tricking this entire world into believing I’m somebody worth paying to see. And you did that one year ago today, when you came to Carnegie Hall.
What follows is a warts-and-all breakdown of the gigs I’ve had since Carnegie Hall – most of which I wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for Carnegie Hall. I may not be an entertainer, but as you’ll see by the numbers, many of you were kind enough to pretend I was this year.
Asterisked entries denote disclaimers and trivia.
9/17 Minneapolis, MN, State Theater 1700/2100
9/18 Chicago, IL, Chicago Theater 2750/3500 *1
9/19 Ann Arbor, MI, Michigan Theater SOLD OUT (1710/1710) *2
10/10 London, England, O2 SOLD OUT (1682/1682) *3
10/11 Glasgow, Scotland, Royal Concert Hall 1270/1950 *4
10/12 London, England, O2 1464/1682
10/14 Dublin, Ireland, Vicar Street Theater SOLD OUT (920/920) *5
10/17 Seattle, WA, Benaroya Hall 2000/2300
10/24 Los Angeles, CA, Orpheum 1250/1862 *6
10/30 San Francisco, CA, The Warfield 1500/1673
11/4 Philadelphia, PA, Merriam Theater 1200/1600
11/7 Dallas, TX, House of Blues SOLD OUT (1200/1200)
11/22 Edmonton, AB, Myer Horowitz Theater SOLD OUT (710/710)
2/6 Toronto, ON, Roy Thomson Hall SOLD OUT (2800/2800) *7
3/4 Austin, TX, The Long Center 1494/1750 w/balcony closed *8
3/5 Houston, TX, House of Blues SOLD OUT (1200/1200)
3/12 Milwaukee, WI, Pabst Theater SOLD OUT (1300/1300)
3/26 Detroit, MI, Royal Oak Music Theatre 900/1000
3/27 Kansas City, MO, Midland Theater SOLD OUT (1752/1752) *9
4/2 San Francisco, CA, WonderCon N/A
4/10 Phoenix, AZ, Orpheum Theater 900/1300
4/12 Portland, OR, Crystal Ballroom 517/800 *10
4/22 Washington, DC, The Historic Synagogue SOLD OUT (830/830)
5/7 Los Angeles, CA, House of Blues SOLD OUT (600/600) *6
*1 The 2750 in Chicago was roughly the sell-out point of Carnegie. So even though I didn’t sell out the show, I still felt pretty good about the number… until I learned Kathy Griffin sold out the place four nights in a row. If that’s the D-list, I must be on the AB2-list.
*2 The Ann Arbor show was where I signed a guy’s ass, with the promise he was going to permanently ink it. He did: we saw it on Jimmy Fallon’s show a month or so later.
*3 London O2 show sold out so fast, they added a second date. God save the Queen, sure – but not ‘til She’s saved all the people who bought tickets to those two shows first.
*4 Even with sold out shows in London and Dublin, Scotland refused to budge above 1270. When I asked why, I was told “Billy Connolly’s playing the same night, and while you’re nice and all, Billy Connolly’s the patron (Boondock) saint of Scotand.” Like the Puerto Rican dude who faces off against Radio Raheem’s boom-box in DO THE RIGHT THING, I lowered by volume and gave a master the right of way. Also: I wore a kilt with my robe.
*5 By ten minutes into the Dublin show, it became a top-five, all-time favorite. I will try to play Vicar Street every year until I die.
*6 I just tell myself the 600 people missing from the Downtown L.A. Orpheum gig showed up seven months later at the sold out House of Blues show in much-more-convenient Hollywood. Great weekend, regardless: lots of hockey played and SModcast Art ogled.
*7 This marked the official end of the greatest year of my 30s (and one of the top five years of my life), that’d began with the previous February’s dual sold out shows. Played to another great audience, but best of all: earlier that week, I’d held a press conference with Canada’s Dad to announce we were chasing a Guinness World Record with the 2010 Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Tournament. Excellent trip all around. Everything was coming up Milhouse. Mere weeks later: TFTF.
*8 First time I took a bus to a gig. I liked it so much, I now own a bus – which is paid for by the gigs.
*9 This show was accompanied by a very small picket in the rain, courtesy of the Phelps folks from the Westboro Baptist Church. God Hates Fats, apparently.
*10 Sales were going smoothly for my first-ever Portland show… until Coco announced his post-NBC dust-up tour would kick off on the same date, in the same state, a few miles down the road in Eugene. Still, that show was SO much fun. Great audience in a great venue whose floor bounced. 45 seconds after I left the stage, I was on a bus bound for home, but I left without a heart: the Portland 517 stole it.
One year ago tonight, as I left the Carnegie Hall stage, I took this picture…
For the last year, whenever something got me down, or whenever someone tried to make me feel I was somehow less than someone else (or, in the case of one lying, classless piece of shit airline, more than someone else), I’d look at it – as a reminder that nobody is allowed to tell me who I am or what I’m worth. Now, I’m putting it out there for you to use. Are you trying to get somewhere? Do something? Be somebody? It can get frustrating waiting for your time – particularly because there’s no end of Panty-Puddles telling you “It can’t be done!” Or that “If it is to be done, you’re not the person to do it!” Or the ever popular “Who the fuck do you think you are?”, often followed by “You fat fuck.” If you get down, simply glance at that image.
Sure, it’s something I did; but it could easily represent what you’re going to do. And when you look at this image in time of need, remind yourself that all of those people packed into that frame, hootin’ and hollerin’? They’re doing so for a very average, overweight, white boy from a nowheresville, New Jersey town, who got on that stage and induced that reaction simply by being himself.
Be yourselves, kids.