The Early Years May 3rd 2004

The Early YearsMonday, 3rd May
At 19 I was hired to work the door at the Boston Comedy Club. For the next two years I spent three days a week, four hours a night, on a narrow, metal rail outside the entranceway in exchange for the last spot of the night. The audiences were unruly animals, I was never paid well and ultimately fired. (My first true introduction to show business!) Still, I learned the basics of my craft and think the experience made me a better man.

One of my more memorable nights occurred during the Toyota Comedy Festival. Basically, it’s a festival in New York, which has shows throughout the week at different New York comedy clubs. Tonight was the Boston Comedy Club’s turn. It was such an event that even the club’s owner/ talent manager, Barry Katz, a man who I saw three times during my two-year tenure, made a surprise visit. More importantly, actor/comic, Jay Mohr, was making a much-publicized 10:15 visit.

Being the naïve child, I sat outside thinking how lucky I was to work such an event and that one day I, too, will be able to perform on a festival that no one has ever heard of. The crowds filed in, and I parked my a** outside the club thanking God for the goodwill bestowed upon me.

At 10:09, Barry came outside and frantically called somebody on his cell phone. The MC asked me if I had seen any of the other comics. “Nope.”

The MC whispered something into Barry’s ear, and then they both looked at me. “Can you do 8 minutes?” Yes!

My shot at stardom came early. Tonight was my night to prove that comedic greatness had come in the human embodiment of Tarun Shetty. Unfortunately, it was my first time playing to a large, attentive audience and it showed.

For starters, I’m talking fast. So fast, I finish all my jokes in about five minutes and am looking for the flashing red light that signals comics to get off stage. I think I even did a joke twice from the beginning of my set. People are laughing only because of the ridiculousness of my act. I look to the right and owner Barry Katz is watching in bewilderment. I’m starting to sweat while self-analyzing each thought. Why am I talking about world politics? I’m only 19. Do I have a perspective on Israel? Furthermore, why am I talking about Israel? “So my girlfriend… ” But wait, my previous joke informed the audience I was single. Did anyone notice? How did I get from Israel to my girlfriend? Go for the glass of water. It’s too far! Go for it! Empty! Fake it!! I take a fake sip. The red light comes on. ‘Thank-you. You’ve been a great audience!’

I walk off stage, and find Barry is waiting for me. My big break? He takes a moment to gather his thoughts. “Um…find Jay and tell him he’s on next.”

I didn’t become a star that night. In fact, I didn’t even get paid because they forgot to include me when they allotted the nightly cash fund. But I learned an important lesson that night: I suck. No, wait. I guess the moral is “don’t be arrogant.” No, that’s not right either. Well, I guess if there is a moral it’s that if you’re going through a tough time in life you absolutely must hang in there. Trust me. I've been there and life will get better. Believe that good things are on the horizon because they are. My first few years of comedy could have easily broken me had I not believed in myself, as you should too.

Tarun ShettyComment