I was chained to my desk on a Thursday night and worked as an assistant to one of the best television packaging agents in Hollywood. I scanned my watch, 8:10pm. I was usually out by 7:30, but we were trying to close a deal with a network and tonight was going longer than expected. Normally, I wouldn’t mind staying, but I had managed to keep up my double-life as a stand-up comedian since I decided to get a full time “job.” Tonight I was booked to perform in the Comedy Store’s main room at 8:30.
I hung out for years doing 2am spots, performing for three drunk people before the Comedy Store's booker finally let me start calling in for regular shows. Spots were few and far between. If I missed tonight’s show, there were more than enough dependable comedians to replace me.
I peered into my boss’ office who was hunched over his desk and reviewed a contract. I Wazed the current traffic on my cellphone. Our office was in the heart of Beverly Hills, and the Comedy Store was deep on the strip in West Hollywood.
“Chris, can I please take a five-minute smoke break?”
He looked up in disbelief. “I didn’t know you smoked.”
“I’m trying to quit.”
A few minutes later, my Pasat burst out of the parking garage and rocketed down Sunset Boulevard. The speedometer needle crept towards 50mph as I maneuvered through heavy traffic.
I pulled up at a meter and darted into the club. The main room was packed with a couple hundred people, and the room buzzed with energy.
The show's host stood behind the backstage curtain, holding a crumpled napkin with a scribbled line-up of names.
“Hey man, can I PLEASE go first? I have a showcase spot across town that I need to get to.” I begged.
He curiously eyed my attire.
“Why are you wearing a suit? Who are you? Don Rickles?”
“Came from a corporate show in Pasadena. Didn’t have time to change.”
I went up first and rolled through my jokes. At this point in my career, I could do my act with my mind on another planet. As the audience laughed, I wondered if I remembered to confirm a client’s morning meeting.
A red light flashes in the back of the room when the comedian on stage has to wrap up. Most comics run the light, I was looking for it.
I jumped off the stage and ran through the crowd towards the nearest exit like I was Batman, heading to a crime scene.
Ten minutes later, I was back at the office and slid into my chair. I was breathless; my face damp with perspiration.
Chris came out of his office.
“Five minutes? Do you know how to use a watch?”
“My mom called from India. I had to take it.”
I focused my attention on my computer screen and tried to downplay it. Chris disappeared into his office before stepping back out.
“One more thing...”
God dammit. I gripped my pen and prepared for a barrage of questions.
“Try to get off the smoking thing. It’ll kill you.”
Chris smiled, and we got back to work.