Sketchbook: Leaving New York to do Comedy During the 2016 Election.
Fellow comedian Tristan Smith and I left our blue bubble and hit the road to do comedy and accidentally saw what the rest of the country were thinking.
October 11, 2016
New York, NY
Tired of waiting for things to magically happen for us in our comedy careers, Tristan and I phoned a bunch of clubs in the Midwest and booked a week of road gigs for October.
A bunch of them said yes.
When I broke the news to Sophie that she wouldn’t have me around for a week she was really upset.
And so began her private 7-day pizza and Chardonnay festival.
On The Road
October 12, 2016
New York, NY
First thing Monday morning, we punched “Indianapolis” into Google maps and hit the road. The journey was longer than we’d anticipated… 12.5 hours to be precise.
We whizzed past thousands of giant haulers and fuel trucks while listening to old O&A episodes from YouTube. The one where they dissect Joe Piscopo’s comedy special “Club Piscopo” was a particular highlight.
As we hurtled West into the sun, on the various pot-holed highways between New York and Indiana, we kept in touch with the booker for our first spot for the week: The Comedy Caravan. Our ETA was 11pm, and the show started at 10:30 pm, but he said we’d be fine- he’d just put us up last.
As we finally pulled into Indianapolis right on the dot of 11pm. We hurled our stiff, crumpled bodies into the bar to find they’d just decided to cancel the gig.
Off to a flying start.
We decided to have a whiskey and check out the local Indianapolis bowling scene before checking into our swanky 5-star hotel1 for some rest and recuperation.
We were the only people in the bowling alley and had to keep watching each others’ backs when we went for our shot to ensure we weren’t stabbed.
We retired to our lofty lodgings, excited to get a good night’s rest.
Nothing but the very best for the ole’ Half-Ass Comedy Tour boys.
The following is an actual Yelp review we found for our motel:
October 13, 2016
We were awoken at 8am by a giant black gentleman banging on our window telling us he needed the chairs in our room because he aimed to replace them with new ones. He didn’t really explain why, or why indeed he had to do this at 9am while we were in the room sleeping, but we weren’t keen to argue with him.
We dragged our groggy lumps of flab to one of the greatest dining experiences available to the locals. (No, not Outback Steakhouse, which… by the way, go fuck yourself America.)
No, we journeyed across the highway exit… to Cracker Barrel.
By the end of this trip, I suspect the car suspension will give out as a result of our new-found Midwestern girth.
After breakfast, we stopped by an old abandoned local mall that had “self-defense” scrawled on one window, and “Glock Warehouse” on the one next door. We wandered into the building to find this little hidden gem.
It is true what they say. Indianapolis really is the home of dreams.
We performed at Crackers Comedy Club that night. It was a good show. I learned a lot about Trump and the local politics while waiting with the other comics to go on. One of them said he was going to ‘take us back to Jesus days.’ Another, a young comic in a hoodie said, “He’s the worst. He’s gonna win, too.”
A couple of local cartoonists -Jeff Knurek (The Jumble guy!) and Bob East- came out to see us. We had a few drinks with them after the show and returned to our extravagant lodgings.
October 14, 2016
We arose the next morning and jumped onto the road and hurtled forth to the bustling metropolis of Louisville, Kentucky.
We arrived at our destination just in time to check-in. Tonight we would be performing at the Laughing Derby Comedy Club. It was at the back of a parking lot and had a big sign painted on the front.
A few of the locals and other comedians took us back out through the parking lot (There was a Trump Pence 2016 sign on nearly every bumper in the parking lot.) to hit the town for a few drinks and local nightmare comedy stories. One of the people we were with was banned from the bar for punching someone last week, so she couldn’t come in.
They waited outside, which felt bad. So, we left, snapped up some street-jerky, and hopped over to the karaoke bar next door. I sang real good. Everybody loved it.
October 15, 2016
St Louis, MO
On a whim, we decided to head West to St Louis, Missouri. We found a show that ran on a Thursday night and showed up with one of Tristan’s old pals.
St Louis is a pretty cool city! We drove in and looked at the big arch. We got a $37 deal on a great hotel room through Kayak and had our first good shower of the trip. Separately.
When we got to the show, we discovered the audio system made all the comedians sound like they were yelling underwater and we could only make up vague, monotone vowel sounds. Perfect for jokes.
Some of the other comics were making Trump jokes but nobody could hear them. The ones that did come through the speaker got a titter, but people kind of felt ‘on edge’.
Obviously, with the combination of my Australian accent and out-of-town material, I did real good.
October 16, 2016
This morning, Tristan took us along for a nice St Louis breakfast of BBQ smoked ribs and burnt ends at Bogart’s Smokehouse. My belt snapped.
We put a hitch in our giddy-ups and hit the road to Muncie, Indiana…
We arrived in town to find the venue was an empty basement bar. We performed for a small handful of folks before the headliner got up and just played some Metalica songs on a cassette tape player and sang over it for a bit. #Comedyyyyy
We had a few drinks at the local bar called “Brothers” which, incidentally, was full of college bro’s. I tried to take a trick shot at the pool table and crushed my iPhone with the enormous weight of my newly bloated rear end.
We trundled on back to the local waffle house for a 4am snack before bed. We were served by one of the angriest waitresses in all of Indiana called Heather. Pretty sure she spat in our waffles.
October 17, 2016
Our old 1970s motel phone rang at 12pm to jolt us awake before the motel owner banged on our door telling us to skedaddle.
We piled into our wheels and rattled past some hitch-hikers West towards Russellville, Indiana… a remote town of 300 people we’d be performing in tonight. This is the town center:
The show was epic. The whole town came out on their four-wheeler motorbikes and red hats, and we performed to a full smoke-filled house of big, generous laughers.
The whole venue was just a giant shed that three guys in the town pooled together and purchased for a song, installed a stage and 3 makeshift bars, and used it for shows.
The headliner, who had puppets, props, and a ukelele, went for 3 hours. The Cubs game was playing at one of the makeshift bars (they’re in Western Indiana, so pretty much Illinois) and when they won the game —meaning they’d be in the world series— the whole place exploded with roars of happiness. The owner shouted everyone at the venue a round of drinks.
(The Cubs went on to win the World Series for the first time in 108 years.)
I tracked down Tristan in one of the rooms, playing (and losing) a game of pool to a young man in a wheelchair. We piled into the car in search of a place to sleep. We were not successful.
October 18, 2016
I had burgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner today. I’m really getting used to this Midwestern food. You get 27 days worth of grub for 0.13c
The last stop for the tour was a couple of guest spots at the Funnybone in Columbus, Ohio. This may have been the only blue bubble (in a red state) that we played to the entire tour.
The room of about 200 people was largely made up of super-liberal college students and a smattering of grey nomads.
Before Tristan could even get his first words out he was attacked by an aggressive woman in the front row for being an insensitive sexist bigot. It really helped get the set off to a great start.
This is literally word-for-word how it went down the second he stepped on stage:
Tristan loves it when people do that.
Exhausted, we piled into the car and headed back East to New York, through thousands of driveways with Trump/Pence signs in them, then Trump billboards all along the highways.
The sinking feeling in our gut meant we were skeptical of the polls but were holding out hope all the same. From what I gleaned, these people seemed so sick of being piled and talked down to by the Coastal “elites” and there was a ‘change a-comin.’
Turns out, they weren’t wrong.
This is the worst place I’ve ever breathed air in, in my life. Ever.