Friday, July 13, 2012 - Cedar Falls, IA
I'm doing radio in Waterloo, Iowa at 4pm. Making appearances on radio stations is a big part of the job for touring comedians. Radio might be dying, but with its last breaths it still does a great job of talking up comedy shows and getting people to come see them. I have never done radio before and it frightens me. You're not just expected to be funny, you're expected to be extremely funny. With every word you say.
The way this is usually accomplished, I've been told, is by doing material instead of conversing. Many DJs ask comics to bring in a list of set-ups, i.e.: questions they'll ask you that lead naturally to your jokes. "So I hear you had a wacky experience in a shoe store." "Yeah, it's a funny story, I was in line at PayLess..." It's as awful as it sounds.
The muggles aren't fooled, anyway. When you non-comic folk listen to the radio you know instantly that it's fake, that the DJ didn't just happen to hear about something that happened to a comic alone in a PayLess. Who could he possibly have been talking to that gave him that information?
I got lucky enough to have one of the DJs that doesn't work this way. "Don't bring set-ups. I hate that. We'll just talk and be funny that way." Jackpot. Still a little scared, but now I'm also pumped about it.
I flew into Chicago yesterday and today I rented a car to drive the five hours (under normal conditions) to Waterlooo. I leave 6.5 hours before my appearance on KCRR Classic Rock to give me plenty of time if something goes wrong, but 30 minutes outside of Chicago, traffic mysteriously and suddenly comes to a complete stop. Not like the I-5/I-84 interchange stop-and-go, much more like The Walking Dead stop-to-end-all-stops. Cars turned off, people picnicking in the back of their trucks, zombies eating people's faces off, the whole thing.
We don't move at all for an hour. There's an exit up ahead about a half a mile and as we finally start crawling forward (at a zombie-like pace) I plot out a route that involves exiting the freeway, driving five miles through a two-lane cornfield road, and rejoining the freeway after the accident. It takes me a half hour to get to the exit, but just as I arrive, traffic starts to move. At the last possible second, I decide to stick with the original plan and stay on the freeway. We get up to 45 mph and then suddenly stop again. And I start crying.
I'M SCREWED... AFTER THE JUMP!
I've mentioned before that I'm a rule follower. I hate being late to anything, and my itinerary says that if I miss my radio appearance I'll be fined half my week's pay. Add to that, I really want to do this radio gig because it'll be great practice. And now I'm screwed. After another half hour of isolating, impotent rage in a stopped car (math: 30 minutes past my 1.5 hour cushion), everything is cleared and we get to move on. And I have a five hour drive to [a] make up 30 minutes [b] not stop for food or bathrooms, and [c] continuously panic.
I drive as fast as I can without going more than a couple miles an hour over the speed limit (rules are made to be followed, people) and manage to make up no time at all. At 3:30 I leave a message with the DJ saying "I'm running late. There was this car accident." Halfway through saying it I realize this sounds like a lie so I add "Also, this isn't a lie." If you've been looking for the secret to sounding like you're telling the truth, there it is.
At 4pm I turn on the classic rock station and listen to the DJ play my voicemail and then, with the help of the other comic, make fun of me for being late and lying about it. I finally stumble in a half hour late having not eaten or peed since 9am.
Shockingly (not actually), they don't care AT ALL that I'm late. Comics are always late. We chat, it's fun, and there's almost no crowd at the show so it didn't work anyway. And then a ninja showed up and and it turned out people who haven't been bitten still carry the zombie virus. What a disappointment.