Most of the gigs we get come with a hotel. (I’ll tell you a lot about THOSE on many future blogs) The rough part is when you have a tour that has a night off. You are basically on your own on those nights so an experienced road comic has to get creative. Here is one of my funnier stories about this.
I had a show in Miami on a Wednesday night with a decent hotel. My next shows were in Ft. Myers on that Friday & Saturday so I needed a place on Thursday. I thought I had it all figured out. I had dinner in Miami with a guy that was going to start representing me with the cruise ships. I was friends with him, but not friendly enough to stay at his house with his family. So after dinner i made the 3 hour drive across Alligator Alley headed to Ft. Myers. By the way, if you have never driven across Alligator Alley….well, they call it that for a good reason! It can be really scary at night because those are not exactly speed bumps you are coming up on at 70 MPH!
So I get to the hotel that I am booked to check into on Friday early. About 14 hours early as I roll in at about 1:00 am. Now you have to understand, these hotels are expecting two comedians every week. The clubs usually use the same hotel for years so they know we are coming and arrive at all different times. Usually they take pity on us and let us check in early. Well it was just my luck that this guy pulling the overnight shift was new and a stickler for rules. He would not let me check in unless I paid $110.00 for the night! Well, there was NO WAY I was going to do this. I was only the opening act back then and we did not make that much. When that would happen in the past I would say “No problem, I’ll just wait here in the lobby.” Then sit down and just stare at them. They would usually break in an hour or so and would suddenly “find” me a room. Well this guy was a rock, I had no luck.
Plan B would be go find a late movie somewhere but there were no midnight movies in Ft. Myers on a Thursday night so I had to go with Plan C. There was a 24 hour IHOP so that’s where I headed. I didn’t have anything to read and this was way before Smartphones so it would get pretty boring just sitting there all night trying to make my club sandwich last 5 or 6 hours. I learned something else that night, there comes a time when the waitress at IHOP will just STOP giving you refills on your tea. So i got the message and left. It was still about 4:00 am and I figured I would just have to sleep in my car at the hotel parking lot hoping the day shift would be nicer to me. So as I’m headed back to the hotel I saw it. The large blue and gold sign that lit up the night. The Holy Grail for road comics. It was a Walmart Supercenter!
As I was wondering around there I heard something in the pharmacy area. It was a TV replaying an earlier episode of David Letterman and Bill Murray was the guest! And if that wasn’t good enough, there was one of those therapeutic vibrating reclining chairs facing the TV. So I sat down and watched the rest of that show. When it ended all I was thinking was that this is really comfortable….I think I’ll live here tonight. Since this was the middle of the night there were pallets full of stock sitting everywhere so the midnight crew could restock the shelves. So I actually built a little fort around the chair and TV. Oh, I forgot to tell you that this TV was one of those with a built in VCR. So I went “shopping” to make the rest of this night as comfortable as possible. I found a pillow, a blanket and bought a drink and some snacks. Now I’m an honest person and was not going to steal anything but the way I figured it, if you don’t consume a product or leave the building with a product, you have not stolen said product. Right? So I went to the video section to pick out a movie. The Kevin Costner golf movie Tin Cup had just been released so I grabbed it. I love this movie! Now for those of you that remember this movie, the big build up was the 18th hole on the final round of the US Open where he took a 12. Just as that scene started, my world started rumbling and shaking. Apparently the midnight crew had finally made it to my fort and was moving the pallet full of merchandise. I looked up and this pimply faced kid just stopped and saw me. There I was, snuggled up in my chair with my drink and snacks (I had everything but a Teddy Bear) all happy and comfortable. We stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity when he finally just shrugged and took away the wall to my fort. Once again I figured this was my que to leave so I packed up and left.
The sun was up now. A new day had begun and Ft. Myers was awake! I drove to the hotel where the day shift was already at work. You know, the people that had enough experience in the hospitality industry that actually knew something about customer service. When I told them I was one of the comics coming in for the weekend they took one look at me and I could see just how sorry they felt for me. They checked me in and even gave me an upgrade for my trouble.
I beat the night again and I also remember having some great shows that weekend!