Has it Really Been 15 Years?

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

As the summer of 2000 began, I was in desperate need of a change. In between freelance work as a stage manager at a theatre in Hollywood, doing phone sales and promo work for my dad’s syndicated newspaper feature, custodial work at a yoga studio, and oh yeah, a bit of comedy now and then, I was making ends meet. I didn’t hate any of those first three part-time jobs, but I couldn’t see any of them as something I could do full-time. A change was in the air, and just as I wrote that last phrase, I imagined suspense music welling up in the background.

My friend and fellow comic Steven Alan Green was producing a one-off comedy concert at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I had at least heard of before I ever came to UK, but knew little about. Steven invited me to be a part of his show, and he also said he could get me some gigs in a few select places. It all sounded fun, except I’d had a little incident which I will tell about in full at the beginning of next year, as it will be the 20th anniversary of that particular nightmare. Suffice to say, my passport had a big ole black mark on it, and customs and immigration people would give me second degree for several years whenever I displayed it.

I didn’t need work papers to perform at Edinburgh, thankfully, because it was international in scope and from customs’ POV, essentially a freebie. That little detail begrudgingly made customs allow me entry, but not until after they’d kept me waiting nearly an hour. Fortunately I had a two-hour layover before my shuttle flight from Heathrow to Edinburgh, so after that ordeal was over, I had me a beer that I desperately needed.

Once I actually got into Edinburgh and met up with Steven and assorted others who were also in the show, there were still a couple of days to go before the actual concert, but it’s easy to find things to do around there (even if you don’t drink!). Since sleep was a first priority, my first night there was done at about 10:00. I remember walking around the next morning and finding a freebie paper that had encapsulated reviews of every show playing the festival, including the one I was in, which was given a recommendation of sorts, as it included mostly acts, some quite notable, that were already working the festival for the whole month. Certainly a better review than one I read, which just said, “Don’t see this show — EVER!” Imagine how the author/performer must have felt upon reading that!

The concert itself was over-booked to begin with, and acts kept showing up and asking to go on. A shame it wasn’t better attended, but for me, the response I got there and at subsequent performances I did in and around UK over the next week further intensified my feeling that this was where I needed to be. On one two-night gig in Manchester, I went over so well the first night that they changed the running order to have me close the show. That actually made me a bit paranoid, as I imagined the deposed headliner having an attack of jealousy and ratting me out to immigration. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and the couple of gigs I did in London also went down really well.

Returning to LA and pushing a broom at a yoga studio, while waiting for Comedy Store or Laugh Factory to possibly give me one spot for an entire week, usually closing the show at about 1:30 to whatever people were too plastered to actually get up and walk out, after my UK adventure, it all just felt even more wrong than ever before, and I needed a change (cue more music).

The answer came in a name that Steven had given me. Jon Keyes was London-based, and specialized in importing acts from US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as he had an in with customs and could get work permits without much hassle. Long story short, from first e-mail to him in mid-September of 2000 to first legal gigs in UK was a time span of a mere six weeks, and for that mere two weeks I was here, I had exactly ONE night off. A far cry from those countless weeks in LA where I did virtually nothing. I spent my 50th birthday in Cork, Ireland, which I’d never heard of until a couple days before I was booked there. Oh, and just to make the whole kismet more complete, during that six-week span of hanging around California before coming to UK, I met a woman at a friend’s wedding in Berkeley who was American, but lived in Germany, so all the more reason to be on that side of the globe. She was with me in Cork. I also remember proudly flashing my work permit to all the immigration people at every airport and coming just short of saying “nyah nyah” to them.

Interesting too, that after I got back from my first trip to UK, and was pushing that broom around, I knew I couldn’t do that anymore, and gave notice. This before I’d even made the contact with Jon. Maybe it was voices in my head, but given that I’d been wanting to come to England since first hearing The Beatles some 37 years earlier, the signs were pretty blatant.

I’m still technically with Jon, though he just booked me a couple weeks ago, and that was the first gig I’d done with him since February of last year. He has nothing to do with my US gigs, or my local DJ and quiz master gigs, but I haven’t officially divorced myself from him.

How things have changed over that 15 years! For most of 2001 and 2002, I would come to UK for a couple months, work my ass off, then go back to LA and spend the money I’d made. Now my best money gigs are in the US. Even with that being the situation, I have no plans to move back to the US, but I don’t think back then I had plans to actually move to UK, either.

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