One of the fun, albeit sometimes weird, things about living in a Big City — especially one with such an entertainment-based economy as Los Angeles — is that opportunities will fall into your lap in the strangest of ways, and there’s a constant test of your willingness to go along with them. Behind Door Number One is “this thing some guy offered and you’re not even sure if you’ll get paid”, and Door Number Two is “just politely decline and go home”. As you’re likely very well aware by now, I almost always choose Door Number One 1if I had an agent, he’d probably demand I remove this line.
I never would’ve ended up making porn sites for the last 16+ years if my roommate didn’t hit on some girl at the gas station. I never would have gotten into comedy had I not decided to go to The Improv in Irvine on an “amateur night”. I never would’ve gotten back into standup comedy if I hadn’t wandered into a coffee shop for an open mic and met a guy who gave me the number for the Rebels of Comedy. I never would have had a successful internet TV show for 2+ years had I not tried to run interference for a dominatrix friend of mine.
And… I never would have been corralled into being the opening comedy act for a failed awards show, as two different characters, had I not done an impromptu Emperor Palpatine impression on the last night before the first major Aural Salvation hiatus.
I won’t get into the specifics of how or why Aural Salvation was initially cancelled, as it’s a story for another time2if you’re enjoying these stories, you’ll be pleased to know I’m suddenly remembering another 40+ stories I meant to tell, but suffice to say there was a bit of a contract dispute between myself and the owner of the station. We had a few discussions, exchanged some emails, but neither of us were budging in our position. With his ultimatum of “agree to this, or tonight is your last show”, that night’s show hung in the balance of uncertainty. I went on the air to announce that “tonight could be our last show”, without giving too many details. Since it was a live show and I took IM conversations live on the air streamed to the TV next to me, I basically just took viewer questions and requests. As the show neared the close of its normal hour, someone asked if I would do my cheeseball Emperor Palpatine impression — which consisted mostly of me talking in a sharp-tongued, deep voice with my shirt pulled over most of my face. I obliged and continued the last few minutes of the show answering questions in that voice.
The show after mine was something of a “nerd talk” style show, and their guest that night was the man who was Executive Producer of the 1st Annual LARPY Awards. As I was walking out of the studio, he pulled me aside and said “hey, can you do that impression for an awards show next weekend?”. We talked briefly, and I agreed to do a 3-minute monologue as Emperor Palpatine (in costume, no less) before pulling off the costume and doing another 7 minutes of stand-up comedy material as myself, which included a couple of on-topic jokes about the celebrities that would be in attendance. The show was to be broadcast worldwide — both on TV networks, and online — and recorded live at the Avalon in Hollywood (a historic 2,000-seat theatre that hosted The Beatles’ first-ever west-coast show). I was even being paid, was invited to the pre-show party at a swanky club in Hollywood, was given VIP access throughout the show, admittance to the after-party, the open-bar, and the catered food.
How do you say no to that?
Now, okay, I’ll admit the idea of an awards show for LARP videos is fucking insane – especially way back in 2006. I definitely didn’t think it was enough of a “big deal” to warrant a full-on awards show. LARP stands for “Live Action Roleplaying”. You’ve probably seen a video or two online over the years of cosplayers running around in a forest in full medieval regalia yelling “FIREBALL!” and falling down without actually being hit, and wondered “WTF is this?”. Well… that’s LARP’ing. There’s a whole lot more out there, however. This awards show was meant to highlight the “best of the best” of videos of people havin’ a LARP, before the time when damn near everyone carries HD-capable cameras in our pockets. As it turns out, my initial skepticism that anyone at all would give the tiniest amount of a fuck about this, outside of maybe 500 people throughout the world, was correct.
The aforementioned “final” show happened on a Thursday night. The awards show was slated for the following Saturday. I had basically a week to write a monologue as Emperor Palpatine, and a separate 7-minute comedy set, most of which had to be written from scratch to incorporate some of the celebrity guests for the show. All things considered, that’s still about enough time for me to write all that, but I think if I took it as seriously as it sounded on paper, I would’ve workshopped it a little more and/or run at least some of the lines through some friends of mine. At the time, I didn’t take it that seriously, and I didn’t really have any comedy friends (having, at that time, only done maybe 10 gigs in my life — and maybe only 2 gigs in the 3-4 years prior). There’s things that transpired the following day, and throughout the weekend — completely unrelated to this story — that really put a spike in my gears, but I was determined to at least do something that made me feel like less of a g’damn loser.
I went out that Sunday to the local costume shop at the end of my block and picked up a suitable Emperor’s robe, and – with no actual job to report to at the time – pretty much dicked around and wrote pieces of dialog throughout the week.
The night before the big event, the producer — we’ll call him David3because there’s no reason to hide the name of someone you can Google so easily, and I have nothing bad to say about the guy — reminded me about the pre-show party at The Highlands, a now-closed nightclub that occupied all 3 stories of Hollywood & Highland’s corner spot (which is now a new nightclub, with the same giant elephant statues on the corners of the roof). As it turned out, almost none of the people who were a part of the awards show were there. David showed up, briefly, and I think I met one of the presenters, but exactly zero of the celebrity guests were there, and none of the people who were nominated for awards were there.
I basically wandered around this super-hip, ultra-swank nightclub looking like an asshole in my all-black-with-a-mohawk-and-too-many-piercings attire, wondering why the hell I was even there and trying to understand the intricate levels of access to each area and level of the club. For instance, almost anyone could walk in and hang on the main floor. Getting to the 2nd floor required some kind of pass that, apparently, I had as part of David’s arrangement with the club. There was a 3rd level of the club that was even more exclusive, and — depending on which security guard was in the way of the stairs leading up to the 3rd level — was either off-limits to me, or perfectly okay for me to hang out on. Further still was a 4th level, on the roof. It only held maybe 60 people, but I don’t think more than 40 people throughout the club even had the access level required to get up there.
I managed to sneak up once as part of a crew of 10 people, and no one seemed to notice I didn’t belong. Once on the roof, the view was pretty awesome, but the patrons seemed evenly divided by young Persian girls and old men in business suits trying to buy them things. I was a little too drunk to understand the nuance, but I talked to one girl long enough to get her to at least admit “yeah, these guys like spending money on girls like me… and I don’t mind flirting for a few hours to get free bottle service, but I’m not going home with any of them”. As we talked, one of the older businessmen angrily stared at me, and “accidentally” bumped into me about 3-4 times, every time asking “heyyyyy whatchu guys talkin’ about?”, to which I’d say “our favorite Disney movies”, stare at him for a minute, and then he’d wander just outside of earshot for a few minutes before repeating this bizarre ritual.
This didn’t exactly bode well for how the awards show would end up going. I was told this was going to be an exclusive pre-show party for the awards, and that “the place was ours”, and to “drink up!”, but instead I was just another weird asshole in an exclusivity-filled swank nightclub affair with 2 free drink tickets and no one to talk to that had even a tertiary relation to, or knowledge of, the awards ceremony.
As these things go, that wasn’t even the beginning of how bad this was going to get.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↩||if I had an agent, he’d probably demand I remove this line|
|2.||↩||if you’re enjoying these stories, you’ll be pleased to know I’m suddenly remembering another 40+ stories I meant to tell|
|3.||↩||because there’s no reason to hide the name of someone you can Google so easily, and I have nothing bad to say about the guy|