A memorable gig is either really, really good, or really,
really terrible. The others just blend
into one another. I’ve had my share of
both but there have been a few that I look back on as trail markers, points
where I could mark significant change. I
had my first real turning point five years ago.

When I first started in standup, Big Ben was the only open
mic in Stockholm that I knew about. Now
the club runs three nights a week- with an English night as well- but at the
time there was no English night and, if I remember correctly, just two nights a
week. In any case, I went to every show,
asking the owner for stage time. The
answer, much more often than not, was no.
Or, “Hmm, it looks pretty full… ask me again after the break,” and then
I didn’t get on in the second half either.
But I kept going, kept asking, because sometimes he said yes and I got a
three-minute spot, or even a five-minute spot!
Meanwhile, I emailed him again and again to be put on the schedule, as
he advised me to do again and again, despite the fact that the emails went

Rejection, however, does wear on a person, and after months
of no after no with the occasional yes, I started to wonder why I was putting myself
through all of that. One particular
Thursday evening in June, I received the “check again later” line and I just
didn’t have the heart to stick around for the inevitable no. I left early, took a long walk along the
water, it was a beautiful evening. A
block away from Big Ben there is a fantastic vantage point and I took a picture
of Stockholm on a perfect summer night, posted it on Facebook with the comment,
“A night like this makes it hard to have a Pity Party, but I’m managing anyway.” I slunk back home with my tail between my

A few weeks later, however, I recovered. I reminded myself that it’s not supposed to
be easy, that I believed in chasing and nagging for stage time, that it was
worth it. I walked in on a Sunday night,
proudly walked up to the owner and got, “Hmm… looks pretty full, ask again
after the break.” I said sure, smiled,
and for some reason sat alone near the stage rather than hang somewhere in the
back, something I’d not done before nor since.
I was very early and the crowd hadn’t shown up yet, although there was a
large party of men sitting at the table next to me.

I noticed one of those men talk to the owner for a bit,
after which the owner walked directly to me.
“Are you ready to go on?” Turned
out, the large group was a bachelor party, and the groom-to-be didn’t speak
Swedish. The guy who’d spoken to the
owner was in charge of planning the party, thought standup would be fun, and-
oddly enough- assumed “Big Ben” would have English-speaking comics. On this particular evening, I was the only
comic in the room willing to perform in English.

I went first, it went well, I felt good. The owner suggested once again that I email
him to be on the schedule and from that day on, he actually responded to
me. When I left Big Ben that night,
another gorgeous night, I took another photo from the same point and posted, “What
a difference a few weeks makes!”

I still believe in chasing and nagging and it makes me happy
whenever I encounter a rookie doing just that, showing up, getting rejected,
and coming back anyway. Big Ben has an
online booking system these days and other open mics come and go, so I don’t see
this happen as often as I think I should.
I know, after a few years I’ve already become an old man in
standup. “Back in my day, we had to nag
and nag and nag!” So when I see these
comics I try to be as encouraging as I can, and I very, very rarely say no to
someone who asks me for time at a club I’ve run. I’m quite proud of all the comics I’ve helped
get their debut on stage, either at one of my clubs or somewhere else. I remember them all! Even the ones that have forgotten about me,
ungrateful assholes.

Kidding! Mostly.