I mentioned this story several months ago, but a quick reprise: I once had a conversation with a comic about why I rarely do crowd work while hosting (or ever). I told her I like seeing it done well, but most of the time it feels artificial and forced, and talking to people in general isn’t a particular strength of mine. She encouraged me to do it anyway, since I could find valuable information for the other comics on the lineup. I said I agreed with her in theory, but the problem in practice is that comics don’t pay attention.

This came to mind last Saturday as I hosted Maffia Comedy Club. During my intro, I told the crowd I was 48 and a guy directly in front of me shouted, “So am I!” I made fun of him for not looking as good at his age as I do, I asked him his name, I even asked what he does for a living. Anyone who has known me for an extended period of time would know what a monumental change this is in my behavior.

He told me he worked in robotics. Again, I made fun of him for being a traitor to humanity, said that was probably had aged him so much. I asked him how long we had until the apocalypse. This was, to me, a long conversation! I was passing along a ton of info to the other comics on the lineup, about a guy sitting front and center. It turned out to be perfect, because both the second and third comics had jokes about the robot apocalypse…. and neither spoke to the guy. It’s a curse, being right all the time.

Back to that conversation I had with a comic about why I don’t do standup, as evidence that comics don’t pay attention, I mentioned an example of which she was very much aware. There was a comic, kind of a Big Deal, who would come to Maffia on a semi-regular basis. He would arrive late, talk to someone in the crowd who had already been spoken to, and then leave immediately.

One night, I decided to set up a trap for him. He was on the lineup but naturally not in the room when the show started, so I made a point of asking the names of the five or six people closest to the stage. Then I told them we were going to play a game and, if any one of them did it right, I’d buy them a drink. “Now we all heard your names, so if anyone else asks you again, I want you to quote one my favorite movies: Glengarry Glen Ross. If they ask, ‘What’s your name?’ you say, ‘What’s my name? Fuck You, that’s my name.’” I asked a girl in the front row to practice with me once and she stammered out “fuck you!” through giggles.

Sure enough, he walked in later, went on stage, and asked the very girl I’d chosen to practice what her name was. She immediately broke down in giggles, which confused the hell out of him, only for someone else aiming to get a free drink to yell, “Fuck you!” The crowd loved it, I loved it, the club owner not so much, the comic continued to be confused, asking if he was being pranked. Again.

When he was done, he walked to the back where the comics hang and asked what had happened. Not me, of course, as, despite hosting him again and again, I’m not cool enough to rate more than a hello now and then. (No sarcasm intended there, I’m legitimately not cool enough.) I was and continue to be quite pleased with myself that a well-laid trap had been sprung and I continue to wonder why it’s so hard to make friends.