We drove the ninety minutes plus in Friday night rush hour traffic to get to Anaheim and arrived just in time. As we pulled into the parking space, my cell phone rang. It was one of the producers informing me that the shows we had labored to book for Monday's taping were canceled. The fallout of this news rippled through our good moods and created a storm of late night calls to agents, managers and comics. We finished the work, went to the box office and got our passes. Our tempers were still raw.
We were ushered into the backstage area and there was Gary. It took my breath away. I have spent the last thirteen years waking up to his show every day and watching the show every night on E! as I begin my sleep routine. Then John came to the backstage aarea looking much smaller than I had anticipated. Finally we spied Artie in the corner looking drunk and glum. Artie is the latest and cutest addition to the show.
Eventually I formed what to say to Gary and John. I talked about my experiences in programming talk radio and how difficult they made it for me as they had already done everything imaginable on radio. I shook hands with Artie and he briefly looked up at me with his Fred Flintstone face and gave a half smile. I was nervous in a way I rarely get around well-known people. This was, after all, like meeting the E Street Band without Bruce. Mickey was beaming right along beside me and redefining the word "extrovert."
Gilbert was the last act. He has always been one of my favorite comics for his fearlessness in encouraging an audience to hate him. I've admired Andy Kaufman, Sandra Bernhard and Tom Green for the same reason. Mickey, Gary, John and me were huddled in the wings watching Gilbert tentatively go out in front of a drunken, shit-kicking, truck-pulling crowd.
He stood center stage without a word but just rubbing his face. People started to scream things. He started to talk. Barely. Then he grabbed some plastic plates and started to do the worst imaginable prop comedy. Holding the plates up to his head and waving them, he said, "This is Mickey Mouse on acid." Then he took some plastic bowls, placing one of his head as a yarmulke and the other on the microphone. A rabbi blessing a soldier.
Then he grabbed some napkins and silently ripped them into little slices and they dropped to the floor. No commentary. Just Gilbert alone on the stage ripping apart napkins.
The boos got louder. Things were thrown on the stage. We were in hysterics.
Gilbert started imitating Jerry Seinfeld's voice doing the classic "Who's On First" bit, relishing the increasing rancor of the crowd. It was joyfully ridiculous. More random items pelted the stage.
"And now the story you've been waiting for," Gilbert announced, his voice rising above the anger of the audience.
"There is this man and his wife with their nine year old son and their twelve year old daughter and their dog and they go to a doctor's office. The dog shits on the floor and the man starts to lick his daughter's cunt. The wife pulls down her son's pants and starts to lick his balls while the doctor feeds his cock to the daughter. The son shits on the floor and the man starts to rub it on his wife's tits while the daughter is licking the doctor's asshole......"
The story lasted a good seven minutes in the same tone of voice and with the same repetitive storyline until the finale, "and everyone was eating the shit and vomiting and then they all jerked off and swirled it around into a big pile of shit and vomit and cum and that's where I say good-bye."
He walked over to us in the wings, we all gave him high fives and the audience was left wondering what the fuck they paid for.