Rob Schneider: lights out, but the show must go on!
Recreated from Jim's vivid memories on this day, Monday, June 25, 2012.
It was a dark and stormy night, just east of San Francisco in the U.S. Navy base town of Alameda, California. Sometime in the 1980's. McGee's was owned by Linda and John Costello . . .. Don't ask!
He is the only club owner I have ever interviewed while a video camera was going. (When I find his interview, yes: I will post it here.) This was months earlier, just after I had directed the taping of an open audition at McGee's for Showtime TV's "Funniest Person in America Contest." John met me on the sidewalk with the take from the door. "You're kiddin'? That (expletive deleted ) won? I always like Mike Guido. How come he never wins? Jim, I'm sure you know what you're doing. But I think you ought to give the whole purse to Ray Krutt."
McGee's rapidly became one of the most popular monthly venues in the SF Bay Area with the comics, if only for the chance to listen to John talk and issue such poetry.
But I digress.
The storm escalated, and suddenly all the electricity in Alameda went out. "That's it, Jim. Show cancelled." This was the only time I dared disagree with John. "Jim: what do you mean, 'No'?"
Just then a short comic with long sideburns who thought he looked like Elvis tried to dart past me. "G' night, Jim. We're out of here." But I caught him by the collar of his rhinestone cowboy shirt and held him slightly off the ground, while not breaking eye-contact with John. "So, listen to me, Rob: you have a flashlight in your car? Go get it. Tell everyone to get as many flashlights as they can find, especially big ones."
The place was packed and when the first comic stood on top of a table in the center of the room to better catch the light from 6 wobbling flashlights, the crowd let out with a whoop!
Must have been some spontaneous sense of community. I couldn't say. But a few years later, I ran into Rob Schneider and he volunteered as how the show remained one of his favorite memories. "Jim, we couldn't believe you made us go on. But it was great!"
Time passed and we hadn't done shows there nor visited the club in over ten years. The comedy club crash of the 1990's was at its lowest ebb when one of my students, an insurance salesman who lived in Alameda, encouraged me to attempt a revival of the infamous venue. It was the first time I'd seen the place during the day. Smaller than I'd remembered, maybe sat 150 . . . packed.
I stood at the bar, watching John out of the corner of my eye as he seemed not to see me while working his way down the bar, intently polishing it with a rag. "So, Jim: how's it been going? Lot of those comics you used to bring in here . . . I see they're now stars."
"How about we bring the comedy nights back here. It could happen again."
John became a statue, his moustache fixed in a smirk. Nothing moved for several minutes throughout McGee's. At last he spoke, "Naw. I'd like to. But with the Base closing . . .. I gotta buy an (expletive deleted) espresso machine!"