As someone who has worked in the theater industry I am used to running around unseen in the shadows backstage while actors perform before their public. However, I am not accustom to actually standing on stage in the presents of an entire audience who are waiting for me to say something funny, only equipped with a microphone to defend myself if things turn ugly.
I’ve been to the Boom Chicago Comedy Theatre in Amsterdam a few times but my first visit will always be the most memorable for me because it was when I found myself in the above situation. The show is a mix of improvisation and sketches and it was during one of the improvised scenes that I was called up on stage.
I was enjoying the performance with a friend (who was visiting from England). At first we didn’t really know what to think when one of the comedians asked the entire audience to stand and were only allowed to sit down again as he said things such as, “sit down if you have a tattoo,” or “sit down if you’ve had sex in the last 24 hours.”
Since I didn’t have a tattoo or a love life I remained standing. In fact I remained standing for quite a while as other people sat down. When there were only four of us left I realized two things: (1) I need a tattoo and/or a girlfriend and (2) something embarrassing was potentially about to happen.
It was not long before I found out because I was the last man standing and had to go on stage to help with the next improvised sketch. I was given the simple task of coming up with the title for a song but my mind went blank with embarrassment whenever the microphone was pointed towards me as if it was some kind of Kryptonite. Inspiration finally came to the rescue in the form of the logo on the T-shirt I was wearing but at the cost of turning me into a walking nerd stereotype in one simple sentence. “Atari is cool.”
I’m still not sure why I said it but when the title was rejected for being too short (artistic differences) I came up with a new suggestion and the smash hit, “Atari is really cool,” was born.
I thought I was off the hook as the comedian started to sing this moving tale of 80’s computer games but every few lines the song would suddenly stop and I had to provide the next line. The ballad told the epic tale of me on a heroic five hour Atari playing marathon, ignoring anything that stood in my way, end of level bosses, sore thumbs and a nagging girlfriend (who could have prevented me having to go on stage if she was not fictional). Suddenly I was a god amongst geeks and I had groupies.
Any heckling was quickly silenced with a shout of, “Shut up! This is Stuart and Stuart ROCKS!” from the singing comedian. There were chants of, “Stuart Rocks,” during the rest of the show (which led to other sketches about me).
A few weeks later I took my parents to see the show. When it came to the same part of the performance I was quickly off the hook when we were told to, “sit down if you have ever been on stage.” However, my mother was still standing. She remained standing for quite a while. In fact she was still standing when it was down to six people. At this point I started to worry but I was able to breathe a sigh of relief when she finally sat down (third to last). I was relieved for two reasons: (1) I did not have to be embarrassed while watching my Mother on stage and (2) she had sat down before the, “have you had sex in the last 24 hours,” question and no child should know that much about their parent’s sex life.