Monday, August 6, 2018

Norm Macdonald

At the San Jose Improv, August 2018
This past Saturday my buddy and I drove down to San Jose to see Norm Macdonald at the San Jose Improv. It’s about 6 hours from Ashland to San Jose but it was totally worth it.
We’ve been surrounded by various forest fires this summer and our air has been fair to hazardous every day depending on the wind. But the air was great down there and my lungs recovered almost instantly.
We had tickets for both of his Saturday night shows and they were both really great. And I’m really glad we got to see both as they were similar but not the same. Norm is one of my very favorite comedians so this was sort of a bucket list check off for me.
We stayed at the Marriot just a few blocks from the show and that was cool too. No in town driving or any of that shit. We just checked in and walked around the neighborhood. We got in line at the Improv at 4:30. The doors opened at 5:30, so we were second in line and ended up right at the stage just a few feet from Norm! Really cool. I'd never been to a comedy club before. All the many comedy shows I'd seen were in concert venues and to be right up close was fantastic. I mean, he was looking at right at me at times and I felt like he was really looking, not show-biz looking which was very cool.
The first show was a dinner crowd and second more of a drinking crowd. The first show, he had some time pressure and the second show not so much so he could relax a bit more. Really really great stuff...funny, smart, absurd, philosophical...especially the second show. It was totally worth the money and the driving...and since we didn't go to Bandon for a T’ai-Chi retreat this year, it served as a bit of a vacation. 
As a student of comedy it was great to not only laugh at a master comedian but also great to see how he worked, especially over two shows. My sense was that he had some things he wanted to talk about but no set “act”. Some of the jokes he repeated but the timing would change, sometimes even the punch line was different. He’s just so funny and so relaxed and confident in his delivery, he could talk about practically anything and make it kill. The overriding theme seemed to be the inevitability of death and suffering but he talked about all kinds of stuff. Most of it was offensive. Unless of course, you like comedy. We laughed our asses off.
My buddy has an Audi so the driving both ways was smooooooth. On Saturday morning we started off smoky as hell, passed through a few different smoke zones from different fires, but then we got down far enough south and the smoke disappeared which was great. But man. Ho. Lee. Shit. The traffic down here was just nuts. Five or six lanes each way, people driving like maniacs, and as we got closer to San Jose and Silicon Valley, so many BMW's, Mercedes, and expensive sports cars, including Ferraris. Just a huge amount of money down there. And once in the city, very multi-ethnic, especially the downtown scene where the club was. Everyone seemed to be getting along fine though. It was party central down there when we finally got out after the second show. Expensive cars, people lined up outside of clubs, music throbbing, all that shit. Fun to take a peek at, but I am no longer a city-boy in any way. I hardly go to cities anymore. Just briefly once or twice every year or so. I can't even believe I used to live in New York City or even Seattle. We crashed hard in our hotel room and got up the next morning for the drive back.
It was a great little trip and it was also great to get back home safe and sound, even if the air was pretty lousy with smoke once again. After a brief pit stop, I got on my bike and rode out to the regular Sunday night open mike at the Wild Goose Café & Bar, had a great set and rode back home and slept like a rock.
Final note: The San Jose Improv is a great place to see comedy. The room is good sized, seats over 400, but is still intimate and cozy. No bad seats really. The staff was friendly, the food and drinks were good and the general vibe was positive and lively. They had a deal that with certain drinks you get a free souvenir glass. So I did that and now I have an Improv glass to go with Doug Stanhope’s rocks glass that I took from the club here in Medford where we saw him a few years back.
For a review of that show, click here:

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