I was never the best stand-up comic, which made my meeting with Terry all the more unlikely.
I was sixteen and had just finished a set at the appropriately titled New York Comedy Club in midtown Manhattan. I was third or fourth in a bringer show. To all of those unaware of how comedy clubs work, this meant I had to drag along a couple of unwilling friends and family, in this case my mom and Gary, a friend of the family who lived in Tudor City. I told the door guy, as is my wont, that the other friends were coming, they were just lost, because, let’s face it, The New York Comedy Club could be anywhere on Earth, right? New York, Idaho, Alabama, etc.
It was a good set. My mom had left about an hour ago. She always got through the first comic, got disgusted, and decided to take a walk. Gary stayed but had a forlorn imprisoned look the entire time. Either way, I thought I was funny—I remember I had energy, I had memorized my monologue, and I actually told jokes, instead of just “winging it,” which never worked. Although this may have only been my third or fourth set anywhere, I already felt like I was getting the hang of stand-up.
Terry was the booker, the person I had initially emailed about the show after seeing it advertised on an online message board. And here he was at Gary’s and my table, crouching next to me, telling me he’d like to talk in the hallway. This was the corridor conversation I had dreamed about.
“We want you to come back,” he said. Not only that, but he wanted me to perform in a couple shows in the next couple of months. He gave me his phone number.
I told him I’d call when I got back to Washington, D.C.
And I really did want to call, but then school, and homework, and stuff outside of school got in the way. I did other stand-up shows, but the same reluctance to call Terry infected my practice time, my choice of gigs, and my monologue work. At seventeen, I was a hack and by eighteen I was done. Or Gary refused to come to any more shows. Or a combination of those two things. Either way, after sixteen, there was no more Terry nor would there ever be again.
So my message is seize opportunities when they come. Make the most of those conversations and relationships you have once and then forget. Who knows, right? You may run into Terry.
I would appreciate your thoughts. When have you come close to success and blown it? Have you too squandered opportunities? I need to know.