Ed Brayton Reveals “The Comedy Condos”
This is our friend, Ed Brayton. He’s one of the founders of freethoughtblogs.com and a former touring stand-up comedian. He’s been on the Rachel Maddow Show and he hosts Culture Wars Radio on WPRR. He’s also stayed in some real shitty places he calls “The Comedy Condos.”
3 am in Terra Haute, Indiana. Two comedians are sitting on a couch that is probably older than either of them, in a house that should probably be condemned. They’re watching an old 15 inch television with rabbit ears, the kind you can’t find anywhere but your grandparents’ basement. The TV is in such bad shape that the channel knob has disappeared and been replaced by a knob from the oven. After watching a few minutes of whatever infomercial was playing that night, one of them turns to the other. “Let’s see what’s on bake.”
Welcome to the “comedy condo.”
A comedy condo is a place where comedians often stay when they’re on the road, usually against their will. They belong to comedy club owners who are so cheap that they refuse to pay the $35 a night it would take to put the comics up at a crappy Motel 6, so they go and find a barely habitable house in the worst part of town, buy it for a few thousand dollars, furnish it with garage sale leftovers and make them stay there instead.
When Steve Martin said comedy isn’t pretty, he wasn’t joking.
At the condo in Lansing, Michigan, there was always a faint smell of gas in the air. And a shower that made you feel like you were being pissed on, likely a pleasantly familiar sensation to at least a few of the comics I know who stayed there regularly. The neighborhood was so bad that you couldn’t get a pizza delivered there. I’m not sure you could even get the police to make a trip to that house.
But sometimes it isn’t the neighborhood. Sometimes it’s just the place. In Pentwater, Michigan there was a one-nighter where they put you up at an off-season hunting lodge that made a prison cell seem luxurious. The beds were the size of a camping cot and harder than David Vitter in the diaper section at Walmart. There was no phone, radio or television in the room. It was the kind of place of which comedian Drake Sather once said, “All of the stationary was preaddressed to Jodie Foster.”
To make things worse, when you got up in the morning and went out to your car, at least at certain times of the year, you would find them covered in sap dripping from the pine and maple trees that surrounded the place. Would you like some arboreal bukkake with your breakfast?
In Memphis, the club provided free passes to Graceland to the comics, prompting many of them to go there and buy posters of Elvis, put them on the walls of the condo – a nasty apartment with one bedroom for three people — and add thought bubbles to them with rude messages. My favorite, put there by a friend of mine: “Elvis who? Signed, Chuck Berry.”
And even if the condos aren’t in life-threatening condition, no one really wants to stay there. In a hotel, you at least have a room to yourself; in a condo, you’re treated to the regular sight of that week’s emcee wandering around in his stained underwear or having to listen to the headliner humping some desperate, middle-aged woman whose knees buckle at the thought of getting it on with the kind of “star” who makes $300 a week to tell dick jokes.
In Traverse City, the condo was the upstairs of a two-unit house, with the downstairs occupied by a drunk couple that you swear you’d seen on Cops at least once or twice. A friend of mine was stuck there one weekend when that couple spent all of one night fighting and all of the next night having makeup sex. When he heard the woman yell “come to mama” in a cigarette- and whiskey-stained voice that could break up concrete, he considered lighting the place on fire.
And even if that isn’t going on while you’re there, you know damn well it was going on the week before. As Doug Stanhope – in my opinion, the funniest comedian working today – pointed out on one of his CDs, when you check into a Motel 6 you know that a thousand truck drivers have had sex with hookers in those beds over the years, but they don’t tell you all about it at the front desk when you check in. The staff at the comedy club, on the other hand, will be happy to tell you what the scumbag the week before was doing at the condo, and the chances are pretty good that those sheets haven’t even been washed.
Welcome to show business, kid. Bring your own Lysol.