Peter Sagal has a tell when he’s nervous. It’s very cute and he would never admit that it exists. But if you can spot it, it’s strangely reassuring that someone who appears so unflappable and is so practiced can harbor something so simple as nervousness. It took me almost all week to actually decipher the tell, it was so well hidden. But after nearly that long at sea in close company I was able to spot it just before we began our show Thursday night.
“I’m starting to get nervous about my set” Peter said, and left the dressing room to go talk to Paul.
It was almost so subtle as to go completely unnoticed. But as I sat back there about to share a set with Peter and the incredible John Roderick, I felt a little better that even the pro’s get uncontrollably nervous, even if you have to look deep to spot it.
Earlier in our stateroom I’d had a Stella and the only bit of terrible food I had the whole trip, an awful overcooked burger, and I’d rehearsed. One of the things I absolutely love about being a performer is access to sound check. Not only do I get to see my favorite performers tweak their set for maximum awesomeness, I get to see my friends to the same thing. Our program was set to begin around 5pm because the ship would depart the Caymans at that time meaning the theater would basically shake shake shake like a
booty earthquake for five minutes just before 5. I got into the theater right at 3:45 or so to find John Roderick was already beginning his check.
Jonathan and Paul and Storm were on stage, which made me excited because I had no idea what they would do with John, I just knew that if they were joining him, the awesome was going to peg the needle. As I went backstage to get settled and figure things out stage wise I heard them singing about horses, calling the storm. The line caught my mind on a hook. “The horses call the storm, because the air contains the charge” John’s voice was clean and full throated as the trio backed the lines in a chorus. I paused, then continued on because I knew I would see it later. But it stuck with me very deeply, and made me excited.
Backstage David Rees was wearing a very revealing, slightly disturbing, and very funny costume. But I wouldn’t want to spoil it.
I could tell Peter was no longer nervous. It was evident really only to those who performed with him. “I feel better about my set.” he said as he re-entered the backstage area. Paul followed him, “how many Stepto’s did you get?” he asked.
Now, go figure, but apparently the ever so slightly heavyset shaved head goatee look has a relatively commonplace hit rate amongst JoCoCruiseCrazy attendees. All week Paul had been approaching them from behind, mistaking them as me, and issuing them JoCoCruiseCrazy performer orders before understanding he had the wrong person. From that, we recruited a number of Steptos for my initial bit. I informed him we had worked out the Steptos and were just needing a blocking exercise for Sound check. Steptos so deployed (as an aside, thanks guys, you were AMAZING) we began the show with Mr. Rees.
Did I mention how amazing Peter and David are as performers? Without fail these two gentlemen were walking “obvious humor” desiccant. Every line was hysterically funny and as bone dry as taking a swig from a gin bottle and calling that a martini. They both killed and I decided to make a couple of alterations to my bit that were meant to be self deprecating about my humor but against the clear joy and love of the audience would have just seemed terribly maudlin. They nailed it and gave me tons of confidence.
Paul was introducing me. The Steptos were in place. It was time to do the book of enforcement. I’d done it many times before, and it was always a big hit. Deep breath. Time to go. Don’t think, stand up there and pull the energy from the audience. They are your friends first, and an audience second. Do it.
I did it.
Ok that part was over. The part I had done before many times. Now I was going to do some new comedy and a new reading I had not done before. So surely the transition would be a moment of pause. Dear JoCoCruiseCrazy members, I didn’t even blink in the transition. You were so awesome, and reacted so well, that I moved from a performance that was practiced and defined to one that was all new and never performed without one single ounce of fear or worry. You guys were so awesome and so receptive that you made anyone on that stage feel like they could take the riskiest possible choices and you would entertain the notion, and would cheer even harder if it didn’t work out, just because someone had the guts to try it. I let some doubt enter the end as I tried to obviously cover for the amazing Paul F. Tompkins, but I forgive myself that because who wouldn’t second guess themselves trying to replace someone all the performers really missed a lot and who is great.
The post show was great, even though we were pressed to leave because between Peter and I we ran John a little over and he didn’t get to perform the song with Jonathan and Paul and Storm I had heard before and was so intrigued by. Quickly Rochelle and I headed for the main dining room to have some drinks with our friends before our reservations at the Italian restaurant.
I really was not expecting what happened next, and is probably in my top ten highlights in my life. We entered the dining room from the side to the performers reserved table, and I got a standing ovation from the dinner attendees.
Let me please just stop and say, I’ve done that for many people who I felt really rocked a performance and I was offering the ovation to let them know that. And you Seamonkeys did that for me.
I had something in my eye as I waved then sat down. I felt so appreciated and so lucky at the same time to even be in the same god damned place at people who had just a short while ago made my entire performance possible with their support and love. Thanks aren’t enough.
[Editor’s note on the above, other performers as they entered the hall usually got ovations, I was not the only one certainly, I just was not ever expecting it, nor had it ever happened to me before.]
Rochelle and I had to leave a bit early though from dinner, to reach the Italian Restaurant on the boat for our private post performance celebration. Apparently I was so juiced up on adrenaline from the amazing reaction from the audience that it wrapped around into my being low energy. They thought I needed more sugar:
That’s right. Coffee, three types of gourmet tiramisu, AND A HUGE DOLLAP OF COTTON CANDY.
Just before we went back to hang out with everyone I realized, we only had one more day on this motherfucking boat. I wanted to be sad, should have been sad, but… well, that part is for my penultimate entry.