My big TV debut

I made my TV debut as an entertainer Monday night.

Before I get into the awesome story of my two seconds of glory, it should be known that this was not my first appearance. From 1998 to 2002 the back of my head, my hands and my notebook appeared on ESPN at least once a month at the various events that I covered as a professional sports journalist. If you assembled my back-of-the-head footage from every one of those press conferences, and played it fast-forward, you can actually watch all of my hair fall out until I am completely bald. When I run for president in 2028 I am sure my enemies will use this footage against me.

I also once sat in the “Jenny Row” of the Jenny Jones Show. This will probably also be used against me at some point in my political future.

Monday night was different. Monday night represented a major step down the path to entertainment glory. Someday when I am invited to a party where I am offered cocaine I will look back on Monday night and say, “Thank you Monday, February 18, 2008, for helping me attend the types of parties I had only heard about in Eagles songs.”

So, on what channel did I make my comedy debut? Was it Comedy Central, which has launched so many careers? Was it HBO, the network that all comedians long to be on? Was it one of the Big Four – NBC, ABC, Fox or Weather Channel? No. It was that chronicler of all things important, that sleep tonic for men aged 40-72, the home channel of the Fightin’ Luftwaffe – The History Channel.

My comedy music group Hero Style, which consists of me and my friend Mike, appeared on a History Channel documentary entitled The History of the Joke. I do not know when it will air again – or if it will air again – but I do know you can buy it online here for $29.95.

(Above: Hero Style performs on the night it was taped for television. Any minute now those History Channel groupies will come rolling in. Yep, any minute. Whistle sound.)

Here’s the back story. Last fall Hero Style played a weekly comedy show called Punk House, hosted by our friend Ed Galvez. (Ed was on the Feb. 7, 2008 Second Column podcast.) Ed told us that people would be there taping the show as part of a documentary on comedy. The segment we’d be taped for would focus on new comedians.

I am happy to say that the presence of a History Channel camera did not alter the quality our performance. At one point I did say to myself, “Come on Joe, you have to be funnier than Modern Marvels: Mountain Roads.” But otherwise there was no extra pressure. Mike and I had a good set. (“Set” is comedy-speak for “the thing I do every night that I have never been able to properly explain to members of my family.”) The producer we spoke with said he had not taped many music comedy acts, so we figured we had a chance to stay off the cutting room floor as the French fry in Los Angeles’ comedy box of onion rings.

Monday night our dreams came true. We made the final cut. And we looked good.

For both of the seconds we were on TV.

Sure, we were used as B-roll footage. Sure, the words we were saying were not audible. Sure there was a graphic for an upcoming History Channel special covering half the screen. Sure, the editor followed our shot with a shot of a DIFFERENT audience not laughing. That’s OK. Didn’t matter. We were on television.

Since I am pretty sure you have not seen the footage, I have taken the liberty of breaking down our appearance second by second, so that you may enjoy our cable television debut the way the rest of America did Monday night.

SECOND 1: A Time of Beginnings
We are on stage at the Westside Eclectic theater in Santa Monica. You can tell it is the Westside Eclectic because the crumbling brick wall in the background makes it look like we are performing comedy in Afghanistan. I start off seated on a stool in a listening position. It is clear that Mike, also seated on a stool, holding a guitar, has just said something funny. I smile, shift my body down and to the left, look up and laugh. Mike then raises his left arm in the air, and for reasons that are still unclear to both of us, he forms a backward C with his hand.

Mike is a fine comedian, but during this second I own the stage. I am chewing up the scenery, just killing with my smile, shift, look and laugh. I am like Robin and Whoopi and Billy all rolled into one big Louie Anderson ball. The audience probably does not realize Mike is on stage, or even alive. If his parents are watching, they forgot he was even born. I am on. But that all changes during…

SECOND 2: A Season of Changes
I pull up lame in Second 2: A Season of Changes. I have already smiled, shifted, looked and laughed. All I do now is direct my attention to Mike so I can hear the rest of what he has to say. It’s a supportive move of a good comedy partner, which I clearly am, but it’s pretty evident after watching this 45 times that I’m a huge letdown, entertainment-wise, in this second and final second. Hollywood ain’t gonna come knocking for that kind of performance. Meanwhile Mike is magnificent. He is holding the audience in rapt attention with his backward C, which he shifts, ever so deftly, from left to center, so that it lines up in symmetric proportion a few inches in front of his forehead. I have no idea what he said at that point during the show, but it didn’t matter. Backward C said it all.

Mike, with his grand hand gesture, stole the final second.

And thus concluded Hero Style’s TV debut.

Comedy Scoreboard
Joe 1
Mike 1
Winner: America

I can understand why the editors chose not to include our act or both of the interviews they conducted with us before and after our show. We’re not exactly famous. It’s just unfortunate, because they left a lot of gold on the cutting room floor. Here is what I remember from our pre- and post-show interviews. You Hero Style buffs out there should enjoy this. These things are all true.

• Mike saying he was the better half of Hero Style. (Which is probably true – but I was standing right there. Ass.)
• Mike saying Hero Style had been playing for five years when it had only been around for two. (Mike was counting all of our time together as comedians. If this is how he does his taxes, he is going to prison.)
• Mike saying that I am like a scared little lamb on stage. (That is what is called personality transference. I’m a beast on stage. Mike’s lip often quivers during shows and sometimes he makes in his pants when people say the word “theater.”)
• Mike calling Andy Dick, whom neither of us knows, a dick. (I am wondering if Mike has a history with Andy Dick that I should know about.)
• Mike mocking me by saying that I have a golden voice. (In a city full of musical sluggers, I am a journeyman infielder at best. Still, I was standing right there.)
• Mike saying that we often buy each other hamburgers. (Now he is just out of control with the lies.)
• And finally, after our interview was over, Mike stepping back into the shot, pointing at the camera and saying “Watch the History Channel!” To which our friend Ed responded: “They are.” To which everyone within 20 fe
et responded by laughing their asses off. (This really should have made the documentary. It was the funniest thing that happened all night.)

It turns out that when you put a camera on Mike, who is normally the quietest guy in the room, he becomes a raving, backstabbing egomaniac who will lie about anything (including hamburgers), calls out celebrities we don’t know and likes to tell people to do a thing they are already doing.

But I can’t get mad. The guy’s hilarious.

Next time you watch The History Channel remember to always … Watch the History Channel!

(To hear Sean, Mike, Carlos and me – and special guest comedian Doug Dreisel Jr. – talk about this column on The Second Column podcast on iTunes, click here.)

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