At a birthday party, my friend Shlomy takes me aside and in his hushed, selfless, sweetly conspiratorial manner barely says, “I know how busy you are but Jamaica next monf, brother?”
These days, I can’t go anywhere unless it’s a gig. The amazing thing about Jamaica is there’s no Laugh Factory or Improv in sight, which is also the bad news, I tell Shlomz. He’s too kind to point out that I’m not booked ANYWHERE the week he’s talking about. But fuck him, that’s beside the point.
“We’ll find a show,” says Isack, the chief negotiator for our crew. Isack is an attorney but like Tom Hagen in The Godfather he only represents one client – us. So his word is good enough for me.
The toughest part of being a road comic – well, okay, ONE of the toughest things – is finding comfortable lodging. So when we walked into Travellers in Negril, more than half the battle was already won. I mean, look at the lobby and check out the grand piano (site of my unofficial third gig)! Not a pricey place, by any means, and family-owned (shout out to Winthrope and the Wellington family, mon!), but SO awesome… We went directly to the swim-up bar and frankly from there it would have been easy to forget I was a comic (especially a road comic who NEEDS gigs).
But my crew did NOT forget.
Now, we arrived on a Sunday and had a line on a few venues up the glorious 7-mile beach (if this sounds like a travel review, great – hire me to write travel reviews). The trick with performing in Negril is that from the moment you exit the airport in Montego Bay and hit the road you’re most likely going to be “relaxing” courtesy of a frenzied cocktail of Appleton rum and weed (and that’s if you’re the driver). So, in order to represent and perform, I needed to straighten out. This was accomplished at Coconut International, a tea house on the beach where we met Chris, who produced my show there. I would tell you that tea is the key to snap-sobriety, but that would be disingenuous. It’s the “spiced tea” that straightened me out. And sobriety is probably not the right word. Clarity is a much better word. Yes, clarity.
Through this new and powerful clarity, we weighed our offers: come back tomorrow night with time to promote the show in between, or go on tonight, now. Well, unbeknownst to me, Isack had already negotiated an appearance for me back at Travellers for Tuesday. Besides, who knew what would happen between now and tomorrow night?
The crowd was amazing – if I could perform exclusively for tea drinkers, I just might. Warm, relaxed, happy and loving, they welcomed my comedy with open arms and minds. My gay Cuban character, Pedrito, was the breakout. No wonder tea is so popular in England. Who knew? Regardless, I’m going to London soon. Anyway, that was the first show, and most of the audience carried on with us at Rick’s and wherever else we went that night.
I could try to piece together events leading up to the second show. Suffice it to say that Karaoke Night at Travellers is where my Jamaican character was born.
Ok, he was probably born at the airport when we connected with Shlomz, who had already been in Jamaica for two weeks. But the voice really took shape Tuesday night. I like to have a backing band any time I perform, so the musical accompaniment was perfect, and while most of this material was improvised it must’ve worked: I actually got calls from people who were there, once I got home (hopefully you’re following me on twitter @HRkills, and not just calling my ass, Patrice! xo).
When I worked in advertising, I used to go to the Cannes ad fest each June. After all the parties, at like 4am, a bunch of us would go to the hotel bar at the Martinez and do an impromptu show. There was a piano and 400 people so why not?? A much smaller version of that scene took place in the lobby when we finally returned from the karaoke show, and the Bunny Wailer & Friends concert @ Cayanne Beach.
On Wednesday, we rose early, showered, shaved, packed and lit out for the airport. That’s not how it looked or felt. But that’s what we did. Somehow. Thanks only to Justin, who kept us focused and on point, even when my mouth felt like an appendage, a useless one at that.
So did I earn money that trip? I don’t reckon profit in terms of dollars and cents. I only know how I feel about myself when I return. So, I profited. Of that, I’m certain.
Did I perform for appreciative crowds? Did I make new friends and grow as a person? Did I get to enjoy a few days with some my brothers? Did I gig in Negril?
You bet your ass I did.