What’s it like to be singing and dancing in a show, and then to suddenly collapse in a heap onstage due to illness and exhaustion? Apparently, it’s quite funny.
That’s what happened to me last weekend while performing with the Garrens Comedy Troupe, and judging from the audience’s reaction, it’s one of the more popular things we’ve done in the last few years. They thought it was part of the show, and they LOVED it. We’re considering beginning each show from now on with the onstage death of a cast member.
The problem was that I was imitating Ricky Martin, which involved wearing some very shiny, well-insulated pants, and dancing around like a rabid squirrel, all while singing a very wordy song (“Livin’ la Vida Utah”). Simultaneously, I was fighting off what appeared to be some alien version of the flu in which the victim feels perfectly fine except for when he moves any of his muscles, at which point he feels like he’s been beaten with a 2-by-4. It was enough effort to sit around backstage and berate the cast members, let alone impersonate a Latin superstar.
I managed through five shows over the course of two evenings, but during the sixth and final show last Saturday night, I was feeling even worse, which I had not thought possible. It came time for me to go on and do the Ricky Martin thing, and I recall thinking, in character, “This is loco.” But I started it anyway.
That’s about all I remember. The rest I’ve pieced together through eyewitness accounts. Evidently I was showing signs of fatigue throughout the song, and near the end of it, my singing became slurred. Then I passed out and hit the stage with nice, comical thud. The audience thought it was part of the joke — Ricky Martin, known for his high energy and crazy, lecherous grin, finally runs out of steam. They laughed and applauded and generally found a great deal of pleasure in the apparent death of a famous pop singer, as would we all.
The other cast members came onstage, some out of concern for me and some because they wanted more stage time. One cast member, in the spirit of “the show must go on,” told the audience about our Web site (www.garrens.com). The others woke me up by pouring water on my face, and one of them informed me that I had passed out on stage. This was news to me.
My first thought was embarrassment at having ruined the song and delayed the show; my second thought was that we’d better let the audience know I was OK, or else they might not find the rest of the show funny. The death of a cast member is considered one of the worst possible “laugh killers” for a comedy show, ranked right behind having Adam Sandler in your show. (If Adam Sandler is the one dying, you have no problem. In fact, I bet you sell more tickets.)
After a little rest backstage, I was prepared to go on with the show, which fortunately did not involve me very much anyway. The show went very well, and the audience did not seem to be adversely affected by what had happened. They forgot all about it and continued to laugh at the merriment and frivolity we put before them. The heartless pigs.
But it left me wondering: All those performers who are known for singing and dancing a lot in their shows — Ricky Martin, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Luciano Pavarotti, Ray Charles — how do they do it? I could barely make it through one song without keeling over; these people do entire concerts. Either Ricky Martin is in far better physical condition than I am — and that HARDLY seems likely — or else, as is my best theory, he is a computer-generated image who does not exist in real life, much like Jar Jar Binks or Jim Carrey.
I’m fine now, though. Really. Please do not be concerned, and please do not lavish me with expensive get-well presents sent in care of this newspaper. I’m OK. There is no danger of me passing out aggggggggggggggggggklj;lkx.m,.,.
This truly was a historical moment for the Garrens: the first onstage pass-out. We'd had other great injuries over the years, most significantly when Katie Fillmore (later Katie Craig) blew out her knee doing a song-and-dance number. We have it on tape, and she's being lifted in the air, and when she comes down, her knee just explodes. Then she crawls offstage, and the audience thinks it's hysterical. There was also the time when Lincoln Hoppe electrocuted himself playing guitar and singing at the same time, when his lips touched the microphone and for some reason sent a shock through him. Or when Dallen Gettling nearly stabbed his eye out with a wooden dowel. Or all the times Dallen almost beat up another cast member. Ah, memories.
Many audience members never did believe us that the fainting was real, and not planned. Those audience members, and possibly others, are stupid.
Ironically, I had joked with Marc "Sparky" Monson about the possibility of passing out while doing the song, because I felt so lousy. He said he'd be ready, at a moment's notice, to jump onstage and finish the song for me. And when it actually happened, where was Sparky? Nowhere to be found. Some understudy he was. (He's been fired.)