Welcome to part 2 of Where’s That Jamie?!
I am in the midst of the national tour for my one-man show, The Devil on the Wall or, That Time I Got Kidnapped, and am traveling throughout the United States. I’m performing, teaching workshops, and getting to meet amazing people and experience communities all over, so I thought I would document it all. Thanks for reading!
A little backstory - I am a stand-up comedian, improviser, writer, and actor who debuted a one-man show that details my tumultuous childhood and the greatest adventure of my life at last year’s Kansas City Fringe Festival. The show was a hit, beyond my wildest imagination, and now I am telling my story to anyone who will listen, at any venue that will let me put on the show.
So, to answer the question on everyone’s minds - WHERE’S THAT JAMIE? The answer is: Austin, Texas!
Here’s how this past week’s journey went:
Monday 3.12.18 - After spending an incredible week in San Antonio, Texas, today was supposed to be the day that I moved on to Austin. I was excited about the trip, especially because I was going to be staying with Jenny, one of my best friends. We have known each other for 15 years and she is one of those friends who I only get to see every couple of years, but every time I get to see, we pick up right where we left off. Unfortunately, she had a family member going into surgery this week and had to leave town. I was bummed to not be able to see her, but her reasons for leaving town were obviously understandable. I got the news late Sunday night, and spent that evening and Monday morning scrambling for a new place to stay.
I do a door split at most of the venues that I tour to, and that deal does not include a hotel room or lodging, so I’m usually on my own finding a place to stay. Luckily, I have some great friends who really came through. Tina, one of the owners of Bexar Stage in San Antonio, started messaging her connections in Austin, while I posted on facebook that I was looking for a place to stay. By the time noon hit, I went from having nowhere to sleep to having two offers for lodging. My friend, Liz, has a mother in Austin who offered me a room. At the same time that offer was coming in, Tina had contacted Jessica Arjet, one of the owners of The Hideout Theatre, who also offered up a spare room. I ended up staying with Jessica, because she lived closer to the venue I was performing at that week, but messaged Liz’s mother thanking her for the offer and told her I’d leave a free ticket for her to my show if she wanted to come. I’d be spending one more night in San Antonio, but on Tuesday, I would arrive in Austin!
Tuesday 3.13.18 - Dan, the other owner of Bexar Stage, was kind enough to drive me from San Antonio to Austin, so that I didn’t have to pay to take the bus. We drove 90 minutes an arrived in Austin in the midst of heavy traffic. The annual South By Southwest festival was happening this week. It’s an annual film, music, and comedy festival that is one of the biggest entertainment events in the nation. When I booked the tour, I had no idea the festival was happening the same week as my show, and the city was in a frenzy.
We arrived at Jessica’s place, and she was a delight. She
is one of those kind and generous people that you meet along life’s journey that is happy to help others, and I was grateful to meet her. You never know what you're going to get when a stranger lets you stay with them, and it can lead to some weird and awkward situations, but this was neither of those. She was fun to talk to and I really got along with her. Upon arrival, she introduced me to her dog, Butters. Butters is a rescue dog - an adorable shih tzu who is incredibly shy. Jessica showed me to my room, and I said good-bye to Dan.
After getting settled, I decided to take a walk through the midst of all of the South By Southwest madness. I call it a festival, but it’s technically a conference. There are live concerts, comedy shows, and film screenings, but also a bunch of industry panels and special events for those attending. I was not an actual part of the conference, which meant I didn’t have a festival badge or wristband, so I couldn’t get into any of the events. That was okay. I just wanted to wander through the streets of downtown Austin and do some people watching. The city was full of people wandering in and out of bars and performance venues, with their South by Southwest badges hanging around their necks. Every other street corner had a musician playing for tips. There were vagabonds on the sidewalk, begging for money from those passing-by, including a girl who was standing with some crust-punk friends, chanting “I’ll show you my tits for $5.” I appreciated her desire to earn a buck, but I have the internet where there are free tits-a-plenty, so I moved on. I stopped into a convenience store and bought a bottle of water. The clerk commented on my shirt, which had a picture of Randy “Macho Man” Savage on the front. He exclaimed, “I love Hulk Hogan!” I said that wasn’t a picture of Hulk Hogan, but he wasn’t having any of it. “I know that’s the Hulk Hogan. Hulkamania Rules, man!” I just nodded and told him to have a nice day.
I kept walking, watching, and taking in all of the manic energy created by the festival for a couple hours. Eventually, I turned around and walked back. I checked my GPS, and ended up walking around 5 miles before calling it a night.
Wednesday 3.14.18 - Pi Day. Woke up to the news that Stephen Hawking had died. Bummer. I didn’t really do much today. I found a Planet Fitness in the area, and went there for a workout. Planet Fitness is sort of the Wal-Mart of gyms. Their prices are low, and you can find them in every city. That’s nice when you’re on tour, because life on the road can be full of unhealthy choices, but having a
membership there means I can always find a way to get some exercise. After the gym, I went to the HEB, which is a Texas-based grocery chain, and bought some food. When I got back to Jessica’s apartment, I researched some Austin-area stand-up shows. I figured I might as well try to get some extra stage time while I was in town. I should have messaged people last week, but figured the chances were slim of anyone having space for me to perform, since South by Southwest comics would be filling up the lineup everywhere. Most shows I messaged were full, as I suspected, but I did manage to book a guest slot on a show called ColdTowne Tonight for this Friday. Yay!
Thursday 3.15.18 - Spent a lazy day doing my favorite activity - absolutely nothing. In the early evening, I got another workout at the local Planet Fitness. Then, I headed to a party. I was excited to find out that Adam J. Richman, the director of Lunch and Learn, a webseries that I write and act in, was in town for the festival.
He invited me to a house party that was being held by some folks in town for South by Southwest. I met some great people who were involved in the tech field, interactive entertainment, and the music industry. We played a really fun new board game, and I wish I could remember the name of it. It involved being assigned random topics, and using them to make up a product and pitch it to the rest of the group, who act as business investors. Everyone is assigned investor cards with monetary values that they can assign to businesses they would invest in. It was sort of like a board game version of Shark Tank. The object was to get the most dollars invested into your product pitch. I ended up winning the game when I got assigned the topics of “Bros” and “The Scent of Limes.” I made up an Axe body spray-type product endorsed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson that smelled like limes, called CitRock. It was a fun game, and I met some really great people. Normally, I feel awkward at parties, especially among strangers, but these guys were friendly and welcoming, and I had a great time.
Friday 3.15.18 - Today was HOT! Sweaty weather outside, which is perfect for a walk. Well, perfect for a walk if you’re doing it for exercise. I like to get sweaty. I walked a few miles around the neighborhood, stopping to look into a thrift store. If you’ve known me for very long, you have probably noticed I like to wear vests. As a sweaty guy, I have found that I tend to get pretty gross wearing a jacket onstage. I am also a chubby dude who feels that a t-shirt tends to cling to his curves. To me, a vest gives me the vibe of a jacket without all of the sweating, and it covers my love handles. I know I’m not fooling anyone, but I like how I look in a vest, and feel more confident. I had hoped I would find a unique, vintage vest in the thrift store, but I came up empty.
That evening, I went to a hip, outdoor venue called the Moontower Saloon. I met up with a couple of friends from college, Joe and Kira. They both live in Austin now and we hadn’t seen each other in some time. Kira’s husband’s band was playing, so we watched the show and spent a few hours catching up.
Then, I caught a Lyft to ColdTowne Theater, to do the stand-up show that I was booked on. I got to the area a little early, and noticed an In N Out
Burger nearby. I hadn’t had In N Out since I lived in Los Angeles in 2016. My stomach started to rumble. I ordered two lettuce wrapped burgers (gotta maintain that keto diet!) and treated myself to a nice pre-show meal before heading into the venue.
ColdTowne is such a cool venue. It’s an intimate space that only seats about 50 people, and is located next door to this amazing video store called I Love Movies. This place has a
ridiculous selection of movies from hard-to-find to new releases to films you thought everyone had forgotten about. I don’t know how it stays open because, you know, the internet, but it’s a cool place that I hope stays in-business.
The show was great. Everyone on the lineup was fantastic, and I wish I remembered all of their names. There were comics from all over the country - Boston, New York, L.A., Nashville, and Cleveland. I was excited to see the name, Ramon Rivas, on the lineup. Ramon and I met when he lived in Chicago briefly. Since then, he became probably the most successful recent name to come out of the Cleveland comedy scene and eventually moved to Los Angeles. He has always been a good dude to me, booking me to shows when I passed through Cleveland and is someone I love watching perform. He recently released a Comedy Central special, and it’s nice to see someone who worked so hard and genuinely deserves it getting success. Ramon didn’t know I would be on the lineup either, and when he came into the venue gave me a surprised hug. We didn’t get to talk much after the show, but he is here for South by Southwest and is having a very busy week. It was nice to see him.
Saturday 3.16.18 -That afternoon, Jessica asked me to take Butters for a walk. He is a rescue dog and has most likely been abused or dealt with some trauma in his past. Because of this, he is a little wary of strangers. It took some time to get his leash on, and he did not want to walk at first. I had to pick him up and carry him outside to the sidewalk. Then, once we were out there, I just had to be patient and wait for him to want to take a walk. He would walk for about 10-15 steps and then stop for a couple of minutes before deciding to walk again. One of the reasons to take a dog for a walk is to let them go to the bathroom. I was worried that Butters would be too frightened to go, but to my surprise, after about 15 minutes of starting and stopping, he trotted over to a patch of grass, lowered his butt, and plopped out a magnificent deuce. I took out a plastic bag and scooped up his majestic turds, and we finished our walk.
I also got to have a Skype session with my girlfriend, Jessica. Don’t confuse the Jessica that is my girlfriend with the Jessica who is letting me stay at her apartment. There are a lot of girls named Jessica out there. You probably know at least three. It was nice to get to actually see Jessica while talking to her, and we chatted for a little over an hour. It made me a little homesick for Kansas City. Well, homesick for her, but she’s in Kansas City, so you know what I mean.
In the late afternoon, I went back to Planet Fitness for a workout. I was planning on going to watch Party World Rasslin’ after the workout. They are a group that puts on an incredible independent wrestling show and were having an event that night. I used to host a wrestling podcast, and had one of their performers, Adam Serwa, as a guest on my show, and really wanted to check them out. I don’t do well in crowded spaces, though, and didn’t want to fight the traffic and madness of St. Patrick’s Day falling on a Saturday, so my anxiety got the best of me and I went back to Jessica’s apartment and spent the evening watching Netflix.
Sunday 3.17.18 - This was the day of the show. This production takes a lot out of me, mentally, because it forces me to relive a lot of trauma. I kind-of dread doing it on the day of the show, but in the end know that it will be worth it because people really seem to get something out of hearing my story. That doesn’t eliminate the churning in my stomach, though.
I started the day off by doing a DDP Yoga workout. DDP Yoga was developed by former professional wrestler Diamond Dallas Page, and I love it because I can do it from my room, no matter where I am staying. It always energizes me and makes my body feel loose and stretched out.
I spent the afternoon going over all of the major points of the show, then took the bus to the venue. I walked to the theater, going over the show in my head. It’s not a scripted show - I pretty much just tell my story to the audience and there aren’t any lines to memorize. Still, there are important parts that I want to make sure I didn’t forget. This was the hottest day of the week in Austin, so I showed up to Coldtowne sweating profusely.
The staff at the theater were very nice. It was the same venue that I had performed stand-up at on Friday, so I knew my way around the space. The nerves kicked in, and I waited backstage for the show to start. I was worried that I wouldn’t get an audience. It was the day after South by Southwest ended, and St. Patrick’s Day was the night before, so I was concerned that Austin would’ve done all the going out they were going to do the night before I took the stage. I was wrong, and was very surprised when I came out and was greeted by a good-sized crowd.
The show went well, and I gave what I think was one of my best performances. My friend from college, Joe, made it out. He was with James, another friend from college. Oh - and Liz’s mom - the lady who offered me a place to stay that I promised a ticket to - she came as well and brought a few friends. Jessica Arjet who was letting me stay with her was there with a friend, in the midst of a crowd of strangers. Dave Buckman, who is one of the owners of ColdTowne, also came to the show. I know the venue took a risk on letting a show that isn’t a straight-up comedy performance come to their venue and I appreciated Dave not only giving me a place to perform, but also for taking the time to come out and see the show. The response from the audience was fantastic, and I hung out in the lobby to talk to everyone afterwards. A person named Gina even came from San Antonio. She was working when my shows at Bexar happened and since she missed it there, took the time to come see me in Austin. It was a pretty great night.
Jessica gave me a ride home, and had some great things to say about my story. I really appreciated her taking the time to see the show. A week before, we had never met, and now I had shared some of the most personal parts of my life with her. She had some really encouraging words to stay on the ride home. Once we were back to her apartment, I packed my bags before heading to bed. This was the last night of a great week in Austin. Tomorrow, I head to my next stop on the tour - Houston!