This weekend was all about preparation.
I had two theater shows in Durham and Charlotte opening for Sebastian Maniscalco. The combined capacity of both theaters still doesn't match the capacity of Shea’s Performing Arts Center, where I will be opening for him on March 25, but this was the closest to a test run that I will get before the big show in Buffalo. On top of that, I accepted three headlining shows at a club in Winston-Salem.
It made for five shows in three nights and three cities for about 3,600 people. It was an ambitious undertaking and took a lot of brainpower, but it was also one hell of a ride.
6:40 p.m. Friday
Leave for Winston-Salem. Arrive at Laughing Gas Comedy Club 10 minutes before showtime. It’s a smaller club that fits about 80 people. A huge mural serves as the backdrop of the stage that takes up an entire wall from floor to ceiling.
Tonight there are only 22 in the crowd, but they are a lot of fun. I close the show with a 54-minute set that ranges from the invention of cigarettes to a married couple named Winston and Salem. By the time I’m done, my fiance, Lauren, has had too much tequila from trying to hold her own at the bar in the back of the room. Time to go home.
9 a.m. Saturday
I sleep in a bit and wake up with a big day of writing, driving and performing ahead of me.
Maybe the tequila is still having effects, but Lauren has been up for two hours already and started a Brian Herberger Comedy Facebook Page. I make some additions and try to gain some followers. We are up to about 150 in the first hour.
I listen to my recorded set from the night before, making notes about things I said and tweaks I want to make for the two headlining spots I have tonight.
Before those spots, I will do 15 minutes at a theater, so I listen to my last two theater sets that I did back in September in Rochester as well.
After listening, writing, Facebooking and tweaking all morning, I begin to pick out clothes for the next two nights. At this point, I just want it to be showtime.
Leave for pre-show dinner. We won’t have much time to eat later. We order a medium pizza and I eat about half a slice. I’m focused and don’t have much of an appetite. I also don’t want to have to suck in my full stomach in front of 1,400 people.
Arrive at The Carolina Theatre in Durham. Walk in through the back door by the loading dock that is surprisingly not locked. We bump into the stage manager and he recognizes me immediately. He leads me to my dressing room, a makeup area that is built for 20-plus dancers at a time. My name is on the door and I have about an hour to pace and try not to sweat too much. We walk around the theater a bit and I get a feel for the stage.
The Voice of God calls my name and I take the stage. The crowd is mostly settled and ready to laugh. It’s amazing, even with all of those people out there I can see only the first couple of rows with the many bright lights.
It’s feels like performing to a normal sized comedy club until you get your first laugh and it almost knocks you over like a rolling wave of energy. They’re packed in. I have a strong set and ad lib briefly about how half of North Carolina is from Upstate New York, just like me.
I say “Thank you” and “Have fun with Sebastian” before I walk off. I grab my stuff and we sneak out the back door as Sebastian takes the stage to an eruption of applause and cheers.
We are in the car headed for Winston-Salem. The Show starts at 8. I’m supposed to be there between 8:30 and 8:40. Google Maps has our ETA set at 8:50. I text the club owner that I might be late and try not to speed as I pray for no traffic interruptions.
We arrive at the club just in time. The two acts before me cover for me and I have just a moment to breathe before it’s my turn to go on and close the show. This crowd isn’t as fun as the one from last night, even though they are slightly bigger, and it’s a tough transition going from a packed theater of 1,400 to a lightly attended room of about 30.
The second show is underway and this crowd is tough to read. There is one table of four that seems to be carrying the load for the rest of the audience.
I am very loose and interact with the crowd a lot more than I normally would. I close the show with 40 minutes and wish the crowd and the rest of Winston-Salem a good night. My adrenaline is running low but we finally make it home at 1:30 a.m.
9 a.m. Sunday
The relief of having made it through Saturday hits me when I wake up smiling. It was hectic, but everything went really well. I have one more theater show in Charlotte tonight, so I listen to my 20-minute set from Durham the night before. I am able to relax today. The hardest stretch is behind me.
Leave for Charlotte. The Belk Theatre has about three different names in the Google Maps so it takes me a little longer to find it, but again I make my way in through the back door and find my green room.
I listen to the Sabres blow a lead against Pittsburgh on my phone as I’m killing time before the show.
After a brief delay, it’s time for me to go on. This theater seats 2,100, and for a Sunday night the crowd seems to be full of a fun energy. I am asked to stick to a tight 15 minutes tonight, so I hit them hard with my best stuff and walk off feeling like a rock star. This time the laughter waves are reverberating through my entire body and there is no other feeling quite like it.
After watching the rest of the show from Stage Right, I walk out with the rest of the audience. I should have expected this, but most of the people recognize me. After standing in a few pictures, I sneak into a bar and order another medium pizza. This time I eat the entire thing with no hesitation.
This may have been my most hectic comedy weekend to date, but from 15 minutes for 2,100 to 54 minutes for 22, it felt great to have so much stage time and be in front of so many people.
I can’t wait and now I’m more ready than ever to do it again in my home town at Shea’s.
Brian is writing weekly about his stand-up life, culminating in his March 25 appearance at Shea's. Visit buffalonews.com each week to follow along.