Oct 08 2011
As I said, I pride myself on being the ultimate professional. Companies love having me and I enjoy them. I perform a family-friendly show. I don’t break into any crazy rants. All that said, I am human, and mistakes do happen. Let me share one – I think it’s pretty funny. After reading this, I’d love to know your comments.
Sam’s Club Event, Las Vegas, Nevada
I was the main entertainment at a large sales meeting for Sam’s Club. A lot of top salespeople were present. Now, many folks are committed to their company, it’s image, quality, etc., but no one is more passionate about it than the sales force. And none are more committed to their company than the fine executives at Sam’s Club. And rightly so – it’s a top notch corporation.
Sam’s Club may have a number of competitors, but the only one you probably know about is their biggest competitor, Costco. And they are fierce competitors. Let’s just say, you wouldn’t want to show up at a Sam’s Club meeting bragging about a flat screen you just scooped up for a song at Costco.
I have a bit I do, you might have heard it. I talk about how… “My wife and I hide brownies and muffins in the bedroom to keep them from the kids. We go in the bedroom late at night and lock the door. The boys probably think we’re doing something else, but we’re just under the covers eating brownies and laughing.” Later, after talking about something else, I tell them… “We have three boys, ages 20, 18 and 3. That’s right, 20, 18 and three. Yeah, we ran out of brownies one night. It won’t happen again, though. We get them….”
Let me back up a second. Thus far, the night’s going swimmingly. Everyone’s laughing and engaged. After a hard day’s work, people are enjoying themselves. Everything’s working. I’m the train, comfortably on the rails, with nothing but clear track ahead. However, there’s one person in the room, my manager, Lenny, who can see the train about to wreck. I’m oblivious. This bit I’m doing has worked every time I’ve done it. Without fail.
Later Lenny told me it was like one of those action movies where you see the person in slow motion helplessly trying to intervene yelling (also in slow motion), “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Lenny told me he had sweat dripping down his back and wanted to throw something at me (and he was close enough to do it). Like the old Krazy Kat and Ignatz cartoons.
But it’s too late. Here comes the punch line. The line that was meant to be the last line of my set, and would have been even if I didn’t mean it to be. I said, “Yeah, we ran out of brownies one night. It won’t happen again, though. We get them from Costco by the pallet now.”
That’s right, Costco.
The air went out of the room. At first, you could have heard a pin drop. Then people actually started booing. I hadn’t been booed in 20 years. By the time I realized what I’d done, it was too late to correct my mistake.
It had been a great set and to end on that note was a huge bummer. After I wrapped the set, I apologized to the executive who’d booked me. After a few uncomfortable moments, we were able to see the humor in it and we got a chuckle out of it.
However, I was upset about it for a few days. At least I got a good story out of it. There’s old Mark Twain again, “Humor is tragedy plus time.”
Ironically, we were never a Costco family. We shop at Sam’s Club. I use Costco in my bit because some genius decided (this is true) that words that begin with a “K” sound are funny. I guess that’s why they have “Clowns” not “Lowns.”
Anyhoo… I believe when you lose, you shouldn’t lose the lesson. I’ve gotten really good about scanning my material for anything that might offend any constituent. Nothing like that has happened since and, God willing, it’ll never happen again.