Sunday, December 18, 2005

Worst Christmas Show Ever Part 2

Worst Christmas Show Ever Part 2.

To re-live the first part of this post, please go to

As you know from reading the first part of this post I figured I had covered my bases pretty well during the initial conversation with “Gail.”  As I promised I contacted Gail a few days before the event to make sure everything was going according to plan.  Gail assured me everything was fine.  Again I mentioned what I need to make a successful show. (Again, see part 1  Again, she agreed to my stipulations.
So far everything was going along just swimmingly.

On the day of the event I made sure I left my house with plenty of time to spare.  Whenever I am doing a party like this, and I can spare the time, I always tend to end up having more than enough time to spare.  In this case instead of arriving fifteen to twenty minutes before the event like I said I would, I was a half an hour.  Not a problem, I rarely get in trouble for arriving too early.
A brief moment about the drive.  That particular day was a bad weather day.  It was raining AND snowing at the same time, making the roads a royal mess.  As well the sky was gray and the people on the radio were talking about the J.F.K. assassination.  
A sign of things to come.
When I arrived I went in without my “magic boxes” to scope out the situation.  Of course when I met Gail her first question was “Where is your stuff?”  I tried to explain that it was all in my car and that I just wanted to get a good look at my performance area first.
Now I rarely do this.  I usually trust the people who book me to make sure I have a good area to perform in, but today I had a, well, a feeling.  In response to this feeling I decided to scope the place out so that if I was given a bad spot then I could suggest a better location.
Unfortunately this turned out to be a major insult to Gail.  I had arrived without my magic cases.  How dare I!  
“You should be ready to go.”  She said.
I explained that I had a good half an hour before I was scheduled to start and that it took less than five minutes to set up.  No good, I had just committed a mortal sin.
After a few minutes of being berated I was taken to my performance area.  Remember in part 1 when I was told that this party was being held in a “Cafetorium?”  (A combination of a cafeteria and an auditorium.)  Well folks this place was no Cafetorium, it was just a plain old auditorium, bad acoustics and all.  (It did have a stage though, more on this later.)
Now I didn’t complain.  I kept a straight face while inside I was shaking my head, but on the outside I was more than professional.  I then asked where she thought I should perform.  She pointed to an area just to one side of the auditorium doors.
“It’s just what you asked for.”  She said.
And she was right.  It was an area that had something behind me, in this case a wall.  Unfortunately between the wall and my performance area were all of the jackets and shoes of the people attending the party.  I imagined being in the middle of a trick and having a family of four leave, getting their things behind me just at the climax of a trick.
I politely suggested that maybe, because of the coats and shoes, I should perform in front of the stage.  
“Nope, this is where you’re performing.”
Ok, fine, just another obstacle to overcome.  The next one was right across from me.  They had a Santa sitting on a badly decorated chair immediately across from where I would be performing.  I innocently asked “And the Santa will be done before I start?”
“I don’t know, just do your show and he’ll finish when he’s finished.”
Fortunately the food had already been served, almost.
“We’ll be putting dessert out during your show, we have a big Christmas cake for all the kids.”
“Well, could you save that until after my show?”
“I don’t know, we only have this place until 2, so we may have to serve it soon.  So, are you going to get your tricks now?”

Do you see where this is going?  Well let me tell you, the stuff you see is just part of the problem.  Stay tuned for part three on Wed. 21, 2005.  I promise it’ll be posted by then.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Worst Christmas Show Ever Part 1.

Let what follows be a cautionary tale of expectations not met. Let it remind you that no matter how well prepared you may be, you will still sometimes be faced with terrible situations.

Several years ago a woman contacted me, let’s call her Gail, for a Christmas show for her company. Like most of you I have a short script describing my show in as glowing a way as I can present, and like most of you my script includes the answer to the first question they will ask.
“How much do you cost?”
I quoted Gail my price and, after a few short questions on her part, she booked me for the show. At this point I have a list of questions that I like to ask to get an idea of what I am to expect.
My first question in this situation is always “Is this holiday show or a Christmas show?”
Yes, it seems like a silly question, but in this day and age you can never be too sure so I find it best just to ask up front. Never in the years I have been doing holiday shows has anyone been offended by this question, and Gail was no different.”
“It’s a Christmas show.” She replied.
“And where will it be held?” I asked.
She replied with the name and the address of the facility. It was a local recreation center that specialized in children’s recreation and learning.
“What kind of room will the performance be in?”
Answer: “A cafetorium.” I remember this clearly. (For those who don’t know a cafetorium is a combination of a cafeteria and an auditorium. The acoustics in a cafetorium aren’t the best, but it’s better than a gymnasium. Remember that line, it becomes important in the second half of our story.)
Q: “How many children will there be? I just need a rough estimate.”
A: “Well right now we’re expecting about 30 children, but there may be more.”

Q: “Will there be a Santa Claus?”
A: “Yes.”
Q: “Will he be giving out presents?”
A: “Yes.”
Q: I know this sounds weird, but I ask it just to be safe. Is your Santa Claus called Santa Claus?” (Yes, a bizarre question but one I learned hard when I went to a Dutch reformed private grade school (I’m Irish by the way). They call Santa Claus “Sinterklaas” and he’s got this weird servent fellow named “Black Peter.” So just in case, I always ask..)
A: “Yes.”
Q: “Will there be music? Either recorded or a live performance?”
A: “We will be using a portable CD player to play Christmas favourites.”

This went on for a while. I have about fifteen questions I usually ask for a Christmas show and I always take notes while talking to a client just in case something funny is said and I need clarification.
After I ask my questions I give Gail a chance to ask any questions that may have popped up. There were none. So I start my speech. We all have them, it’s the little speal we say that tells them how we like to set up and where it’s best to perform etc. This speech had a few of the folling mentioned.

- I will not use the stage, it’ll be better if I was on floor level. (It’s the cafetorium thing. I’ve performed in them before and, like I said, the acoustics are just OK.)

- I need something behind me, a wall or even the stage. That way no one can sneak around behind me and distract the children or sneak a peek into my magic box.

- I will be using music so I would appreciate it if you could turn off your music while I am performing.

- As for Santa, it would be best if he either finished handing out gifts before I begin, or better yet he could come out after I’m done. Many other clients have had me introduce Santa at the end of my show and I’m quite good at it, so I would be willing to do that for you at no extra cost. (Don't you love it? It sounds like yoou are giving them a sweet deal for a couple of extra lines.)

- If there is food, again please serve it either before my show or after my show.

- Older family members are welcome to join the children and watch the show. It is a show for children but a lot of adults enjoy it as well. (Just for fun I have one (ONE) special joke I do for the parents. They always say you shouldn’t but I like to joke so it stays.)

(I want you to remember these points, because they become important in the second part.)
Gail agreed with everything I said and, since she had no other questions, I told her that I would call and confirm three to five days before the event but if she had any questions or concerns, or if there is a change in time or location, to feel free to call me.
With that, I had booked a Christmas show and everything leading up to the show was just hunky-dory.
And then, the day came ….

To be continued ………….