I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics by Shydner Ritch & Schiff Mark

I Killed: True Stories of the Road from America's Top Comics by Shydner Ritch & Schiff Mark

Author:Shydner, Ritch & Schiff, Mark [Shydner, Ritch]
Language: eng
Format: mobi
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Published: 2009-01-20T16:00:00+00:00

DON ADAMS HATED STANDUP

Ron Zimmerman

My second job in show business was rewriting the movie Back to the Beach. Don Adams showed up one night to do a scene that I had to write for him on the spot. Writing it didn't take much time, and once I was done they sort of asked me to sit and hang out with him, because he was going to have to be there all night to shoot his scene at sunrise.

We sat in Don's trailer. He was really nice, full of stories, and he told me that he'd started as a club comic, working with Lenny Bruce, Buddy Hackett, and those guys. But he fucking hated it. Even the thing that every standup loves, the laughter, was a pain to him. After he became a huge star as Maxwell Smart on the sixties spy spoof sitcom Get Smart, he was getting paid $50,000 a night to do ten minutes in Las Vegas. He'd go on, and no matter what he said, the audience just cracked up laughing, and still he hated every second of it. He called it “the most awful, humiliating way for a human being to collect money.”

He told me a story about how in the fifties he was working at some club where Lenny Bruce, Buddy Hackett, and Jan Murray played. A guy came around saying he needed somebody to open for Mae West. He was paying fifty dollars, great money at the time. Don was the one who had the most kids and needed the money the worst, and everybody else there was a little bit more successful than he was, so the other standups gave him the gig. He did have to drive from New York City to the show in Boston, but fifty dollars is fifty dollars.

The venue in Boston was a burlesque theater, and Don had no dressing room, so he was hanging around backstage when Mae West's manager found him and said, “You must be Don Adams, the comedian. Mae is very excited. She's heard all about you.”

Don was surprised. “How? I'm totally unknown.”

The manager was slick. “Oh, Mae uses opening comics all the time, so she keeps her eye on that world. She knows all about you guys. One thing that you have to do that Mae likes. You have to come with me into her dressing room before the show and just do your act for her first.”

Don said, “I can't do my act for one person in a dressing room. The material is geared for an audience. It's not for one person. That's impossible. It's not going to be funny at all.”

“Don't worry about it. Mae thinks you're a riot. She just wants to hear the material and know what you're going to say before you go out there. She's not judging you that way. And come on, it's Mae West. She's a legend.”

So they went back into the dressing room, which was nothing but wardrobe carts. Mae West had twenty costume changes.



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