Hello and welcome to Local Flavor, a new sporadic column here at Adam Is Freaking Out Right Now wherein I go and perform at colleges all over the country, dine at or around them, then report back here with the results. See in case you didn’t know I very often work what they call, “the college circuit,” which is kind of like the “Chitlin Circuit,” just with more acne and school sweatshirts. How it works is schools will contact my college agent and request me – or, more often, “stand up comedy” – and then off I bolt into the night, off to quench the insatiable curiosity of tomorrow’s burgeoning intelligentsia. Or at the very least tell dick jokes for a really good pay check. For the most part you’re in-and-out on college gigs, like a comedy assassin; so outside of the monotonous tedium of airplanes, rental cars, campus centers and Holiday Inn Expresses, the one meal you have in that town can often be the highlight of the experience. Or low-light. Once in Providence, Rhode Island the group hosting me offered to take me out to any restaurant in town, my choice. My mother had recently been to Providence and she told me of an incredible, expensive Italian restaurant that I simply had to try. Told me she’d pick up the tab if need be, but that I had to try it. When I told the students I wanted to go there I explained that it was pricey, that I understood college budgets can be tight, and that I’d be happy to take myself there, to dine alone even. They said don’t sweat it. That’s how I wound up dining with eight – eight! – college students who picked at the meager salads and appetizers they could afford while I feasted on course after course like some perverse, inbred Medici prince who can only get hard when his slaves watch him eat.
Once my green room had two bottles of water and a whole cherry pie (ate nearly half, drank both). Most often I eat at local restaurants alone, holding whatever book I’m reading up to my face so no one in the restaurant realizes I’m crying. Ha, ha, an entertainer’s life for me! Here then, is my first entry of Local Flavor. Please to enjoy:
The day started so promising. Prior to boarding my flight I yelped restaurants in Valdosta, Georgia and came up with several intriguing barbeque options – because you know the old saying “When in the South, get diabetes!” The best seemed to be Smok’n Pig BBQ, a joint near the highway that everyone described as looking like the sad homogenization of America – billboards, plastic booths, neon lights, drive-through – but that defied expectation with incredible, mouth-watering, dry-rubbed ribs, brisket, pulled pork, fried okra, mac and cheese and pecan cobbler. I like when places defy expectations like that, like a schizophrenic who reliably mows your lawn.
Gig was at six so I figured I’d eat after, come at those students hungry, like a mean, lean dick-joke machine, then get my glutton on at Smok’n Pig. But when I got to the school at 5:30, I was informed that the show was actually at seven, meaning I would be done around eight, eight-thirty, and would very much run the risk of the Smok’n Pig closing on me. Fuck. No BBQ for me.
To the student union then, with one hour to dine! To the student union to sup from the same cup that the Valdosta State masses sup, to forgo my plans of dining on an empty stomach and instead perform with a belly fully of student-feed, come at them from a place of shared gastrointestinal understanding. My choices included a Nathan’s Famous, a Starbucks, and The Loop Pizza. I went for the pizza, and I have to say it wasn’t all that bad. I did have to pay $8.55 for it, cash, which I think is some total bullshit. Come on, student activities coordinator, you can’t swipe me a free pizza on your points card? You don’t think I know how colleges work? Yeah, that charge goes right to your parents, but I’m part of your collegiate experience. I’m expanding your mind as much as any of your phoning-it-in professors – come on, have you heard my Mary Kate and Ashley joke? Shit’s brilliant! But whatever, it’s all good, because I totally asked for water then stole my Coke from the fountain. Point Cayton-Holland!
Gotta say, though, for what was essentially school cafeteria fare? That pizza was goddamn delicious. Got some pesto, rustic-y chicken personal pie that took awhile to make, so I have to assume they did some variation of cooking it right there, rather than just heating it up, but damn, tasty! My only complaint was that the slices were crazy uneven so one piece would have tomato and basil on it, but others wouldn’t. Like, some slices would have bits of chicken, others no. I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, work-study pizza-heater-upper, but have you heard of the one-bite theory? One bite encapsulates your entire dish? Well you BLEW THAT SHIT, homey! If this were Top Chef Colicchio would be all over your ass. Take some pride in your work man. Whatever, though, I sat there enjoying it while students stared at me and wondered who the fuck was this 31-year-old, bearded creep eating by himself and taking pictures.
And then it was time for the show. And no one showed. Literally no one. I’ve done probably twenty college gigs and once in Maine during a blizzard only eleven students showed, but the rest have been pretty well-attended, but this one? Not a soul.
“This is the third time this has happened,” the girl running the event told me. Huh. She told me I would still get paid and if nobody came after twenty minutes of waiting I could just leave. Then, after fifteen minutes, three girls came around the corner.
“Please lord do not make me perform an hour in front of three fucking people right now.” I prayed, like any god would give a fuck about my petty, minor convenience.
But the lord answered.
“Is this where you can give blood?” the boldest of the three queried.
Just mine, child, just mine.
Let us tally. All measurements are on scales of one to ten.
Taste: 8. Given the setting and the conditions, that pizza was really tasty. California Pizza Kitchen-level, which for a college student union is impressive. Two points off for shitty slicing though. Come on, not that hard.
Pride: 3. Essentially, was I filled with happy feelings or sad feelings during this dining experience? And this was most definitely sad feelings. Not total sadness, mind you, at the time I still thought I was about to perform, just a machine in need of fuel, nothing more. Alone, sure, but with a purpose. But have you ever sat and ate alone in the middle of a bustling cafeteria? When you’re at the very least nine years older than everyone there? And you reeeeally wanted delicious Southern Georgia barbecue? Pretty shitty feeling.
X-Factor: 1. Not one single fucking student? Flying from Denver to Jacksonville, renting a car and driving two hours to Valdosta, Georgia, eating cafeteria pizza, not barbecue, sprinting your frustration out on a Holiday Inn Express treadmill, going to sleep, driving back to Jacksonville, flying to Detroit, then to Denver during a snowstorm? About as fun as it sounds.
Total Score: 12. Out of 30. Total fail.
Tune in next time, gang. And thanks for reading Local Flavor!