Back In Black

The defining moment, as I had been anticipating it would be, was putting on the shirt.

My black Face2Face shirt had hung, untouched, for almost three months, since the last time I had performed in it. The process of putting it on, of buttoning it, meant something. It meant, after months, we were back. It was visceral, and I loved it.

Friday night’s show was amazing. The audience was small, but they were great — giving us good material, and laughing uproariously. We were at Ars Nova, which meant we were working on a stage, and with theatre lighting, which added to the experience. We were firing on all cylinders, hitting everything just right. Personally, I did some good work. It was a perfect return to form, the ideal comeback. Our director, Gene, is generally our harshest critic, but, after the show, said he had nothing negative to say about it; not because it was without flaw, but because it was so good over all that it didn’t matter. I was happy.

I had two “David Hitt” moments Saturday between the two shows; moments where it kinda feels like I’m this guy that I’m supposed to be — “costume party” moments, to use a term I’ve used before. Realizing my name is in three books — without mine being among them — at the Barnes & Noble in Birmingham last weekend was one of those.

I went to the book signing for Homer Hickam and Anousheh Ansari’s new book at the Barnes & Noble here that afternoon, the first book signing they’d held. And, while there was a decent crowd, it wasn’t as big as the crowd for my first book lecture last year. Now, I’ve done many many smaller talks, and they sold a whole lot more books, and they’re event later that night was much bigger, but it was still sort of a cool moment.

I left there and went to Target, where I was recognized by someone I didn’t know — “Hey, are you going to be in the show tonight?” Those moments also still amuse me.

Apropos of nothing, but on the way to the show that night, I found myself behind a truck with the license plate IMPRVIT. My first thought, for some reason, “I’m private.” The most likely possibility, upon further thought, “Improve it.” But, as far as I was concerned in that moment, it was “Improv it!”

The show at Kenny Mango’s — well, it could have been better. The general consensus was that the first half wasn’t that great, but that the second half stepped things up a notch. For me, I was unhappy with both. I was glad for the show to be over, and that’s rare for me. For some reason, the audience was very hard for me to read, and that was unpleasant. At this point, I have a pretty decently calibrated sense of my work; I know when something is funny, I know when my timing is right, I know when my delivery is good, I know when my physicality is on, etc. And I know when I hit the sweet spot of those things, it should play well for the audience, and I should get a reaction. And that wasn’t happening.

To use a nerdy analogy, on a zero-g airplane flight, you’re most likely to have problems with motion sickness not when you’re weightless, but when you’re pulling the hyper-g periods between the weightlessness. You’re heavier than normal, and as a result, your vestibular system is registering each motion as more than it normally would. At 2 g, you move your head, and your eyes see that you’ve moved x distance, but your vestibular system says you’ve moved 2x distance. Your brain doesn’t know how to mesh the two signals, and gets confused.

That’s what happened to me Saturday night — I got comedy vertigo.

Which isn’t to say the show was without redemptive moments. One of my favorites was during the game “Party Guests,” where one of the players was sent outside, the rest of us were given characters to play, and the other player came back in and had to guess who we were supposed to be at a party he was hosting. The character I picked, combining a couple of suggestions — “Johnny Cash, Rocket Scientist.”

Characters like that, I love. I love combining musicians with other elements, retooling song lyrics on the fly, and, ideally, as mentioned last week, inflicting my horrible singing on an audience. So upon introducing myself to the host, I explained how I once “shot a man in a rocket, just to watch him fly.” Then, later, I went into this convoluted story about how I’d had June helping me on a project I was working on, and that she had figured out a better way of delivering the oxydizer to the engine, so I told her (singing), “because of your line, my rocket’s fine.”

And then, making it even better — later in the show, we’re doing an entirely different scene, playing different characters in a different game. I was a mad-scientist supervillain type in a game called “At The Gates,” in which the “surprise” ending is that we’re all dead, and we each take turns telling part of our story until they all tie together at the end. The stories all start separately, and then all come together when we die. One of the other players was my arch-nemesis, Captain Combustible, who didn’t so much have a superpower as he did just really enjoy setting stuff on fire. So by the end of the scene, we’re at a high school, and he’s set everything on fire, and someone else in their part talks about how they tripped me and so it’s my turn to go out and finish my story:

“So I was there in the school, and there were flames everywhere, and I was going through the hall, and someone tripped me …

“And I fell down, into a burning ring of fire! I fell down, down, DOWN — and the flames went higher! And it burned! burned! burned … that ring of fire!

“And that’s why I’m here, at the gates.”