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Early last month, my husband (in case you've forgotten) Brian McKim called a club we had played twice in the past two years for a re-booking. We had heard through the comedy grapevine that the establishment had recently changed ownership and we were worried that securing a future date would be difficult. Few people from the old regime, it turns out, had remained. Most had thrown a collective hissy fit and quit when the new work rules had been established. Without an ally behind enemy lines, our chances of working there again were fading fast.
But, suddenly, a glimmer of hope. After some prodding, the
friendly phone jockey informed Brian that the current booker
is a former waitress who had worked at the club during our
last engagement. "Ask her if she remembers me," Brian
semi-pleaded. "Oh yeah, she remembers you," he told him,
"She said, he's the guy with the wife.
Brian hung up the phone. Somewhat deflated, he turned to me
and said with a hint of resignation, "Eighteen years in the
business, and I'm known as the guy with the wife."
"How do you think I feel?" I shot back. "Fifteen years
in the business and I'm the wife!"
Whenever our fellow comics ask us what it's like to be married
and be on the road together, they are usually referring to
our offstage life. They tell us we're lucky. We know they don't
mean it. What they really want to ask is, ":How can you stand
being stuck in a car together for 12 hours? Do you ever get away
from each other? What do you do when you get hit on by an audience
member after the show?" (Ok, so that last question is never
Well, the answer is simple: we like each other and, luckily,
after nearly 16 years together, we haven't run out of things to talk
about. (We'll let you you know if and when we do.) As far as the
post-show pick-ups are concerned, Brian usually tells the audience
at the end of his set that we're married, which really cuts down on
the number of proposals. Although once in Atlanta he neglected to
do so and was later sleazed on by intoxicated twin exotic dancers
from the local gentlemen's club who were out celebrating their
birthdays. I was standing next to him at the time. I've never
seen him look so uncomfortable. It was a hoot!
In reality, it's our onstage life that causes us the most
stress. I often think it would be easier if we were more competitive
with each other or had bigger egos. Most comics only have to worry
about their own set and may even feel a secret thrill if they have
the best one of the night. Occassionally, I'll say to Brian right
before he goes on. "Follow that headliner boy!" but, he
knows that I'm only kidding. If he really couldn't follow me, I'd
feel terrible. At the same time, it's hard for him to get excited
about going up in front of a crowd that is giving me a hard time.
We've learned to deal with it, but it isn't always easy.
Every comic knows the feeling of having an audience member
slobber all over the other comedian and then turn to you and say,
"Oh yeah, and you were good too." Well, imagine if the
other comic is your spouse. Trust me when I tell you that you
wouldn't feel good no matter what side of the compliment you
were on. Female patrons have an annoying habit of pulling me
aside and whispering in a conspiratorial tone, "You were
funnier than your husband." To this day, I can't figure out
why they think I would want to hear such a thing. On a good day
is simply say, "It's a chick thing." On a cranky day I
say, "Why do you think I would want to hear such a thing?!"
Fortunately, I have more good days than bad.
For the most part, crowds are just tickled that we're married.
The ones that aren't tickled are incredulous and are convinced that
Brian was lying. The most commonly asked question after a show is
"Are you guys really married?" His standard reply
has become, "I don't know why you find it so hard to believe that
Traci could get a guy like me."
I'm sure we could create an entire list of reasons why being
known as the "married couple" has hurt our individual careers
in some way. But, why bother? Success may have alluded us, but sanity
hasn't. I'd rather be known as the wife then as the
divorced sitcom star who just recently checked into the Betty
Ford clinic for her dependencey on pain pills. Besides being
known as the married couple guarantees that we'll always be
booked on Valentine's Day.
And, in case you were wondering, the former waitress turned booker has said that she'll bring us into the club next fall. And, yes, we still plan on being married by then.
TRACI SKENE has appeared on VH1's Standup Spotlight, A&E's Comedy on the Road and Lifetime's Girls Night Out, all of which has done her absolutely no good.
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