This week we'll post the 2015 winners of our My Best/Worst New Year's Eve contest. To prime the pump, Brad Weismann is sharing his memories of not one bad New Year's Eve, not two — but three. Keep reading for the sad stories.
Ah, New Year’s Eve! That gala night when we all dress to the nines, feast, carouse, dance and sing, welcoming the unfolding possibilities of the future, dismissing the sorrows of the past.
I hate New Year’s Eve. I hate its little confetti-freckled, champagne-besotted face. I want to hurt it. That we spend so much time, money and effort each year to end up in the same condition as drunken Vikings is beyond me.
I have never had a good New Year’s Eve. Not one. It’s not in the cards. And God knows I tried. Maybe that has something to do with my having been an entertainer for many years. For musicians, comics and other performers, New Year’s Eve is always a work night, a big-money night, the culmination of that lucrative and much-needed string of holiday gigs.
The first time I got fired from New Year’s, I was part of the improv comedy troupe at our home club, the Comedy Works in downtown Denver. I can’t quite remember what name we used that night. The boundaries of the comedy teams of that time were pretty fluid, and we all worked across different groups, under titles such as Scenic Overbite, Brains on the Dash, Late for Surgery, Goofy Poopers, Plastered in Paris and Chicken Lips. Like criminals, we changed our aliases frequently.
We sold the club’s the management on the idea that we would be the perfect (and relatively inexpensive) answer to its need for a multifaceted and magical night of New Year’s entertainment for people paying a considerable amount of money for a buffet, booze and show. Were we not all stand ups in our own right, and improv whizzes, singers, sketch writers? The results could only be colossally entertaining, and after winning the gig we only wished we, too, could sit in the audience that night and regard our own brilliance. (The Comedy Works hired the Accordions from Hell, too, just in case.)
Unfortunately, we thought it would be a masterstroke to open the evening by parodying a full-length feature film. Comic overdubbing was not a new idea; the idea of turning down a film soundtrack and substituting funny dialogue was familiar enough. Maybe it’s because we chose It’s a Wonderful Life. And decided that the plot should now be that George Bailey was a complete asshole, forcing everyone in town to put up money so he’d leave. Yeah. The movie played; we stood behind the screen, acting out our parts in sync with the film.
And it was quiet. Like church quiet. A sellout crowd sat there and watched us with the strained, stiff forbearance your parents display when you do something really embarrassing in public. We weren’t funny. And we weren’t smart enough to pull the plug on the projector and say, “Screw it, let’s move on!” We and our victims were trapped in a nightmare of our own making for 130 minutes. And they never did forgive us. The Accordions from Hell came on and saved the evening.
A few years later, we got an offer for another New Year’s gig and accepted it, warily. A new hotel/restaurant/bar was opening in Breckenridge. Would we inaugurate its new stage for New Year’s Eve? Okay. The owners sounded like just regular folks, nothing fancy, no pressure. No overdubbing, we vowed to each other. Everything would be fine.
Well. The stage turned out to be a snap-together portable dance floor in the center of a big room full of people drinking with verve and determination. It was snowing hard, and the restrooms seemed reserved for those wishing to ingest massive amounts of cocaine. The county sheriff was there – dressed as Santa, giving sleigh rides for charity. He wished us luck as he dandled a laughing waitress on his knee.
We were about halfway through the show when the fight broke out. In the middle of a scene, I heard a curse and a yell. A chair flew past my field of vision, and then the entire place exploded into the damndest bar battle I have ever been in, a Hollywood Western come to life. The three of us onstage collapsed into a back-to-back-to-back triangle, fending off kicks, fists and furniture.
The cops eventually waded in and broke it up, grabbing the two guys who started it. I stepped back to the stage. We tried to get back on track, but really, how can you top a bar fight? It was all downhill from there. We finished our set and went to the lobby. There, through the frosted window, we could see the fight’s perpetrators handc
uffed side-by-side in the back of the sleigh. Santa-sheriff called out, “Giddy-up!” and slapped the reins, and off they all trotted to jail.
The place went out of business before it could ask us back. We tried not to blame ourselves.
My last comedy gig ever was on New Year’s Eve, twenty years ago. Denver’s First Night was an event at which a grand tent would be set up down in the rail yards, where family-friendly entertainment would provide a wholesome alternative to the usual bacchanalian Ragnarok. No overdubbing; no alcohol! We would be fine this time.
The cowboy performers Blackburn & Masterson went on before us; everyone was enchanted by their patter, songs and lassoing. I went onstage and started to speak. A disgruntled, sleepy child at my feet called out, “More rope tricks!” The crowd took up the call. “More rope tricks!” It became a chant. And suddenly I was tired of trying to be funny. I wanted to see more rope tricks, too.
So I retired from comedy (no one noticed for years). Nowadays, I don’t drink, I don’t stay up late, and I definitely don’t go out on New Year’s Eve. We watch Casablanca and go to bed at ten. Then I get up early, make pancakes for the kids, and watch the Rose Bowl Parade. Nowadays, I like New Year’s Day much better.