I was up on stage, midway through some new routine that I would probably never use again, floundering, when a man walked off of Colfax and straight into infamy. He was frazzled and drugged-out-looking — nothing out of the ordinary for a Tuesday-night comedy open-mike at the Squire Lounge. Unlike most of the oblivions who wander in off the 'Fax, though, this man was speaking loudly into a cell phone. At least that's what I thought he was doing. But as I studied the vagabond so rudely interrupting my set, I noticed that the object he was clutching to his ear was not a cell phone at all. It was a baby shoe. A bright-pink baby shoe.
"Are you talking into a baby shoe?" I asked the man.
He was so caught up in his conversation that he put one finger in the air, that international gesture for wait-a-fucking-second-I'm-busy.
"Where's the other shoe?" I continued, incredulous. "Christ, where's the baby?"
At this point, my friend and the emcee of the night, Greg Baumhauer, bounded back onto the stage and took the mike. "Everyone, we're going to spread out and search all of the dumpsters in the area," he joked. "We're going to find this man's baby. Or at the very least, the other shoe." Annoyed, the man plugged the ear not attached to a baby shoe with his finger and tried to continue talking over the din of the crowd. But finally he realized that this was not the best place to carry on what appeared to be a very intense exchange, and so, frustrated, he walked back out onto Colfax and disappeared, possibly headed toward whomever was on the other end of that shoe.
In a nutshell — pun intended — Baby Shoe represents all that is glorious and wonderful about Tuesdays at the Squire. Or, as I like to call them, Tuesdays With Whorie.
For the past four years, Greg has run the wildest open mike in town. And for the past four years, I have spent the great majority of my Tuesday nights right there with him, crafting the bulk of the material that I use today, learning how to roll with the punches while performing for an unpredictable crowd that can get quite volatile. Is it depressing to spend this much time at a dive bar on Colfax? Absolutely. But if you think comedy comes from a happy place, sir, you are mistaken. Plus, the Squire has $1.50 PBRs.
The open-mike night marks its four-year anniversary on June 3, and to commemorate the occasion, Greg has printed up shirts that say "Squire Lounge, Meanest Mic in America." Though he did no fact-checking to verify this, and probably doesn't even know what fact-checking is, I do not doubt the truth of this slogan. When not talking about his own penis, Greg is making fun of any comic who gets up on the stage — regardless of talent or experience. And though very often the content offered by the comedians can mirror the gnarliness of the surrounding Colfax environs, I would argue that it's not necessarily the meanness that keeps people coming back, but the fact that you never know what you're going to get. An open-mike night is not an easy thing to maintain. They pop up all the time, but most of them fizzle out with a whimper, too boring to pull in enough people to make it profitable for the bar. But while it staggered initially, the Squire's open-mike night has grown to the point that Tuesday is now the bar's biggest day. There's always something to see — off stage as well as on.
I've seen famous comedians stop over after gigs at the Comedy Works and Vietnam vets rush the stage; I've seen completely delusional schizophrenics take the mike and kill, and completely delusional schizophrenics take the mike and threaten to kill; I've seen trannies, hotties and midgets. Well, one midget, and he wasn't funny. But more important, I've seen dozens of gifted comics earnestly put in the time and get better and better at their craft.
So it is with a heartfelt slap on the ass and the purchase of a PBR and a Beam that I say Happy Birthday to you, Tuesdays at the Squire. Though you may be the most foul-mouthed four-year-old I have ever met, here's hoping you never outgrow your baby shoes.