59 Hours of Comedy

59 Hours of Comedy


June 3rd is the 6th anniversary of a 3-day continuous standup comedy show, which won the Guinness Book of World Records award for longest standup show of all time. When I heard The Comic Strip Live was hosting the charity event I knew I had to be the emcee. (Competition has never motivated me-I consider standup an art form so I wasn’t trying to impress anybody). I felt this would be a fun thing to do-totally immerse myself in standup comedy for 50 hours in a row! The owner and booker of the club were surprised that I volunteered to do the whole damn thing as they were thinking of getting different hosts for a few hours at a time. It didn’t take much cajoling to be named host because it eliminated a good deal of potential scheduling problems.

As I understood the rules, there had to be a comedian on stage at all times and wait staff to serve at least 10 people. During the off hours, the club hired a shift of extras to sit, insuring the minimum for the morning and afternoon hours. The weeks leading up to the event saw the club pulsing with excitement. T-shirts were made with World Champion on the front. An attempt was made to get a Dave Chappelle – Dane Cook face off because they both claim to have performed the longest set of 6 hours plus. It did not happen, but the overall lineup was quite solid, showcasing more than a hundred of the best comics in NY. The acts were given slots, with some coming back on different days. The shortest spot was 20 minutes and the longest an hour-plus. I didn’t do much preparation for the event other than making sure I had plenty of sleep the night (and day) before the 8:30 PM start time Tuesday. I felt adrenaline and coffee would get me through the off hours. (Turns out not much is funny at 9:30 in the morning. Any morning).

The show began with a packed house and stayed full until the wee hours. The world record angle kept the crowd excited for the first 10 hours, but by then most of the crowd was replaced by new people or the extras. One guy came with a setup like when folks camp out to be first in line to buy a new thing on sale. There may have been a few other people that stayed the entire 50 hours, including two bloggers. An air mattress was set up for me in the basement and I flopped there whenever a comedian had a set of 30 minutes or longer. A staff member would come down and wake me up 5 minutes before I had to get back on stage. By the 25th hour, everybody involved walked around in a semi-coma questioning their commitment. It wasn’t long after that, the feeling became, we were more than halfway home, we were going to make it.

Overall all the show was great in spots and barely hanging on a thread in others. I wasn’t worried that I would run out of material, I was going to do every joke I’d ever done and ad lib when needed. With 24 hours to go adrenaline kicked in again. All day Thursday everybody involved was convinced we were going to get the record. I’m sure a lot of people thought I was doing a ton of cocaine, but I got through it with just a single bump. Red Bull was not an option because I refused to taste it as it looks like piss.

Judah Friedlander was the final act and once he was introduced it was clear the record was ours….provided Judah stayed onstage saying words for at least 20 minutes. He did that and more to make sure. When I returned for the final bow, I was overcome with emotion.

Tears poured out of my eyes as I made no attempt to hide my feelings. A man from Guinness presented me and the owners a certificate of our accomplishment. I prepared an Ipod playlist for an after show celebration that started with The Temptations “Standing On The Top” (with Rick James).

My lasting memory of this event turned out to be Ruperto Vanderpool jumping on a showroom table after the record was secured to sing Santana’s Maria Maria. He sang that song like he wrote it-built all the instruments and played them, too.

William Stephenson

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