I am rarely surprised by the performance of the acts I introduce when hosting a comedy show. For the most part, they are veterans of upwards of 10 years or more and I’ve become familiar with their routines. Last week while hosting at the Comic Strip I came across something different. I was told to bring up a Carlos Lavazerri, who had won an 8 minute spot at the club from a charity event. My first thought, does the guy have any stand-up experience, justifying him going up on a weekend show? ( I suppose a Tuesday night spot wouldn’t have been much of a prize). The manager said he did have some experience, which calmed my fears that this was going to be a complete disaster. I spoke with Carlos while the first act was on to find out what he wanted me to say for his intro and let him know where the light was, etc. Carlos said he had performed at the Comedy Cellar and Standup New York. Well, it sounds like the kid is padding his resume because I didn’t recall ever seeing him there. I gave him a sweet intro and sat in the balcony to watch, hoping he wouldn’t totally suck for this crowd, which I found receptive during my opening.

Carlos did not suck. Not even a little bit. For a young guy with about a year of experience, he was exceptional. I found myself laughing a lot and delighting in his cleverness. He spoke too fast in spots, and ruined some lines by simply not enunciating. Overall, his 8 minutes were laugh-filled as the audience ate him up for dinner. I was relieved and happy to see young talent like him.

I got a little different surprise not long ago down at the Cellar. I was working with Darrell Hammond from SNL at the Village Underground. There was another Darrell Hammond in the audience that night. This was a fortyish black guy that the original Darrell knew from Vegas. The black Darrell sings Sinatra out there and blows people away according to both Darrells.

Black Darrell shows up at the VU last week and asks if he can go on stage and sing a little Frank. Just a taste, enough to drive ’em wild he says. I’m trying now to think just how hard the OG Darrell vouched for this guy because he is starting to annoy me with his confidence. I didn’t intro him that night because of time restrictions, but I told him to come to the Cellar on Tuesday and I’d try to get him up.

Of course, he shows up with a cameraman! My original thought was to plant him in the crowd and “discover” a black guy that sings Sinatra. Now it’s clear he wants to be on stage and for that I had to go through the manager, booker, and owner of the club for clearance. A couple of acts later, it was a-go and I brought him up. First thing he does is an awful Mike Tyson joke/impression. I ran over to the light to signal him to SING and get the hell off the stage! Now he’s doing crowd work!? He’s asking which Frank song he should sing and should he play the piano or acapella? I don’t even remember the song he sang, but he sang it acapella, and not great.

Luckily, it was at the very end of a great show so the damage was minimal. He is probably back in Vegas by now telling everybody how he “slayed the crowd that night at the Comedy Cellar.” Don’t believe the hype indeed!​

William Stephenson

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