Anytime I’ve had to ask anyone to leave, it’s been relatively smooth because I physically have 30 people standing behind me giving the offender the same look. There really isn’t any room for douchebags or assholes at an improv bar because disagreement makes for bad comedy bits and “this ain’t that kind of scene, dude.”
I’m reminded of this frequently when I travel to other bars in town. I see various acts of rudeness going unchecked. I see rampant egos ruining other people’s evenings simply to serve their own selfish needs for what they consider to be “partying."
I see people over-served and wandering aimlessly because their “friends” abandoned them.
I see guys fly off the handle in situations where a simple “excuse me” would suffice. It always makes me think, That would never happen at iO. Someone would take care of that person. Cooler heads would prevail. It helps that we at iO all speak the same language, though.
QUICK ASIDE: Kim Mulligan asked me the other night whether or not I was able to “turn it off” when I’m at other bars. Honestly, I can’t. I’ve been doing this way too long. I can walk into any bar, anywhere, and within five minutes tell you who has been over-served, who is underage and HOW they got in, whether or not the bouncer is on the take, which bartender is drunk, if the owners are on drugs (and yeah, I can tell who the owners are usually), and so on and so forth.
I can see a fight 10 minutes before it happens. Studying improv and learning how to read people’s body language has only heightened that skill. It used to drive me crazy but now I just remind myself that I don’t work there and Charna signs my checks, not these people.
In this job, I spend a lot of time patiently listening to a particular view and attempting to be objective. I try to find mutually beneficial solutions. I try to encourage people to work with me.
Hey man, I want a lot of people at your show as well. Let’s try and work out some drink specials.
I spend a good part of my time reminding interns, who are our lifeblood, that although they are not getting paid, they are still getting something of value (free classes) so they should really try to treat it as, you know, a “real” job.
I also spend a lot of my time encouraging those who go that extra distance and do something because it needed to be done and not because they were asked to do it.
I want those interns and staff members to know that I saw it and appreciated it. That they aren’t faceless, that someone is watching and recognizes effort when it is given.
And I always wasn’t very good at it at first. I was used to regular bars where I had to exert a little more authority and use a different sort of language - “bar” rhythms, not “improv” rhythms.
I was reminded by one of my servers not too long ago that one of my first requests for her to do something the way I wanted it done began with the line, “Now, I know you’re not retarded but,…”
Woof. Yeah, not good, I admit! But I was used to working with restaurant/bar “lifers." My godmother, my Aunt Kathy, was the head server at Coletti’s in Chicago for thirty years. She would have smirked and gone right on with it.
At the end of the night we would have been friends again. That’s just how the business works.
You can read this post in its entirety where it originally appeared at PhillyImprov, and you can see Brian James O'Connell don his many clever hats either behind the bar (through November 8) or on the Main Stage with Top Story! Weekly, Dr. God, The Armando Show and others.