Sometimes I have to ask myself, where the hell am I? Comedy can take you to some very interesting places. Romania being one of them. Many comedians would want to be doing theaters and TV shows 5 years into comedy, but me, I wanted to travel and do comedy, and the result was doing a comedy tour in Romania. I get to the train station in Belgium headed for Germany before I go to Romania and I am immediately approached by a family of Syrian refugees. The mother kindly asks me if I can help her and her family get to Germany where Syrian refugees were taken care of by Germanys humanitarian programs including a home and weekly allowance. I don't know all the details of the Syrian civil war that was going on, but I knew enough to know that being a refugee must fucking suck. I had a very strict budget for this trip so helping pay for a family to go to germany wasn't part of it. I thought to myself, I didnt budget for this, but helping a family get to a safe haven and to know I just improved the lives of a family was more important to me than getting silly souveneers and getting drunk. So I got the tickets and sent them, on to Germany. It felt good and it felt right.
I leave and head to Romania where I'm the first Amercian to do a comedy tour in there and had no clue what to expect of this foreign land I knew nothing about, outside of the fact that the infamous Draculas Castle was there. When I arrive in Bucharest, the capitol, I am greeted by 4 other comedians that I will be touring with. One from the UK, Bosnia, New York and Romania. I am quickly fascinated by the scenery in Bucharest. Don't get me wrong there are nice buildings dispersed throughout the city, but there is this ubiquitous post communistic architecture all around you. It's depressing and charming at the same time. A real paradox, I know. I am just riding in along throughout the city in our sponsored "Allied Forces Comedy Tour" van thinking, wow I thought communism was over. It was. However, the architectural mess it left and the mindset of hopelessness and depression is still very prevalent in 2015. It may take 5, 6, 10 generations before it recovered from this wreckage that communism left. I may seem to be painting the picture of hell or post WW2 Germany. It wasn't that bad, but still a bit of a culture shock for a North American. To add to the landscape there is an interesting group of people that are every where you go in Romania, Gypsies, also known as the Roma people. They are very poor and blend into the population as a sad and disliked people. They beg on street corners or stand in the middle of streets in small towns asking for money or selling home made wine. Something I have never seen before. We leave the capitol and head off to meet countless numbers of gypsies.
On the second day we leave the capitol and are headed for a small town known as Constanta. Our tour is a mix of shows for American soldiers and local Romanians who desperately need a laugh. There is absolutely nothing to do in this town. Myself and the other comedians wait for the show to start in our hotel rooms. Finally, the show starts and we perform for a packed house of American soldiers. They are rowdy and drunk, just like I like my crowds. I understood the notion that many lower ranking soldiers would love to talk shit to the higher rankings but couldn't, so I was the mouth piece for the majority of the soldiers and ripped a few master sergeants assholes. The crowd just looses it. Massive applause breaks. My plan worked. We all have a great night there, then head back to the hotel where boredom awaits us. We decided to get drunk and play a modified version of soccer called "Gypsy Soccer" where there is no objective but to kick the ball as hard as you can while holding a beer.
Hungover the next morning, we leave and head to out next town where we are booked to perform for an ex communist theater that seats 800. We get to the venue and apparently the tour manager somehow "forgot" to promote this show. Thirteen people show up. The crowd was so stiff the host, Steve Hili, a Maltese/British comedian takes off his shirt and does his set shitless. I get on stage and am blinded by the horribly placed light right in front of the stage. So I can't see the audience, and my set is very crowd work heavy. So I walk over to the right side of the stage to see the audience but now the audience can't see me. To say the least, tyhre performance was awkward. I was promised $500 for the show, but the tour manager had to pay for a sound guy and due to low ticket sales, I made zero dollars. So. I'm in this tiny, very poor, post communistic small town in Romania, that I flew across half the planet to perform in, I don't get paid a penny, my set was really weird, the theater theater still smells like communism(you had to be there), almost no one showed up and my hangover isn't going away. Despite all of this, we still had a blast and made the most of it.Ill never forget Caracal, Romania.
We head off for our final show, but I pester our driver, Romanian comedian, Radu Isac to make a stop at Draculas Castle, because you can't go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower. The castle was absolutely beautiful and timeless. Everything from the torture chambers to the strategic military lookouts, it was awesome and creepy. We leave and Im still blown away that we just got to see Draculas Castle and about 5 minutes of driving I start to see these very interesting houses. I ask Radu, "what the hell are those?!" He tells me they are rich gypsy houses and not to take pictures because we might get hurt. The architecture is fascinating with what I can only describe as shiny silver Chinese style rooftops with unfinished exterior due to lack of funding. I was honestly more impressed with the houses in the gypsy village than Daraculas Castle. After all, culture shock is what I love most about traveling.
We head to our final destination, Campia Turzii. We are told that we will be performing in a banquet hall for over 400 soldiers that night. We show up to the venue and there are 4 soldiers. Apparently our tour manager "forgot" to promote this show as well. The Romanian tour manager is chain smoking out of stress at this point. He, along with Radu, agree we should cancel the show and go home. I come from Los Angeles where performing for 4 people is pretty normal early on. I tell them, "lets have a show guys. We can sit down at the table with them and get to know each one of them individually. Sit down comedy. It'll be fun. Come on lets turn this shitty night into a fun one." They both smile and agree. Why not. Each one of the comedians including myself sit at the table one at a time and entertain them and the show is absolutely amazing. I told the guys, "See, you wanted to just give up and we turned that around into an amazing show." They both smile and the tour manager hugs me and says, "You really changed the way I think man. Romanians are very negative and you are very positive and don't give up. This changes everything and from now on Im going to think this way". What was the most memorable part of the night was after the show a soldier came up and said, " I really want to thank you guys for what you did. I have a lot of tough things going on in my life and back at home with my family right now and you guys helped me forget about all of that for one night. I really appreciate that". This is exactly why I do comedy. I took a shitty night and turned it into a night we will all remember and helped to change the way a person thinks, helped make someones night better and had a blast doing it. Not the biggest crowd Ive every done, but definitely one of the most memorable nights of my life.
In conclusion, as a cliched 8th grader would write on his half assed mid term paper, this trip was another excursion that made me grow as a person and reminds me that I get to live a crazy cool life. I quit a secured business job and lucrative future to roll the dice at being comedian years ago. I may not have had sold out theater shows in Romania but these kinds of experiences are absolutely priceless and I would never trade them for a minute a financial safety and mediocrity. Adventure is what i wake up for in the morning. It may not always be pretty, but its a life worth writing about. As the cliched 8th grader would write in his crappy movie report, until next time.