I just saw Alonzo Thomas “Big Tommy Powellmann” Powellmann quit comedy forever until he gets back onstage next week.
Before you read all the reports flooding the blogosphere from people who weren’t at O’Grady’s Sports Bar and Video Lottery Emporium open mic last night, I’d like to give you my account, as someone who was there. Big Tommy is under siege from media bias, and deserves his fair shake.
From the moment Powellmann hit the stage, I could tell he was off his game. The 14-month veteran of standup comedy, best known for his appearance at the “Laugh Bands and Colaughstomy Bags” Showcase in the back room of Mitchell’s Medical Supply, started with his signature bit titled: “I know what you’re thinking,” which, without giving too much away, is a brilliantly self-skewering bit which acerbically pinpoints just what two late-80s hair band frontmen would have to copulate in order to produce a grown man who looks like Powellmann.
He then slid into his deeper material, in which he takes a bold look at gender relations (it turns out men and women have some fundamental differences). Clearly Powellmann misjudged what he thought was a “comedy audience,” as he was met with five chuckles from the ten-people audience, at least three of which I’d designate “charity laughs.”
"Oh…" he drawled, "guess you guys don’t like the dark stuff." This clearly was becoming the comic vs. the crowd.
Powellmann then went into damage-control mode, putting the unruly audience in their place by asserting “what am I even doing up here? It’s all just comics in the audience,” an observation that seemed to just go over the heads of all the comics in the audience, as they were mostly on their phones.
"Ummmm…what else?" Powellmann said, in a moment of brief–but illuminating–vulnerability. Watching him flip through his notebook, it became clear that it was time to bring out the big guns. "I guess I’ll read some tweets…"
That’s when the audience got nasty.
I wasn’t close enough to see the whole interaction, but a woman in the second row (really the first row, since there was nobody in the first row proper) murmured in her date’s ear: “can we get milkshakes after this?” (it may have been a different dairy treat; it was hard to hear over the lottery machines by now as half the audience had turned back to them).
It was at this point that Big Tommy abandoned the tweets and proceeded to unleash upon this Breaker of the Social Contract with several well-placed observations about her weight, physical appearance, and the overall likelihood of him having sex with her (in a well-placed twist, it turned out he would, though he expressed extreme reservations due to the laser-precise weight and beauty critiques made moments earlier).
Finally fed up with the audience and this whole sordid business we call show, Alonzo Thomas “Big Tommy Powellmann” Powellmann walked offstage four minutes into what had promised to be a five-minute set, but not before burning the place down with a resigned “You guys suck. I don’t know. Whatever.” Words that rang with finality.
"Yeah, he was weird, I guess," said someone in attendance, who didn’t wish to remain anonymous but I forgot the name of. "Maybe a little angry, I dunno. I went to the bathroom partway through because I needed to go to the bathroom. I came back, and he was yelling at that lady, which was funny because it’s funny when people yell at other people."
It’s hard to see an artist go unappreciated in their time. I can only hope the other nine individuals in attendance at O’Grady’s Sports Bar and Video Lottery Emporium one day look back on that show and realize the artistic voice they beat into submission with their apathy and smart phone use.
When asked how he felt about the meltdown, Powellmann stated, “I think I did pretty good, but some of it went over their heads.”