Gerbasi, Catherine

Panic, Rest, Repeat: A Day in the Life

Being a waitress is a difficult job.  But being a waitress at a comedy club that seats over 300 people every night, twice a night, while at the constant beck and call of a celebrity? Even harder.

Governor's Comedy Club in Levittown

Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown. photo credit to govs.com

I’ve had my fair share of jobs throughout the years, and this one is by far the most challenging.  However, it is also the most rewarding.  I work at a comedy club in Levittown called Governor’s Comedy Club.  It is one of a chain of three comedy clubs on Long Island, the others being The Brokerage, in Bellmore, and McGuire’s, in Bohemia.  Governor’s features some of the best comedians around, from well known comics such as Aziz Ansari, Amy Schumer, and Kevin James, to small, local comics who are just getting their careers started.  Most nights at the club are pretty crazy, but this past Friday I had one of the craziest nights at work that I’ve ever had.

Comedian Kevin James, who often performs surprise shows at the club

Comedian Kevin James, who often performs surprise shows at the club

Every so often we get a surprise headliner, who is usually someone very well known.  Just that morning, my boss announced that Louis CK, one of my personal favorite comedians, would be headlining two shows that night, one at 8 and one at 10:30.  My shift began at 5 pm, three hours before the first show of the night was set to start. My coworkers and I begin prepping salads, sauces, and setting up the room for the 600 plus people that would be coming through the doors later that night.  We wrap silverware, light the candles on the tables, clean menus, and re-stock straws, napkins, and glasses until we are as prepared as we can be.

Next, we pick our sections.  On a busy night like that, there are usually nine servers on the floor and one in the kitchen, who’s only job for the night is to drop everyone’s food at their tables.  We pick from a hat and I open the crumpled piece of paper to reveal a small number 5 written in black sharpie.  My heart stopped.  The green room, where the comedian waits before, during, and after the show, is in section 5.  That meant that I, a HUGE Louis CK fan, would be serving him backstage that night.  I couldn’t believe it.  My boss immediately handed me a list of things that Louis had requested.  A fruit platter, a ham and turkey sandwich between shows, and some hot water and lemons for tea.  Pretty simple compared to some of the other requests we had gotten.  That made me feel a little more relieved, it was hard to screw up a fruit platter and hot water.

At around 6 o’clock customers began arriving.  It soon became very clear that we were not going to have enough seats for everyone.  My boss began to panic, which, of course, made me and all of my co-workers panic as well.  Within minutes, my section was full. 12 tables, 52 people total.  That meant 52 drink orders, 52 menu questions, and 52 hungry customers all at once.  I went around to all the tables as quickly as I could and took their orders, making sure to put

A view of the show room from the stage.  Photo credit to govs.com

A view of the show room from the stage. Photo credit to govs.com

everything into the computer as carefully as possible.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  That wasn’t so bad.  I walked up to the bar to wait for the drinks, only to have my sigh of relief be shattered by the bartender telling me that the printer wasn’t working, so he hadn’t received any of my drink orders. The show was about to start and not a single one of my customers had received their drinks yet.  Suddenly I panicked.  The green room.  Amidst all the chaos I had completely forgotten about it.  Louis CK was probably sitting back there starving wondering where my boss was so he could insist that she fire me.  I ran to the kitchen, pushing past anyone in my path.  “Dwight! I need a fruit platter and ham and cheese sandwich! It’s for the green room!” I said to the head chef.  He immediately stopped everything else he was doing and prepared everything for me.  As soon as it was ready I threw it all on a tray with silverware and ran backstage, making sure to take a deep breath and calm myself before knocking on the green room door.  I knocked and a man’s voice said “come in!” from inside.  I slowly turned the doorknob and entered the room to see Louis CK, sitting on the couch watching TV with not a care in the world.  He turned and acknowledged me then looked back at the TV.  “Hi, I’m Catherine.”, I said.  “Here’s your fruit platter and ham and cheese.  There’s a kettle with hot water on the table and a basket with tea bags and lemons for your tea.  If it gets cold just let me know and I’ll bring you some more.”  He stared straight ahead at the TV until I was finished talking, then looked at me with a small smile and replied “Great, thanks!”  and returned to watching.  I left, surprised at how well that had gone, and walked back into the room where my 52 angry customers were waiting.  I walked quickly, being sure not to make eye contact with any of them.  I wasn’t ready to deal with that yet.  As I approached the bar I saw all my drinks there waiting for me.  Thank god.  I dropped the drinks at my tables and all was calm.  The rest of the show went as smooth as ever, and it didn’t hurt being able to listen to Louis CK perform while I served my tables.  The show ended, I dropped my checks, and my customers left.

Now came the hard part.  As if the rest was easy.  It was now 9:45, leaving my coworkers and I less than 45 minutes to completely turn the room over and have it ready for the 10:30 show.  As I looked out into the lobby, I could see the line of people was already outside and beginning to lead down the block.  That meant we had to do this fast.  I cleaned, wiped, and re-set my tables in lighting speed.  The hostess began seating people and before I knew it, it was time to do it all over again.  The second show was just as hectic as the first, if not more.  The kitchen was backed up, the bar was backed up, and my customers were NOT happy.  I went back to check the green room.  Louis was eating his ham and turkey and laughing loudly with the other comedians.  At least he was happy.  Eventually all my food and drinks were dropped and Louis took the stage, turning angry, hungry customers into happy, entertained ones.  I looked at my watch for the time.  11:35.  25 minutes to go.  25 minutes until I could relax, sit down, and have something to eat after my long, exhausting shift.

The show ended and just like that, my night was finally over.  I closed all my checks and made my way to the green room to clean up.  To my surprise, Louis was still there when I walked in.  I opened my mouth to apologize for barging in but was interrupted by him.  “I was waiting for you to come back here!” he said.  I smiled nervously, trying to figure out what I had forgotten or messed up that he had been waiting for me for.  He picked up his coat, took out his wallet, opened it, and handed me money.  I had always been told it was rude to look at or try to count money in front of the person who gave it to you, so I immediately put it into my apron and thanked him.  He shook my hand, thanked me for my service, put his coat on, and left.  I finished cleaning the green room and went to count out my tips from the night.

Governor's staff after a long shift

Governor’s staff after a long shift

I usually do pretty well on busy, double-show nights.  But that night I had done exceptionally well.  My employee report had said my paid tips for the night came to $246.  I had $100 extra.  The employee report always fluctuates, but not my that much.  I spent nearly 10 minutes recounting my money until it hit me.  The money from Louis.  I couldn’t believe it.  Most well known comedians have developed reputations of not tipping their servers, so I wasn’t expecting anything to begin with.  I smiled to myself as I put my tips in my bag, gathered my things and sat down at the bar with my coworkers to have something to eat.  It had been a long, exhausting, stressful night.  But I had met my favorite comedian, made enough to pay my credit card bill for the entire month, and got to end it by sharing a laugh with some of my favorite people.  It may be tough, but it is SO worth it.