I called my agent, something I rarely do. I was nervous.
“Nice Try Productions. This is Charlie.”
“Hi Charlie. It’s me, David.”
“David Deeble.” There was a pause. “Comedian.” Then, impulsively, “You’re my agent.”
“Oh, right! Hey Dave! May I call you ‘Dave’? What’s up?”
“Not a whole hell of a lot, actually. That’s why I’m calling.”
“You know I’m workin’ my tail off for ya, babe!”
Earlier in the afternoon I had run into a club owner who I hadn’t worked for in years. After some friendly chitchat, I asked point-blank if he had spoken to Charlie lately. “You mean your agent Charlie?” he said. “I haven’t spoken to Charlie in years…”
Charlie was the kind of agent that’s constantly trying – and failing – to stroke the ego of his clients. During a previous dry spell he tried to console me: “Those who like your act really, really love your act. Having said that, no one likes your act”.
Things were “slow”, he explained in the way all agents do, as if for the first time in the history of the world people decided they didn’t want to pay other people to make them laugh. I told him that word on the street was that his other acts – like the guy who folds paperclips into roman numerals suggested by the audience – seemed to be turning down gigs, they were so busy.
“Can you hold on a minute? I’ve got a call on the other line.” There was then a suspect-sounding click sound meant to suggest that I was on hold but I could still hear the ambient noise of his office fan and the hyper-deliberate shuffling of papers. Then there was the phony click again. “Dave! I think I’ve got something for you!”
He then proceeded to divulge everything he could, leaving out details such as the location, date and pay lest I go behind is back and secure the gig myself. I told him I’d think about it and hung up, immediately called him again, and accepted the gig.
The Pyongyang Hilton is located in a blocky, Soviet-era building. It’s façade is barely visible from across the street due to the massive tangle of electric streetcar wires that hover above the broad, car-less avenue. It’s an easy gig – dark Sunday through Friday – and I’m welcome to all the tree bark I can eat.