The Show Must Go On My Own...

One of the great things about Improv comedy is the teamwork. We create, support and succeed as a team.  We don’t have to deal with the pressure of succeeding or failing on our own. Improv is a team effort…well…that’s the way it’s supposed to work, anyway.

Shortly after we became a full-time business, we had a Christmas party gig booked for a heating and HVAC company in Northwest Washington.  It was one of our first paying gigs in the U.S.  There were only three of us on the roster at that time, and since Andrew lives on U.S. side of the border, he was the point man for the gig.  Scott and Dave were coming down from Vancouver, BC to join him.

We had agreed to meet at the hotel an hour before our scheduled showtime to greet the client, let them know we were on-site, and warm-up for the show. Andrew showed up first, greeted our client and waited for Scott and Dave to arrive. 15 minutes went by, then 20, then 30 minutes. Scott and Dave are pretty punctual guys and Andrew began to seriously worry. None of us had cell phones at the time so a quick call to check-in with them was not an option. Were they lost? They had the hotel number, why hadn’t they stopped to call with an update? The client was getting nervous and Andrew worked to confidently ease her concern. The rest of the team would arrive any minute and the show would be great.

Finally, nearly 45 minutes late, and only 15 minutes before show time, the hotel paged Andrew.  Dave and Scott were calling from a McDonalds pay phone just across the line in Canada. It turns out when they had tried to cross the border, they didn’t have all the necessary paperwork to perform in the U.S. They couldn’t call because they were in the immigration office working to get across. In the end, Dave and Scott had been flat out denied entry at the border crossing.  There was no way they were coming to the show.

Great. Now what?


The three players quickly talked over options. Dave and Scott gave their blessing to cancel the show and refund the client. But something inside Andrew just couldn’t do it. He’d promised the client a great show, they were expecting entertainment, and there wasn’t a back-up entertainer waiting on the bench. Having no entertainment would wreck the flow and timing of the entire evening for the client. Not to mention all the employees and guests who would go home with a negative impression of the company’s event.  Andrew decided he just couldn’t cancel the show. According to Andrew, after a few minutes of discussion, terror, and prayer, he said,  “Keep praying for me boys, I’m going on.”

And that he did, performing a one-man Improv show for 60-minutes. “I grabbed a napkin and quickly scribbled out a new set list with LOTS of audience participation,” says Andrew. “The company was great! They were very willing to volunteer and we had lot’s of fun together. The audience knew the situation I was in and I believe they appreciated the fact that I didn’t leave them hanging, but rather did my best to give them a great show. In return, I could tell they wanted me to succeed. I may have been the only professional performer on stage that night, but with the audience on my side I still had a team. The audience became my teammates and we put on a fantastic show together."

When the show was over, Andrew was absolutely exhausted, but felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. The client even hired us again the next year, and wrote a shining reference letter. One of the guests attending that evening booked The Panic Squad for their own event. What began as a disaster ended up a real win.

That said, we MUCH prefer performing as a team! In fact, we started learning our immigration P’s and Q’s and made sure that issue never happened again. As a matter of fact, in nearly 15 years of performing across the U.S. and Canada, we’ve never cancelled a show.

Lessons Learned:


#1 Don’t mess with immigration, or any law/rule for that matter.  Ignorance is never an excuse. If you find yourself in new territory make sure you find out what needs to be done and have your ducks in a row before plowing too far ahead. 

#2 The show must go on, and always can, if you buck-up and make it happen. You may not be performing a literal show as we do, but whatever your line of work is, never let fear or circumstance ruin an opportunity to create a memorable accomplishment. Tackling an issue head-on will often reward you with more credibility and loyalty than negotiating around it or flat out running. When clients see you fighting to serve them, they want to be on your team.