Sunday, June 5, 2011

Francois Fly

It's funny to me to see the comedian I've become and how different it is from the kind of comedian I thought I'd be. My heroes were Andy Kaufman, The Unknown Comic, Steve Martin and Emo Philips. I'm now a semi-political, story telling comic. What was I back in the early days? A human fly comic...

Believe it or not it was this very tape that got me my first professional booking, a week at Laughs Unlimited. The headliner, who I'm very sorry to say I've forgotten the name of, was a black guy and when he walked into the green room and saw me with my old grey tux jacket and black make up on my face he said "OH HELL NO!" and turned and walked out of the room, pissed. I guess he was on his way to have me fired. I
The first Darin Wood Logo which 
went on some t-shirts
caught up with him, threw the strainers on my head and said, "Francois Fly at your service!"
He paused. Took a breath, realized they hadn't hired someone in black face as his opener and said "Alright. Whatever." He still wasn't happy about having a costume act opening for him. At one point he said "How about that opener eh? Be cool, The Kings used to suck too." Ouch!

I struggled through most every night of my first week as a paid comic. Mainstream crowds just weren't into this kind of silliness. I always had at least two or three people at each show who would just go ape shit for Francois though. They'd seek me out and pump my hand and tell me how funny it was and how stupid the rest of the audience was.

I rolled with it. I remember at one show this woman was giving me a vicious stink eye through my whole set. I dropped to my knees in front of her, apologized, handed her a rolled up newspaper and offered to let her swat me. Not even a hint of a smile but the rest of the crowd loved it.

The enthusiasm of folks who got it was very encouraging. I remember my friend Patrick advising me not to over-do it as he was sure this was my ticket in. This character got me an audition and then acceptance to The Velvet Hammer burlesque show, unfortunately it was right as the show was imploding. I got to do a taping with one of my childhood heroes, Dr. Demento for an experiment in on-line "television" called UHF after the Weird Al cult classic. And I got to be on national TV as part of Last Comic Standing.

"Puke Splatter" at Trash Film Orgy.
Photo by Bob Herron
I got a call from an agent who said he needed "unique acts" for the show. Yeah, all the freaks that turn out for those auditions on "reality" based shows like Last Comic Standing or American Idol, that doesn't just happen on accident. I got to skip the long line on the sidewalk, I got to skip the pre-audition, though I did get to witness some of these table auditions and it was amazing. Six hopefuls crowded around a table each with one minute to make an impression. I saw some gawd-awful comedy.
Logo by Darin Wood
I ran into some friends backstage, professional comics who also got the invite to skip the tables. I had my audition. French Stewart said he really wanted to advance me. I said "Then Do It!" but he didn't. It was great fun. I was happy to fill my role. On the way out I ran into the agent and he was really happy with me. I told him I would happily go back in and audition as just me. I thought that would be a blast to have the same person auditioning as two different people. He agreed and started trying to make it happen. Three people told him there wasn't time before he finally gave in and said "Sorry, there isn't time." I told him that was fine and I drove back from San Francisco laughing to myself about my crazy life as a human fly. Sure enough a clip of Francois did indeed make it onto the air. That crazy fly got a TV credit before I did.

David Zed
As Francois, I got to be friends with some other costumed comedians via the internet including Zed The Robot Comedian From The Future, a very funny comic based in Rome. Well, my wife and I went to Rome for our honeymoon. I called Zed up and he and his wife and their two charming daughters had us over for dinner. Zed was on his way to pick us up from the train station when it dawned on me. I wasn't dressed like a fly and he wasn't likely to be dressed as a robot. I had to call him and tell him what I was wearing so we could find each other. Luckily I was the only man in Italy in red pants with green and yellow shoes.

Shmoozin' and boozin' with Dino and Frank.
Photoshop by Nick Roberts.
Francois continued to evade many. A very rude comic "headlining" a crappy open mic, talked a bunch of shit on me onstage in the middle of a set where he himself was clearly bombing. He then took a phone call during his set, not as a joke but for real. He told the audience "It's my agent. I gotta take this." The woman who ran the open mic then told me that what I did didn't count as stand up. "It's sketch" she said "and you shouldn't do it at stand up venues." She was fine with the dude answering his phone and not actually having any jokes but what I did wasn't stand up. Rad.

My favorite Francois Fly story was when I was invited
I gave this doll to the Velvet Hammer instead of a
head shot. Damn, I wish I still had it.
 to perform in a dumpster in San Francisco as part of Popcorn Anti-Theatre, a show that involved a bus full of audience members going site to site. They stopped under the Golden Gate Bridge and were surprised to be gathered around a dumpster. I popped up out of the dumpster. I had a nice spot light on me, a microphone and a PA, it was a very professional set up for being in a dumpster. It wasn't a prop dumpster either. It was a dumpster with real garbage in it, I mean aside from me. The crowd had a blast and then I hopped out and joined them. A very attractive girl named Lu-Lu took my arm and she was quite flirty and quite drunk. When we got back on the bus I slipped to the back, squeezed into the tiny bathroom and turned back into Keith Lowell Jensen, human being. I made my way back up the aisle and as I passed my inebriated and infatuated friend who was watching for Francois, I said "Hello Lu-Lu." She looked at me, sized me up as a loser who shouldn't be
Another fine logo by Darin Wood for a
Trash Film Orgy flyer
talking to her, and went back to watching for that adorable fly without even returning my hello. It was official. I was less sexy than a dumpster perusing x-maggot.

Francois was the original host of The Trash Film Orgy, a yearly midnight movie festival I started with some friends. The festival continues without me and without Francois but he turns up there every so often, usually to be killed dead by Sid, the Evil Crest Manager. I've always planned to do more with Francois and I will. He's a very fun character to play. So full of swagger and ego. I watch clips like the one above and it's actually hard to believe it's me. I don't think I could be that bold without the strainers and make up.

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