My Drew Lynch Story

06/12/2015

Finding a Voice without a voice!
My Drew Lynch Story

by Barbara Holliday

My Name is Barbara Holliday. I manage comedian Drew Lynch, and I also co-own and operate Flappers Comedy Club and Restaurant with my partner, Dave Reinitz.

I remember the exact moment Drew walked into my office in the fall of 2010. It was literally a few months after we had opened our Burbank Club, which was the biggest project I had ever undertaken, and I was overwhelmed. My office was an old jewelry store with seven people crammed into a 350 sq foot space with desks in every corner. Every time someone would walk in the door everyone in the office would get interrupted. On this night I was by myself and Drew walked right in and began asking about what the club and what we were doing. He was young, young, young, and cute, cute, he looked like he was 12 years old, but he was actually 19. I got the sense that he was a “Cocky” young actor who had come to LA to be a big star. In our early conversation I was impressed, though, by his energy and sincere interest in the club. He told me he had just moved here from Vegas where he was working as a “pool boy” but came to LA to be an actor like so any others. I explained that I was a comedian that really enjoyed the business side of comedy and that was why my partner Dave Reinitz and I decided to create a comedy club. We wanted to create a venue where we could put whomever we wanted to onstage (even ourselves!) and we wouldn’t have to wait around for people to give us opportunities. Anyway after about 15 minutes, I remember trying to get rid of the kid but he wouldn’t go away! I was so impressed with his tenacity and I asked him if what he really needed right now was a job? Of course he said yes! But the only job I had to offer him was a job in the Ticket Booth, or as we call it the welcome wagon. The Ticket Booth seemed like a good job for a young wanna be actor, and that’s how our relationship began.

Shortly after he began working in the Ticket Booth we booked one of our first major headliners at the club, Christopher Titus. Drew was so excited to participate and greet our SOLD out crowd, but as the guests started pouring in, our Night Manager William Nickerson went to the front door and Drew was nowhere to be found, I went up to see what all the hoopla was about and Drew was found crouching down in the corner where he had just fallen off a bar stool he was using as a step ladder (ARRRGGH- What happened to all that HR Training on Safety?) The ambulance came and took Drew away that night, gave him a band aid and a pep talk, and sent him on his way. We thought he’d be out for a week, but he came back the next day raring to go. It was just one of the little obstacles that would be coming his way in pursuing his acting career.

Part of working on the Welcome Wagon at Flappers requires staff to dress in 1920’s Flappers Attire. Drew was great at that; he always came in wearing funny ties that his grandmother had sent him and a really nice set of suspenders. We all enjoyed harassing Drew and his silly ties. I was the “bitchy” boss. Always demanding more from the staff, and nitpicking all the details. I was so anal about all the Ticket Booth details, and rightly so! We had been open less than a year, and I’m not even sure we knew what we’re doing.   I do remember one time at a staff meeting I was so intent upon stressing the importance of greeting guests and cleaning the ticket booth, I’m sure I came off super bossy, so much so that I actually recall making Drew “cry.” He really wanted to do the job well and do it perfectly so badly. I felt so bad and told him, hey it’s just a job, and we love him and support him and his job isn’t going anywhere, we just expected more out of him.

Being fledging business owners looking for a way to build camaraderie amongst our staff, my partner Dave decided we should start a Flappers softball team (and Dave just really enjoys softball). The staff seemed to jump on board. Servers signed up, comedians joined, and, since Drew had actually played in the past, we gave him the shortstop position. We would meet and play every Sunday. This would surely be a great team building experience for everyone. We were the worst possible team you could imagine. We lost every game. It became a joke on the field, where our opponents would say things like “we hope you tell jokes better than you play softball.”

By then Drew had begun watching the comedians in the club. He had Taken a few of our comedy classes and befriended another young comedian I was managing named Samuel J Comroe. Sam was a 22-year-old comedian who had been born with Tourette Syndrome (The Twitchy Kind) and Dave and I had been working with him since he was 18 years old. In fact Sam was a student in Dave’s Stand Up comedy classes even before we made Flappers. I had a small comedy management company called H2F Comedy Prods, and one of my previous clients was Josh Blue- a comedian with Cerebral Palsy who won the last comic standing Season 4. Working with Josh Blue and his amazing managers Wende Curtis and Mike Raftery from the Denver Comedy Works taught me a lot! I learned that people truly do not tolerate or make things easy for people or performers in general with disabilities. I learned that people are truly “MEAN” and disrespectful to people with disabilities. I also learned about the “power of comedy” and realized that all people have a disability, it’s just that some are displayed on the outside. I became fascinated with helping young comedians find their own “disability” I was so tired of managing “ME, ME, ME, Comedians” Dave wanted me to manage the young Sam, and Sam wanted me to manage him, but I wasn’t interested. When I watched him doing comedy when he first started he was talking about menial and insignificant topics that were very inauthentic and did not make him appear vulnerable or realistic to an audience and he WASNT talking about his Tourette Syndrome at all!. We had been encouraging Sam to do material about his Tourette syndrome because, not only was he twitching on stage, but in order to truly be a great comedian you need to talk about “Whats wrong with you, not what’s right with you” So one day I went online and printed out all kinds of materials about Tourette Syndrome and highlighted as much as I could and handed it to Sam. But he still fought this concept and said he didn’t want a ‘gimmick.” I said “Being YOU, is not a gimmick, when you are ready to talk about your Tourette syndrome and what’s really going on inside and how it affects you and others around you, then I will manage you.” It took about 3 months, and then that day came, Sam began incorporating his Tourette syndrome and he blossomed as a comedian and as a person. He became authentic, honest, vulnerable, and humble. He starting having fun turning the perceptions of others into an amazing Stand Up Comedy routine. We had an idea called “Preferred Parking Comedy Tour” which was a name that gave a positive spin to comedians with disabilities, we tried getting some gigs with the tour but it wasn’t really successful.   And then came Flappers. We often say that we built Flappers Comedy Club, so Sam and a few of our other favorite comedians like Michael Rayner would have a home club. Dave and I really enjoy developing young comedians, so building a comedy club was our way of giving all of our favorite comedians opportunities that they might not have anywhere else.

So back to Drew. Drew became very close with Sam, and he began doing some sketches with Sam and began trying his hand at Stand Up Comedy. But his comedy wasn’t great. Sam kept insisting I should keep my eye on this kid. But I had been here before, and I wasn’t interested. Drew was young, and cocky and doing stand up about insignificant things and there was nothing vulnerable or interesting about him. In fact he was a little “too cool for school.” And then came the infamous softball game on a Sunday in the summer of 2011.   I don’t remember the exact date, or the team we were playing, rumor is their name was Tiger’s Blood (SP), but I do remember that I also got hit by a softball that day. A grounder, hit my right ankle and rolled up my leg and hit me really hard in the chin. In fact so loud and hard that the ball left three marks on my chin that lasted for a week. I had to sit down, and the field medic came over to me and began making a report. I was in the dugout, being attended to and watching the game when suddenly, in two back to back plays Drew get hit, first by a grounder that rolls up his leg in the head and then a second grounder hit him in the throat. Almost immediately after that the game was over and Drew began walking away saying he had to get to work for his Ticket shift. We yelled after Drew “Hey, are you ok? You can miss work if you need too?” But he yelled back, “No its ok I’m just gonna take a nap before I go in” None of us thought anything about it. We lost the game again of course.

Over the next week, Drew was calling out of work and we kept calling and checking on him but didn’t hear anything. Then he suddenly came in for his shift and he had a stutter. When we asked what was up, he said he thought it was only temporary and that he might have paralyzed his vocal chord, and that he shouldn’t have gone to sleep on Sunday, but he thought that it would get better. The problem for us is that part of Drew’s job was answering the phones and greeting guests. Not a great job for a person with a stutter.   But what were we to do? Fire him? Drew seemed frustrated and not sure what was going on with his voice. And then Sam encouraged Drew to get up and do some open mics to get out his frustrations and get them on to the stage. They started hanging out a lot together, Drew was starting to get some laughs.   I remember Drew’s acting teacher calling us that week and telling us to “Stop making Drew play that character.” We didn’t understand what he meant but I think the teacher really thought that we were making Drew do speak like that on purpose just because it was funny. What was actually happening was that Drew finally had something interesting and authentic to say and a place to say it!

Drew began writing diligently and getting up to perform as often as he could. His comedy began to flourish and it’s was clear that he was a very good writer. He and Sam made a really great comedy team and the two of them started hanging out at Flappers and working out their comedy at open mics together and Sam would ask for Drew to open for him.   Sam kept pushing us to manage Drew and we finally I decided to take Drew on.   Flappers became Sam and Drew’s home club and Flappers embraced and believed in them by granting them free meals and drinks, and lots of stage time while they worked on their comedy.  Drew was so nervous and confused about his new world, but special and sweet.  We were watching him grow up:  He turned 21 here and had his first glass of Wine here, it was Rose of course, he named his Dog “Stella” after a flappers favorite draft beer Stella Artois.   He even gave me a softball for my birthday with his newly found voice on it.  Now he was making me cry.

It was time for Preferred Parking to have a comeback and with Sam’s urging we decided to bring back the Tour and pitch it to Colleges around the country. We submitted the group to the National Association of Campus Activities NACA and they were selected to showcase in front of 4000 College Students. Sam and Drew started to tour together and perform all over the country to glowing reviews.   Sam and Drew continue to work on their comedy and their humility which will ensure that they have great comedy careers for many years to come. I adore them both and think they are brilliant comedians.  I will continue to  push and believe in them whether or not the world decides to come along.  I won’t give up.

What people don’t often see is the tireless hours that its takes to become a comedian. A comedian must be onstage at least five or six times a week if not more. Writing and rewriting jokes, asking for feedback and getting feedback even when it’s not wanted. Deciding what feedback to use and what not to use! Digging into their most personal and deepest darkest secrets. Finding people and places like Flappers that believe in you and push for you while you are trying to do all of the above. People often ask us whether or not we can actually TEACH people to be funny? The truth is, we cannot! I do believe everyone has a natural sense of humor that can be coached to be unleashed. I sometimes say that we actually teach people to be themselves, which sounds allot easier said than done. What we try to do is nurture comedians, keep reminding them of the struggle, treat them with respect, help them with jokes, keep them humble, get them to let go of their ego, and give them as much stage time as possible. We teach people, to be true and authentic to their own voice and write comedy from what they know, from their own voice, from their own point of view. My partner Dave Reinitz always says we “Artists have to be willing to take risks that the audience isn’t willing to.” Comics ask me all the time to help them “Find their voice.” I can’t do that because they already have a voice they may just not know what they want to say yet.  The comedian must do the internal and writing work for themselves. Success for a comedian can come on many different levels, and at many different speeds. Sometimes it can just happen a lot quicker by throwing a softball at the “ego” to help someone find out what they really want to say to the world.

Barbara Holliday
Manager, Booker, Comedian, Teacher, Motivator, Friend, Believer and Sometimes Therapist

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