That Time A Comedian Stripped For Me. Sort of.

It was 1996. I was managing the Improv Comedy Club. It was a scorching hot summer. Relentless. The kind of heat that sears your throat when you breathe.  

Welcome to Texas.

Our comic that week was Rodney Carrington. The staff loved when he came to town. He was funny as hell, but also a genuinely nice guy who always treated the staff with respect. That wasn’t always the case with comics. Sometimes they acted like entitled shits. Sometimes they were alcoholic losers. Sometimes they were trippin’ on something the entire week.

But not Rodney. He was the real deal.

Or so we hoped, because that wasn’t just any week at the Improv. That was the week our air conditioning completely broke. Nothing. Nada. Not even a puff of air to cool us inside the club. With outside temps rocketing to 103+, it couldn’t have been worse timing.

Shows don’t get cancelled often. Maybe on a slower weeknight if there’s ice on the roads. So despite the ungodly temperatures that week, lack of AC was not going to stop us. We set up industrial-size fans throughout the entire club to make it as pleasant as possible for everyone. The staff mostly had a good attitude, even bringing in popsicles and other cold treats to make the best of a shitty situation.

I knew I could appease irritated customers with a free round of drinks or vouchers for another show. I knew the staff would rally. But the comic…that’s who I was worried about. The performer who was used to getting star treatment. How would he react to working under these conditions? Would he storm off stage? Would he refuse to perform? Would he lash out at me? I became increasingly anxious as show time approached and a staff member went to the hotel to fetch him.

He arrived with his guitar around his neck, wearing tight Wrangler jeans complete with giant belt buckle, cowboy boots, button up shirt tucked in, and big-ass cowboy hat. Signature Rodney.

He’d been warned of the conditions earlier in the day and agreed to still perform. But did he really know how hot it was inside the club?

Dread gripped me as he walked in the office. I tensed for his reaction, sweat trickling down my temples.

“Jesus Christ, you weren’t kidding! My balls are sweatin’ already!” he said playfully in his thick Southern accent.

I laughed, relieved he seemed to finding humor in the situation.

While the crowd filtered in and placed orders with the waitstaff, he sat with me in the office. With a giant fan drying the sweat off our bodies, we chatting about this ‘n that. He saw my pile of school books and asked what I was taking in college. I told him my major was Environmental Science, and my dream job was to be a Park Ranger somewhere amazing like Grand Teton National Park or Yellowstone (shut up, I was young). We joked about the brown pantsuit and wide-brimmed hat I’d have to wear, and how I could rock the look if I bedazzled my collar and back pockets.

Then it was show time. Rodney walked on stage with his guitar and started to do his magic. He periodically interjected jokes about the heat to ease the tension in the room. I was dealing with irritated customers left and right. Buying drinks. Comping tabs. Some were mildly understanding, some were furious. A few threatened to leave.

About forty minutes into his ninety minute routine, Adam-the-sound-guy called me from the sound booth, “Uh…Rodney just dropped his pants.”

Mini heart attack. “What do you mean he dropped his pants??”

“You better get up here.”

I ran out of the office, burst through the double doors, and fought my way through the now gathering cluster of staff. I couldn’t believe what I saw before me: Rodney with his jeans around his ankles.

He was on stage in his underwear.

I half-laughed/half-screamed and booked it to the sound booth. “What is he doing?” I whisper-screeched.

Adam-the-sound-guy shrugged. “He said it was too fucking hot and pulled his pants down.”

Oh dear god. He had an incredibly loyal following. If he was starting to get pissed, I was going to have a revolt on my hands.

Then I heard his country twang over the speakers, “Hey, is that you back there, Beth?”

Oh. Shit.

I reluctantly waved.

“That there’s the manager, Beth. Everyone say hi to Beth.”

Over two hundred people chanted in unison, “Hi Beth!’

“She’s doing the best she can under really shitty circumstances. Let’s all give her a big hand,” Rodney demanded.

The crowd applauded me while I inwardly shrunk from the spotlight.

“In fact, I’m inspired to sing a special song, ” he announced adjusting his guitar around his neck.

The crowd encouraged him with cheers and whistles. He was known for his hilarious songs.

What happened next is a story of legends. On a hot night, in a scorching comedy club in Texas, a famous comic stood on stage in his tighty whiteys and sang:

Park Ranger Beth, Park Ranger Beth
I love her to death
Park Ranger Beth, Park Ranger Beth
She is just the best
She loves all the animals and cares for the trees,
Her little brown suit just brings me to my knees,
She’ll teach you about mountains and streams if you please,
Park. Ranger. Beth.

He had the audience sing it with him a second time, and ended the last line on an impossibly high operatic note….

….and the crowd went W-I-L-D.

We didn’t have to refund a single ticket that night, and a famous comic sang about me in his underwear.

Best. Night. Ever.

Do you have a crazy job story? I’m dying to hear it!

elleroy was here

93 comments

  1. Legendary. What a gem of a guy.

    I had a delightfully boring job one summer showing slides at the Fine Arts Dept. at the local university for the prof – my mother. I was so bored. Drop slide in, shove slide over, yaddayaddayada yack yack yack, pick out slide, drop slide in …
    I was reduced to trying to make her laugh. I’m at the back behind – everyone facing her. I stood on my head. The pro that she is she ignored me and yacked on about Renoir. Thought my skills went unnoticed by the students. Nope. On last day of work they presented me with a bottle of perfume (?!?), a card and one guy composed a poem that waxed on about my gymnastic skills in the face of boredom. Wish I’d kept it.

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    1. THAT is hysterical! I wish you still had it, too. I can’t believe your mom kept a straight face!!! I don’t think I have that sort of composure, and I adore that you were compelled to try and make her laugh. haha!

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    1. GET OUT. I used to spend my summers in midland! My aunt had a ranch there, but now she’s in the hill country.
      The Improv I worked at is in Addison (suburb of Dallas). There was a very famous Dallas Improv for y-e-a-r-s (all the “greats” played there) but it sadly closed its doors in around….I wanna say ’92, about 3 months after I started working for them. Fortunately I was among the few that got to transfer to the Addison club and keep a job!

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      1. Small world! Yep. We moved there when I was 2 and I left again at 18. I’ve been to Addison and took several weekend road trips to Dallas once I had a license. I bet that was a fun job!

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  2. Park Ranger Beth, hahahaha, what an unforgettable night! What took you so long to share this with us?

    I think the funniest I can come up with was the time I had to teach prospective and acting Starbucks Store Managers about labor costs, and that their budget would still be affected if employees called in sick and they had to call for backup.
    I’ve had preached and distributed financial statements many times before, without much success.

    Until I came up with my home made Monopoly game. We used Playmobil characters. those who were sick had to lie down on the board game, money had to be paid for them as well as for the backup (smurfs). I think they had fun and got my point 🙂

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    1. Seriously, I already had respect for him but after that night I adored him! So many other comics would’ve been such petulant babies about it and would’ve ruined the whole night for everyone. It takes a stand up guy to be cool about a tough situation.

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  3. Best -Song- Ever. I’m going to sing it to you every time I see you…in my underwear. I’ve had some crazy jobs. I have plans to introduce you to all of the crazy shiz I had to do to eat in college. A comedy club though…that must have been so much fun. I still love the Improv. I saw Daniel Tosh there before he was Tosh.0. Rodney Carrington though…sang a song to you…in his underoos. Love it.

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  4. I watched the video link first, so I knew I was in for a treat. That is so awesome – too bad that song isn’t on You Tube! I never had a job nearly as cool as yours.

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    1. I know, isn’t he funny? His comedy routine was hysterical, too. It wasn’t all singing, although that’s a big part of it.

      Trust me, that was my ONLY cool job. But it was a big part of my twenties. Prior to Improv, I groomed cats. Yes. Cats. In water. Was my job. *shudder*

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  5. Sounds like you handled the aircon situation with style. And Rodney just helped it along. That’s SO COOL that you got a song sung to you by 200 people and a trouserless comedian.

    My funnies from my (old) job were much smaller. Working with kids was always hilarious (and working with the other staff was mostly just painful). One which sticks with me was a little boy who was being a hairdresser and doing ‘styling’ on my hair. And after I sat for a while, letting him do his thang, a colleague let me know that he’d been putting his hands down his underpants and …. adjusting…in between parts of the style. Fortunately it was a hairwash night for me anyway.

    The other REALLY funny one I had was when there was this tiny boy who was learning to walk, and I hunkered down and put my arms out to him so he could toddle over to me. He evaded my arms, fell forward, grabbed the front of my top and ended up face first down it, where he shook his head rapidly then righted himself, took his head out and gave me the most peculiar, disapproving look!

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    1. So you got penis in your hair and on a separate occasion were also motor-boated, both by small children? Uhh……uncomfortable. And very funny! I love the visuals I’m getting from this! hahaha!

      I worked at a daycare for a while…maybe 6 months. I was young, though. High school. I hated the crappy student/teacher ratio, but the kids….the kids were magical. So so sweet. I worked the 3yo room, and I always remember how great the kids were. I don’t remember any stories (funny or otherwise) about the kids, except there was this one little girl who always ran away from the classroom nekid as a jaybird! Like daily. She loved it. She would run up and down the halls and then up to the front office, just tickled to pieces that she’d run away nude again.
      *sigh* I just did the math. That little girl is probably pushing 30 now. OMG.

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      1. Um. Yeaaaaaaaah okay when you write it like that. That happened. EEP! *giggling*

        The kids were amazing. The staff and the ratios and the never-endingness of the job distinctly less so. Still, it was 9 years of hard learning and wonderful hugs. It was worthwhile.

        We had a stripper too – my Goddaughter! *sigh*

        And so yours is nearly as old as me…owzer!

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  6. Never had a song sung to me by a comedian in his underwear but I did have a drug addict holding a bowl of puke come into my office begging for Oxy one morning who ruined my breakfast I was trying to eat while pregnant. Then there was this REALLY BIG CRAZY AMAZON woman off her meds that thought I laughed at her and I had to be taken out the back door so she wouldn’t kill me. Do those count?

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  7. Huh, you must made me think of something to share with you off topic privately sometime.

    This post is EPIC FRICKIN’ AWESOME!!! This was a life situation where all of the dominoes fell ending their wicked path in a pot of gold! Very cool that you were the manager there and at such young age. Says even more wonderful things about you, our friend!

    Btw…I have all of my life and still want to be a park ranger to this day. For real. That would be the best job ever!

    Loved your story, Beth!

    🙂

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    1. So glad you like it, Mike. 🙂 (can’t wait to hear what you have to share with me!)

      You really want to be a park ranger? I love that! wouldn’t be the BEST?? Maybe I’m glamorizing it, but walking around an amazing place, answering questions about nature….I mean…..what’s not to love?

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  8. Park Ranger Beth…nice ring to it! Great story!

    Working as a teacher, I have many interesting stories but the one that former students still remember is this one — A teacher I worked with had taken some days off to stay with her sick child and asked if I would mind taking care of the gerbil. I agreed and come Friday afternoon, I was ready to clean the cage with her class. Should have been easy, open the cage, hold the ball to the opening, let the gerbil climb in, close the ball, let gerbil roll around in ball on floor and clean cage. Not so. You see, as the gerbil was moving from the cage to ball, it jumped on my arm and I screamed, flailing my arm around and sending this poor rodent flying in the air. Luckily, he didn’t get hurt, but the class and I spent a good 15 mins trying to find him! And for the record, the students held onto him while I finished cleaning the cage and returned him safely. They were adamant about NOT letting me handle him. Rodent lover, I am not.

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    1. LMAO! Love that story. It IS scary when they leap out at you! We (the boys) had two lizards for about 6 months, and it was AWFUL cleaning the cage for the same reason! They were so fast, and would jump when you didn’t expect it….ugh. I always screamed. No more lizards.

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  9. Beth, I am so completely jealous of you!! I love improv. I love stand-up comedy. Love it. I was even in the improv group when I was in college. I sucked at it, but I love watching people who are good at it. Whenever I’m asked what job I would have if I was guaranteed not to fail, I always say a stand-up comedian. (Park Ranger would be a close second if the park is an historical one.) Working in an improv club would be completely awesome. And to have a song just for you, by Rodney, in his undies…just plain fantastic.
    None of my many jobs have stories even close to this.

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    1. I remember you mentioning that before, Christine! Maybe it was an awards post where you had to list facts or something, I’m not sure. Anyway, I love that you’d want to do that! I think comics are the best and I adore watching them! My brother and I used to listen to Eddie Murphy’s Raw over and over and over. I know, not age appropriate, but we had that kind of childhood. Then it was Richard Pryor. Fast forward ten years and we’re both working at the Improv! He was a doorman for about 3 years, on and off. We LOVED meeting the comics and hanging out with them after the shows. Definitely a great time in my life.

      Like

  10. I don’t know how you do it Beth, but you make me fall in love with you every post. I bet you’ve got heaps more stories like that up your sleeve. Love your work as per.

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  11. I’ve always LIKED Rodney Carrington, but after hearing how he handled that situation…I’ve decided I ❤ him. Getting mad at people over things beyond their control is a pet peeve of mine. It doesn't solve anything. It's counterproductive. So, the fact that he turned that crowd around for you AND gave you props, recognizing you were doing your best? Go HIM!

    And all I ever got was the offer to pay me to whip a guy…and a country star (who will remain nameless) who offered to let me use his cell phone as a toy after he water damaged it and it would only vibrate…very strongly. His exact words? "I think this'll do more for YOU than it will for me, darlin'. You can keep it if you want to." Yeah, that kind of humor matched mine quite well. We've been friends ever since. 😉

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  12. The Naked Cowboy does that in Times Square, during all seasons and weather.

    Now, if Park Ranger Beth dropped her pants that would be worth noting!

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    1. I’ve seen him on TV so many times – what a hoot! He’s pretty famous. so I guess a shit ton of people in NY can say they’ve been serenaded by a man in his undies.

      Can you imagine me in a big park ranger hat, singing in the almost-buff? hahaha. Wait. Never mind. YOU probably can. 😉

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  13. Beth, this is HILARIOUS! I love this story! What a cool guy he was to sing you that song! One time at a comedy club, the comedian wanted to show the audience what he learned in Latin class so he brought an audience member on stage (me!), took off my sock and shoe, then played “This little piggie went to market” — in Latin!! So embarrassing and so funny!

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    1. It was a tense and CAHrazy night made really cool cuz of the sweetness of Rodney! I don’t think he had a genuine crush on me. He is/was (assumeng still is) married with kids and very loyal. I never saw him hitting on the waitstaff or anything, and that happened ALL the time with other comedians. I bet I know of about ten affairs. Men can be such slimeballs.

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  14. What a cool experience! And you’ve got a song written about you to boot! My son is in an improve group in NYC! Thanks for stopping by Living and Learning With Our New Normal. I do have some vegan recipes up, but the site is mostly about disabilities and homeschooling!

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    1. Hi Sylvia! Thanks for stopping by! Yes I checked out your (awesome) recipes. You have an amazing site that covers so many important topics. You’re an infinitely strong woman! I admire you.

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  15. Hahaha, once, this dude was so strung out on LSD that he jumped from a balcony and gave his arm a compound fracture. When emergency workers came to help, he was “sharpening” the protruding bone on a concrete wall and threatening to stab us with it so we shot him about 14 times and he went to heaven or maybe hell. Not as funny as yours, but whatevs, right? Oh, and I was at a comedy club once in Pasadena and the manager asked me to go onstage because I was drunk and in rare form that night, but I was a chicken. Oh, and I lived in North Texas in 1996! Off the tollway of Haverwood…is that a street?

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    1. Uh…yeah that’s not quite the same, Don. But OhMyFuck that’s a crazy ass story!!! Did you really have to shoot him? he was sharpening his arm bone??? Holy Shit. That’s disgusting. Wow.

      Okay, onto the rest. Yes, Haverwood is a street. You could have been at the Improv and seen my underwear serenade! 🙂

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    1. I did volunteer work for a local preserve/nat. sci. museum for a while. Then I got pregnant and became Home Ranger Beth. I still have a uniform, but it’s not so much brown as it is gray. As in sweats. 🙂

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  16. That is an awesome story! hahaha I totally pictured this guy w/a cowboy hat, guitar and pants around his ankles singing to you. Amazing night. You obviously did a great job, and made a good impression!

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  17. So late to the party, but what a GREAT story, and well told, as usual! Such a sweet guy! I would have LOVED to be a park ranger too, but would not have rocked the brown pant suit nearly as well as you (would have). Lol, what an awkward comment, but meant in the best sense possible. 😀 XXOOXX

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    1. You dealt black jack? That’s so fucking cool! You’re such a bad-ass, Kim. That’s insane that the sheik had a harem! I mean, it’s probably status quo, but it would get my attention for sure! He won 1o grand or owed it?

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  18. This storys is fcking AWESOME!! I love the song at the end. Oh, yes, this is one I would have re-told about a million times by now if it happened to me. “Park Ranger Beth…” Too funny!

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  19. What a stand-up guy. I’ve always heard Seinfeld was a bit of an elitist who specialized in condescendingness, so Rodney’s one for the good guys.

    I once checked supermodel Kim Alexis into a Hilton. I kept my stuff together and called her Ms. Alexis and everything. I gave her a 10% discount. I bet she still is in love with me.

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    1. I’ve heard conflicting stories about Seinfeld. I’ve seen him in concert a few times, but never at the Improv. I love his stand-up, but you never know how people act behind the scenes, ya know?

      Wow! I think I’d go wicky-wacky if I had to speak to a supermodel!! Very cool. I’m certain she still thinks of you as the one that got away. 🙂
      The question becomes…would you give me a discount at the Hilton???

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      1. I think she was quite impressed i kept it all together. I didn’t even pee my pants. Could she have been the call to the front desk later, the hangup? Maybe she chickened out.

        If I was still at the Hilton, I’d have given you a 15% discount. At least.

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  20. That’s freaking awesome! What a fun job and he sounds like a total class act. Plus, you’re kinda famous now, right?

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    1. *eyes get huge* Maybe I am sort of famous! Or I was…for like 15 minutes. BUT STILL. Yes, it was very exciting, and embarrassing, and totally crazy….but what a blast, right? I still smile when I think of that night. When I see Rodney on TV these days, and all, HEY! We have a history together!

      Like

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