Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.

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Nebraska and Extra Atmosphere

By Milt Abel | December 11, 2011

| December 11, 2011

Nebraska and Extra Atmosphere

It was a week of last minute work. Wednesday I received notice I’d be doing some Extra work for an Oregon Lottery commercial on Thursday. Thursday I received an offer to work a private party in Nebraska on Saturday. As I write this Sunday morning; in the air on my return from Nebraska, perhaps as I touch down and turn on my phone, I’ll discover an opportunity to work on way home from the airport.

The Extra work (background people in film and television production) was for outside work; we supposed to be people running after a pot-of-gold. A contagion of greed, spread by magical music from a leprechaun, causes all sorts of people to pour from their workplace and taxis and run towards the ‘end of the rainbow.’  It was supposed to be funny, and I was asked simply to run down a street in one shot, and a sidewalk in another. Because of my background in comedy, I know how to look funny running; exaggerated arm reaches, a contorted face, clomping feet. Maybe too funny. The director told me to back it off and run normally. (sigh) I was the only one told to do so.

It was during a week of unusually cold weather for Portland, so if we were going to be outside, good that we were running. It turned out to be a fun day -despite my admonishment to ‘tone-it-down’ because of the other five ‘Extras’ that were in the van where we huddled between takes. Three women and two other men. One lady had recently produced a small-budget feature length film, we watched the trailer on our smart phones, and was doing Extra work “for Christmas money” Another woman was a housewife whose husband was a lobbyist and was working on pitching a politically-themed reality television show, and the third gal was an attractive but somewhat down-on-her-luck struggle actress/dating counselor. She taught seminars about how to flirt and date, and ran a dating service for a while in Seattle and Los Angeles; but what was interesting was that she herself seemed to be constantly dating. As we drove from location to location she would point to a residential window and say, “I have an ex-boyfriend that lives there.” This happened a couple times and the day starting turning into a somewhat emotionally perverse, relationship pub-crawl.

While huddled in the van for warmth I got an email asking if I was still available Saturday night to work as a comic for a private Christmas party. It was for a veterinarian  supply company on the Kansas-Nebraska border, with the event itself held in the town of Hubbell, Nebraska (pop. of 73 in 2000 census). Yes, I was available and yes, I would fly to the hinterlands of Nebraska to make some money instead of staying home and watching Law and Order reruns.

Here’s a photo I snapped from the car as I drove from Lincoln to Beatrice, Nebraska. Nebraska in December is redundant. As I got closer and closer and the towns got smaller and smaller, and in complete darkness by the time I got anyway near Hubbell. Other traffic was so rare on the road, it felt like cars weren’t free to drive in these outer regions of Nebraska. You had to have a purpose to be out, a hall pass. Or be lost.

I joked in my performance that night: “I’m not saying Hubbell is a small town, but you know how large towns have signposts indicating how many miles remain to drive, the larger the town the greater the distance. Hubbell’s only sign is a guy with a cardboard sign that reads, ‘Entering Hubbell’ and before you get to him he flips it over to read, ‘You missed it’.”

It was a surprising bit of slipping under the wire to make the gig. I didn’t get a flight arranged until late Friday afternoon, I didn’t get my rental arranged until Saturday morning, and I had to pull over into a all-night Wal-Mart around midnight to get a car outlet charger so I could read the email about what hotel I’d be staying at for four hours before shuffling off for this flight I’m on now. The itinerary started at 6:35AM.

But the money from the gig means Santa’s sleigh will be a little heavier as he lands on our roof. Elves don’t just work in the North Pole, but other places as cold and bleak.

Topics: comedy, humor, travel | 1 Comment »

One Response to “Nebraska and Extra Atmosphere”

  1. vee Says:
    December 11th, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    Nicely done.

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