Part 2 of Tom Shillue’s “12 in 12” series is called “Big Room” and the theme of this chapter is Opening For Jim Gaffigan. There are two tracks on the album and, just like his previous release, each track is an entire mini-set. As explained in the opening moments of the first track, we are behind the scenes at a Jim Gaffigan concert with Shillue serving as the opening comedian. We travel with him as he takes the stage (after having to introduce himself) and witness his 15 minutes of fame in its entirety.
The second track takes place later that same night, as Shillue is prepping to do it all over again for the second show. Before going on stage, Shillue explains to us that the later crowds are usually livelier and more enthusiastic and, although he will try not to repeat any material, he makes no promises. I don’t know if the later-show audience legend got him pumped up or if it was just the post-first show coffee kicking in, but Shillue also seems more energetic the second time around. I’m not saying his first set was bad, it’s a good set, but the second one is definitely better; he seems to have a spark and a bounce in his step that wasn’t present during the early show.
Both tracks begin with Shillue telling the crowd he hails from Massachusetts and that’s where the similarities end. In the early show he goes on to explain what it was like to grow up in a small town and why not living in a multi-cultural surrounding can be a good thing (Taco Nights are that much more exciting). In his later set, he veers off into a completely different direction, taking us to his high school reunion where the Big Men On Campus have seen a bit of a decline in their stock.
There are some nice bits in the early set, my favorite being the magical way anything can sound intimidating as long as it’s spoken in a whisper by an Italian. When compared side by side, though, the later crowd gets more bang for their buck as Shillue wheels out one great observation after another. There’s a difference between nerds and dorks (“A dork is just a nerd with a lot of confidence”) and the story of his correspondence with an old ex-girlfriend takes an unexpected turn thanks to the miracle (?) of technology and the way it has elbowed its way into our conversations (“Howser the ratio.” That’s all I’m saying).
After his last set of the night, Shillue takes us off the stage and out a side door where he reminisces about his (and Gaffigan’s) comedy journey. “Big Room” offers a nice insight into the life of an opening comic and paints a pretty cool picture of what it’s like before, during, and after the show. We’re only two chapters into it, but I’m really liking the “12 in 12” experience and am looking forward to seeing where Shillue takes us next (although apparently it’s going to be back in a comedy club).