One of the better circuits for a performer in the 1970′s and 1980′s was The Playboy Club nightclub circuit. Among the ones I worked at were the resort in Great Gorge, New Jersey, along with Los Angeles and New York City.
My booking at the New York Playboy Club happened at the most inopportune time. It was the winter of 1978, and one of the biggest blizzards ever recorded hit the New York area. Somehow I was able to make my way from my parents’ house on Long Island into Manhattan for the show, despite the fact that all rail service and bus service was suspended. But when I got backstage at the club, I was informed that there were only 6 people in the audience. This was in a 1000 seat theatre. And my good fortune included the fact that the 6 were non-English speaking Japanese businessman.
On stage I went, as usual, through snow and sleet and ice and hail or whatever that thing is. And there, in about row 30 in a sea of emptiness, sat my 6 Japanese fans. I figured I was done for, but unexpectedly, they began laughing at every sentence that came out of my mouth. They had no idea what I was saying, but they laughed anyway, perhaps because they understood I was a comedian, and they were supposed to laugh at me. I did my 40 minutes, steady laughs throughout, and walked off to the biggest ovation you’ve ever heard from 6 people in a 1000 seat theatre. I think I even saw a few cameras flash.
To this day I’ll never know how or why, but I do know that I was never a bigger hit. Thank goodness they didn’t understand me.