I’ve found myself sharing this story a lot lately, so I thought I would write it down for the whole world to enjoy… by “the whole world” I mean the people who keep sticking around this blog despite the WILD inconsistency in my posting.
In my defense, we did have a whole ass hurricane last week and then I went on the world’s shortest cruise. More on all of that later… or sooner. I don’t know when I’m going to schedule this.
I’ve actually be better at posting lately so I feel pretty good about myself for that.
In my final year of college, I joined one of the largest groups on campus known as “Program Council.” The group was responsible for some of the larger events on campus including concerts, comedians, movie nights, etc. I had run for the board as a write-in candidate and was elected into the Public Relations role.
Winning as a write-in sounds impressive but I’ll be honest in the fact that I was running unopposed.
The whole campaign was something of a coupe as a few of us were running as write-ins because of dissatisfaction with those who were on the ballot. All said and done, I was the only write-in that won and it created some initial tension when I joined the board at the beginning of the summer.
Program Council hit the ground running and would meet/work during the summer to get prepared for Welcome Back Week events leading up to the headliner event, a big-name comedian.
All of the members of the board were given a massive list of comedians along with how much it would cost to book them (we’re talking anywhere from $3,000 all the way to $100,000). Our budget for booking was $50,000 and more noteworthy acts sat around the $35k-$50k mark.
During the selection process, I was super tempted to make a case for spending a bit more and booking Kathy Griffin but that tension between the board members was very real and any idea I pitched would automatically be shot down as a bad one.
I was fighting an uphill battle of my own making. There was a feeling that because my cohorts hadn’t won their roles on the board, that I was going to jump ship and it felt like I was being pushed towards that. I actually WANTED to be there and was excited to be on the board so I stuck around and eventually things got better.
When it came down to comedian selection, there was only one person on my list: Daniel Tosh.
I was a big fan of his comedy and had the sense that he was about to make it big (his show Tosh.0 would debut a year later). I knew he had a following and he would have been a big win.
No matter how compelling my arguments I was shot down by every member of the board along with our current advisor.
The argument made was that we had a white comedian the previous year and they wanted to show diversity in our headliner. The choice was made to go with DeRay Davis. If you’re anything like me, your questions to the world is, who the hell is that?
I don’t know anything about his career after all the of when down but up until that point in 2008, he had bit roles in a bunch of movies that did… okay? For some reason, we were really pushing the fact that he had been in the Will Ferrell movie, Semi-Pro. He’s in the movie for maybe five minutes, tops?
Actually a quick search of his name shows that he’s still using the film as his hook which really tells me everything I need to know about his career trajectory over the last decade-plus.
Needless to say, when tickets went on sale at the beginning of the fall semester, it did not go well. We were on the struggle bus hardcore. The goal was never to break even or make money, but the “big-name comedian” as we referred to it, was the hook that showed that Program Council was where it was at!
Expect we weren’t.
I pulled out every trick in my book to sell this show- Facebook events (which were very new at the time), press releases, more posters. I even rented Semi-Pro and had it playing on my laptop while we tried to sell tickets in the dining hall at dinner.
You name it, we tried it.
Problem was that it reached the point where you could FEEL the desperate seeping from us every time we opened up shop to sell tickets.
About a week or so before the show, I was in the dining hall at lunch time desperately trying to get someone, anyone to buy a ticket. It wasn’t happening. Our now-former advisor (she was always going to step down and let a newer staff member take over the group as advisor, the was just holding over until this particular event happened) came to see how sales were going.
The answer was not what she wanted but what she’d expected. We were heading into rotten egg territory with this event.
“You can go ahead and say it.” She said to me after I told her we hadn’t made any sales.
“Say what?” I asked, genuinely confused by her statement.
“You can say ‘I told you so,’” she replied.
At this point in my young life, I hadn’t become the jaded and petty asshat that I am today so I really didn’t know how to respond in this situation. Honestly, “I told you do” had never crossed my mind. Probably because I was too busy trying to get everyone else on the executive board to stop hating my guts.
“I’m not going to say that,” I responded after a brief moment of hesitation. “I’m going to do whatever I can to sell this show.”
I don’t remember our exact numbers of sales but I do know that there were a lot of empty seats. To add insult to injury, the show was horrible. The opening act killed it but DeRay Davis bombed hard. I don’t remember much of the set but he kept defaulting back to saying, “yeah, my mom is crazy” or some variation of that.
I REALLY don’t have a point to this story other than it’s been on my mind as of late and, like I mentioned, I’ve brought it up in certain conversations. It’s one of those life lessons that seems incredibly relevant right now.
I will say that things got better and we had a wildly successful year on Program Council following that bump in the road. It was a matter of developing trust with each other and showing that I wanted to be a part of the team no matter what. I may be strong-headed but I am a team player (sometimes to a fault). I was always going to to my best to support the team even if I didn’t agree with all the decisions being made.
I had been out-voted by the majority of the board in this instance and I dealt with it. Things were done democratically and I wasn’t going to argue with that. Had it been one tyrannical person calling the shots and making the decisions because they could, it would have been a different story for sure.
I had already been doing Public Relations for other groups at that point but my year on the Program Council board is what really got me interested in PR and marketing. I was actually planning on sticking around and getting a BA in Communications but no one wanted to give me the money to make that happen.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t apply to grad school and get a master’s in communications rather than a third bachelor’s degree- it’s because I wanted to stay involved on campus through groups and clubs which you couldn’t do as a grad student.
Also, I’m not smart sometimes. So there’s that.