I have a longstanding rule against meeting anyone “famous.” Ever since The Great Anton Newcombe Debacle of ’05, I’ve been understandably reticent (I realize his “fame” is debatable, but just humor me, please). There’s a lot that can go wrong when you meet someone you like. Maybe this person’s music helped you through a difficult time, or maybe you’ve read all of his or her books over and over, or maybe you’ve laughed until you’ve cried at his or her comedy. Either way, this person has a presence in your life. You know things about them, as weird as that sounds. And if you meet this person, and he/she’s a huge jerk? Yikes. You can never listen to that album/read that book/laugh at that joke again. Or there’s always the chance (if you’re me, anyway) that you’ll say something embarrassing and make yourself look like a complete idiot.
Also, I don’t really need a connection to a famous person. Autographs in and of themselves don’t mean a lot to me. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate an autograph on occassion. For example, Lauren gave me a signed copy of Emma Straub‘s Other People We Married, and I love that. But that’s because it’s a book I really enjoy by a person I like and it was a gift from one of my best friends. I wouldn’t, like, walk up to Tom Cruise and be all, “Sign this napkin so I can cherish it forever.” Mostly because I don’t often walk the same streets as Tom Cruise. I’m also not particularly interested in that brief moment of connection because, really, what does that get me? Some sort of bragging rights so I can be like, “Oh, no bigs, I met Tom Cruise once.” That impresses me about as much as most things impress Shania Twain. Also, I don’t know why I keep using Tom Cruise as an example.
I’ve been to a lot of small shows since TGAND of ’05, but I’ve never made any effort to meet the person I came to see. And at the sorts of places I prefer to go, it’s pretty easy to meet the acts. It’s not like I’m seeing Katy Perry in a stadium (although I certainly would not balk at the opportunity). Typically, if I’m at a show, it’s the kind of place where the opening band is standing beside you in the audience and you walk past the comedian selling their own CDs as you leave. And yet! I still had this mentality that actually saying something to the performer was a) weird for them, b)possibly annoying and c) unnecessary for me.
Last weekend, Chad suggested we see comedian Pete Holmes in Cleveland. I love Pete Holmes; he hosts the very funny podcast You Made it Weird, which I’ve mentioned before. But I was still kind of like, “Cleveland, ugh.” There are lots of things to like about Cleveland, but it’s also a labrynth of one ways streets and constant construction, and it both conforms to and defies its public perception. In short, it’s a strange place. I ended up being very glad I went, because Pete Holmes was hilarious and I had a great time with my friends. Also, I learned a Life Lesson, as I am wont to do: meeting the performer you came to see is actually the nice thing to do.
I had absolutely no intention of meeting Pete Holmes. I knew Chad wanted to, but I was like, “See you later, I’ll be in the bathroom.” Also, I had to go to the bathroom, so that was part of it. When Jayne and I came back out, Chad was talking to Pete Holmes, and I’m not enough of an asocial weirdo that I’d completely ignore someone when they’re in front of me, so I said hello. And guess what? He was totally nice! He was very friendly, he shook everyone’s hands, and he asked our names. The odd thing was, although the club was packed, hardly anyone was stopping to say hello to him. And you had to walk directly by him and his table of merch in order to leave.
I never thought about it before, but it’s totally weird to watch someone perform and then walk right by them without saying anything. And yet that’s the behavior I’ve observed (and been part of) at most shows. Why wouldn’t an artist want to say hello and hear a quick compliment (I’m assuming you’re not going to approach the performer to say, “I hated your set.”)? I thought about what I would want if I one day have a book signing. Actually, do you guys want to go full-on The Secret and do some manifestation with me? Let’s do this: someday when I have a book signing, I will totally want to say hi to people. After all, connecting with people is part of the point of performing or putting yourself out there in any way.
My experience at the Pete Holmes show changed the way I think of the relationship between audience and performer. Also I went to Taco Bell beforehand and tried something new, so yeah, I’d say it was a pretty big day.
Have you had any good or bad experiences with meeting celebrities? I would love to hear them. Once my friend Dan met Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond when she stopped by his church, and he said she was very nice. Good luck trying to top that juicy celeb story.