WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW CAN HURT YOU – Bo in the trenches by Bo Gerard

Sometimes things can go awry at a performance site, and a little extra knowledge can go a long way.


Standing on stage and wowing your audience is just the tip of the iceberg. The part of the iceberg that no one sees, and certainly the more time-consuming part, is the hours of prep, (booking, contracts, site coordination), the loading in, the setting up, and the pre-show check of sound, stage and lighting.


And once you’re on site, knowing a little about some of the tech that is associated with your show can be a life-saver. Like, when you arrive at the designated ballroom, and there is a cart with a sound and light board hooked up and running, but there is no, and will not be, an av guy to help you get tech just how you need it. That’s when knowing something about how a lighting and sound board works can really come in handy.


I’m not saying you have to understand all of the complexities of these areas of tech, but it certainly would behoove you to know at least how to turn them on and adjust basic settings. I have gathered a lot of technical ability on the job over my forty years in the business, but If you don’t know how a sound board with EQ works, it’s easy to find out. There are YouTube videos galore, or you can stop into a reliable sound shop, like Crossroads Audio in Dallas, and ask on of the sales people to give you a run down on basic operation. There are a lot of sound and light boards out there, but they all have certain things in common, and you can certainly learn enough so that you can at least get them turned on and working for your show.


And to help with all of the other unknowns that will present themselves at the show site, you should always carry an emergency kit. You can’t depend upon the venue to have some of these essentials:

1) Always have a roll of gaffer’s tape - for repairs, and for taping down cables on your stage, so no one trips, falls and sues you.
2) Some index cards and a good magic marker – for writing that intro of the CEO they just asked you to make, 3 minutes before show time.
3) A cosmetics kit – with a brush or comb, hair spray, gum or breath mints, tissues, eye drops, cologne, hand sanitizer, band aids, a mirror, toothpicks and a Cliff Bar. And put it all in a clear plastic zipper case, so you can quickly spot what you need.


And you should also make a habit of checking the stage floor and stairs for wobbliness or sagging spots, before your audience arrives. And one final thing. I have the kind of face and demeanor that makes people think I know stuff, so I always find out where the nearest restroom is as soon as you arrive at my ballroom. For I am invariably asked, at least 3 times during my set up, “Do you know where the restroom is?”


When you write and perform comedy, you learn to love and respect the word; the turn of phrase; the colloquialism. And when you’ve been doing it for a number of years, you learn to track idioms and popular expressions, so your writing and performing can be as relevant as possible.

That’s why I love chronicling the changes in the language that have, and are, taking place in my own lifetime. It’s natural, and inevitable, that our language will change over time, but sometimes it’s because people take shortcuts, or merely repeat the last usage of a word or phrase that they heard. Take the phrase “Happy as a clam”. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why all clams are so darn happy? So much so that a popular idiom would be written about it? Spoiler Alert: Clams are not generally happy. They, like all other living species on this planet, have happy times and not-so-happy times. But if it happens to be high tide, they are going to be very happy indeed. Because they cannot be dug up by clam-diggers and eaten. The original phrase was “Happy as clam at high tide”. Somehow the “high tide” part got dropped along the way, and no one seems to have missed it.

Then there’s “I could care less”. What people are trying to convey when using this phrase is that they don’t care at all about a certain thing; that there is no amount of caring that is below how much they care. The proper phrase to convey this thought would actually be “I couldn’t care less”. By saying “I COULD care less” you are saying just THAT – you could actually care less about it, therefore your level of caring is certainly not zero.


OK, one more. The podium. I blame this one on AV companies. A podium is a platform or box that one stands on, like a conductor or an Olympic medal winner. Pod, from the Greek for foot. A lectern is a tall stand with a sloping top to hold a book or notes, from which a lecturer can read while standing up. When AV companies started mounting microphones onto lecterns, they started calling them podium mics. I was actually around when this shift happened and can attest to the historical accuracy. Once they started calling these lecterns “podiums”, everybody just went along with it.

I occasionally point out one of these idiom-shifts to someone who has just used the newer, mutated version of a phrase, thinking it might interest and maybe even amuse them. It usually doesn’t. In many cases it seems that they really “couldn’t care less”. They have more important things to do. To them it’s not an etymological crisis – it’s just progress.


So, feel free to go about your daily lives, oblivious of these corruptions and adulterations of our language. And know that there is someone on the wall – ever vigilant and eagle eyed. Protecting you. And when I wrote the title of this piece, “I could care less that you’re happy as a clam”, I meant it. I COULD care less... but I don’t!