I’m happy to say that I have only a few “uncomfortable” dating moments filed away in my portfolio of romance. That includes the “non-starters” where it just wasn’t going anywhere for anyone, which were somewhat awkward. Slightly more unpleasant were the dates where it was painfully obvious (to me and the waiter) that it was my companion who was feverishly scrambling for an exit strategy.
Fortunately, there weren’t (too) many of those kinds. I don’t even like to imagine how many more of them I would have had to endure if I were to have been in the “scene” during the age of dating apps like, Tinder and POF (Plenty Of Fish). But, in terms of my Legendary Awkward Date, I’m not talking about a run-of-the-mill, cringe-worthy dating disaster. I’m talking about an epic Donald Trump at dinner with Rosie O’Donnell moment; an Arnold Schwarzenegger takes Maria Shriver and his maid to the same baby meet-and-greet sitch; a superstar comedian mocks you on a date with your high school sweetheart in front of a sell out crowd at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre kinda burn.
SIDEBAR: none of the countless dates I’ve had with my wife were awkward, cringe-worthy, or in any way uncomfortable. After many years of marital bliss and three children, while we don’t date as much as we used to, that’s not a reflection of how sweet it is to spend time alone with her. It’s wonderful enough to even get a few “dating minutes” in our busy lives with a family of five. This is an important clarification to make in a Sidebar when you’re about to write about a “legendary” date with a high school sweetheart. Just saying.
When I was in Gr. 12, I won a radio contest to see Eddie Murphy, live in concert. Instead of any of my buds who were also avid fans of his comedy, I took my girlfriend at the time. We were “high school” serious and I still have fond memories of our relationship. This isn’t one of them. The irony that my Legendary Awkward Date would involve a legendary comedian, (that’s what I do for a living now), and a radio contest, (radio is how I started my career in entertainment), is not lost on me.
At the time, Eddie was at the peak of his stand-up comedy stardom. So, winning two front row seats to his sold out concert at the 2,931-seat Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver was pretty awesome, (insert: swag, sweet, fleek, whatever applies in high school terminology today). The prize package also included one of his comedy albums, and a “Mumford Phys. Ed. Dept.” T-shirt, (like the one he wore in “Beverly Hills Cop”).
BTW: the contest I won was an on-air competition to do the best impression of his trademark laugh. I couldn’t believe I got through to the station on the phone in the first place, which is the biggest challenge in a radio giveaway. Then, off-air, I had to do the laugh as an audition for the morning show producer and announcers before they would put me on. Eventually, I beat out several other listeners by doing it a few more times on-air. Needless to say, getting to school later that morning was like arriving the Homecoming King. (At least for my friends and classmates that heard it all go down). I’m not a master impressionist, but I had watched plenty of him on TV and in the movies, and repeatedly listened to his comedy so as to be an amateur impersonator. Now, it seemed, I had turned semi-pro.
Anyway, the biggest part of the prize package was not the tickets to the show, or the very cool T-shirt that I cherished for as long as the threads would tolerate. The grand prize was a chance to meet Eddie; meet Eddie Murphy back stage after the show. I was pumped. I had no idea what was coming. But, I have only myself to blame.
The show began, as did the laughs. My butterflies had not yet disappeared when, for some unknown, random reason, someone in the crowd decided to yell out during his performance, “Who won the contest?”. Amazingly, Eddie stopped his act without a beat, and replied, “What contest?”. Before I had even raised my hand above the mullet-line of the top of my shoulders, Eddie was looking right at us.
While I’ve never experienced stage fright, at this particular moment, I had “crowd fright”. I wasn’t interested in having to do my lame Eddie laugh in front of him. I had done my job on the radio. I already won my prize. Thankfully he didn’t ask “how” I won, just what the prize was. So, I told him. “Well, meet me right now”, he said. I should have seen that as the first sign things were going sideways. “Meet you now?!” That’s not nearly as cool as meeting you with my gal backstage, close up in person, even if there was no such thing as social media to post boast pics.
Speaking to us from the front of the stage in front of the rest of crowd, he quickly dissected our situation: couple of clean-cut, teenagers in love. After ribbing me a bit about likely not “getting any”, (accurately), he asked if I had anything else special lined up for our date that night. Remember how I didn’t want to have to do my lame impersonation of his laugh again, in front of him? Well for some reason, that didn’t stop me from attempting to impersonate him otherwise. My response, in the moment, seemed to be poignant and clever. In my best Eddie Murphy voice, loud enough for him to hear me from my front row seat, I said, “Brut… by faberge”. Hardcore Eddie Murphy fans will know that’s a punchline from one of his numerous classic bits. Part of the set up to the joke is he’s a 16 year old kid going on a first date and sneaking into his Dad’s drawer to use some cologne. Hence why I thought it was a good retort.
I’m fairly certain he didn’t have an opinion on my quip, or take offense to me paraphrasing his stand-up during his show. But, for the next few minutes, which felt more like an hour to yours truly, Eddie ranted to the other 2,930 audience members about, (I’m paraphrasing), “nerdy white kids trying to be cool in front of their virgin white girlfriends by trying to be funny by trying to sound black when they’re talking”. He continued by taking a deeper dive into why I wasn’t “getting any” with a descriptive and “act out” of how he imagined (again, accurately) I feebly attempted to make out with her. And then he moved on. He was done and has most definitely never thought about that moment again in his life.
Me, on the other hand: to this day, I still wonder if that random dude hadn’t yelled out during the show, would we have actually got a chance to meet him afterwards, as promised. We didn’t; no radio or PR people came to find us, and frankly I wasn’t in the frame of mind to hang around after the lights had come up in the theatre, like some glutton for punishment groupie.
Despite it all, I still went on dates and still went into comedy. I’ve been married and feebly making out with my wife for over 18 years. I’ve been a professional stand-up comedian for over 20 years and I never pick on people, especially in the front row on a date. I’ve also learned to laugh about that Legendary Awkward Date, in my own nerdy white guy, not trying to sound like Eddie Murphy when he laughs kind of way.
Footnote: I never did “get any” from that shawty. Tru dat, dawg, yo.