Previously: Greg Estrada wanted to spy on a rival amateur comedy show making its debut on a Friday night. But he'd already promised to spend the evening with his girlfriend, Lia, and her son, Jackson. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.
Greg estrada's concern about a new rival amateur comedy show bordered on paranoia. He was certain that the upstart producers were going to steal the ideas he uses at his own weekly open-mike shows. But Greg couldn't bring himself to break his date with Lia to carry out what he called "industrial espionage."
"Me and Lia and Jackson are having a family night with a walk to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream," he wrote in an e-mail on the Friday morning of the rival show's debut. "Is there any way you can go to the show and spy for me?"
That would not normally be part of my job description, as a journalist covering the adventure of Greg's life. But going to a public performance is hardly spying, and, besides, I did want to check out Greg's competition. So I told Greg I'd go.
Another e-mail from Greg soon arrived. "Some things to look for: Do they have a big crowd, a real stage, a spotlight, posters/signs indicating that there's a comedy show going on, is the crowd sitting quietly paying attention?"
At the end of his own shows, Greg invites a few audience members to the stage to tell a joke. The person who gets the biggest applause wins $25. Greg calls this segment "Everybody's a Comedian."
"I am most curious if they do a joke contest, and if so how similar is it to mine," Greg wrote. "If they call it 'Everybody's A Comedian' I'm gonna get angry, real angry, Gene Hackman angry." He signed off by asking if he was "taking this all a little too seriously?"
I stepped into Bridges, a bar in Fairfax, at about the same time that Greg was ordering a chocolate milkshake at Baskin-Robbins. Later he said that he very much enjoyed his evening with Lia and Jackson, in part because he knew that I was snooping around on his behalf.
Greg probably would have considered the show sloppy. It started 20 minutes late. A television not far from the stage was showing a basketball game. Nearby, people were playing pool and talking over the comedians. When talking occurs during Greg's shows, he hands the offender a slip of paper: "Please keep your conversation down during the comedy show. Or step out to the bar area?" Some comics, Greg says, complain that he's excessively controlling. "I take that as a compliment," he says.
Kojo Mante, a 23-year-old comic who had helped organize the open-mike night at Bridges, seemed to enjoy himself, laughing at the back of the room, clearly not stressed out by the show's imperfections.
I reported back to Greg on Monday, telling him about the lighting, the signage and the talking. He seemed satisfied with an affirmation that he was still the most zealous producer of amateur comedy shows in the Washington area. He asked if there had been a joke contest at the end. Actually, I didn't know. I'd had to leave early.
What good are you? Greg demanded. He said I was a lousy spy.
A few days later, Greg informed me that there had not been a joke contest at the rival show. How did he know this? He said that I hadn't been his only spy in the room.
-- Tyler Currie