A few years back, I performed on The Ellen Degeneres Show. I had performed on the Carson Daly show so I wasn’t too nervous – shows are all different but also kind of the same. And I was gigging all over the world, working private events as an event entertainer and speed painter because of my YouTube viral video.
I was busy performing for Sir Richard Branson, flying to Amsterdam and Denmark and Japan, where I opened for Fergie, Bermuda with the Roots and Lionel Richie and performing For YouTube events. We worked 100 cities and 11 countries, it was an exhausting and amazing year! What a thrill ride for this middle aged father of five, a simple artist from Texas.
But to tell the truth, I was stretched a little thin. Rehearsal time was limited and never quite enough. Some shows were great, others… I got through them as best I could.
Television is very focused on time. The Ellen producers felt like my 5 minutes and 15 seconds for Ray Charles was too long for TV. They were probably right, but it was the fastest I could do it at the time.
So I attempted a 4 minute Ray.
We showed up at the Universal Studios Hilton and went to rehearsal. We ran a take and it was… well, in a word, “sloppy”. I thought it was O.K. But I think I flipped him before I had done his teeth, then painted the teeth in, and said, “oh, wait!” Or something. They gave me positive reinforcement because that’s what show people do, so I didn’t really realize anything was amiss. I assured them it would be fine for the show, but it worried them. A lot. Welcome to real show biz!
We went back to the hotel and my manager was on the phone with them. He told me that they were running long and that there was no room to put me on but I could go on tomorrow. I needed to be in Virginia tomorrow so we had quite a debate. In the end we found a way to make it all work and went to bed.
The next day, they agreed to give my my 5 minutes and I nailed it!
Ellen had the flu that week and so I didn’t spend much backstage time with her, though she was very nice. She did the show in her pajamas, bless her heart.
And Taylor Swift was on with me! I saw her during rehearsal and I thought, “huh! Look at that skinny teenager with glitter on her guitar. I’ll bet that’s just what the music industry is looking for.” Boy was that right! She was standing next to my manager as I painted Ray Charles, and she loved it.
That ended up being great because Ellen ran the show twice more during Summer re-run, I think because of Taylor as much as my small role.