When FitzGerald Nightclub bartender Camille Severino isn’t slinging drinks, she’s creating a comic strip about a fictional bar called the Corner Pub.
We asked Camille about her funny—and at times—provocative comic strip, and why bartenders will love it.
Tell us about your background in the industry.
I started bartending at my cousin’s place in Melrose Park, Illinois, right around 1991. I think it was a few months before I turned 21. It was called Mi Amici, an Italian pizza joint that turned into a nightclub after the kitchen closed.
From there, I started working at a live music venue called FitzGerald’s around 1994 and have been serving drinks there, on and off, ever since. Yes, I’ve spent more than 20 years working at one bar, but hey, when you’re having fun, it’s hard to walk away. I’ve seen some of the best musicians in the world play this stage, all while earning money.
Talk to us about your comic.
I’ve been playing around with the idea of putting together a comic strip that revolves around a bar because, as they say, write what you know. After 28 years of slinging drinks in several different settings, if there’s one thing I know, it’s bar culture. Whether it’s a fine dining place or the local dive, there are aspects to the customer/bartender interaction that are universal.
My comic strip is about a fictional bar called the Corner Pub, which can be on any corner or any place anywhere in the world. The title, 3 Feet of Wood, came from the old adage that there is three feet of wood between you and the customer. I don’t know how universal that statement is, but where I come from, it’s a well-known saying in the industry. I liked it because it’s provocative and could mean many things.
As for the characters, they’re still developing. I like the idea of having recurring barflies and scenes of the types of crazy that can happen in a bar. Granted, most of the experiences I draw will be in a dive bar/music venue kind of vibe, but that’s my experience.
I’ve found that bartenders who read it want to tell me a story they think would make a great comic, so I’m compiling those experiences and working on guest bartenders at the Corner Pub. But there are also going to be more intricate storylines as it grows. Right now, my finished pieces consist of bar jokes, which is great. That’s the idea.
But, like Peanuts and most other comics, I want this to develop further, where there are relationships and problems and all the kinds of drama you find in this type of setting. By that, I mean places that revolve around serving alcohol—they’re drama magnets.
What was your inspiration to write the comic?
Burnout, I suppose—ha! I won’t lie—after almost thirty years of dealing with the public in a bartending aspect, I’ve grown to be a bit salty. There are certain things that really get under my skin, which I use as jokes for the cartoon.
My main focus with this project is to make professionals in the industry and bar-savvy patrons laugh. Anyone who finds my jokes offensive or thinks, “I do that,” should take these as lessons on how not to act in a bar.
Do you gather you material from real experiences behind the bar?
Some of them are my experiences, some are deviations of stories I’ve heard, and some are completely fantasy and made up, like the one I drew of the bartender spraying a woman in the face. I have never done that, nor have I ever heard of another bartender doing that. I just know I wanted to.
That comic is the perfect example of the divide between bartenders and laypeople. I’ve had people come up to me after reading it and say, “But I ask for water.” The bartender doesn’t squirt the man in the face because he asked for water. She does it because he’s three rows back and acting like his needs are more important than all the people who are ahead of him.
I did pour a man’s free pour shot in a 9-ounce glass into a shot glass once after he complained that it didn’t look like a full shot. That real-life joke may have cost me a dollar tip, but it entertained me for hours, which was well worth the price.