A friend of mine’s been hitting the open-mic comedy circuit lately, and I’d like to tell you about how great it’s going for him! I’d also like to tell you that I won $47 million in the lottery last week, but that wouldn’t be true, either.
There are many possible explanations for the state of fugue that overcomes audiences during his five-minute sets. But the quality of the material isn’t one of them. The jokes are great. Here’s one:
· “Man, it’s grim out there. Fires, floods, plague, Republicans. It’s just awful!”
· “In a perfect world, antidepressants wouldn’t have side effects.”
Funny, right? No one laughs.
I deflect by telling my friend that maybe it’s the audiences, which are mostly wannabe comics half his age. Or maybe it’s the lighting in the rooms. Or the celestial position of the venue in relation to Uranus at the moment he gets on stage. Or an itch in relation to his anus at the moment he gets on stage.
He wonders whether it’s his delivery. I lie and tell him no. I tell him not to change his voice just to appeal to twits who crack up at dumb dick jokes that lack the sophistication of his dick jokes.
Here’s one of their dick jokes:
· “I love amazon, man, right? ‘Hey, Alexa! Suck my dick!’ Oh, man. Too much, right? But what if she actually did that!”
Here’s of one of my friend’s dick jokes:
· “Went in for surgery last week. People hear ‘surgery’ and they think ‘cancer,’ ‘brain tumor,’ ‘penile enlargement.’ Please. Like I have cancer or a brain tumor.”
· “We giggle at the word ‘Bangkok,’ but it’s actually a Thai word. It means ‘bang cock.’ ”
Funny, right? No one laughs. Again. I don’t want to see my friend invest so much of himself in something that will bring only pain. His pain is my pain. So I tell him that maybe standup comedy just isn’t his forte. I remind him that he’s a writer first and that performance is a very different art form.
He tells me to shit my hat.
He says that instead of giving up, he’s going to reinvent the form. That seems grandiose for someone who’s still working on his Tuesday-night Tight Five. Then I remember that grandiose thinking is symptomatic of Cluster B personality disorders. I ask him how he plans to reinvent the form.
“How do you plan to reinvent the art form?” I ask.
“By eliminating the setups and going straight to the punchlines,” he says, with a chop of his hand.
“Just punchlines? Nothing else?”
“That’s right. Just punchlines,” he says. “People only want to hear the funny part anyway, so why diddle with the buildup?”
Also, he says that by reducing his Tight Five to a Tight One, he’ll be helping people get home earlier, which is something else everyone wants on a Tuesday night.
I know what he’s thinking. He’s thinking that if this works, he’ll finally be recognized as the creative genius that his eighth-grade English teacher told his mother he was after that book report.
Tonight’s the big night. He’s going to try out the new set for the first time. We’re both nervous. But he’s spent the past week practicing so that the punchlines roll out seamlessly, one after the other. Boom, boom, boom. No pauses or brain farts. Or any farts, which would upstage him.
His list includes a few classics, which he says is part of what makes it funny and also connects him with the great comics of the past. This, too, seems grandiose. But I do agree with him.
It’s time. Here he goes. Ready? Deep breath and …
· You wanna screw for that?
· No, but I’ll blow you for a toaster.
· Looks like you blew a seal!
· I’d love to, but I couldn’t fit another potato up my ass.
· Then don’t do that.
· But we need the eggs!
· Roll ’em in, boys!
· Spot, get out of there before he shits on your head!
· You like pussy, Katz?
· Yes, but why do you ask, Two Dogs Fucking?
· Because she was fucking Goofy.
· Uh, that’s OK. You can keep the duck.
· What’d you expect for $10? Lobster?”
· All right. Take two suppositories, go to a Broadway show, and call me in the morning.
Thank you so much! Thanks a lot, everybody! Now you get out a little early! Be safe!