I'm still not sure what possessed me to walk into Laughingstock's Comedy Club and sign up for their open-mic night. But I guess sometimes the less you think about doing something, the more apt you are to do it. For years I had dreamed about bringing my gift for comedy to the live stage. True, I might be more known for the written word, but I'm always coming up with funny things to say out loud. Yet I was way too shy to actually go through with it. Then one day I happened to be driving by the place. I pulled into the parking lot, walked in, and the rest is history. I don't know, maybe it was the big, inviting W.C. Fields stenciled on the front window, or the $8.99 all-you-can-eat popcorn shrimp special, which you've got to admit is pretty cheap. Whichever, there was something right about it all.
Of course, try telling all that to Hubby Rick! Boy, I guess he must have permanently lent his sympathetic ear to his barfly buddies at Tacky's Tavern, because when it came to my decision he acted like he was stone deaf! You know what the first thing he asked me was? "Are you getting paid?" Sheesh, with him it's always about the do-re-mi! When I told him no, he scoffed. "I don't get out of bed for less than $9.50 an hour," Rick said. Then he said that hookers have more sense than I do, because they know not to give it away for free. Doesn't he know anything about the world of comedy? It's based entirely on love and truth. The money is secondary. (But like all good clowns, I decided to convert my hubby's grouchy ways into fodder for my act, as you shall see!)
As it turned out, open-mic night didn't take up the whole night; it actually was used as a warm-up thing for the two professional cutups who were performing. I spotted one of them at the bar eating popcorn shrimp—he looked just like the photo tacked up in the glass signboard out front, only a little older, and his hair was less gray. I don't remember his name (he was kind of tall and burly and wore a leather jacket—does that ring a bell for anyone?), but I was eager to say a few kind, encouraging words to the merry jester. I placed my hand on his. He looked a little surprised. I looked straight into his eyes and told him, "Thank you for being a clown. Thank you for making the world laugh and forget its troubles for a minute or two. You provide an invaluable service." Then I walked away. I felt any other words would kill the moment. I had shared something real. I'm sure he very much appreciated it, for as I understand it, clowns live for the attention.
I introduced myself to the club's MC, who took me to a little room where two other amateurs sat. One looked like he was no older than 13, and the other looked to be a college kid. I didn't really talk to them, though, because this was about the time I started to feel really, really nervous and sick to my stomach. Fortunately, I didn't have to go on straightaway, since the college kid went first. I started to gather my wits. That was a good thing, because I almost forgot to put on my funny costume I planned just for this event—a red clown nose, huge polka-dot necktie, and propeller beanie! I thought it was a funny little touch that heightened the spirit of fun.
Soon it was my turn. To hear my name called and the smattering of applause it received was both exhilarating and terrifying! I climbed onstage and was immediately hit with a blinding light pointing at the stage. How do the jokesters put up with that? I could hardly see the notes I wrote on my hand! It so unnerved me that for a few seconds I couldn't say anything into the mic. The silence roared in my ears.
After my eyes got a little more used to the light, I launched into an observational-humor joke. I talked about bottled water, and how it seemed weird to pay for something free. I thought it was pretty funny, but no one really laughed at it. Maybe it went over their heads a little. The younger people probably don't remember a time in which we only drank tap water.
Then I did my couch potatoes joke: "If two couch potatoes mate, does that make their offspring hash browns?" That didn't get too many laughs either. I don't get why not—that joke could be printed in a joke book; it's that solid. Undeterred, however, I launched into that hilarious evergreen, my Pet Rock joke. "I had to put my Pet Rock to sleep recently," I said. "I felt sad, but old Sedi—that's short for sedimentary—had a good run. It lived to 32!"
You could have heard a pin drop. Again, perhaps the reference was too old. So I decided to haul out the big guns and talk about Hubby Rick, because who can't relate to a louse of a spouse who can be a real pain in the patoot? "My hubby drinks so much that the state granted him his own liquor license!" I said. "When we first got married, he promised me a house, and he came through—we're now the proud owners of a Barbie Dream House. 'But you didn't specify the size!' he said."
"Show us your tits," a voice from the audience said.
A couple others immediately screamed "Noooo!" I raised my hands to silence them all. "I don't expect everyone to appreciate clean humor," I said. "Thanks for your time. Enjoy the rest of the show. Good night."
I left the stage. The MC looked a little startled—I guess he expected my act to last much longer. But I tell you, because I refused to stoop to demeaning behavior, I walked off that stage with my head held high (though it made my red nose fall off and I had to pick it up in front of everyone). I returned to the little room to pack my gear, and watched the third act, the 13-year-old, on the closed-circuit TV. He got some big laughs talking about school cafeteria food and mean gym teachers, even though in my view he wasn't any funnier than me. But no matter—my dream of being a clown had come true, and completely on my own terms!
But seriously, I think that Pet Rock joke was a pretty good one. I mean, rocks obviously don't die! Who saw that one coming?