Now I know how Lenny Bruce feels. Okay, that’s a huge stretch but, as this story was unfolding, I thought of Bruce when he was in his obscenity trial. The prosecution was letting a police officer on the stand do Lenny’s sick jokes. Lenny objected and asked the judge to let him do the act in court so the judge could understand his callous humor in context. The judge refused.
The lesson is, let the guy who wrote it do it. It’ll come out much better that way.
But that’s not how it always works out. I was standing right there and would have gladly taken over. If just to stop the butchering. But the guy I know would have none of that. He wanted to prove to his friend just how funny I am. Even if he had to destroy my work to do it.
What I do can be pretty hard to do if you’re not me. I’m not saying it’s anything great, I’m just saying it’s very specific in timing and wording. It’s not a joke you can just tell. It’s a specifically tailored story to a specific event. I’ve called them foible fables but they’re more often seen as mean spirited verbal beatdowns.
I won’t belabor the point. It’s a potato/potahto/tomato/tomahto/fuck you you’re an idiot ruining my jokes thing.
And that’s with all the care I take writing it. Okay, you got me. I don’t take much care. But at laest I chek fur contant, propah useage and mots timez spill chek.
I stood there, trying not to kill, but it wasn’t working. I wanted to kill. He was mixing stories, tagging bits with other jokes, it was a mess. But I smiled. I don’t know why. Maybe I thought if I didn’t say anything or move the thoughts of filling his mouth with cement until it poured out of his ass would go away.
I could also tell by the sideways glances I was getting that his friend wasn’t convinced. How can I be so sure? He looked like he was half way through finishing a prune juice and castor oil butterscotch float.
Even though, a few times, I tried to shore up the failing imitation I knew there was no recovering. You can’t explain jokes and it’s even harder when there was no joke heard in the first place.
Although I offered to do a bit or two to exorcise the room my pal wouldn’t hear of it. He was willing to ruin story after story (even with my prompting and precise guidance) no matter how big the crater from the bomb blast.
I finally asked him to stop but it took until I threatened to suck out his eyes and put them back in the wrong sockets so he’d spend the rest of his life walking in circles that he ended his set.
When I said that, a pretty good joke even the guy who’s eyes were threatened laughed at, and noticed his friend didn’t laugh I began counting moments until they left. There was nothing I could do so I left it up to them. Leave before it gets ugly.
I knew the ugly potential was there because of the friends expression. Have you ever seen someone’s expression when they’ve smelled a rather vile fart? But there’s also a little grin because the metal rod up their ass is tickling?
That’s the expression I got when the friend said,
“I will pray to the lord for your soul.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done a lot of fucked up things in my life so anyone looking out for me is a good thing. But I tend to bristle when it’s done with pious intent. When you pray for my soul you’d better be serious because you may be spending some time.
“Right backache, big guy! I’ll drink to my Lord for you!” I hold aloft my sacred adult beverage and intone. “I know you’re listening but, this time, pay attention. Hey, Jack Lord, open this guy’s mind and show him a little greatness from the book ’em, Dano?”
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t trying to convert him but if I’m going down in flames with my shit I’d like to be the pilot. I wasn’t sure if the guy who got me to this point was happy or sad at this moment but, in this time during the flight, his brain was in the locked and upright position.
“Let me ask you something. You know, for a fact, that gawd exists.”
“Cool. Can I get his email from you?”
“Email. I don’t even care if it’s his work one. You should have it if you’re such good buds, right?”
“You are ludicrous. You can’t email the Lord.”
“Oh, old testament, I see. New technology can fuck with old folks. What about his address? I’ll send him a note. I have a few questions. Nothing bad. I’m wondering what he was thinking when he created the manatee and platypus.”
“I’m not going to humor you any longer. My faith in the Lord is absolute.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere.” I could tell that wasn’t what he expected but this is where I was hoping to get before he got pissed and left. Because I wanted a complete story. You wouldn’t believe how many times I start down Funny Story Lane and end up on Bubkis Boulevard.
“Faith.” I continue. “That’s a big thing for you, right?”
“Cool. Cool. It’s even in your rule book, right?”
“Yeah, the book the Gideons leave in hotels and prisons.”
“The Bible?” He snarls unhappy he even has to say the word in my presence.
“That’s the one. Damn, let me tell you, from what I’ve heard, I’d love a third of that books sales figures. But, hey, I don’t begrudge any writer their success.”
“Are you going to continue your stupidity?”
“Probably. It’s a huge part of my personality, but, please, before I royally piss you off, I want to talk about faith for a minute.” He sits back. He thinks he can make headway. Gosh, do I love hayseeds in the land of Zell. “You believe, with all your heart and soul, in your faith, right?”
“Great. Let me prove that I too have absolute faith using that book you follow.”
“Didn’t we already establish that’s the one? Do you have others?” I knew I couldn’t push too far but I just can’t help myself. It was a hanging curve. What was I supposed to do? Not swat at it?
He sits silently.
“I’ll take that as a no. We’re working from the Bible here.” I sit back and adopt a relaxed posture. “Faith. It guides both of our lives.”
“I sincerely doubt that.”
“Let me prove it to you.” I lean over, pick up a knife and cut a piece of cheese. I lean back with the cheese. And the knife. “I’m going to give you a situation where I have total faith that, in the end, we’ll have no choice but to agree on the outcome. Ready?”
“If you proceed quickly.”
“Thataboy. What would you do if I took this knife and jammed it in your eye?”
The man was appalled. I ate a piece of cheese. He’s sure I’m beyond help, a mad man actually, so says,
“I would call the police, have you arrested and thrown in prison for a very long time.”
I shake my head sadly.
“Oh ye of little faith.” I put the knife back in the cheese.
“What are you talking about?”
“How can you say you’re a man of faith, that you know the Lord exists, when you don’t even live up to his own christian teachings found right in gawds little rulebook.”
I can tell the guy is done with my silliness because he says,
“I am done with your silliness.” If you listen messages are easy to understand. “You are not worthy to question my christianity.”
“Yes, I am because you don’t even follow the basic rules of your faith.”
“What are you talking about?”
“If you were a true christian you would forgive me.”
I watch the wheels grind so hard in his head I felt the christian thing to do would be grease them.
“And then turn the other cheek.”
I love when they’re speechless, if only for a second, because it’s easier for me to continue.
“Which I’d also stab because I have faith you’d forgive me again! Man! Faith is a cool thing. But, I guess that’s where it would end, right? I mean, there’s no turn the other cheek of the turned cheek rule, is there?”
I went after him and offered a Contemporary Comedy Institute tract but when he turned around and saw me coming he flinched and beat it double time. His loss. As we all know, the CCI has faith by the buttload!
I went back to my seat and looked at the guy who made all this possible. I could tell he wasn’t sure how he felt about it. On one hand, he got to see me work. On the other I pissed off a friend he knows much better.
“Listen to me,” I say grabbing the knife and slicing off a hunk of cheese. “When you have the urge to speak of this, and you will, don’t.”
I sat back and was pleasantly surprised to see it only took a few moments to come to the correct answer and smile.
“I’ll send them the link.”
“I think that’s better for everyone, don’t you?”