Thin Smiles

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A man in the audience at Ye Olde Ivy League comedy show last night asked a question “on behalf of the late Oscar Wilde,” and I want to officially apologize for every time I hate-sighed at a member of the “less of a question, more of a comment” brigade. 

But bless his heart, at least he enjoyed the show. After the applause died away, I myself didn’t have any questions. I didn’t have any concerns. I didn’t have the bookkeeper. Nothing.

While he channeled Mr. Wilde, my face hurt from the two hours I’d spent trying to look supportive and engaged for two lovely comedians who didn’t inspire me to laugh once. But Beyonce knows I tried.

When the first performer shouted out the rat who sauntered onto a New York City subway and took his place at the pole, I felt a wave of NYC nostalgia that forced a wobbly smile, one that wouldn’t have been out of place on a gassy baby. I think that almost counts.

The second comedian, a genial former local who dropped knowing references to the crunchiest, most insufferable parts of West Philadelphia, fared a little better. Something resembling a chortle escaped my body when she riffed on the ways her inner monologue went, um, rogue after encountering a luminous, if unintelligible, Sarah Palin while gamely accompanying her mom to a conservative Christian conference. Post-chortle I looked around, pleased for myself and the woman whispering hopefully into the mic, relieved that my sense of humor had just taken a nap, not the nearest exit.

Mostly, I took note of each comedian’s confidence. Phew, was it doing a lot of the heavy lifting, and I admired them for that. It was a generous audience, one that came to laugh, damn it, and both women hit its collective funny bone more often than not. No sides were split and not one ass was laughed off, certainly not my badonkadonk, but they acquitted themselves nicely at something that’s so goddamned hard. God knows you can’t say that about Sarah Palin.

I thought about the 20-minute set I’d just stupidly agreed to perform in three short weeks and told myself that if I could just…get…through it like these ladies. If I could just…remember…my as yet unwritten* lines, I’d be fine.

Ideally, I want people to laugh so hard they flail about with wide, frightened eyes as they hope against hope that someone nearby has a spare oxygen tank or their EMT certification. Failing that, if I could just get through it and not have anyone leave thinking of the name of last night’s show when they did….

Bestie: Wait, what was the name of the show? It had a name?

Me: Yeah.

Bestie: Well?

Me: …..

Bestie: ….

Me: It’s Not Funny.

Bestie: ….

Me: My ticket stub literally says…It’s Not Funny.

Bestie: Nooooooooo!

Yep. And thus the prophecy was fulfilled.

[cracks open notebook, uncaps ink pen, and stares into middle distance like a cat]

* Never agree to anything when you’re high on Alka-Seltzer Plus Severe Cold & Flu.

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