Monday, November 2, 2009

Where it all began.

I'm currently working on a final project for my previously mentioned 1st Person Narrative writing class. My final product will be about my relationship (so-called) with stand-up comedy and will be comprised of 3 separate pieces. This is the beginning of the first part, a memoir about my life as a performer. Enjoy!

“Make 'em laugh! Make 'em laugh! Don't you know everyone wants to laugh?” – Singin’ in the Rain

When I was 4 years old, my father taught me how to tell a joke.

To be more specific, he taught me how to be the straight-man so that he could tell jokes. My aunt and uncle – his sister and brother-in-law – were coming to visit from Florida and my dad decided that we were going to put on a vaudeville-style comedy routine. For the first bit, he’d say “Think the rain’ll hurt the rhubarb?” Me: “Not if it’s in cans.” Him: “What, the rain or the rhubarb?!” Hilarious. I’d say “Can you tell me how to get to the post office?” and he’d go into a complicated explanation of how to get there, which involved a lot of backtracking and starting over, and end with “Naw, you can’t get there from here.” Comic gold. The third one was a little different, though, because it was my job to tell the punch-line. He’d say “Lived here all your life, farmer?” and I was supposed to say “Not yet!” But I’d always mess it up, and say “so far!” which isn’t so much a punch-line as it is an answer to the question. The thing is, when my aunt and uncle got there, and we did these jokes for them, they laughed. Even when I screwed up. In fact, they laughed harder because not only did I get it wrong, but I was an adorable little four-year-old.

This is my earliest memory. Of anything. I have literally been a performer as long as I can remember. And I learned one lesson from this experience: If you can make someone laugh, they’ll forgive anything. Nearly every experience I’ve had in life has been somehow based on or informed by this singular lesson. It’s gotten me into trouble, but it’s also helped me to deal with some of the most difficult situations I’ve faced. And – most importantly – it explains nearly everything about me.