“It’s not a tragedy if you can add a punchline.” – Christopher Titus, Comedian.
Tragedy is the story of my life, which I’ve accentuated with my own punchlines. People still tell me what is funny, what isn’t. I make up my own mind yet, the older I get, the more I think I know nothing. All I know are a million little pieces of stories that are all mine, unlike James Frey’s.
During my trip to New York City five years ago, I sat in my second Saturday Night Live audience and discovered Louis C K was the guest host. This was before his, “I like to jerk off, and I don’t like being alone” disclosure, so I was thrilled! His opening monologue ended up being not only one of the longest in SNL history, but it also contained an unusual, controversial spin on pedophilia that made headlines. That bit was prolonged and, as Louis delivered it, the guy beside me looked incredulous, nervous, did not laugh. I whispered, “It’s ok, I was abused. This is fricken hilarious!” Only then did he relax. He ended up laughing so hard, he wet himself. A psychologist would have a field day with that progression.
Talking to strangers is a common theme with me. Coincidentally, so is being in a place where abuse is the topic of the play or monologue or one-person show, or referenced in a discussion. This has happened so many times, I actually find the synchronicity of it all amusing.
While in line in Toronto for a book signing by writer David Sedaris, I had a heated exchange with a woman in line near me. She declared Woody Allen was innocent of everything but not funny. I shot back, “Allen is disgusting for marrying his daughter period, but his Annie Hall is pure brilliance and hilarious!” (No I did not see Marshall McLuhan in the lineup.)
Artists are viewed through the prism of their failings once their laundry is aired. When pandora’s box is opened, that ship has sailed, but an act of abuse doesn’t change their talent, does it?
My abuser had a good singing voice. You think he lost his voice after he molested me? It was I who lost my voice…for a time. Eventually, however, I sang like a canary! Then, guess who lost his voice! No one’s going to listen to a convicted pedophile sing, right?! (Or so you’d think. That story I’ll save for another blog entry.)
I have developed a sense of humor in this life. Warped, yes, but it gets me through.
My friend Jill came back from a Florida holiday faced with two weeks house-bound quarantine so I thought I’d perform a face time stand up from my back yard to brighten her day. Tragedy with punchlines, who could resist? Afterward, I sent the video link to our friends in Toronto. I heard back that evening by email:
Hi Donald, We are well but, unfortunately, our daughter picked up the virus while travelling. We had a bit of a scare on Friday as her breathing became very shallow and resulted in an asthma attack. It’s a crazy world right now! Your routine was great! Don’t forget to wash your hands and practice “social distancing”. Keep the comedy coming…we can all use a laugh.
I am, and I will.
You can watch it on YouTube. Normally I’d warn that its adult theme is not safe for work or the PC police, the cancel culture, you name it, but you probably aren’t at work reading this, anyway! Besides, how could you possibly have read this far and not know what to expect?
Delivering punchlines doesn’t lessen the seriousness of a tragedy, but it may help one get through it.
Jill is healthy and our friend’s daughter is on the mend. No punchline required.
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