The Tragedy of Comedy

Originally posted on Tuesday, September 15, 2009

“GET THE FUCK OUT,” Scarlett screamed, and she actually meant it this time. I grinned nervously as an expensive antique lamp whizzed by my head and shattered against the wall. Looking my red-faced lover in the eyes, I did the best thing I could do; made an emotionally abusive remark. “Whatever, you’re getting fat anyway. I don’t much enjoy making love to Shamu,” and then I walked nonchalantly out the door. It was a lie, she looked great and I loved her to death; but I just couldn’t bear to be the one who looked hurt.
My name is Sam Lynch, and I am a terrible person. You are going to learn that very quickly. I live in my very own piece of shit studio in the center of San Francisco, and make a meager salary working for the glorious golden-arched establishment that is McDonald’s restaraunts incorporated. My passion isn’t exactly flipping burgers, but it’ll get me by while I work toward my life-long dream of being a professional people-insulter; or, in Layman’s terms: a stand-up comedian. I used to have a girlfriend named Scarlet, but as you can see that isn’t working out too well at the moment. I guess you could say she hates me, but I’d like to think it’s out of love.
Calmly walking down the front steps of Scarlet’s twenty-story apartment complex, I shot an obligatory middle finger toward her window. I like to think that she saw it. Just to make sure, I stood in the same position for about a minute before departing toward my home. As I walked the damp streets and insulted bums, I couldn’t help but think that I had done something wrong. Scarlet was the first girl I had ever met who didn’t dump me in a week because I was “too much of an asshole”. She liked my pessimistic, comical view of life. She maybe even loved it, but I was always too busy making a joke to reciprocate her sentiments.
Well, I guess tonight was the last straw. Scarlet finally gave in to my callousness after 2 years. She decided that I do more harm than good. It all started at her house during the second of our bi-weekly committed relationship dinners. Like always, she made one of the two meals she knew how to make, (spaghetti with meat sauce or tuna surprise) and I brought the mood-setters (a jug of the cheapest wine I could find and a selection from my Adam Sandler collection). Everything was seemingly normal, until Scarlet dropped a bombshell capable of blowing up ten Hiroshimas. “I love you,” she said, her eyes soggy with emotion.
“I want to break up,” said some idiot. Then… blah blah blah…“GET THE FUCK OUT”… and here I am walking the streets, wondering why I do the things that I do.
The moist air made me feel extremely sweaty and tense. Every breath I took felt like I was suffocating a little more. I walked slowly, observantly watching the tall towers get shorter. The scenic “San Francisco” that tourists love gradually progressed into the ghetto. This is my San Francisco, this is my home. Tiptoeing up the creaky wooden steps to my gunshot-decorated front door, I turned my key in it’s deadbolt and stumbled inside; flicking on each light switch as I came to it.
I found myself in the bathroom, observing my reflection in the mirror. I examined my muddy brown hair, the stubborn jaw of my dead father, the wide nose that doesn’t belong in my genealogy, and my heartless white-blue eyes. I am disgusted with these features. There’s no way people look at me and don’t see a hostile person. God, I need help.

****

I woke up at 3:00 PM today. I suppose that makes sense because I stayed up watching “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns until 6:00 AM. I’m definitely depressed. I brushed my teeth, took a shower, and spent about 20 minutes faking smiles; until I found one that fit enough to get me through the day.
I arrived at the SF Comedy club at exactly 8:30 PM, about 30 minutes early. This was odd for me because I usually arrive 5 minutes after I’m supposed to be onstage. It was interesting watching all of the up-and-coming “comedians,” and thinking of how I was once there. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not exactly a veteran; but I’ve been putting on mediocre acts for quite a while now. Tonight felt different:

“Hello everybody! I’m Sam Lynch, let’s get this over with…
I’ve got places to be. You know, sometimes people look at me and say,
‘Sam you’re so heartless’. These kinds of people really get to me,
because I do my best to be a good citizen. Every time I commit
a hit and run, I try my best to dial 911 and report it on my way home.
I mean, it’s illegal to be on a cell phone in the car;
but I do it anyway because I care.”

I heard laughter, my heart skipped a beat. I looked at them, somewhat bewildered, and did my best impression of making a 911 call while speeding away from a crime. I forced a smile at the audience and continued:

“I swear, you’ve got me all wrong. I love to give.
Don’t believe me? Ask my girlfriend, I gave her all sorts of things.
Given, most of the things I gave her were transferrable
through bodily fluid… but I gave her things nonetheless.”

I imitated a shocked Scarlet calling me on the phone. I hushed her quickly, and spoke in a soothing tone. “Baby, it’s because I love you. That’s all it is, it’s a product of our love.” The audience continued to laugh. If only Scarlet was here, then she could hear what I really feel (minus the STDs) . I wish I wasn’t so stupid sometimes. I get the thirty-second warning from the sound guy, so I wrapped it up:

“But seriously guys, don’t be like me… don’t be
anything like me. It’s a long dark path being a comedian.
I swear to god, I had to fight like 5 different mythological
creatures on my way through the SF Comedy
Club Labyrinth, and you bet your ass David Bowie was
there. He seduced me into joining the dark side with
his beautiful music and promises of space travel.
…Thanks everyone! Have a great night.”

I left the stage, not even listening to the applause I received. I strode to the bar, and ordered myself a stiff drink. “Whiskey on the rocks, please,” I said to the bartender.
He gave me a look of strange approval, and politely replied, “This one’s on the house, buddy. Great job tonight.”
I did my best to smile, accepted the drink gratefully, and took a seat next to a drunkard sitting at the bar. He looked at me without shame, and a grin bubbled onto his face. “Great show tonight, buddy. Y’know, I’ve always thought you were a hack.. but something was different tonight. It’s like you really are an asshole.”
That’s when I realized it. I used to be a shitty comedian, because I was happy. I was satisfied with my life, and I fucked it up. I found a girl who was softening me, and I really liked it. I knew what I needed at that moment. I jumped out of my chair and raced out of the bar, making a huge scene. I tore my way through the front door, and abused my way down the street to Scarlet’s complex. Nearly giving an old lady a heart attack, I squeezed inside and up the elevator.
I knocked sporadically on Scarlet’s front door. She answered, looking beautifully pissed at me as usual. “Scarlet, I’m sorry for everything. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just can’t say how I feel and it kills me because I care so much about you.” The anger melted away from Scarlet’s face in an instant. For the first time in a while, Scarlet smiled. “I love you,” I said, smiling back.
Scarlet continued to stare at me, silent for another couple of seconds. Then, the smile disappeared. “I fucking hate you,” she finally replied.
“I hate every single thing about you, and I have no clue why I used to enjoy you so much. You’re inhuman, I’ve never seen losing a parent effect anyone more than it has you. You just can’t relate, you’re like a sociopath…except you have this strange value for human life. I think it’s because you enjoy making fun of people. I’m moving, Sam. There’s nothing here for me. I hate this fucking city and every person contained within it. Especially you.”
I looked at Scarlet, and I felt like I should cry for the first time in 6 years. The tears didn’t come, the smile didn’t fade. I just stood there, looking exactly the same.
“See, nothing.” Scarlet slammed the door in my face, and that was the last I would ever see of her. Just before I left, Scarlet pushed an envelope out from under her door. I opened it and found a card inside. Across the top it said “Get well soon” with a picture of Bugs Bunny with his head wrapped in gauze. I opened the card and read Scarlet’s familiar handwriting:

“Look who gets the last laugh. I bet you
never thought it’d be me. To be a true artist,
you must suffer. I get it now, you never wanted to be
happy. Remember me when you perform on
HBO. The pain is worth it.
-Scarlet”
I dropped the card, and stomped on Bugs Bunny’s horrible face. Tears began to stream from my eyes, and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I walked out of the apartment complex a broken man. Everyone stared at the big baby.
I’m going to mail that girl a million dollars someday. A million fucking dollars.

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