What am I doing with my life? No matter how much freshly-heaved sick I find myself trudging through, no matter how many retina burns suffered from flashes of brilliance and the bright lights of failure, I still always have the pitiful feeling that it's all happening on the other side of a slab of tempered glass; that I'm watching my life happen on daytime television through the lip of an oversized vodka bottle.
While most people of a certain age (mine) are layering their personal foundations with vocational duties, or at least personal limits and/or children, I continue to flit about in atomic despair, seemingly satisfied to accept that throwing this sort of shit against paper every week somehow if a bit impressionistically spells out "career."
Oh, look. I'm whining again. Scratch that, then. I'm as happy as the clap. I'm downright clappy.
I've chosen this Saturday night, the night of my redneck anniversary (hell, at least I have that), to wear my amusement on the outside, joining a gaggle of gays for a predictably numbing bout with stand-up comedy at the Improv. Should be funny, right? Well, considering that a) I don't understand the appeal of stand-up comedy, and b) I'm willfully immersing myself in a portion of nightlife culture that makes me feel very small (large people who choose to laugh at a stage and not at each other), not to mention c) I'm very, very drunk, it should be about as funny as most of my laugh-tracked panic attacks. Ha.
Add to that alchemy of inferiority the fact that tonight's headliner is Jason Stuart, a friend of a friend of mine, one who actually works his gay humor card far beyond the standard keyboard twiddle that employs mine and probably makes significant money doing so and the jokes, as they say, are on me. "Gay People," I scribble into my notebook, next to a wobbly rendering of the empty set. I'm not funny. I'm depressing.
Still it's a merry (Mary?) bunch that I've arrived with, and even the fact that we've all been corralled into the back corner, away from the straights, is a source of some conviviality. A tasteless joke about a certain kind of camp in Germany is whispered into my right ear, but it's suppressed quickly by liquor and taste. Don't go there, girl, etc. In order to avoid any further wandering thought processes that might get me lynched, I surround myself with a fortress of finger foods, optioning no less than three items from the menu, and hoping that if I get fat, I'll shut up.
Nope. By the time the show opener a wide-load lesbian of obvious mullet affliction begins wrestling with her Sapphic observational humor side, I'm already pouting and muttering obscenities. All attempts to write down my observations of her observations are muted by the postmodern chicken grease on my fingers, and instead I allow myself to be stymied into personal futility. I am, effectively, the twice-removed cousin of funny. I've got nothing.
As the second act a stringy-haired accident of a man begins tat-tat-tattering through stream-of-consciousness one-liners, I've got a bone in my throat. I cough it up and a word comes out. Not just a word, but a proper noun so disgusting, so abhorrent, that a number of people in attendance have to turn and look at the gore as it unfolds.
"Gallagher!" I Tourette, leaving it hanging in the air like a black thought bubble, or colored flatulence. "Ahem."
I think I've had enough. But I haven't.
To be fair, I like Jason Stuart. I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 with him when he was in town last summer, and we ended up in a liberal, one-upsmanship word battle in the parking lot afterwards. He's genuinely funny, and probably a lot like me if I could score a gram of motivation to throw my downcast gaze in some other direction. He's got a recurring gig on television's My Wife and Kids and some indie film credentials, not to mention a respectable touring gig as a slightly self-deprecating homo happymaker. A reel of his TV highlights is projected onto the backdrop as he prepares to grace the stage, and immediately I'm dipping into my unnecessary arsenal of antipathy. How vain, I'm funnier, etc. Oh, really?
Then why am I Little Miss Grumpy in the corner, and why is he on stage?
"Black woman, gay man, same thing," effuses Stuart from the stage.
Oh, that's why. I prefer my corner, thank you. At about this time my friend Taylor (boyfriend of Tim, Jason's friend … exhausting, I know) and I are exhibiting all of the politeness that can be expected from two whores in church, and Tim is developing something of a paternal glare with which he would like to cut our throats. Sensing this, Taylor and I excuse ourselves to the ladies' room, presumably to throw up and become pretty again. OK, it's actually the men's room, but this is gay humor. It's that funny.
And just when it all seems to have gone south with Carson Kressley's career, a little bit of humor actually begins to rear its ugly head. Or at least poke its head into my stall.
Whether he intends it or not (this is the Improv, after all), the bathroom attendant, an older gentleman in spiffy attire, is quickly making my night, telling me some joke that I won't remember and violating my unlocked private space … meaning my stall, dirty head. Following my sweet relief, Mr. Handy introduces us to his veritable apothecary of over-the-counter toiletries: your standard colognes, soaps and hand towels, plus some unexpected items of out-of-context pleasure.
"Can I get a shot of that Massengill?" I quiz, finding my inner comedian. "Maybe before I take some time with that EPT?"
"Stand-up? I hate stand-up! I pee standing up!" HA!
This is more than potty humor; it's girl's potty humor, and I think I just shat out my bitter pill. Back in our seats, neither pregnant nor fresh, Taylor and I gab away for a bit without even noticing the death of gay humor going on around us.
"Laugh!" orders Tim, forever a drunken prison warden, which is kind of sexy.
No thanks. I already did.