Friday, October 24, 2008
Laughs On Mars
Dear reader! This seemingly fabulist anecdote may seem like a cynical cash-in on a spectacular ABC sci-fi police procedural, but please rest assured-the following actually happened.
I woke up next to my girlfriend and kissed her softly on her forehead. The last thing I remember was eating a Snicker's ice cream bar from the freezer and fwoosh! I ended up outside the Improv where Broadway Comedy Club used to be.
Wait, you say, didn't Broadway Comedy Club replace the Improv? I had a similar thought till the wind pressed a newspaper against my glasses with the date: October 24, 1973. Seems like I had become unstuck in time. What was I to do? One of the first things I noticed was that things were so much cheaper back then, I did not have to work. This gave me time to ply my craft of comedy in the style of standing up.
I overheard some comics mention an open mike at Father Demo Square. After following them on the A for five stops, I eventually shoved my way past the increasingly vexed Chinese food patrons and signed up. It was my turn to get onstage. I started by mentioning I was an Arab-American. I had plunged into a maelstrom of deafening boos. Realizing too late that Arabophobia was worse back then, a drunkard with a wispy mustache screamed "Lower our gas prices towelhead."
That's right; 1973 was the year of the oil embargo.
I tried finding another open mike. One thing: there was no BadSlava because there was NO INTERNET! What? No Apiary, YouTube, MySpace? No Facebook invites? What to do?
What anyone else would do: befriend Steve Martin.
Steve Martin was by all accounts a distant, aloof kind of guy. So what if I shared my interests in art, King Tut and rabbit ears with the then-struggling comic? What if I praised his brief appearance on Laugh-In? What if I fed him his own jokes? And if he didn't like one, I would say "Well excuuuuuse me!"
If you had a dog in this race, you would say that I rode Martin's coattails to the stratosphere. Martin talked to the great Carnac and got me a Tonight Show gig.
Had I been more aware I wouldn't have stuck to my own set list. But there I was talking about iPod stereos and YouTube.
I was an overnight smash. Stoners loved my "fake" technology. Cultural theorists who inhaled Adorno liked mountain air appreciated my unpretentious social critique of consumer culture with my fictional consumer gadgets and my send-up of timeworn showbiz cliches.
Then, on a return appearance on Carson, I told my Arab-American joke again. Old habits.
Would you believe, even lefty colleges like Berkeley and Sarah Lawrence refused to book me. Martin ignored my landline phone calls. Even the bookers at Match Game gave me blank stares.
Well bully on those who said my pop culture knowledge was useless--I decided to predate Murray Langston by three years, put a paper bag over my head and become The Unknown Comic.
The bag was not even halfway over my head when my girlfriend nudged me and said "You've never looked sexier!"
I was back in 2008! Which meant I could use Bad Slava again! I awoke from my diabetic coma an unknown comic after all.