On this, the holiest day of the comedist year, I come to tell of a true Saint Shecky's Day miracle, all praise to the Cosmic Comic, funny be He. Last week I did sin before the All-funny One. My son -- and I have no idea where he learned this -- asked me why women live longer than men and I did not reply with Alan King's line "because they aren't married to women." I thought it, but didn't deliver. I was ashamed.
I've been writing my backside off to have enough material for a full set at McNeese State University in a few weeks and had a new bit that I needed to roadtest. So, I thought I'd perform it this week at Allstars Comedy Club. Now, this was college material, explicitly not apprpriate for a club. Jokes like "Your mama's so stupid she thinks 'broccoli' is an adverb" and "What do you get if you cross Sophocles with James Bond? Oedipussy Rex." But I needed to work through the delivery and timing and so I knowing went up there well aware that I would die on stage. I was willing to die for my jokes, comedic martyrdom. In the pureness of my comidic heart, I was forgiven by the Cosmic Comic for my earlier transgression and as I walked on stage I looked down to see a miraculous event, a table of no fewer than twelve college students from James Madison materialized right up front. They were smart, they had had a few drinks, and they laughed at what was probably the nerdiest set ever delivered from that stage. On Saint Shecky's Day eve, my set was saved by an act of Comic Divine Intervention. I write this humbled by his mercy and his humor.
In his honor, let me recount how our new religion came to be:
It all came to me when I was teaching a class in the philosophy of religion at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis. We were discussing Anselm’s argument for the existence of God, which contends that an all-perfect being has to exist. The notion of perfection was to take all good qualities and extend them to an infinite degree. And then I realized, hey a sense of humor is a good thing, right? If you were trapped on a deserted island with someone, would you prefer someone who could make you laugh? Of course, but if you look at any of the standard Holy Books, and Sacred Scripture, there are no jokes. There’s no “‘Knocketh, knocketh,’ sayeth the Lord. And the angel did reply, ‘Who is there?’ And the Lord did say, ‘I am the Lord thy God.’ And the angel did say, ‘I am the Lord thy God who?’ And the Lord did quip, ‘I told you not to take my name in vain…ahh, got you again.’ And the Lord never grew tired of that joke. And the angels did roll their eyes.” Nothing like that. I mean if this God is supposed to be all-perfect, then he’d not only be all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving, he’d also be all-funny. But no.
At the same time, I realized that if you want to go anywhere today in the religion industry, you need to either be Mother Teresa or Pat Robertson and neither one of those were attractive career options to me. But there is a quick and easy way and the key is get in early. Look at Judaism. Among the greats is Abraham. Why? It’s not that he was so wonderful. Gets to Egypt and starts pimping out his wife to the Egyptian army, says she’s his sister. But he’s sitting at God’s right hand, why? He got in early. The disciples? Couldn’t agree on anything. But automatic sainthood. Why? Got in early.
It all came together one day when I was teaching a night school class in ethics at a community college. We were discussing the difference between ethical precepts and social mores. And one of the students asked, “Steve, what are mores?” And I said, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.” Bathed in the groans of pain from my students I knew I was in the presence of the Divine. Set-ups that perfect could not just randomly happen. That was an act of Humorous Intervention. I had been tested by the Cosmic Comic.
So, I realized that this is what I had to do. I needed to start my own religion, one based upon comedy. The basic structure is like the Judeo-Christian ideas. Life is a test and when you die your souls goes up and there’s the Pearly Gates and behind them is Saint Shecky with a big book. You see, there are a certain number of set-ups that you get and for those whose punchlines you deliver, like the classroom example, you get one in the good column.
But then there are those you miss. When I was in grad school. I was out taking a walk and as I walked up a hill, there was a couple coming down. They both looked at me strangely and the guy says to me, “Didn’t we just see you with a dog?” I said, “I’m sorry, you must have me confused for somebody else.” As I watched them walk away, I realized that the correct answer was “Excuse me, that was my wife.” I blew it.
Saint Shecky keeps the tally and if you make more than you miss, you are invited in to sit at the right hand of Groucho. If you miss more than you make, you go to comedy hell where it is hot, all drinks are in dribble glasses, every seat has a whoopee cushion, and you are forced to watch reruns of Three’s Company for all of eternity.
Happy Saint Shecky's Day everyone!
Live, love, and laugh,
Wednesday, April 01, 2009