Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Year of Living Humorously: A Stand-Up Philosopher's Pilgrimage - Part II

It turns out that Eskimos really do kiss by rubbing noses. I dated an Eskimo woman once. Well, she was half Eskimo and half French, so when we would make out she’d stick her tongue up my nose.
Driving to work a few weeks later it hit me. “I just bought a new car. What I really wanted was one of those GPS navigation systems, but I couldn’t afford it. Had to go with the next cheaper version, the PMS navigation system. It has three settings: random explosion, constant criticism, and passive aggressive where you’ll drive for twenty miles and it’ll refuse to say anything.” It was good, too good not to use.

It was a fleeting thought, quickly dismissed as I focused on an upcoming presentation. It was a presentation relating religious modes of thought to the physics of Newton and Einstein. I was scheduled in the Banners’ series of lectures, concerts, and cultural events at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana where a good friend of mine teaches. Asked if I’d also speak to local schools, I agreed because I relish the chance to excite young people about science and it was nice to have more time to visit.

All went well and I found myself chummy with the folks running the series who invited me back the next year. When hearing of my comic adventure, they requested some stand-up when I came back. I knew a local bar had an open mic comedy night and I got a charge out of being able to pretend to be a real comedian playing on the road.

There was, however, a miscommunication. I had inadvertently agreed to a Banners event, a full show with an audience who would expect a professional comedian. Confronted with this by e-mail, I could have simply backed out. It was still floating in the ether of potentiality. It would mean writing forty-five minutes of quality comedy. That is a lot of jokes…a LOT of jokes. It would mean working them out in front audiences. That’s a lot of open mic nights. It is hard to be funny for ten minutes, three quarters of an hour is something else entirely.

But there is something magical about forty-five minutes. It is a complete set. In the old days, forty-five minutes of polished, rock solid material meant you could record an LP. That is where you transform from a comic to a comedian. This could be my only chance to emulate my childhood heroes. And I had an entire year. If I could do a fairly successful seven minutes with four week’s worth of preparation and no experience, developing five to six more short bits in twelve months shouldn’t be beyond me. So, I signed on for a year of living humorously.