it's saturday at yuk yuk's, and all I can think is, "Oh, my god, I'm in high school again.""Anyone from Scarborough?" asks the first comic, and the hulking morons around me hoot and holler. Figures. These are my neighbours, my school mates, all growed up.
The Saturday late-show crowd is traditionally a tough one. It consists of folks who couldn't (A) get into the blow-'em-up-good movie across the street, or (B) get laid next door at Berlin.
They're mostly male, they've been drinking all night, they're restless and out for blood. And they've come to laugh, dammit.
My eyes begin to adjust to the darkness. I look around -- discreetly -- at my seatmates. I can't make out their faces, but see that they're big and going to fat fast.
The MC is doing a reasonable job keeping things in check. He's got a smartass, cocky delivery sharpened by his regular gig as the warm-up act on the Mike Bullard show.
"I apologize for my gay vest," he says, instantly losing my respect. The vest is the same colour as his shirt. And besides, how can a vest be gay? Even my neighbours don't get it.
Then the MC announces the next comic, says she's got a Comedy Now special coming up. I know who it is, and she's very funny, a natural. She bounds onto the stage, the only woman on the bill, all smiles, all high energy.
It's good material, clean and sophisticated, with a bit of an ironic edge. But it's chuckle stuff, not big, yelping laughs. And there aren't any jokes about shit, cocks or cars.
This, I soon discover, is a bad thing as far as tonight's crowd is concerned.
"Get the fuck off the stage," mutters a guy close to me. Other people are carrying on conversations as if no one were behind the mike.
I laugh loudly a couple of times to signal people beside me to back off. But they continue. They boo. I hear a woman's voice, too, saying something like, "She's so funny I forgot to laugh."
What can I do? Tell people at a comedy club to shut up? The darkness keeps them anonymous. They're capable of anything.
My mind takes me back to high school, and that sick feeling you get in your stomach when you walk by someone being beaten up or taunted. Do you defend them? Do you walk on by, oblivious and safe?
I wait it out. I'm not sure of the danger around me. There's hostility, and I'm trying to understand what it's about. I think it has something to do with the fact that a slightly overweight woman is up on the stage, in a position of power, talking frankly about her life.
Who knows why she's up there? Maybe she was picked on in high school and this is her way of getting back at the bullies. Except it's not working tonight.
The people around me want her off. She gets the hint.
"You're really going to enjoy the rest of the show," she says finally. Was that sarcasm in her voice?
She's professional. She's got a TV show coming up, she doesn't need this crap. I want to scream a big "Fuck you" to the crowd. Instead, I sit back and clap louder than anyone else.
Her voice never breaks, even at the end. As she leaves the stage, she doesn't stumble or fall. And I am so fucking grateful for that. email@example.com punchlines