Isn't life funny? Both ha-ha and strange. Lately I've been wondering exactly how I ended up with my tush glued to an ergonomic chair beneath migraine-instigating fluorescent lights, reviewing commercial real estate contracts and pretending I give a hoot. My glazed-over gaze falls on the tray of business cards behind my keyboard. If only they read my stage name, Olivia Vincent, with the title Stand-Up Comedian replacing my current one-Staff Attorney.
Because the thing is, there's nothing funny about drafting legally binding contracts. Sometimes I'm tempted to slip a joke in between the lines indebtedness secured hereby and successors thereto just to liven the damn thing up. It's all so serious. Stuffy. The enemies of humor.
My phone vibrates on my desk against my heavily used coffee mug. It's Bernie, my booking agent, and at the moment, a very welcome disruption. "Hi, Bernie," I say, rebalancing my eyeglasses and distancing myself from my dreaded duties.
"Olivia, I got somethin' for ya," she spits out in her raspy Queens accent. Just the thing I need to escape my corporate punishment.
"Oh my god, Bernie. Your timing could not be better."
"How would you like a feature spot at Funnies?" Twenty minutes of stage time at my favorite downtown comedy club? Yes, please!
"That's a no-brainer. When is it?" I snatch my trusty yellow legal pad and jot down the words Funnies and feature in the margins next to the newly scribbled jokes I'm planning to workshop at an open mic tomorrow.
"In an hour but you'd need to be there at least fifteen minutes early. I know it's short notice but the guy bailed last minute. Can you make it happen?"
I glance at my watch, remembering that I'm supposed to be at a client dinner in an hour. Hmm, maybe Bernie's timing could be better. In the business of comedy, timing is truly essential. It's one of the first things I learned in comedy class. (And in case you're wondering, there are no squeaky red noses or banana peels involved-just a group of misfit jokesters.) It doesn't take long to grasp that when the timing is off, the punchline won't land, and the whole thing's a disaster. Because no matter what anyone says, there's only one reason a stand-up takes the stage. It's the reason we, the misfit jokesters, were put on this earth to begin with.
To make people laugh.
Oh, those glorious ha-ha-has, he-he-hes, and ho-ho-hos. Okay, maybe you only get the ho-ho-hos if Santa's taking up two chairs in the audience with sugar cookie crumbs scattered over his beard. The point is that no matter the shape, sound, cadence, or volume, we stand-ups love getting the laugh. In fact, I love it so much that I'm going to ditch that client dinner and claim my birthright.
"Of course I can. You know I'll take any stage time I can get."
"Thanks, Olivia," Bernie says. "I'll email you the details."
I end the call and silently thank the idiot who backed out at the eleventh hour.
Since I work as a full-time attorney at the law firm of Whitley, Bauer, Carey, and Klein, it hasn't been easy for a Texas transplant like me to catch my big comedy break. That's why I'm using the Jim Gaffigan plan. That's right-America's favorite pale comedian with the Hot Pockets bit. Don't we just love a famous funny guy with their wife jokes, sex quips, and wacky impressions? And every now and then, America will love a famous funny gal too. As long as she doesn't joke about menses. But she should because the word menses is hilarious.
Anyway, legend has it he worked his corporate job to support his family while pursuing stand-up until he hit the showbiz jackpot. I may not have a family to support, but judging by the size of my monthly student loan bill, you'd never know the difference. Funny (not ha-ha), since we all know laughter is in fact the best medicine. But do we, the comedians of the world, get the credit and compensation psychiatrists and physicians do for the endorphin-inducing, cortisol-reducing, calorie-burning service that we provide?
As it stands, if I pursued comedy full-time, I'd be subjected to a steady diet of generic foam-cup ramen until I booked enough gigs to afford the name brand. Though, sometimes it seems like a fair trade-off when I've been sitting in a three-hour legal meeting and my ass cheeks are numb.
"Knock, knock," a friendly voice calls in sync with a couple taps on my doorframe. It's my best friend and roommate, Imani, dressed in a perfectly pressed ginger-colored jumpsuit complete with a popped collar and gold layered necklace. She tilts her head with a funny expression. "What's that goofy grin for?"
"I just hung up with Bernie. She snagged me a feature spot tonight."
"Oh, yeah? Don't you have a dinner meeting?" Sure, Imani and I work at the same firm but we're in different departments, so I wouldn't expect her to know my calendar so well.
"How'd you know that?"
She shrugs with a sweet innocence that rivals mine. "You mentioned it this morning. And since you have other plans, I wanted to come by and see if it's cool that I borrow your black stilettos. The ones with the gold ankle strap."
"My horny heels?" I can't help but smirk at the special shoe request. "Who you doin' tonight?" She's been working round the clock, pulling for a promotion at the firm, which doesn't leave a lot of time for sex and dating. An issue that plagues us both.
"No one. Just meeting a guy for a drink thing." Her gaze trails off as she swipes her glossed lip with the tip of her ring finger, showing off her new ombre manicure.
"What guy?" I could ask myself the same question but it would mean something completely different.
"Just a guy. I swear I'll tell you all the dirty details later if I can borrow your shoes."
"So there will be dirty details?" I press the issue.
"Liv! The shoes?"
"Sheez. Someone needs a little hoo-hoo in her hmm-hmm," I say under my breath.
"I heard that," she says. "And you're one to talk."
About the Author
Amanda Aksel is a West Coast transplant whose curiosity about people led her to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology. Instead of pursuing a career as a couples counselor, she wrote about one in her first novel.