So strange for a man to call himself a “comedian”. To devote himself entirely to the one narrow band on the spectrum of human emotion. Stand unaccompanied on a stage and probe to elicit the guttural yap of social reinforcement. Where are the stand-up tragedians? The great neglected art-form. We court it in our theatre, in our film. The inspiration for our most profound work is never the highs. It is the lows that tell us who we are. Is it unreasonable then to sit and allow ourselves to be manipulated into misery? If we laugh at nothings why not cry at nothings too?
So I stood on the stage at a comedy club (where else could I go?) and gave to the crowd the saddest things. I told them of the beggar on the street, every week pretending he needed money for a bus ticket. And me, pretending I had no change to give him. And the complicit eye-contact that we made as we acted out our parts in this miserable two-man piece. Each aware that the other is lying, and responding not with anger but with a deep weariness. Because there is always another businessman, and there is always another beggar.
I told them about the passing of pets. Not the ones that went quietly. Oldly. The ones that went screaming. Chasing pandemonium into the back yard to find the rabbit hutch torn open, a local dog delirious and covered with blood. That is the worst part, I said. How delighted he was with himself. Tail wagging. Happy doggy.
I told them about the girl, a nearby girl. At that exact age. The one that makes or breaks you. And how she got her head stuck between railings at the park. The most ridiculous thing. Reaching for a euro on the ground. And the neighbours gathered around and tried to help, and called an ambulance and eventually firemen to cut through the iron poles with an angle grinder. With every girl and boy for three streets standing in the middle distance, watching. And how if she’d only been a year older, or a year younger, she would have survived it. But it broke her. Because she was that exact age.
And I told them of my estranged father’s passing. The way, when I checked my old email six months after he went, there were dozens of messages, piling up with increasing frequency until the week he died. There were about remorse and reconcilement, and fear of dying alone in a bed-sit. They reeked of fear. I read them aloud from the stage. He died alone. In a bed-sit.
They laughed. They laughed at every story. I’m not joking, I tried to say, and they laughed all the harder.
If I am being honest, I don’t know that I’m not looking for laughter from you right now. A black smile of recognition at the least. Is there something broken in us? We can be moved, but we only move one way.