Last year a group of Sacramento-based comics and I drove to San Francisco to hit some open mics and pizza shops. I’ve been to plenty of open mics, so I was more excited about the pizza. Not just because I’m a glutton, but because pizza places don’t usually stink of awkward desperation. Although desperation and pizza had little to do with my interest in this odyssey, it wasn’t a place I wanted to go; it was a person I wanted to see.
Eight of us squeezed into a scuffed-up white van to make the trek to the great City on the Bay. Among the group of comics was a girl who stopped the beating of my heart. Her name was Claire and she intrigued me beyond logic and reason. Her eyes were blazing blue, and she effortlessly captivated me with them. When she spoke, I was deaf to the mindless chatter which filled the vehicle; her sweet voice penetrated the cacophony. My infatuation was instant.
Upon arriving in the city, we grabbed a slice, and then hit our first open mic. The room was shaped like a coffin, which made sense because the comics were dying. A long bar shot down the room where customers ignored the amateur comedians babbling to themselves onstage. The host, a “pencil musician,” brought comic after comic up to their death. My interest in their doom was painfully lacking; I just wanted to stand next to the blue-eyed babe with the alluring voice.
The next magical open mic was held in some filthy dive. The patrons were sloppy drunk and management even let a dog roam around unattended. The host was more intoxicated than the customers. In complete disregard of how long we traveled or the fact that we signed up hours ahead of time, the drunken host kept pushing our names back further and further on the list. His friends showed up unannounced and were shoved to the front– an insipid cavalcade of halfwits giggling smugly over half formed rape premises. The crowd dwindled with each unbearable 10-minute set the comics attempted. Even the dog cringed.
Aggravated, I stepped outside to smoke. Adjacent from me were a group of “comics” chuckling idiotically at something. Claire walked over to me and said, “I think this group of guys behind me are having fun at my expense.” At that exact moment, one of the men broke away from the group and tapped on her shoulder. The balding and overweight man, caked in sweat, said, “Can I blow a load on your chest?” Claire’s bright blue eyes filled with distress as my eyes filled with red. A rage bubbled up out of my guts, foaming out past my tongue and teeth. I vomited hatred. “Hey fat fuck, I’m remembering your fat fuck face right now so I can masturbate to it later. There’s nothing you can do about it. How do you like being forcefully sexualized and degraded? Dick.” Nobody blinked, it was as if these imbecilic bovine were too tanked to catch my drift…I thought I was being blunt.
Around one in the morning, I was finally called up to the stage. Claire sat in a chair by the bar as I took my spot, waiting to be introduced to the few remaining audience members. The host, even more drunk than when we arrived, stopped my introduction to look at my love and say, “God, I want to fuck that girl.” Visibly uncomfortable, she shifted in her chair and meekly replied, “What? What did he say?” The idiot host opened his mouth to say something else but I cut him off by screaming, “He said he wants to fuck you! Can you bring me up now?” The crowd laughed but I no longer had any interest in entertainment. I wanted blood.
I stepped up to the microphone and began, “It’s a pleasure to be here, in the same way that cutting my dick off with a hatchet would be pleasurable. Which I’ve been contemplating to dull the pain of listening to you people.”
Claire was after me and the last one up. Before she could get to her first punch line the sweaty fat man from outside shouted, “Show us your tits.” Outwardly I bit my tongue because I had to respect Claire as a comedian; she had to handle it on her own. On the inside, I fantasized about gutting him like Leather Face. With a mixture of adrenaline and jealousy coursing through my veins, my inner psychopath was pleading with me to break a bottle over the man’s cheek bone but civility won the day… sort of.
Claire got off stage, and the remaining comics drained out of the bar. Again I confronted the heckler. This time I was decidedly more aggressive, “I think you’re an asshole and I wish murder were legal so I could skull fuck you to death.” He looked puzzled, “Me? You wanna skull fuck me?” He placed his hand on my shoulder in an alpha male maneuver. I swatted it off, “Don’t touch me.” Again he was perplexed, “Me?” It was absolutely pointless to yell at him. To my left I spotted the obnoxious host who wanted to “fuck that girl so bad.” Someone needed to comprehend my fury, and I was going to make sure that someone did. I informed the drunk idiot host that the only way I’d return to his open mic was with gasoline and a match. He also looked confused. Nobody was quite grasping the level of violence I was keeping at bay. At bay, ha! Get it? Cause San Francisco? Nevermind.
I’d like to say that I grabbed his drunk idiot face and ran it through a cactus patch but that’s not what happened. Instead of sating my inner psychopath’s blood lust I simply walked away. Claire and I sat next to one another on the ride home. She fell asleep on my shoulder, but I only fell in love. The anger melted off of me and all I felt was an inviting warmth. Walking away was the best decision I could have made because one year later, Claire and I are dating and I still get to look into those blazing blue eyes.
One day in San Francisco I discovered something radiant; an uncontaminated passion. It was the same day I watched amateur comedians try to smother it. It all happened in a dive bar hijacked by school yard bullies spewing sexist taunts. Comedy isn’t a boys club; it’s the great equalizer of the arts. Comics aren’t the bullies, they’re the underdogs; we are the have-nots, the downtrodden, the harlequin philosophers; we think. Orientation, race or sex have nothing to do with talent or drive, and just respecting someone on a human level. Women are more than tits and perfume; sometimes they have things to say and stuff…For example, Kathy Griffin remarked, “There is a huge amount of sexism in stand-up comedy…the best way to fight it is to just be as funny as you can.” I still prefer my method: gasoline and a match.