the eye


October, 1980.  The main room at d.w. eye.

“Ever done stand-up before?” asked Roger, glancing at a clipboard.

“No,” I said.  “I’ve been writing sketch comedy on WAIF for over a year.”

Don Merriss, the owner, came over.  

“How old?”

“16.  Almost 17,” I said.  

“He writes comedy for WAIF,” said Roger.  

“Come back in a year and a half,” said Don, “when you’re 18.”

“18?!  I can’t wait till I’m 18!”

“It’s a bar,” said Don.  “Y’shouldn’t even be in here.”

“I’m not drinking.  I won’t be drinking!  I’ll be onstage!  I don’t even like beer!”

“Y’know how hard I worked for this place?  Y’know how fast they’d shut me down?”

“I don’t drink.  I’m not going to start just to get you into trouble.”

“I can lose my license.”

“You won’t lose your license.  I promise you – I will never drink at this bar.  I’ll go next door.  I’m kidding.  Look, I won’t even drink Coke!  I’ll drink water!  I just wanna do my act and go home.  Okay?  Alright?”

“He was funny,” said Roger.


“For a kid.”

“Don’t say kid!” said Don.  “Just don’t!  Just thinking about it gives me hives!”

“You’ve done jail time?” I asked.

“No!  And I don’t want to start!”

“Hey,” said a Drunk Guy onstage, “do I get to do my act or what?”

“Keep your shirt on,” said Roger.

“Look at that guy,” I said to Don.  “Y’think he’s been writing for radio for a year?”

“He’s legal,” said Don.  

The Drunk Guy fumbled on stage, knocked the mic stand over.  

“C’n ya turn down the fuckin’ lights?” he yelled.  “Hot as shit up here!”

“Let the kid perform,” said Jack Previty, watching TV at the bar.  “Fer Christ’ sake!  I can’t hear the fuckin’ game!”

Drew Hastings and Bob Lambert called over from tables in the main room.

“Let him go up, Don!  Jeez!  Don’t be a prick!”

“Sign him the fuck up and lemme do my act!” said the Drunk.

Roger looked at Don.  Don looked at Roger.

One shot,” said Don, “one!”  And he walked off, pissed.

“Okay,” said Roger.  “You’re up third, Saturday.  Five minutes.  Show’s at eight.  Come half an hour early or you lose your spot.  Got it?”

“Really?  I got five minutes?”

I walked to the bar, exuberant.

“I got five minutes!”  I said to Bob and Drew.

“I got five minutes!”  I said to Jack.

“Everybody gets five minutes, asswipe,” said Jack.  “You’d have to be the most unfunny son-of-a-bitch in Cincinnati to not get five minutes.  And they’d still give you five minutes.”

“Great,” I said.  “I can live with that.”


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