rule of threes


Thursday night.  The eye

In a dark, back corner of the bar, Roger, pissed, reprimanded Jack.  Jack grinned, embarrassed, a schoolboy talking to the principal.  He hid a bottle of Corona behind his back and nodded sheepishly at everything Roger said.  

Mike and I watched from a table.

“What’s he saying?” I asked.

“He’s telling Jack he’s getting too sloppy on stage.  He’s gotta cut back.”

I was burnt out and performed third.  It was okay, not great.  But the crowd had been generous considering the lackluster shape I was in.  

Will Durst was alone at a table, having a beer.  Earlier, he’d riffed some stuff out on living with a mongoloid roommate.  I wanted to get home, get back to studying.  But instead I plopped down at his table, uninvited, and started gushing.

“Jesus – your act is good,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said, politely.

“There’s just something kinetic – something really happening with it.”

“Thanks.  Thank you.”

“Jeez – I could watch you for hours.  Swear to God.”

“Thanks.  Yeah, don’t do that.”

“Just – with all the other comics – I’m so conscious of jokes and jokes and bits – and I mean – I know you’re telling jokes, too – but I forget that.  Y’know?  I mean – I get so into what you’re doing I forget it’s stand-up.  It was like – I dunno – watching music.”

“Thank you.  I appreciate that.  What’d you think of the roommate stuff?  That was new.”

“It was great.  Great.  Wasn’t, y’know, as polished as the rest – ”

“Nope – ”

“But it worked.  It fit.  You didn’t miss a beat.”


“Yeah.  Absolutely.”


“So – so, I don’t know if you ever – I dunno – noticed my act – ?”


“I mean, it’s nothing like yours.  It’s not even on the same planet – ”

“It’s fine.  It’s good.  It’s fine.”

“It’s not that good.”

“Well, you just started, y’know?  It’s raw.  You’re still in that wet clay phase.  Good place to be.  Everyone starts.  ‘Cept for those who don’t.”

“Any – any – thoughts?  Comments?”

“Nope.  Keep at it.”

“Uh.  Uh huh.  Any – any – do this – don’t do that – more physical?  Less physical?  Rule of threes?”


“Y’know, I feel like I just finally got Rule of Threes – “

“Uh huh?”

“And now – and now – I dunno.  I don’t know what I know and what I don’t know anymore.  Y’know?”

“I hear ya.”

“So, so, so, so – anything?  Anything at all?”



“Nothing.  Keep going.  Keep at it.”


“You’re fine.  Really.  I have absolutely nothing to say.”

“Oh.  Okay.”

Uncomfortable pause.  Durst looked around the bar, back at me.

“How long you been at it?” he asked.

“Four or five months.”

“Every week?”

“Pretty much.”

“That’s great.  Really.  You’re in good shape.”


“Yeah.  Just hang in there.  You’ll figure it out.”

“Okay.  Okay.”

“Trust me.  You don’t want advice.  It’s the last thing you need.”

“Uh – okay.”

He stared at me, pitifully.

“Look,” he said, “if I told you – if I said – use more K words – K words are funny – take out VW bug and put in Chrysler – ”

“I like that – !”

“Let me finish.”


“If I told you to do that – ”

“I’d do it.”

“I bet you would.”


“You’d obsess, right?  You’d take out every word in your act – every word – and replace it with a K word.  Your act would be nothing but Ks!


“Would that be funny?”

I thought about it.

“It would be – different.”

“Would it be funny?”


“Would it be engaging?  Would it involve people on any kind of a personal or emotional level?”

“I think – it would freak them out.”

“There you go.”


“So – no advice.  And really, you should ignore everyone.  My advice:  take no advice.”

“Uhh…uhm – ”

“Look – something has kept you going here for four or five months.  Right?  Other guys have come and gone.  Dropped out.  You didn’t.  Roger likes you enough to keep giving you spots.  And you take ‘em.  Yer a sustainer.  Y’know?  It’s working.  So, just do it.  You’re in high school?”



“I know.”

“Straight As, huh?”

Oh no.

“Didn’t think so.  Not failing or anything?”


“How bad?”

“Uhm.  I think I can make it work.”

“Well, do that.  Get that off your plate, man.  This isn’t going anywhere.”

“So, you’re giving me advice, then?”

“That’s life advice.  Not comedy advice.  Look, my point is, you know how to do your act.  If someone had told me how to do my act – and Jesus, people have tried, man – I wouldn’t be doing my act!  I wouldn’t be here – and you wouldn’t be fawning over me like a twelve-year-old girl.”

“I wouldn’t say fawning – ”

“I’d’ve quit when I was your age.  But I did what I liked, y’know?  What I thought was funny.  A lot of people didn’t think what I thought was funny was funny.  But y’know what?”

“Fuck ‘em?”

“No – well that, too, yeah  – but I kept at it.  And guess what?  They came around.  I just did my thing.  End of story.  And here I am today, playing this shithole for $100 bucks on a Saturday.  So, there’s your success story.”


“Yeah.  Don’t listen to anybody.  Especially me.”

“Except for K words?”

“No.  Is that a joke?  Seriously.  K words suck, royally.  Trust me.  Nothing is less – no – now, see – let’s just forget the whole K-word thing.”


“But clean up the school thing.  Y’don’t want to fuck that up, man.  Trust me.  Trust me.  Jesus.  What is it?  French?  Chemistry?”

“It is.  It’s chemistry.”

“Oh shit.”


“You’re fucked.”


“Why’d you even take it?  Thought it’d be cool?  Make ink?  Blow stuff up?”


“They should put a disclaimer on that class, man.  No ink.  No explosives.  No fertilizer necessary.


“A lot less kids would take it.  I’m telling you.  We wouldn’t even be having this conversation.”

“Or we’d be having it in French.”

“True.  But bite the bullet, man.  Look – a little panic is good, right?  Good motivator.  And everyone’s suffering in that class.  Not just you.  Just do what you need to do, man.  Don’t fuck yourself up.  Comedy will wait.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s