I was third, as usual, and pumped. Jack, of course, wasn’t there. And I tried not to feel guilty about getting the opening spot at his expense. Would Roger really have put me up in another month? Was he just throwing me a bone for all of my begging? It didn’t matter. The fact was if he didn’t think I was ready he wouldn’t have given me the spot.
My ten minutes that night went fine. Three-and-a-half stars, maybe three-and-three-quarters, even. I was excited for Saturday, and playing to Roger as much as anyone else. My bits were tight and I was full of energy. He wanted my A-game, and here was ten pure minutes of it. And, of course, all of the New York bits were in there: CETA, DC-10, Make Me a Sandwich, and Plrknib. Now, I needed to be as tight and strong as possible. Ethical or not, it was no time to back off of bits that worked.
“My entire act is stolen.”
“Please?” Dr. Weiss sat up.
“Okay, not the entire act – but the best bits. They’re stolen.”
“From comics I saw in New York – at the Improv and Catch a Rising Star.”
The eye. Thursday night.
I was playing Missile Command out front near the bar when I noticed tremors of laughter erupting from the main room. Not just the inconsistent chirps of the regulars. This was different. This was the sound of people listening.
I stood by Mike at the back wall of the main room.
“Who’s that?” I whispered.
I was playing Scrabble the other day with my identical twin sister. Boy, is she ugly –
I didn’t think about it. Or I did. Thought about it enough to rehearse it, to practice, to nail it. Thought about it a lot. Constantly, even. But I didn’t think about the moral or ethical ramifications. Or I did. But I didn’t care. Or I did care – but it seemed justifiable – rational? Do-able. It seemed – it felt –like I could get away with it. Like the repercussions, if any, would be minimal.
I rationalized: this is a joke by a not-famous comedian hundreds of miles away, on the other side of the world, on an alien planet. If he lived here, in Cinti, then no, forget it. If it seemed like he might ever even come to town – then no. If it could affect him, negatively, in any way – if it could somehow hurt him, hurt his career, impact him at all – in the slightest – then no, no, no. But it wouldn’t. He would never know. He was not a name – not a headliner. He was a young, unknown New York comic. A foreigner, for all intents and purposes, to Cincinnati, to the Midwest. No one here would have heard of him, heard this bit before. And certainly no one there knew me. We were on two different planets completely. Two obscure, young comics on two different worlds, hundreds of miles away from each other.
Telling the same joke.
Of course, no one would know.
My opening bit Sunday night:
Roger Navy 4-0-9er. You sit facing a TV screen – but it is unlike any TV screen you’ve seen before. For one thing there are no commercials and a sweeping white band circles the screen every five seconds. Bogie’s bearing 5-4-9 50 miles! Suddenly, you realize it’s not just a simulation – you’re under actual enemy attack!
I flailed around the stage, evoking young cadets smoking joints and then suddenly getting blown apart by bombs and heavy artillery. I made shooting and exploding sound effects.
The Navy. It’s not just a job – it’s a life or death struggle for survival.