The Corral Show went great until they physically pulled me off stage.

The house was packed.  It was a cool spring evening, and it seemed as if everyone – every man, woman and child in Wyoming – had come to the Civic Center to see this little variety show.  Maybe they’d come to see Paul Adam’s magic act, or the senior girls perform the Bunny Hop, or Bob and the band boys perform She’s a Witch!  Who knows?  But there were hundreds of people there.  Standing room only.  

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Mike Irwin had gotten a Saturday spot opening at the eye.  He was the first of us – of the original, core group of comics – to break through that wall.  I knew he’d be first.  No one deserved to open more than Mike, and I was thrilled for him.  We’d become good friends, traded albums, worked on each other’s acts, paced each other.  Mike going up was a confirmation for the rest of us.  We’d put in the hours.  Now, more than ever, I knew it was possible.


“Not ready,” said Roger.

“I am.  Really.  I really am!”


“How soon?”

“Soon.  Keep working.”


Day of the Corral Show.  At home, in the kitchen.  

I was working on a script and Mom was making homemade soup.  She had recently discovered the Cusinart food processor – a new cooking tool with rapidly spinning blades – and I thought Mom + Cusinart = blood + hospital visits = new material.

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smoke alarm

Ceiling mounted home smoke detector

In late November on a Sunday morning my mother burned something she was cooking and the smoke alarm went off.

And the joke was there – right there – in the air like a piece of low-hanging, very ripe fruit.  And I ran – ran up to my room and shut the door and started writing in my notebook:  

Her cooking.  Her cooking is so bad – in the kitchen – in our kitchen we haven’t got a timer –

So she uses the smoke alarm.  

And there it was:  a joke.  A real joke!  It felt like a joke.  Smelled like a joke.  Looked like a joke.  A kid’s joke.  A parents joke.  It was the first joke I’d written that felt finished, self-contained, not an idea or a fragment or some warmed-over Six Pistol bit – something only high school boys would think was funny.  It felt like a joke that a real comedy writer would write.  A real stand-up would tell.  It almost felt like I’d bought the thing.  And all because my mother had burned something in the kitchen.  

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