Copyright © David C. Hay
David Hay, President of Essential Strategies, Inc. once dabbled in the wonderful world of stand-up comedy. This is one of his bits from 1994 . . .
Good evening. I am not really a comedian. I just play one . . . in my daily life! Youíre looking at what you might call the Jamaican bobsled team of comedy ¾
Iím in way over my head, but I try hard.
Oh, I can tell jokes: There were these two guys who walked into a bar. I was surprised actually that the second one didnít duck, since the first one really hurt his head on it.
The first one walked into a bar you see...
Like I said, I am not sure about this . . .
I have a couple of problems being a standup comic. First there is the language. A stand-up comic has to learn to speak in a certain way. As for me, no matter how hard I try, I canít say f-f-f... I just canít. Maybe it is my upbringing. (I grew up in a proper home in a small town out West.) Maybe Iím self-conscious because of my teen-age children.
I mean, I am sure that they donít know words like that. Or was it that they are sure that I donít know those words? Whatever.
Now those of you who are not parents should understand the hardest part of being a parent is having to be a good example. This isnít easy. I thought I was doing pretty well in the swearing department, until I was at a party a few years ago with Bob, who was about ten at the time. A woman standing between us got particularly frustrated with something she was doing and said "Oh, Shit!" She immediately felt terribly self-conscious, standing as she was next to this impressionable young boy.
"Does your father swear" she asked him. Now, I should explain that we donít swear in our house. I know that. The kids know that. He knows that. I am expecting him to say "Why, no! Iíve never heard my father swear."
I must have been thinking of someone elseís son. What my son said was, "Only when heís working on the computer."
So . . . does that mean I have to bring out my computer to be a comedian? [I begin unpacking my computer] Does anyone here work with computers? You know, then, that they will be civilizationís undoing, right?
Oh, fuck! I forgot the mouse!
It worked! Actually, that wasnít really swearing. You see "Oh, fuck" is a technical term, that, among other things, means "Oh, dear. I seem to have just erased all of my data."
A similar expression is "Oh shit!", which means "Oh, dear. I seem to have just erased half my data".
And then there is "You motherfucking pile of crap!", which is, of course, the standard industry expression for "computer".
Computers are good companions in some ways, though. For example, if you make a mistake, it calmly says something like "invalid command" or "file not found". It does not, unlike some people we all know, spend the next five minutes characterizing your intelligence, your family background, and your general worth as a human being.
Is anyone else here married?
Computers are becoming more arrogant these days, though. Now, for example, if you do something, it often comes back and says, "Are you sure you really want to do that?"
Of course Iím sure, dammit, or I wouldnít have asked!
Fortunately, these machines have not yet evolved as far as they might. For example, when you then go "Oh, shit", because you just realized that, well, you didnít want to delete that file after all, at least they donít yet come back with: "Se-e-e?"
. . .
The second problem I have with being a stand-up comedian is that you have to be able to talk about sex. Which means you have to know something about it. Here again I fail: I used to know a lot about sex of course. But Iím married now. (We can tell whoís married by seeing who laughed at that one .)
Actually, I did have what was, for me at least, a sexual experience a couple of weeks ago. I was on a business trip, and I was coming out of my hotel room one morning, when I encountered a charming young woman. We struck up a conversation, and before long, she came to think highly enough of me to invite me to join her for breakfast!
Now you young studs in the audience may not understand this, but at my age and in my circumstances, this is what we call a "sexual conquest". We had a lovely breakfast, but before you get the wrong idea, let me assure you that we did not go "all the way." We did not have dinner together.
The fact of the matter is that I never saw her again. I suppose you could call it a "one breakfast stand".
No, if I want to know something about sex, I have to ask my teen-agers. Once a year or so ago, I thought the time had come to do my fatherly duty and discuss AIDS with my 14-year old son. So, one afternoon, I gathered up my embarassment and asked "Bob, what exactly do you know about AIDS?"
"Do you mean the STD?" (STD? I asked) "You know, sexually transmitted diseases, like gonhorrea and syphilus." Oh yeah, that one.
"Well," he said, "I know that itís caused by the integration of the viral RNA of the HIV with the DNA of the T-4 lymphocytes and the macrophages. The lymphocites and the macrophages, you know, are the backbone of the immune system. "
Of course. I knew that.
"What was it you wanted to talk about, Dad?"
Oh, nothing. You think the Mets have a chance this year?.
Like I say, raising kids is a challenge. For example, take Bobís sixteen-year-old sister Pamela, for example . . . please! (No! I didnít say that. Itís a stupid joke.) Sheís the politician in the family. Ever since she was a toddler, she has had a sixth sense about people and their relationships with each other. She is the one who, when she was about five, stood in front of me and explained in all seriousness, "Dad, I donít know what itís like at the office, but at home, Mommyís in charge."
Thank you. I needed for you to tell me that. (As though I hadnít figured that one out for myself.)
Sheís also the one who was with me a few years later, as I was buying a pair of pants. She proceded to explain to the clerk ringing up the sale, again with all seriousness, that "we will take these home and if Mommy doesnít like them, we will bring them back."
Actually, that wasnít the embarrassing part. The embarassing part was when I brought them back a couple of days later, the same clerk was on duty.
. . .
I do meet one requirement for being a comic, though. I have lived in New York. All the really good comedy comes from New York.
Actually, Iím not exactly a New Yorker. I just play one . . . on business trips. My home has, for the last few years, been Houston. The problem with Houston is that there is not a lot of comedy there. Except for the Astros, perhaps. Or the Texas Legislature.
(Last year, Texas had the distinction of being the only state in the country with more deaths from gunshot wounds than from car accidents. The legislature considered this something of an embarrassment ¾ so they have been working on raising the speed limit.)
No, I donít, strictly speaking, live here, but I do come here on business a lot Ė and I did used to live in New York. I grew up in a small town out west, and moved here when I got out of college, seeking adventure and fortune. My parents were horrified. And I confess that perhaps I was a little naive. When I first got here, I rented a closet for my stuff. Only later did I discover that it was in fact the whole apartment. It was in the East Village, on 11th street and Avenue B.
For those of you who are not familiar with it, 11th Street and Avenue B is not a great neighborhood. The first week I was there, someone broke into my apartment and stole pretty much everything I had.
Fortunately, the stuff I had shipped from my college arrived just about then ¾
but the second week someone broke into my apartment and stole pretty much everything I had.
Not to worry, about that time I got a shipment from my family ¾
but the third week someone broke into my apartment and stole pretty much everything I had.
The fourth week, I came home from work one day (to my now empty apartment) only to discover that it had once again been broken into.
This time, though, what I found was a note that said, "Why are you breaking off our relationship? It was going so well! . . ."
. . .
I must say, though, that in spite of that rather shaky beginning, I got to be a pretty good New Yorker. I lived here for many years and got to know the city quite well. I learned my way around the subways.
Do you have your new MetroCard passes? Now, after ninety years of subway tokens, you can just swipe the card through a reader and off you go.
I guess you could say that technology is taking its toll.
(You could say that, but I wouldnít recommend it.)
Actually, I am glad they are doing this. It answers a question Iíve had for many years: Until they started with this Metrocard business, every time I walked into a subway station I would be surrounded by signs on the turnstiles saying "token entry only".
My question was, if these are all only token entry, where is the real thing?
When I first got to New York, I was really impressed at how New Yorkers could take the worldís largest newspaper and neatly fold it up so that you could read it in the one square foot of real estate that is allotted to the typical subway rider.
I think some people get carried away, though. I know they think the subway really flies, but this [pull out flapping winged bird made of newspaper] is going to far.
Other people have a different view of the subway system. I donít happen to agree with them. I donít think it is [pull out stegosaurus from newspaper] a dinosaur.
. . . and contrary to what my children may tell you, neither am I. Thank you.