Too Soon?

Slide1

31 PLAYS IN 31 DAYS: Play 3, Day 3 – Too Soon?

LIGHTS UP on the brick-wall backstage area of
a comedy club, identified as such by posters of
past comedy bills. An obviously broken pay-phone
is the only feature, opposite a thick black curtain
draped across the stage entrance, from behind
which we hear the MC’s muffled patter, punctuated
by light laughs, at best.

Two comics stand in dim light, quietly waiting
their turn. GARY GLASS, late thirties, wears a
turtleneck, sport coat and tinted glasses to go
with his trim mustache and sideburns, a studied
retro-70s look. WILL LANGER, same age, balding
with glasses, is wearing a vest and pants from
different suits, with matching red necktie and
suspenders. GARY is smoking, leaning on a sign
that says not to. WILL drinks from a bottle of Evian.

GARY checks the pay-phone for a coin in the coin-return,
comes up with gum. He takes out a handkerchief
and wipes his hand, stuffs the kerchief in his pocket.

GARY:
Evian, huh? You know Evian spelled backward is naïve?

WILL:
I’m not the one with gum on my hand.

(GARY laughs. After a moment, GARY puts out a hand to WILL.)

GARY:
Haven’t seen you before. Gary Glass.

WILL:
Will Langer.

GARY:
I never seen you here, Will.

WILL:
Yeah, you’re new to me too.

GARY:
New? I been working this club for a couple years now.

WILL:
New to me.

GARY: (indicating a poster)
That’s me on a bill with Walter Beryl and Shane Osaka.

WILL:
I don’t know Walter.

GARY:
Yeah, he’s new.

WILL:
Shane’s real good.

GARY:
Yeah, he gets good mileage out of that Jap cowboy routine. “Sumo rodeo,” fuckin’ hilarious.

WILL:
Shane’s a good guy.

GARY:
He is. Family man. Do you know he’s got, like, six kids?

WILL:
Five, yeah. He’s a great father. Do you know Mitsu?

GARY:
His wife? I’ve met her. He has these barbeques—

WILL:
I haven’t been to one in a while. But good people.

A pause. We hear a bit of banter from the MC onstage.
It is not funny.

HOWARD: (off)
And I got stuck with the name Howard. I mean, who names their kid Howard? Not to mention that my first name sounds like a last name, so people think my last name is Howard. How confusing is that?

GARY:
I guess the theory about MCs is, if they’re not funny, they make the audience long for someone who is.

(A pause)

So, what’d you do? [ie for your act?]

WILL:
I’m a professional comedian. You?

GARY:
Good one! You got me.

WILL:
No, sorry. Cheap shot.

GARY:
Yeah. Fuckin’ shoot me for asking!

WILL:
You were just trying to be friendly.

GARY:
I’ll give you your space.

WILL:
No, that’s alright. I’d welcome the distraction. I’m— I’m a little nervous, to till you truth. I haven’t done this in a while.

GARY:
Well, you got a while to get your game. Howard can go on all night. I heard he had to once, when some guy didn’t show. I heard he was awful, I heard he did alright. But lemme tell you, if Howard can hold an audience, you got nothing to worry about. His toupe’s the funniest thing about him.

WILL:
He’s fair to his acts, and he’ll front you money if you need it. Don’t trash-talk Howard Keith.

GARY:
Whoa, whoa, whoa! I’m not trash-talking Howard. I’ve heard nothing but good about him since I came to this burg. I was just making conversation. Don’t take your nerves out on me.

WILL:
You’re right.

(a pause)

What I do has… has changed. I used to do a lot of relationship humor. When I started out, it was sad-sack single guy shit. It changes, you know, as you go along. It has to.

GARY:
Yeah. I started out doing a kind of Clueless-Relic-of-the-70s, kinda blue, kinda clueless. Boogie Nights meets grown-up Bobby from     The Brady Bunch. Aw, but after a while I just kept the threads and
moved on to other material. Now I do babies. Babies are fuckin’ funny. They laugh, they cry, they shit their pants. The babies, I mean. Audiences, too.

WILL:
Howard says you’re killing ‘em out there, every time.

GARY:
Yeah? Howard’s a nice man. And he knows comedy, even if he can’t do it for shit. Lord love him. Somebody has to manage the joints, right? I never met a comic yet had any sense with money.
That’s what you get married for.

WILL:
Really? I thought it was the pussy.

GARY: (big laugh) Neebish goes blue, I love it! (chuckles, then level:) I’m stealing that.

WILL:
Yours to keep, Gar. Hey, free pussy.

GARY:
(laughs) Yeah, I guess that’s what marriage is, when you get down to brass tats. Somebody who’ll laugh at your jokes, and not at your little winkie-dink. I’m being cynical here, but I’m serious. I don’t know where I’d be without her. Not here, let me tell you. You married?

WILL:
I never met a comic yet who could get laid on a regular basis without a ring on his finger. You?

GARY:
Yeah. Got a kid. He’s great. She’s great, too. They’re both great. I’m the only one who sucks. I keep thinking, I gotta get a real job and support ‘em, but my wife, she… she believes in me, you know? She thinks I’m gonna get seen, get a movie or show, and make a go of it.

WILL:
So you married a retarded girl.

GARY:
(laughs) Yeah. Only you’re supposed to say “mentally challenged,” so’s I don’t get offended.

WILL:
You don’t seem to take offense easily.

GARY:
I used to be more hard edge. Now, it just seems like… like I’m happy all the time, you know? I don’t know if that’s a good place to be for comedy.

WILL:
That’s one theory. Artistole said the ridiculous is based on self-ignorance.

GARY:
Theories. Fuckin’ useless when you’re facing into the light, and the darkness beyond it, and you got no idea who’s out there or what state they’re in. Just you and the fuckin’ blackness, man.

WILL:
Bravest thing a man can do, my wife used to say, that doesn’t matter a god-damn bit.

GARY:
Is she a comedienne?

WILL:
She made me laugh. Are you up first, or am I?

GARY:
I think you are.

WILL:
Here we go.

HOWARD: (off)
I’d like to present our first funny man of the evening. Returning to the stage after a long absence, please give a big warm welcome to my good friend and a very funny guy, Mr. Will Langer.

WILL steps behind the curtain, into a bright light, and
polite applause. HOWARD, a fiftyish man in a tuxedo
and bad toupe, steps into the area adjacent to GARY.
We hear WILL’s act begin, offstage.

WILL: (off)
Thank you, Howard, for that. Howard Keith, ladies and gentleman — just a moment.

(WILL enters, grabs HOWARD’s toupe from his head, exits.)

WILL:
Howard and I share a hairpiece,

(We hear audience laughter from offstage, one woman
already losing it.)

(HOWARD steps offstage, comes back with the piece.)

WILL: (off)
Oh, I guess not. I’m behind on my payments. Howard, I’ll get the money to you, I swear! Cheap bastard.

HOWARD: (grinning, to GARY)
That Will Langer is a lunatic! Listen to that! Hard act to follow. I only put him first because, you know, this is his first time back after Becky.

GARY:
Becky?

HOWARD:
His wife. Lymphoma, a year or two back. Big headliner before that. But he’s still got it. Fuckin’ funny as hell. You’re next, kid.

WILL: (vo)
I need that toupe though. I worry about my looks, you know. I wanna look professional. That’s why I wear a suit. Two suits really. Some people are color blind. I’m pattern blind. But my tie and suspenders match, right? (etc.)

(HOWARD pats GARY on the shoulder, and exits.)

(GARY listens to WILL’s act at the curtains as LIGHST FADE TO BLACK.)

(END OF PLAY 3, DAY 3.)

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