I sat disconsolate, meatloaf special virtually untouched, faced with the very real possibility of becoming not merely a washed up stand up comic, aged 39 but a washed up stand up unemployed comic staring the big 4 - 0 right in it's wrinkled face.
Morrie Lipschitz had been unecessarily candid after I finished my final set. Co-owner with his brother Solly of "Laugh Your Balls Off", Poughkeepsie's premier comedy club for many a year, his review had not been kindly.
"Thirty years we own this club, right, Solly?"
"Thirty years." said Solly, mournfully.
"We had 'em all. We seen 'em come and go. We had Carlin, we had Rickles. We had Cho, we had Barr."
"Barr does the bar! She was the best, bar none." said Solly.
"Solly please! I'm trying to save Gagootz's career here!"
I work under the stage name "Vinnie Gagootz". This keeps things simple, as it is actually my name. I wonder why sometimes, since my parents are Eunice and Jason Carruthers from 6th Avenue, Queens. Perhaps they'd had a premonition.
"Career" said Solly, dolefully. "We had Jody Miller, we had Seinfeld..."
"You never had Seinfeld!" I shot back.
"We had him on TV" said Morrie, "We had Dangerfield..."
"Dangerfield is dead!" I protested.
"But he didn't die on stage. Like you do every night!" Solly sighed.
"What are you thinking?” Morrie said, "Poughkeepsie is 65% minorities, 100% democrat and you're telling Obama jokes?"
“A muslim, an illegal, a black guy and a socialist walk into a bar.” Solly said.
“The bartender says, what will you have Mr. President?” Morrie finished for him.
“It took courage to tell that joke.” Morrie said.
“And the comedic sensitivity of Ebola.” Solly said.
“New funny material TONIGHT!” said Morrie.
“Or you’ll never work in this town again.” said Solly.
I became aware that someone had joined me in the booth. It was Jenny, my waitress.
“Something wrong with the meatloaf?” she said.
“Not really. I’ve come to rely on higher gristle content, is all.” I said.
“God. You do need help. Well that’s why I’m here. I heard what happened at Laugh Your Balls Off, I have jokes for you!”
“This sort of thing is best left to the professionals.” I said.
“If you ever meet one, ask him for help.” Jenny said. “Meanwhile you want to hear mine or not?”
“Ok” I surrendered. It was easier.
“Well then,” said Jenny, “Here you go.”
“A new Valkyrie arrives in Valhalla. Thor explain to her what is expected of Valkyries. Gamely, she offers her honor. Thor honors her offer. It’s offer and honor all night.”
My jaw dropped.
“That’s terrible!” I said. “That’s the worst joke I have ever heard! And its ancient – real Vikings told that joke! That’s why everybody hated them!”
“Fine.” Said Jenny, stiffly. “I’ll give you my best one. But you have to agree to use it tonight. If you do, tomorrow’s special is on me. It’s two weenies, chili, onion rings and a stomach pump.”
“Don’t remind me. So in essence you double dog dare me to use this joke?”
“I double dog dare you.”
“Done.” I said.
“Thor, God of Thunder, is recovering from a typical Valhalla party. You know, feasting, fighting, furgling the Valkyries, more feasting, furgling, fighting until everyone passes out until the next day, whereupon everyone rises to do it all over again.”
Thor is just shaking himself out of a heap of busted furniture when a brand new Valkyrie, who he has never met, staggers by looking much the worse for wear. Ever the gentleman, Thor tips his horned helmet and says:
“Hi! I’m Thor!”
The Valkyrie glares at him and says: “Don’t tell me your troubleth, Buthter; I’m tho thor I’m afwaid to pith!”
I thanked Jenny, and reached for the “Help Wanted” pages of the Poughkeepsie Daily Piddler.