Midnight at the Comedy Club Under the Bridge
By Curtis C. Chen
Chadd sweated, literally sweated, all the way through the emcee’s introduction. He couldn’t remember ever feeling this nervous, even when he dumped a girlfriend.
Scattered applause greeted him as he walked up to the microphone.
“Hey guys, I’m Chadd—that’s spelled with two D’s.”
Someone shouted “Yeah!” at the same time someone else yelled “Loser!” Chadd pressed on.
“So I’m on the phone with my mom last week—”
“Was that before or after I fucked her?” someone called from the back of the room.
Chadd put one hand to his forehead, shielding his eyes from the stage lights, and pretended to scan the audience. “Dad? Is that you? Aren’t you supposed to be at your AA meeting right now?”
That got some laughs, and a couple of people going “Oooooo” near the front, as if anticipating a physical confrontation with the heckler.
“Anyway, Mom’s one of these tree-hugger libtards, and she’s telling me all about this book she’s reading for her book club, maybe you’ve heard of it, it’s called An Inconvenient Truth—”
Predictably, and just as Chadd had hoped, that sent the entire audience into a tumult of vocal objections to the very existence of said book. He waited until they had quieted down, smiling to himself. Triggering outrage was almost as good as getting laughs.
“I see you’ve all read it,” he said, calling forth a noisy wave of protestations. “I didn’t realize the Al Gore fan club was here tonight.”
Suddenly, Chadd felt a sharp pain in his forehead. He heard a noise like glass breaking. He looked down and saw a broken bottle at his feet, next to the mic stand. A drop of red splattered on the floor as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. He put a hand to his forehead and felt something wet, warm—he pulled his hand away and saw his fingertips covered in red.
Before Chadd knew what was happening, more objects were flying toward the stage: bottles, plastic cups, ice cubes, was that somebody’s shoe? Really? Who throws a shoe?
And then he was being dragged off stage by a bouncer. The emcee returned to the stage, but the crowd was already well on its way to becoming a mob. Chadd wasn’t sorry to leave.
He was, however, dismayed at having to see his mother now.
Morrin was waiting for Chadd backstage, and after the bouncer sat Chadd down in a chair and made sure his head wound wasn’t life-threatening, Morrin came over and smacked him in the back of the skull with her notebook.
“You opened with the book joke?” she yelled, or maybe it was just the fact that Chadd’s ears were still ringing from the possible concussion. “What the hell were you thinking? Idiot!”
“But—but—you like the book joke,” Chadd said. “You said it was good for taking the temperature of the room, politically—”
He was interrupted by another smack upside the head. “If you don’t have any better options! That heckler set you up with a perfect segue! What’s the first rule of comedy?”
The third smack nearly knocked him out of the chair. “Fuckers like fucking! Always talk about sex, whenever possible, as much as possible, in the most vulgar terms you can imagine! For crying out loud, you could have done a whole riff on your father and me getting down and dirty!”
Chadd felt his stomach turning. “I don’t really like to think about you and Dad, uh, doing it.”
This time, Morrin just glared at him, but that was actually worse in some ways. “Have you forgotten everything? It’s not real! It doesn’t even have to seem real! It’s! Fucking! COMEDY!”
She leaned closer with every sentence and covered his face in spittle toward the end. Chadd nodded and resisted the urge to wipe himself clean.
“Okay. I’ll do better. Where are we going next?”
“You are going home, young man.”
Chadd started. “What? But it’s not even twelve-thirty yet! We could hit like four more open mics before closing time.”
“You’re clearly not ready for that.” Morrin jammed the notebook into her purse, pulled on her coat, and threw Chadd’s jacket at him. “You’re going to go online and do some more commenting.”
“Mom! No! I can do this!” Chadd hated posting comments on the internet. He knew it was good practice for honing his comedy skills, but it just felt so much like homework. His mother obviously knew it was a good punishment.
“Shut up, let’s go,” Morrin grabbed Chadd’s arm and yanked him to his feet. “And before you ask any stupid questions, yes, I’m driving, and if you try to workshop any of your piss-poor ‘lady driver’ jokes on the road, I will steer us into a goddamn tree, you got that?”
Chadd kept his mouth shut for the rest of the evening.
Originally published on Curious Fictions, 2020.