It was all Marlys’ fault. The idea was hers; a double date, Marlys and her husband Peter, and my date, Bennett, and me at The Comedy Club. A young friend of hers had just gotten her first acting job as a member of the troupe. A Sunday evening of improvisational comedy and beer sounded like fun.
Then Marlys and Peter cancelled at the last minute. Bennett and I went anyway, only to find out that Sunday wasn’t just improv night. It was also trivia quiz night. Almost everyone was in teams of four to eight, except for the two of us.
The improvised skits are clever and Bennett and I laugh heartedly. That is, until the topic for the quiz segment is announced: Movies and Television, topics about which we know little. When the questions are read, we know few answers.
“Who replaced Simon Colwell as a judge on American Idol?” No idea. Never watch American Idol.
“What famous movie actress has had a reoccurring role on Glee?” No idea. I’ve only seen Glee twice. Bennett has never seen it.
“What 1969 film starred Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson?”
That’s how it goes. We answer one out of every three questions.
The answers are gathered, scores tallied and the winner announced. Not us.
Then the emcee says, “Tied for last place are The Sunday Night Sleepers and Bennett’s Team. Raise your hands, members of Sunday Night Sleepers and Bennett’s Team.”
We raise our hands.
“Let’s hear a round of applause for our low
scorers.” Loud applause and laughter.
“We have a surprise for our low scorers. Each of the two teams is going to pick one person to come up on stage. Make your choice and get on up here!”
Bennett looks at me. “This was your idea. I’m not going up there.”
A 30-something man and I are seated under a spotlight on the stage. The emcee says, “You’re the stars of our next improvisational scene. My colleague and I will start a story. When we tap one of you on the shoulder, you finish the sentence.”
I squint out into the audience, trying to see if I recognize anyone through the stage lights. Unlike what happens to me typically in public places, I don’t see a soul I recognize. Except Bennett. Thank heaven for small favors.
I straighten my spine, square my shoulders, try to arrange my face in a calm smile, fold my hands quietly in my lap. Inside I’m a churning caldron of nervous bile. I don’t have a clever bone in my body. I’m dull witted. I never have the best response until it’s 30 minutes too late.
I’m the worst person in the world to be seated on this stool under these lights.
The emcee starts. “I got home late from work last night. Traffic was backed up all along the circle route. My wife said, ‘Your dinner’s on the table.’ It was…”
He tapped the young man on the shoulder, who hesitated. I smiled at him encouragingly. He said, “Cold dog shit.”
That’s what he said. Seriously. His first contribution to all the clever improvisational comedy we’d seen that night was to say, “Cold dog shit.”
The other comic continues. “Just then the doorbell rang. I opened the door. A man stood there. I recognized him. He was…” He tapped my shoulder.
I gulped. My mind went blank.
I started with, “I recognized him because……” I looked up at the comic in a panic, and said, “because……..he was
our milk man, in his cute white uniform. I thought, what’s he doing here at night?”
Then I paused, cleared my throat, looked at the audience and spit out, “Besides, I just dumped him this morning.”
So it continued for another five minutes. Everything out of my fellow loser’s mouth was smut, everything out of mine was gibberish.
At the end of the ordeal I slunk back to my seat next to Bennett. He sweetly patted my hand and said, “You were fine, Georgia.”
“No I wasn’t. I was awful. I’m humiliated.”
“No you’re not. You were certainly better than that foul-mouthed oaf.”
We stayed through another improvisational act when Bennett decided he’d had enough and we left. Rather, I slunk out, publicly humiliated.
Oh, but is this the end? Is my humiliation over? Will reverberations from this adventure reach out to touch me again?