Monday, May 9, 2016

Silently Weeping, Laughing Out Loud

It's a thin line between painful life experience and comedy.

The proof was in the empathetic silences that alternated with helpless laughter when each duo took the stage to overshare tonight.

In this brave new world where editing out the unpleasant or even less attractive bits when posting and tweeting every minute life detail is as regular as train whistles in Richmond, it's easy to lose sight of the day-to-day difficulties of this thing we call life.

Fortunately, Comedy Duets was at Gallery 5 to remind us of the myriad unkind and unfair things most people experience just getting to adulthood, never mind running that gauntlet once they're legal.

None of which I'd yet been reminded of when I left the house ("I know I've told you before, but that blazer is sick!" my downstairs neighbor tells me as I leave) set on taking advantage of the dwindling student population by going to Dinamo for dinner, where Orvietto and my first softshells of the season await.

As if by design, the New York Times graced the bar, allowing me to read a review of Radiohead's record, "A Moon Shaped Pool," out today. Having heard the song "Burn the Witch" earlier on the radio, swooning over the sting arrangements in it, I was eager to know more and who better than music critic to guide me?

It was two tables and one other barsitter when I arrived but by the time my Nutella and sea salt cookie was history, tables were bustling with a nice old lady looking for a nice white Zinfandel and a large man who hovered awkwardly in the front of the small room rather than sitting down before his wife and her friends arrived. Very old school.

Meanwhile, two young beards stood outside the restaurant pointing at the slow-spinning propeller in the window and discussing it with great enthusiasm.

But back to picking emotional scabs in front of a roomful of spectators, it was later, during the pre-show mingling that I ran into a young woman I've known for about eight years. Maybe it was tonight's subject matter, but she wasted no time in getting into a tell-all about the life lessons she's mastered since I first met her.

It's compelling enough stuff that the bartender, who's known her for years, begins to listen in because it's experiences he never knew about her. She took a year and a half off from dating - "I had my blinders on" - following the Taylor Swift model for figuring out yourself a little before attempting a relationship.

But she also missed countless red flags along the way, warnings she'd never overlook today. Conclusion: if someone actually wanted you in their life, they'd actually put some effort into showing it. I applauded her success in learning from her mistakes and the bartender nodded in agreement.

First up were Grace and Patrick, who'd only met for the first time a few days ago, causing them to discover onstage that they'd graduated the same year, coincidentally the year the economy tanked - I suppose this is why millennials feel they got a raw deal timing-wise - and their question was about the most dangerous thing they'd ever done.

Hmm, mine? Riding on the back of a motorcycle wearing a tube top, cutoffs and flipflops. Yes, I wore a helmet. So there might have been something left of my head had we hit the pavement. Dangerously dumb.

Their answers, however, involved driving with the headlights out on unlit streets, although Grace's was as a child with two irresponsible adults doing the driving, which, as she pointed out, was "kinda f*cked up" for a kid.

Patrick's mother made a habit of jumping out from behind doors to scare him, once sending him rolling down the stairs after he jumped in fright. Seven-year old Grace was left at the base of an abandoned drawbridge while her Dad and his friend Jeff Riddle ("A strong, creepy name") climbed to the top. Patrick did Fernet bombs on the Cyclone roller coaster at Coney Island.

No one said childhood was easy.

Jess and Josh (who was celebrating his birthday and stood center stage so we could sing it to him) lucked into a question about the moments in childhood that still embarrass them, essentially open season for every youthful mortifying moment.

Josh's bully made fun of him every time he pooped at school. Jesse, in hand-me-down high-water jeans, wasn't cool enough to wear Jincos and was drop-kicked on the school bus.

The room about lost it when Josh shared that ten years later, his bully was on the VCU Quiddich team and again when first grader Jesse shouted across two tables in the cafeteria to the object of his affection, "Hey, Chelsea, guess what? I'm not allergic to anything!" to impress her.

This is what the world has come to: first graders boast about their immunity systems. Life is a tragedy.

Humiliation came in getting pity yeses from prom dates, ripping suit pants onstage at a high school talent show ("I was backstage silently weeping") and falling off a drum riser resulting in a broken kneecap, only to have a girl come over as he's being loaded on a stretcher, asking if he was still taking her to the prom.

It's a wonder both didn't go join the He-Man Women Haters' Club, you know?

Last up were Jim and Clay being asked what their worst breakup story was. And while Jim is in the throes of an apparently ugly breakup, Clay led off, warning us that his stories were not going to paint him in the best light.

He was right. Admitting to blackouts and bad choices, Clay was especially put out that his girlfriend had come home, awakened him up and broken up with him after kissing a guy at a party. The next day, post-breakup, she slept with New Guy.

His beef? She hadn't slept with her new paramour before breaking up so that he could hate her for that. Some girlfriends just don't take their exes into consideration, do they?

Jim's growing disillusionment came from his ex's repeated blackouts (I sense a bigger issue here), but Clay took top prize for sheer number of bad behavior incidents.

"I don't think you're going home with any of the women in this room tonight," Jim observed drolly.

"Maybe they can fix me?" Clay said half hopefully, mostly sarcastically, earning points for optimism even if it was feigned.

It might have been the funniest line of the night if it wasn't so heart-wrenching. Or maybe because it was.

Too personal? No such thing anymore.

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