Saturday, September 15, 2018

Throwing the Chihuahua

Turns out we're currently a sanctuary city.

All I knew when I left home was that it was raining lightly and I needed to be entertained. Walking past Gallery 5, I saw a young band knocking on the door, asking where to park to unload their equipment (I could've told them that). At Saison Market, I saw a guy smoking a cig under the awning and futher on, through the window, I could see a man on a table being tattooed. The clutch of valets at Max's were bored and teasing each other.

Inside, I could see the bar was empty. If that's not a sign, I don't know what is.

The bartender poured my Espolon and the manager - whom I'd seen on my walk this very morning - greeted me for the second time today. After the bartender asked how we knew each other (the early Balliceaux days) we lighted on the subject of fashion.

She bragged about how fashionable her leopard print roller skates with the red wheels are (and I don't doubt it), sharing how she'd put them on the day they arrived and skated around her house for four hours to practice. I don't have that kind of room in my apartment, but then again, I never could skate, so it's a moot point.

I left there at 7:56 ("Cutting it kind of close, aren't you?" the other bartender asked when I said I had an 8:00 show to go to) but since I was only going a few doors down to Coalition Comedy, I still managed to be early.

The room was pretty crowded for the final installment of "Made-up Movie," an improvised film of which I'd seen none of the previous episodes. I wound up between a woman saving three seats for friends (only one showed) and two brothers from Raleigh who'd escaped Florence's impending doom by high-tailing it to Richmond.

When the one seated closest to me mentioned that they were originally from New Jersey, I asked why they'd moved to Carolina. "The weather, mostly," he said with a grimace. Since I had some recent Jersey cred, I shared that I'd gone to Wildwood for the first time in March and been wowed by the roller coaster on the beach because I'd never seen one before.

"You know we don't have those on all of our beaches, right?" he asked solicitously.

The next question out of his mouth was about how long I've lived in Richmond. Telling him it had been 30 years seemed to impress him. My question to him was about where they'd eaten beforehand.

"The back door at Tarrant's," he said, mistakenly putting the emphasis on the second syllable, like ta-RANTS. "My brother likes hole-in-the-wall places." I gently broke it to him that said hole-in-the-wall is attached to a good-sized restaurant with several sibling eateries and unless he'd ordered off the back door menu (fish tacos, fried chicken, fried fish sandwich or pizza), he'd missed the mark.

Nope, they'd ordered off the main menu, but the good news was they'd loved their food, so it went in the win column.

After he asked what I did, of course he had to ask for restaurant recommendations, dutifully noting them in his phone. When he asked for good bars, I had to explain that we don't have just bars in Virginia, but I could suggest some lounge-y places to imbibe if he was interested. He was.

Finally, the show started with a pair of guys improvising sets based on bad movie theme songs we heard a snippet of. And by bad, I mean singers like Bryan Adams and Peter Cetera. You know, the kind of singers that the army would play at top volume as a torture method or to force bad guys out of their hideaways.

Highlights included a discussion of why saying "gambling bookie" is redundant and the hilarious non-sequiter, "That's my fault because I threw a chihuahua at her?"

For the main event, the made-up movie, the audience was asked for a song lyric as a starting point. "I was gonna go to work but then I got high," one guy yelled out immediately.

"Somebody was ready," the group leader said, shaking her head and leading her crew offstage.

Easily the most amusing recurring segment of the movie involved an old grandpa who, cane slung over his shoulder and at the ready should he need it, was guarding his family's ice cream store. If anyone dared approach it, he'd demand the password. Sometimes, he'd just poke kids with his cane to scare them off.

Eventually, an 8-year old boy comes by and begins talking to him about how awful childhood is these days. "Life as a kid in the '50s, what was that like?" he eagerly asks Grandpa.

"My Mom would kick me out of the house at 5 a.m. and lock the door," he told the young whipper snapper. "I'd be out all day playing with rusty stuff. I'd come home at 11:00 at night and had to find food for myself."

I was rolling on the floor laughing (definitely more so than some of the younger people around me) and the youngster was mesmerized by tales of the glory days of childhood. "Wow, I've never even seen 11 p.m.!" he gushed. "Did you ever get to smoke cigarettes in bomb shelters?"

When the old man can't take the fawning anymore, he tries to get rid of the kid, first by giving him a pack of cigs and pointing him towards his bomb shelter. Then, it was, "Here, kid it's a rusty can. Go play!" Naturally, the kid cuts himself badly, thus ensuring the best kind of unsupervised childhood.

Hearing, "You're going straight to juvey, kid," sounded straight out of a '30s crime movie about kids gone wrong.

There were other subplots, one about a strip mall cop with an overprotective mother and one about a woman with too many ferrets and too much time to talk to them. One had to do with two college roommates, one a stoner and one a good girl, at least until she succumbs to stoner life ("Every problem has a solution and it usually comes in a bottle," she says, cradling a prescription of Oxycotin) which, of course, involved a 311 song being sung by a cast member from the sidelines.

And funny as all that was, and it kept the room laughing pretty much nonstop, nothing compared to the moment when Grandpa's long-estranged son shows up at the ice cream shop in disguise. When Grandpa tells him he recognizes him, the son explains he's stayed away because of the way his father treated him.

"But I've always been proud of you, I'm still very proud of you," the old man tells his son. And what does the son do? Wait for it: he tells his father to say it again and pulls out his phone to record the admission.

Now that's some seriously hysterical improvisation. That's Seinfeld-worthy observational humor right there. What good is hearing the words you've craved since childhood, the words that mean more to you than anything, if you don't have a video clip of it? I mean, did it even happen with no video?

And that's exactly what I'd told the Raleigh-by-way-of-New-Jersey guy when he'd asked why I was at Coalition. I always laugh when I go, sometimes a little and sometimes a whole lot.

When you mock the obsession to give up real life experience for the sake of online documentation, there's nothing funnier. Why? Because that's real life. And after all, they say comedy is just a funny way of being serious.

Beats playing with a rusty can.

No comments:

Post a Comment