The Stand-Up Act
by Eric J. Krause
I killed 'em. Absolutely slayed 'em. All except for one guy in the back. I don't know what his problem was, but no matter what I said, no matter how many people laughed--and I don't want to break my shoulder by patting myself on the back, but it was most of them--this guy heckled the heck (har, har) out of me.
My lion in Manhattan joke, everyone but him loved it. My slew of sister-in-law jokes, same thing. Didn't matter what I brought, he hated them all.
As my set came to an end, but before the light flashed me off, I couldn't take it anymore. My biggest joke came up, one that never failed to bring the house down, but seconds before I dropped it, he yelled out the punch line.
Oh no he didn't!
Everyone murmured to their neighbors and looked around to see what was going on. I'd done my best to not look towards him, but this was too much. Not only had he ruined the act for me, but he'd ruined it for everyone else.
I leapt off the stage and stormed to the back. People parted out of my way, smiling up at me. I think they thought this was all part of the act. If they only knew.
I got to the back and looked around. No one. What in the world? Who was here, I asked, but people shrugged and gave me blank looks. They'd been here the whole time he was screwing with me. Someone had to have the balls to rat him out. Of course not. I sighed and headed back to the stage, but the MC had already called up the next act. I stormed backstage. I'd have left altogether, but I wanted to get booked again, so I figured I'd wait till the end of the night and talk to the manager. Maybe an employee had seen the guy.
There were only a few comics left, so I came out and sat at the bar, steaming into a beer. No one else got heckled, and I don't mean to sound like a self-centered prick, but I was the best comic up there that night. When the show finally ended, the manager gave me a look that said some nights are better than others. I asked him if he or anyone else had seen the guy who'd been riding me, but he hadn't. He'd even sent someone over to take care of the guy during my set, but no one could find him.
As I headed for the parking lot, a man in a baseball cap came up to me and apologized. He had a sad expression on his face. I asked if he was the heckler, and he said he was. My heart started to race, and I wound my hand into a fist, thinking I might clock him. Then he said something that made me stop.
"You're going to be the greatest stand-up comic ever. Your humor will unite the world, regardless of race, age, or gender. Every society will come together in peace. Wars will be abolished. Scientists worldwide will be able to focus on hunger, diseases, and overpopulation. It'll truly be one nation of Earth."
I started at him, not knowing where he was going with this. I sensed a punch line, and I wanted to step all over it as he'd done to me.
"On your way to your car tonight, a stray bullet from a drive-by shooting hits you. The physical therapy is so draining that comedy is the only thing that keeps you sane. You're able to hone your act so tight during this time that everyone has to take notice."
I couldn't take it any longer. I had to ask what the joke was.
"No joke. I'd attempted earlier to drive you off stage and home early to avoid that bullet. With a united Earth my people cannot conquer your planet. We have to settle for the uninhabited Mars, and it's just not the same. If I could physically interact with you, I'd kill you myself. My only hope now is that by talking to you, I'll somehow get that bullet to miss."
It took a few seconds to get my brain around all that nonsense, but I came up with a good zinger. It almost passed my lips when I heard the crack of the gun and pain exploded in my stomach. I collapsed, but before I screamed, I looked up at the man. The bullet had passed right through him, and I wanted to know how.
He was nowhere in sight.