Laughter not a bad career choice

By Kevin Wilson

I’m beginning to think I’m in the wrong line of work. Actually, I know it.
Like several of you, I’m not at what I’d call my dream job at this point of my life. I’m not at a midlife crisis, but I get a little bit closer every time I turn on Comedy Central.
I grew up with Comedy Central, from its humble beginnings as a network that ran nothing but Police Squad reruns and stand-up comedian clips.
Comedy Central has grown up to be one of cable television’s best networks, with great original series like Chappelle’s Show and fake news programs like The Daily Show.
I, meanwhile, have grown up to a job that gives me a decent living, but very few chances to tell jokes for a $2 cover charge. I’ve watched hundreds of comedians, studied their jokes, their delivery. The only problem is that I’ve never put good use to this knowledge.
It’s unfortunate, because there are great opportunities for comedians now. Just look at some of the shows on television:
• Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn: Think Politically Incorrect, but replace self-important celebrities with self-loathing comedians. Quinn introduces several newsworthy topics before the show breaks down into gender arguments, racial arguments and cheap shots at Quinn’s mediocre career.
• Last Comic Standing: The 431st successful reality show puts aspiring comedians in the same house, with unusual competitions. Think of it as MTV’s Real World, except they’re trying to be funny.
At the end of each episode, each member deems one person to be an inferior comedian. The comedian that receives the most votes challenges one of his/her voters, and an audience decides who remains standing.
• I Love the ’80s/’90s Strikes Back: VH1 has put together a series of highlight shows where pop culture is picked apart by comedians. About 10 or 12 comedians come by the studio, record their best material on nostalgia, and only the best 30 minutes makes it on air.
I’m thinking that I need to get a standup job before too long, because the last few years have produced a gold mine of material for the next decade. The Bush presidency, Ah-nold as the governor of California, and we’ve still got more than six years left. The only question left is the title … “I Love the Oughts Strikes Back,” perhaps?
If I want to get there, however, I need to take advantage of the chances I have, but usually pass up because I’m about to offend somebody for no good reason.
Case in point: I signed up for a movie rental membership at a chain store once. During the signup period, the clerk asked, “And how did you hear about us?”
How did you hear about us? This store was on the main street of a town that you could traverse in your car in about three minutes. I could have said something witty like, “The Psychic Friends Network,” but I figured this clerk had to ask that question for every new membership against her free will. I could only offer up a blank stare as she filled out “Drive-By.”
These are opportunities I have to seize. Quiet workout sessions at the gym will be replaced by standup on the Stairmaster. The sidewalk of the Allsup’s could be a 24-hour stage — “I’ll be here all day. Seriously. I bought a burrito, so I’m not loitering.”
Who am I kidding? I only hope I can take advantage of my final chance to be a comedian, many years down the road.
That’s why my gravestone will read, “I’m standing right behind you.” Nothing? At least I’ve still got a few years to work on my delivery.

Kevin Wilson is managing editor of the Portales News-Tribune. He can be contacted at 356-4483 or by e-mail:
kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com