a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Clowns you hafta love

“All charming people have something to conceal, usually their total dependence on the appreciation of others.” – Cyril Connolly

By Amanda Gillooly

At 3 a.m. last Saturday, I sat on the couch in a daze watching a show on Comedy Central called “The Amazing Jonathan.” I wish I could say I ran across the magic /stand up comedy show because I just got home from “clubbin,’ but I’m not that cool.

Indeed, I had not been gyrating on a dance floor. I was sitting delirious, having only been able to sleep three to four hours for few days previous. Add medication for my seasonal allergies into the mix, and I was largely unable to watch anything more challenging. I was hardly able to form coherent sentences.

While I secretly pondered how all the sneezing and coughing could rob me of my voice once again, I snorted out a few reluctant laughs. Remembering a dear college friend, I felt like I knew the guy in the show.

The amazing one was obviously talented, quickly retorting audience queries with his wit and keen comedic timing. The barbs were as funny as they were cruel, but people couldn’t stop laughing.

He was a jerk, but a likable jerk. And I only know this because he reminded me of that friend, who also shared that rare attribute.

Everyone laughed around Sam, who is now leading a successful life using his legitimate talent with his natural ability to make people laugh regardless of the cost. I personally watched him risk personal injury – including paralysis – just to elicit a chuckle or two.

My senior year, the campus radio station, WPPJ, held its annual fundraiser. To help pique interest in the evening hours, when commuters and part-time students were long gone, Sam convinced his best friend, Max, that pile-driving him through a table would be totally safe … and painless … and uncomplicated.

And just to be clear, it wasn’t a stunt table. It was one of those old sturdy faux-wood cafeteria tables with chrome legs and plenty of use to legitimize its durability.

Everyone in our group of friends thought it was a poor life choice on Max’s part. We tried to explain that he could conceivably suffer a serious injury to his neck, back, etc. We tried to explain that neither Sam nor Max was athletic. We even tried to tell him that the fact the pair never rehearsed the move was disheartening, if not dangerous.

But it was no use. Sam, our own lovable ass, always had more pull than any one of us. Uh, huh. No one could match the dude’s ability to psychologically manipulate someone in the name of comedy.

So the highly publicized “hard core match” went on as planned. And it was a packed crowd at the Point Café, our student lounge, mostly because word got out that someone would be put through a table. I’m pretty sure people took sides and even made makeshift T-shirts.

Both were lumpy white guys, but they were shameless. Wearing cut off T-shirts, they greased themselves up and walked out, putting on a show Vince McMahon would be proud of. There were feisty speeches. There was even a bit of water spitting.

A few minutes later all civilized thought and conversation was suspended as the two “fought,” grappling with each other as the crowd jeered and cheered. I think Max may have thrown a garbage can.

Then it happened; Sam somehow was able to hoist his much-heavier friend in the air just enough to slam him down into the table. Luckily, the force of their combined weight made the table buckle, and it snapped in half, sending them both crashing to the floor.

I can’t remember who actually “won” the hardcore match. That wasn’t the point.

After they were done gloating about the feat, they watched video footage and then bitched the next day when their bodies FELT like they were broken.

Max taught me then, as Amazing Jonathan reminded me, that there are few people in this world who are clever enough to always outwit you and brave enough to make fun of you in front of your face. And it’s even more rare when you find someone who can do all that and still be endearing to you.

Not everyone, I think, has encountered this type of humor, and you have to know it to appreciate it.

Maybe we all liked him because of his charisma, or because he was an equal opportunity heckler. Or maybe we liked him because he made fun of himself as much as anyone. Or maybe like the Great Gatsby, he just had one of those smiles.

One day, when someone actually got pissed over some remark he made, he pulled me aside.

“Seriously, do you think I’m a total ass?” he asked.

And I did the right thing. I told him what I’d learned about him after four years of classes, fun and fundraisers – I told him the answer was, yes.

“But you’re a total ass in the best possible way. You’re a loveable ass,” I told him.

He looked relieved, and that made me like him even more.

Sitting there on the couch, thinking of Sam, I was finally able to fall asleep before the amazing one uttered his final punchline.

{Note: Sam and Max are not the real names of Amanda's college friends, who have since grown up, taken respectable jobs and probably don't want to be embarrassed by her story. The graphic, at the top, is that crazy Jonathan dude.)

1 comment:

Scott Beveridge said...

We receive life's lessons in mysterious ways.