The Hardest Writing Assignment of All

Silver microphone with red curtainsI’ve been a professional writer since 1980, but I cannot recall an assignment that has been so difficult, I have literally wasted hours avoiding it.

In my Writing & Critiquing Comedy, Satire, and Parody course, we kicked things off with an analysis of stand-up comedy. This required me to work with two others and brainstorm ten set-ups on my own and ten set-ups with an assigned topic. This somewhat terrified me because I may be verbally sarcastic, but I have not once considered myself a comedy writer. Heck, David Mack had to seriously rewrite me for the Shore Leave roasts we used to do.

My initial ten setups were crafted with my two bothers-in-law and last week then I worked up the second ten on my own. A variety of circumstances meant I never had a chance to hone these with my Comedy Buddies. Our professor literally closes the thread on deadline then makes it vanish so I couldn’t even refer back to other comments I had received.
For the second week, we had to take all of those ideas and turn them into a comedy routine, one we would hone with our buddies then perform for a camera, uploading a video or audio file for dissection.

Cue the flop sweat. I tried my best to craft a routine using my material, following the guidelines in Judy Carter’s The Comedy Bible, our text. I surfed the net, worked up something, surfed the net, did other work, then ran it by a buddy of mine who is far funnier than I am. He tossed out most of it, called me a stiff, and rewrote many of the jokes but now it sounded like a Borscht Belt routine minus the rim shots. I decided maybe I should read Moliere instead.

maxresdefaultNow, I like standup to a degree. I grew up adoring Bill Cosby and George Carlin’s albums and television specials. I was raised on the last generation of variety prime time where the greats still performed. I was steeped in great standup but only as an audience member. Kids, don’t try this at home!

I reworked my material a second time and got some Buddy feedback then I finally tried it out loud. Deb, overhearing me rehearse, declared it sexist and offensive. Now, she’s not one for standup but in rereading it, I saw her point. So, I surfed the net for a while, avoiding the assignment yet again, struggling to find the funny inspiration. Apparently, the muses are avoiding me.

That I said, I revised and reworked and hopefully made it funnier and less sexist. In direct defiance of the requirement, I opted not to record the routine feeling my stiffness would deaden the routine.

I swear, no other writing assignment in over three decades has made me more anxious and nervous. That said, I’ll share it…

So, I’ve been married for nearly 36 years making me a survivor and I’ve learned a few things. Let me share.

marriage-ringsMarriage is supposed to be the melding of two souls. Turns out, it’s actually the merging of two households…a household that doesn’t include any of your stuff.

She says, “You want to keep this?”
“Yeah. I thought it would look good in the living room.”
“Hmm, really? The living room?”
“Yeah, why? Where were you thinking?”
“The dumpster.”

Marriage changes everything, and not just the décor. A guy gives up a lot to get married. We give up favorite old comfortable clothing, we start watching her favorite shows, and we even change which way to hang toilet paper. I mean, everything!

Now, to be fair, women change, too. When we were dating she knew I liked her in thongs but the minute we married, I never saw one again.

What’s weird is that words that on new meanings, ones you’re totally unaware of. For example the word fine. To me, “fine” means I have no particular passion one way or another. She, though, has a different definition.

She asks you, “Hey, how about the pub for dinner?”
“Sure, pub’s fine.”
“Fine? What’s wrong with the pub? I thought you liked the pub?”
I don’t even know if men and women are meant to live together.

mary-poppins-accessoriesIt all comes down to differing priorities which creates tension between the sexes. Look at packing for that important first overnight trip together. You throw in a change of clothes and a toothbrush. She needs Mary Poppins’ magic bag to fit all the things she wants to bring. For One Night.

We even pretend we don’t burp and fart while we’re dating…and then they act all surprised when you do finally cut loose. “But honey, you should be happy that I’m comfortable enough to do that around you!” Yeah…suddenly, she’s not so happy to have you sharing!
And when we’re together and she knows of any single friends, she decides we have to fix them up whether they’re compatible or not.

Act Out:
“You know, Paul is single. Amanda is single. Wouldn’t they be perfect together?”
“No. Paul is a neo-conservative Trump supporter and Allison works for Planned Parenthood.”
“See, opposites attract.”

That’s why even though I’m completely and fearfully monogamous in my married life, I am in fact a Mormon at the office. In other words, I have multiple work wives.

enhanced-buzz-720-1447860908-5A work wife is just like a real wife…but with brutal honesty and no repercussions. We can tell each other anything and everything and never worry about bruised feelings.

Act Out:
“What do you think about this blouse?”
“I’m seeing way too much of you.”
“Gosh, thanks, I better change before the department meeting.”

See, no tears, no fights and I don’t have to buy her flowers and apologize.

My work wife knows me like a book, how I like my coffee or my favorite restaurant. At home, I’m lucky if my wife remembers I live there.

I can tell my work wife anything, and she actually cares enough to listen, and knows just the right things to say. My kids complain I like her better than I do their mother.

They’ll also occasionally remind me that I have a real wife to go home to. As if I had a choice. (pause) Which I don’t. (pause) Right?

One comment

Leave a Reply