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Published June 18, 2011

    I have on occasion been known to attend an open mic night here and there. There's a feeling I get while waiting for two hours against a brick wall in an alley so I can get my name among the coveted first 15 spots on a list that guarantees me a five minute spot on stage. Aside from the pressure I feel on my kidneys as my bladder swells with the few drinks I had just before I got in line, I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. It's the infamous pre-comedy dread.

    The guy in front of me is obviously a much funnier comedian. I can tell by the way he's standing, hovering over the rest of us. He's been here before. This is his territory. He's as comfortable here as in his own living room. I don't think the two guys he's with have stopped laughing at everything he's said since we've been in line. God damn it! With my luck, that asshole will go on just before me and he'll kill. Then, I'll get up there with some hack joke about my mom everyone has heard a million times and will get booed. Or worse! I'll get no laughs at all.

    Maybe the guy behind me has something to offer to make me feel better. Two minutes of talking, and I find out he's a high school kid. And all he wants to do is practice his bits on me. Yeah, yeah, kid. I know what it's like to be in love with a girl who doesn't even know you're there. I'm pretty sure we all do. That's why we're trying to break into comedy! If any of us were successful in love, we wouldn't be standing here in the cold for the chance at five minutes of laughter from a room full of strangers just so we can feel something that we can pretend is acceptance!

    I just smile. He'll get the hang of this, I think. Probably before I do. Why can't I say what I just thought on stage? That'd be so much funnier than this crap that I wrote. Man, that kid is never going to get laid, though. I kind of feel sorry for him... but he'll be funnier for it.

    Since talking to him just made me feel like a bad person for thinking such horrible things about a hopeful young guy, I decide to retreat into my head. It's rarely a better place to be than the outside world, but I need to save whatever energy stores I have left to deal with what I've decided will be the worst thing that will ever happen to me.

    Just close your eyes, Jason. Go to a happy place... go to a happy, calm, relaxing place. Where there are rainbows and unicorns and gorgeous women who want nothing to do with you... NO! This is your happy place, Jason. Here, if nowhere else, they want everything to do with you!

    A wave of calm rushes over me and suddenly, the emcee says, "And everybody welcome to the stage, Jason Islas!" The sound of applause after my name is always a rush.

    "I'd like to do some impressions for you guys tonight! Here's my impression of me, doing stand up."

    A smattering of laughs.

    "Alright, so that's the last time I open with that."

    More laughs. Always admit it when a joke doesn't work. It's any easy way to break the tension.

    "Let's talk relationships. I know you're probably thinking, 'A guy that good looking couldn't possibly have relationship problems!'"

    Damn... nothing. Just move on, Jason. Keep going till you get a laugh.

    "But I've had my fair share. I think I have a sixth sense for crazy in women. I once dated a girl who, when we used to argue, if things ever got heated, she'd start calling me by her dad's name."

    Nothing. Ugh... this is getting bad. Just keep moving.

    "She'd do the same thing when she was coming, too! Which was really weird because she never had an orgasm with me that she didn't fake."

    Jesus Christ! I was sure I'd at least get a chuckle. Someone in the audience stands up.

    "I really don't think that's funny," a female voice calls to me from the back of the room. I strain to see, but the spotlight is blinding me.

    "Well, by the sound of it, you'd be in the majority with that opinion," I quip.

    "And I really think you should say sorry, Jason." At this point, I begin to recognize her voice. "I only ever called you by my dad's name once and I was so embarrassed about it, I cried for almost two hours. Don't you remember?"

You've got to be kidding me!

    "Ok, ok... I'll do some other stuff." My palms are sweating and I can barely hold the microphone still in my hands.

"I... um... I dated this other girl once. She was a Christian. What a ride that was!"

    "Jason, just please stop, now," another voice came from the audience. "It's really insensitive that you would come on stage and discuss these things in such a glib manner in front of an audience of complete strangers."

    "It's beginning to sound like there aren't as many strangers in the audience as I had hoped for," I manage to squeak out past my ever-tightening vocal chords.

    A third voice, also familiar, chimes in. "We can't let you continue this, Jason. You've already done enough harm in this world."

    Voice four and five shout a hearty "Yes!" in response as the spot light suddenly goes out and I see a crowd of no less than ten women, slowly moving toward the stage, shuffling inexorably closer to me. It's Cheryl, my high school girlfriend, leading the pack. Heather and Amber are next to her, both wearing their unforgiving scowls... I know those scowls.

    There is no one else in the audience. I look around for the emcee but he's gone.

    "I'm so sorry, guys! I wouldn't have done the material if I had known..."

    "That's not the point, Jason. You shouldn't be doing this sort of thing at all," Casey, a girl I dated for two weeks in college, says as she begins climbing on the stage.

    "What are you going to do to me?!" I barely even recognize the tiny squeaking sound coming out of my mouth.

    Amber answers me, her scowl now twisted into an angry smile. "We're going to make sure you never do that, ever again..." and she opens her mouth, wider than I've ever seen her do before. She unhinges her jaw and I'm frozen in mortal terror, staring into an ever-widening chasm of darkness as it comes closer and closer to me.

Suddenly, an irritated voice comes from behind me. "Dude! You're gonna put your name on the list, or not? It's freezing and I gotta piss!" It was the high school kid from earlier. Thank God! There was no mob of angry exes in sight.

"Ye-ah," I stammer the answer out in two syllables and write my name slowly, trying to steady my hand.

"Relax, dude," the high school kid says to me. "What's the worst that could possibly happen?"

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