Authors: Anderson Ward
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Spence turns the volume up on his laptop because the girl in the bathroom is being so loud. She's talking about comedians she thinks are funny, but he's watching clips of himself on YouTube and wondering when she's finally going to take the hint and leave. On the screen he's watching a set he did once on
The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn
. At the time it seemed like a really big deal. Now it just depresses him. He still can't help but watch it from time to time, even though it never makes him feel very good.
“Do you like Dane Cook?” Brandy or Mandy or whatever her name is says while fixing her hair in the mirror. He chuckles at the thought of her putting in so much effort just to make the walk of shame out of his hotel room in a few minutes. All the primping in the world isn't going to erase the “just sexed” look she has.
“Sure,” he says back, even though he didn't even hear the question.
“What about Daniel Tosh? You like Daniel Tosh?”
“Yeah.” He nods. He pauses the clip and realizes for the first time that he still owns the shirt he wore on the TV show. It was eight years ago. It might be time to change things up a bit. He wonders if there's an outlet mall or something nearby that he can stop at when he heads out of town. His wardrobe has consisted of the same five shirts and pairs of jeans for so long, he doesn't remember the last time he tried something new.
“I think Dane Cook is hilarious.” She emerges from the bathroom, still wearing nothing but her panties. In this light, he can see how poorly done the tattoo of the kitten just below her navel really is. Last night he thought it was Pac-Man.
“Don't you think he's funny?” she asks. “Dane Cook?”
“Sure.” He goes back to watching the video of himself.
She sits down on the corner of the bed just behind where he is sitting at the tiny hotel desk. She's pushing thirty and talks like she's fifteen. Everything she says sounds like a question, even when it isn't one. She twirls her hair around her index finger while she talks and bobs her foot up and down to whatever song is in her head. He looks down at her toes and thinks it's kind of cute that her feet sort of look like hands.
“That you?” she says and points at the laptop screen.
“What show was it?
The Tonight Show
The Late Late Show,
” he says.
“Oh, yeah. With that guy that was on, like, that Drew Carey show.”
“Yeah. That guy. He's funny, too.”
“This was when it was hosted by Craig Kilborn.”
“Some other guy.”
“Is he like the guest host or something?” she asks.
“No, he was the guy who used to host it before the guy doing it now,” he says.
“Oh,” she says, “when was that?”
“Eight years ago.”
“Oh,” she says. “Wow.”
“So,” she says and then sits in silence for thirty seconds. “Dane Cook is probably my favorite comedian of all time. Daniel Tosh, too, but Dane Cook is better. He's, like, the funniest comedian I've ever seen.”
He pauses the video and looks at her over his shoulder.
“What?” she asks and looks confused.
“Really?” he asks.
“Oh,” she says, “you're funny, too. I mean, I just think, like, Dane Cook is awesome, you know? He's like my all-time fave. But I still think you're funny, too.”
“I slept with a chick in Florida once who was absolutely gorgeous. She had the most amazing body I've ever seen. I've never been with a woman as gorgeous as she was. She was amazing. But you're pretty good, too.” He raises his eyebrows. She has stopped playing with her hair and has her lips stuck out like she's pouting.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” she asks.
“Nothing,” he says.
“That wasn't very nice.”
“Tell it to Dane Cook.”
She rolls her eyes and then stretches out across the bed. He's kind of surprised she didn't just get up and leave, but he guesses she's smarter than he gave her credit for at first. Maybe she got the point. Either way, she doesn't seem too upset by it and isn't leaving. He goes back to watching the video.
He killed that night, eight years ago, in front of the studio audience and in front of everyone watching it at home. It was an incredible set and, for a while, he used the TV recording as a demo tape. For the first couple of years after it aired, he got a good bit of work. He killed last night, too, right there in Enid, Oklahoma. Eight years ago he was on TV and hoping to be headlining Vegas within the year. Now it's 2010 and he's at the Electric Pony bar in Enid. There's even a mechanical bull next to the stage.
Welcome to Hollywood, baby,
Could be worse.
At least the audience was good to him and at least he got laid last night. He's been treated worse in better cities and had worse looking women than Mandy or Brandy or whatever her name is shoot him down. He reassures himself that there are worse places to be. They like him here, so he should consider himself lucky.
They treated him like a TV star. From the moment he set foot onstage, they treated him as if he were Steve Martin making his triumphant return to stand-up comedy. For a brief moment, he forgot that he was unknown and broke and actually felt like a celebrity. The bright lights shining in his face hid the fact that he was performing in a shitty bar and not an A-list comedy club. Those same lights also hid the fact that the place was half empty. They loved him so much, they sent drinks to the stage and bought him shots of liquor after his set that made Enid
like Vegas. Or at least like Reno.
He looks around the hotel room and sighs. It isn't dirty as much as it's small and musty. The bedspread is frayed and a bit worn out, even though it smells like it's pretty clean. He hates places that only give you a single bar of soap and no other toiletries. He's got at least six little bottles of shampoo in his suitcase, but that's not the point. He just likes to have them available even if he has no intention of using them. He also likes hotel rooms that have two double beds. That way he can have sex in one and sleep in the other when What's-Her-Name finally leaves. Feeling like a celebrity wears off very quickly when the sun comes up.
“Do you like Carlos Mencia?” She picks up the TV remote and starts flipping through the channels. He remembers an interview with Charlie Sheen in the nineties. He was asked why someone as rich and successful as he was felt the need to pay prostitutes for sex. Sheen told the reporter, “I don't pay them to have sex with me, I pay them to leave.” It makes perfect sense now.
His cell phone rings on the corner table, and the caller ID reads that it's Rodney. He's tempted to let it go to voice mail because Rodney knows damned well that he's normally still asleep at this hour. The problem is that Rodney never calls this early unless there's something wrong, so he answers.
“You having fun out there, dumbass?” Rodney says. Rodney has never so much as had one drag off a cigarette, yet he sounds as if he's been smoking since he was three. His sinus medicine apparently sucks because it never seems to work.
“What do you mean?” Spence asks.
“I mean did you get laid last night?”
He looks at his laptop to see if the webcam is on. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I hear you had some broad hanging all over you, you filthy man-whore.”
“I had fun. It was a good show,” he says.
“Oh, I see,” Rodney says. Rodney is easily fifty, but the way he talks makes it apparent no one ever told him that. “She's still there, isn't she?”
“Did you call for any other reason than to live vicariously through me?” Spence asks.
“Hey, screw you,” Rodney says. “I've got better clients than you I could vicariously live through, you know. You think you're the only client I have that ever gets laid?”
“I'm the only one you're calling at nine a.m.”
“You should be flattered.”
“What's the problem?”
“How do you know there's a problem?” Rodney asks. “How do you know I'm not just calling to check up on you and see how you're doing?”
Spence sighs. “Because I know you, Rodney. What's the problem?”
“There was a complaint,” Rodney says as he switches gears. It has become routine. Rodney always starts by building people up before he tears them down. It comes from something he read called
The One Minute Manager.
Ever since then, Rodney tosses out a few compliments before delivering really bad news. It would actually be pretty nice if it weren't so predictable.
“Where?” Spence asks.
“At the Pony.”
“Jesus.” Spence closes his laptop and gets up from the tiny hotel desk. “Already?”
“Yeah,” Rodney says and pauses for no reason other than the fact that he's trying to do too many things at once. He's probably checking his e-mail, clipping his fingernails, and reading
all while doling out the bad news from the night before. “Somebody said you weren't that great or you said something offensive or pissed someone off or something.”
“That's a little vague, don't you think?”
“I guess,” Rodney says. “I'm just telling you that someone bitched about you so they called me.”
“Who was it?”
“Who was what?”
“Who'd I piss off?”
“I dunno,” Rodney says. “Some guy. Or some broad. They didn't tell me. Just said someone complained.”
Spence looks in the mirror and frowns. It's not going to be a good day. He looks like shit. Like he hasn't slept in a couple of days or is hungover. The fact that he managed to get laid looking like this is somewhat of a miracle. “This is about one complaint?” he asks Rodney. “They had one complaint, and you're calling me at nine a.m. to gripe at me about it?”
“I'm just telling you what they told me,” Rodney says. Spence pictures him sitting at his cluttered desk with his feet propped up, wearing the same ratty baseball cap he's been wearing for years. He thinks that the way Rodney dresses is lazy. The irony is not lost on him, since he hasn't worn a suit or even a tie onstage in years. Still, he thinks that an agent should dress the part more often. Rodney looks more like a drunken golf caddy.
“There were almost a hundred people there last night,” Spence says. He remembers it well because he killed. That's what all that laughter was about. That's what the free drinks were all about. That's why Brandy or Mandy is now lying half naked on his bed and watching
“Yeah, but they're pretty big on not getting complaints,” Rodney says.
“One freaking complaint? Jesus, Rodney. That's a bit much, don't you think? You'd think that a hundred people laughing would outweigh one jackass, right?”
“Hey, I'm just telling you what they told me.”
“Oh, for Chrissakes.”
Rodney pauses for a minute to finish whatever else he's doing and says, “Look, just go back there tonight and have a great show, and they'll forget whatever it was that pissed them off. I just wanted you to be aware of it.”
“And you don't see how telling me this is going to make me paranoid now?” Spence asks. He's pacing around the front of the room now and starting to realize why he looks like hell. Too many early phone calls from Rodney that stress him out for the rest of the day.
“Not paranoid, just aware,” Rodney says.
“I'm supposed to just walk in there and be all carefree and jolly or something?”
“Hey, today is a new day,” Rodney says. “Just don't do whatever you did last night. I dunno.”
“Don't doâ” Spence bites his top lip and makes a fist. He wants to throw the phone against the wall, but it would only freak out the girl on the bed and he'd have to go out and buy a new phone later in the day. “I was doing my act. A hundred people loved it. How the hell should I know what pissed off one person?”
“It was probably more than one person,” Rodney says.
“If it was less than a hundred, they lose,” Spence says. “It's a goddamned comedy show, Rodney. Majority rules.”
“And I'm on your side,” Rodney says. “I'm just telling you what they told me. If you wanna get booked back, you need to take it easy on them tonight.”
Sure, you're on my side,
. Fuck you, Rodney.
“Do something different. Mix it up a bit,” Rodney says.
“Oh, okay, I'll just write a whole new act today. A full hour of squeaky clean jokes for the one table of people who complained last night and won't be back tonight anyway.”
“Did it ever occur to you that you'd work more if you could work clean?”
“Did it ever occur to you that I know more about being a stand-up comedian than you do?”
“Just trying to help you,” Rodney says without skipping a beat. “You can't get on TV saying âfuck.' ”
Rodney,” Spence says, “it's a cowboy bar. It's not even a real comedy club, for Chrissakes.”
“Really?” Rodney says. “Because I could have sworn that you were working there last night and that you're a comedian.”
“You know what I mean.”
“You can call it whatever you want. They pay you the same as any other place,” Rodney argues.
“Right, but I can't perform clean in front of a roomful of drunk rednecks, Rodney,” Spence says. Rodney never understands this argument, and they've had it a dozen times already this year. “The drunk cowboys want the dirty jokes, whether the idiot running the place understands that or not.”