The Part

Aron M Woldeslassie

We always meet in cafes. It feels forced and superficial but also cosy and a tad stylised. 

In the far corner of Dunn Brothers I find Angela waiting for me. For nearly a year we’ve been working together; in that time she’s never showed up after me. At first, I thought it was an overeager sense of professionalism – the same thing that kept the perfectly straightened black hair an exact inch above the sharp shoulder’s edge of her consistent pantsuits – but I now suspect she makes a habit of fitting me in at the end of her days. Angela is my agent. A professional accolade if my name meant something. Ordinarily, it would be her life’s work to find me jobs, gigs, or events to fill with my stand-up. Unfortunately, because we’re both new at this, that doesn’t happen much. It’s also why all of our work meetings happen at this coffee shop.

“So, how are we?” she eagerly asks.

“Good, I guess.” That’s not totally true. Being a working comedian means money comes in starts and spurts. With the little I get, I’ve started to eat two meals a day. And what’s worse, I qualify the dirty chai I’ve ordered as lunch/dinner, or ‘linner’ as I like to call it. “What’s up?”

“Well, you remember that event you worked at in October?”

“The charity?”

“Yes!”

“In Atlanta?”

“Yeah!”

“Where I didn’t get paid?”

“That’s the one!”

“I remember it, Angela,” I grumble. I take a sip of chai, hoping to stifle any contempt for the ebony rainbow across from me. Angela’s great, but happy people are the worst kind of people. They look at everything as half-full, opportunities waiting to be fixed, as something special they’ll bring up on Ellen.

“Well, guess who was there?” 

“Steve Harvey.” You know who the best kind of people are? Sarcastic people. Sarcastic people look at this miserable world and go: Welllllll. What. Do. We. Have. Here? It’s an interesting change of pace that requires style and pessimism.

“You know, Steve Harvey was there, we spoke for a bit, but he’s not who I’m talking about.”

“What he think of my set?” There’s a second of thought. The gleaming sunshine inside her won’t say it outright.

“He thought you were hamming it up.”

“He said that? The man hosts Family Feud and thought I was over the top?” He is also one of the Kings of Comedy, which is why it hurts. I also like Family Feud, but I prefer Louie Anderson’s reign. 

“It’s fine. Anyway, you were good and—”

“The man has a moustache like he’s hiding a cleft lip and he thought I was doing too much?”

“Michael! This was what I was talking about.” I brace myself. Angela’s delightful smile only leaves when she’s scolding. “Every time you get upset you take it a step too far. Even if I’m your agent, you can’t say things like that.” 

“I’m a comedian, Ang. I’m allowed to vent.”

“That’s too much. It’s incredibly offensive. I think you know that.”

“Who am I offending? Are you saying people with cleft lips are ugly? I only implied the man has a big, over-the-top, hammy moustache-. You’re the one with assumptions.” People around us turn their heads to check in on the conversation. You can’t just yell “cleft lip” and expect anonymity. 

“I think you know that’s not what I mean. It’s unprofessional and cruel.” 

I groan to clear the air. “Who was at the charity?” I ask, hoping to move the conversation forward.

“Woody Allen.” That’s a surprise.

“So you’re saying, Steve Harvey sees me, then you, then Woody Allen, then looks at you and says, ‘I got a problem with this other guy’.”

And the conversation moves despite that.

*

I’m walking home, and the sun’s creeping down a horizon littered with faraway buildings. Golden drops of sun pour through alleyways, giving everything a romantic air before finally saying goodnight. I take my time heading downtown; there’s a lot to think about. With an hour before my first show of the night, I’ve got plenty of time to digest what Angela’s told me. I’m a big fish in Minneapolis. Seven to nine shows a week makes just enough my for rent, internet, and sometimes food (my mother pays for my phone). I’ve done all the things a working stand-up would do. I’ve worked comedy clubs, bars, concerts, conferences, bar mitzvahs, and even a few weddings. But unfortunately, the height of my career has become my rock-bottom. Eventually, I’m either going to get my big break or fade away as a local celebrity.

I could have taken my act to the coasts, but paying 10 dollars for coffee in New York and driving everywhere in LA seemed like hell, so I just fly all over the country. I wait it out in the Midwest, hoping someday some executive will find my headshot and think:Wow, look at this interesting Black man. He seems so goofy, yet serious? Like if Will Smith was never handsome. Or if Nas could juggle. I should give this rising star a shot. If this doesn’t get my daughter to love me, nothing will. And then he does a line of coke off of a picture of his daughter and calls Angela. But every day that seems less and less likely. Until now anyway.

Woody Allen wants me to star in his next film.

That’s something I wouldn’t have guessed would happen in Atlanta. Stomping through the city, I swing my shoulder from side to side; each swing accompanies additional pros and cons to the growing list in my mind. On the one hand, he’s the director of Annie Hall, Love and Death, and some 50 other movies. On the other hand, the man is a Polanski-level creep. I could use the money.Working with the man could ruin my career. It didn’t ruin other peoples’ careers. I’m not other people: I would be the first.

That last point falls in both categories. Ignoring the present, I focus on another problem at hand: my set. Today I’m performing at a brewery, followed by a bar, then another brewery. And while most of these venues had the decency to give me 20- or 30-minute sets, Sisyphus Brewing has given me nine minutes. Nine minutes is an ugly number for me. It means I stretch a seven-minute set or cut down a 10-minute one. Admittedly, I could just go over time, but I don’t want the booker to give me a look.

Under a bridge and past a park sits Sisyphus Brewing. With its long shuffleboards, open space, and hardwood everything, it’s the kind of hip, midwestern establishment that doesn’t let you know you’re experiencing the same weeknights your parents had before you were born. -Also, they have a comedy club in the back. 

Inside, I do all the things: nod to the bartender, finger-gun a few familiar faces, say hello to the booker, and make my way to the fellas. Wherever you go in comedy there are fellas. Even if they’re women they’re fellas. There are fellas in improv, clowning, sartorial performance art, you name it. The only exception to this rule is gender-non-conforming comics, and even then, if you take their pronoun and say it in a skeevy way, they’re essentially fellas. Fellas are the ones who call you a piece of shit before a show. They help kill time so the nerves don’t get to you. They’re the group of people who, despite no way of knowing, would have found you in your school cafeteria to Come Stand By Me. 

Mine are Elijah and Mesfen. Elijah has a boxy build, a boxy hairline, and round glasses because he’s a contrarian that way. The 22-year-old looks like a UPN heartthrob, but he’s too young to know what that means. Mesfen, on the other hand, does. Like me, his sense of timing was crafted by watching decades of 90s sitcoms and by avoiding a mother who swung her belt on two and four counts. His height and dark skin yell Oromo, but his sleepy eyes whisper French Stewart.

“Mista Nine Minutes,” Mesfen chides. “So nice of you to arrive.”

“I’m 20 minutes early.”

“For your set. We thought you were going to miss Elijah,” Mesfen corrects.

“You’re alright. How you been?” Elijah asks. He’s a ball of energy. I’m a bit jealous. The first 100 shows, the ones that scare you, are the best.

“Are you next?” I ask.

“I’m after some lady and her puppets.” We laugh; gimmicks are so dumb until they’re not. In the time it takes for a sock puppet to ask who’s on first, we get caught up. The two of them are getting ready for festival submissions. Elijah literally uses the phrase “big break”. 

“Speaking of which, you send Angela that link I gave you?” Elijah has been trying to get representation for over a year. He thinks it’s the next big thing in his career. That after a certain someone watches a 10-minute clip of him mocking the way white guys ride horses (it’s not that bad), he’ll get to do this as a day job. I know otherwise. 

“I sent it to her,” I lie, “but it didn’t come up. I got a crazy offer today.” They perk up at this. The offer requires the story, but before I can find words to start, Elijah’s name is called. He jumps out of the clique and moves to the stage. After a few bits, we forget that we’re in a conversation and enjoy our friend’s performance. Elijah’s material is soft and meticulous. He doesn’t attack or yell at the audience. He throws innuendo and puns into the crowd as he pulls us forward with silly stories. Every once in a while, the room will roar as he’s doing an impersonation and the giddy from it will pull him out of the act. It’s sweet. It’s also unprofessional. Seven minutes later he thanks the crowd and escapes with an avalanche of applause.

“Good set,” Mesfen says.

“Yeah? The Wimbledon stuff played?” Elijah nervously asks.

“You got there, doesn’t matter if they totally understand the reference,” I explain.

“Thanks. When are you up?”

“He’s headlining.” Mesfen explains.

Elijah nods at this. “Cool, right. So what’s up with this offer? You hitting Colbert? Fallon?”

Wouldn’t that be nice? “No, it’s a movie.” 

From his groan and slap to my shoulder, Mesfen’s real happy with me. Meanwhile, Elijah stands motionless at the big news. 

“Damn, okay. I see you, Mista Nine Minutes!” Mesfen cheers. “What’s the movie?” 

The story wants to start with Atlanta, but before I can even mention Steve Harvey, Mesfen’s name is called. Unlike Elijah, he walks to the mic, thanks the host, and opens with a big: How we doin tonight? The crowd cheers. And the slugger begins. Mesfen takes big swings with big energy at low-hanging fruit. He’s a crowd-pleaser, a ball-buster, and more than willing to laugh at his own jokes. Like a jolly inmate, he paces back and forth, eager to feel his tiny terrain. When he locks eyes with a spectator, he tells them, and only them, a joke that feels better to howl at than to analyse. Sometimes people don’t want a string of references and thoughts; they want to talk about sex and money and women. Because you’re not allowed to talk about that stuff. So when a giant, charismatic Black man complains about a prostitute willing to offer cashback, you laugh. Mesfen leaves the stage with more applause than Elijah. He doesn’t wait a beat. “So what’s the movie?” 

And I tell ‘em.

Elijah’s face moves from surprise to shock to elation, then finally to conciliation. Mesfen hasn’t stopped smiling since the Steve Harvey part.

“So what are you going to do?” Elijah asks. 

“He’s gonna take the job.”

“But it’s Woody Allen. That guy’s over,” Elijah complains. Mesfen isn’t convinced.

“Apparently not. Apparently, he’s seeing Michael and still working. What’s the problem?” I’m not eager to get into the deeply problematic, and possibly illegal, behaviour of the famous writer/director. And luckily I don’t have to, because before I can even mention Mia Farrow I hear the host blare my name. Bathed in applause, I make my way up.

The crowd is a field of varying levels of Black. Sometimes the whites of their teeth reflect from the tiny lights on stage. Occasionally I’ll see phones pop up. There’s also the moving silhouettes of waiters bringing drinks to the happy people. I start with a few easy ones. A lot of rhetorical jokes that poke in all directions. Feeling what kind of crowd you’ve got is an important part of the gig. If they like my stuff on baby carrots, I’ll go blue. If they squeal at the conversation I have with my Aztec accountant, my work will be a bit heady. It all depends.

A flash of light from a selfie reveals Elijah and Mesfen talking for a split second. They’re continuing the conversation without me. It doesn’t matter now. With two minutes behind me, I know where to go. I hit my stride and the room doesn’t stand a chance. 

“Thanks so much! You’ve all been great! Find me on Facebook and Twitter!” There’s applause, the host grabs the mic before shaking my hand, and I head for a drink. There was a time when the drink would have been the worst part of a set. The moment after performing was usually when doubt would start to make me over-analyse. But with a beer in hand, the only internal change is the drop in my heart rate. The excitement fades, and slowly, I remember it’s only a Thursday.

“Good set,” Mesfen says.

“Thanks.” Unsure of where to take the conversation, I sip my beer in the pregnant pause.

“So this movie,” Mesfen clarifies.

“Yeah?”

“You’re going to take it right?” In the background I see Elijah putting in the work. He’s shaking hands, giving compliments, reminding people of his name. The early part of the job is making sure randos know who you are. The act of going to work the next day and bringing up a comedian in relation to a good time is the best word-of-mouth you can ask for, but it doesn’t mean shit if they can’t recall your last name. 

“I think so. I just don’t know what it’ll mean.”

“It’ll mean you have a job. The guy is famous.”

“He’s also infamous.”

“You can be both.” 

I crush my beer. “Who the hell is both?”

“Suge Knight. Lenin. Just to name a few.” 

Suge Knight, Lenin, and Woody Allen, can you imagine that trio together? Talking about bald spots and their mothers.

“I don’t know if you’re making the point you think you are.” 

I raise a hand at the bartender. Another beer finds me. “It’s just weird. I feel like working for him in this climate would really hurt me. I know I need the money, but this could cost me my career.”

“Let me ask you something: has anybody ever gotten in trouble for working with him?”

“No.”

“Then why would you?”

“Because I’d be the only Black person who’s worked with him.” The answer lingers for a bit. Playing the race card isn’t something I’m used to doing with Mesfen. A gaggle of couples passes by, revealing Elijah. Having schmoozed his way to the booker, he’s ensured a spot for next week’s show.

“You guys see that? Steve thinks I have something. He’s going to let me come back with more time,” Elijah squeals.

“Why the hell didn’t you tell me Woody Allen doesn’t hire Black people.” 

Disappointed in the change of conversation, Elijah mutters, “I don’t think it’s a hard rule. It’s not like it’s written down anywhere.”

“But at the same time…” I clarify.

“Yeah, he’s never used Black people – although he plays a lot of Gershwin,” Elijah remarks.

“Gershwin’s white,” I point out.

“What?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh no!” Elijah grasps his head like a kid lost in an airport. “I just assumed.”

“Happens to the best of us,” I lie.

“You know what? This is a good thing.” Mesfen points at me. His long arms always surprise me as they end at surprisingly narrow fingers. Big hands, narrow fingies. “You’ll be the first Black man in this famous…you said he was famous?” 

“Yeah, he’s huge,” Elijah chirps.

“The first Black man in this famous director’s films. You’ll be an icon. A groundbreaker.” Nodding along, Elijah is somewhat on board.

“Yeah, but that’s probably why he wants me. There won’t be talk of pedophilia or interviews; it’ll all be all about me being the first,” I explain.

Those long fingies slap me across the head. “Who cares! That’s definitely why he wants you. This is the move! Every time white people are done with something they throw it at us, we make it better, and everybody makes a little more money. We did it with collard greens, we did it with fashion, and now Woody Allen.” 

Not sure if I agree with all of that, but Mesfen has something of a point. Being the first quirky Black man in a Woody Allen movie would be kinda revolutionary. It wouldn’t get Ken Burns out of bed, but maybe a short something on VH1 or E!. “It doesn’t matter if this guy is fucked; it matters that you’re the first. No one gives a fuck about baseball. But Jackie Robinson is legit.” 

That’s a solid analogy from the man that just slapped me.

The room’s all but cleared out now – we didn’t notice. Taking the audience’s cue and recalling I have a show in 20 minutes, we head out. This next gig is only about three miles away, near the University of Minnesota. That means an hour by bus or a 15-minute drive because public transportation in this city isn’t designed for getting around fast. We stand outside waiting for a car. 

“Yo, you being the first and all would be cool, but at the same time, you should know you’d be excusing everything that he is,” Elijah chirps. Mesfen only shakes his head and lights a cigarette to look cool, which gives Elijah another second to make his point. “If they’re going to hurt anyone for working with him, it’s going to be the black guy.”

Hissing a stream of smoke at Elijah, Mesfen steals my attention. “It doesn’t matter if they hate you or if they love you. What matters is that they want you. If you make that shit good, every fucked up white boy will want you to make them bulletproof. That’s job security.” Mesfen’s seen too many mob movies – he looks like a cliché. But like so many dames in said movies, I’m moved by what he’s said. Thankfully, before another round of arguments can be had, my ride pulls up.

I open the door to the silver Mustang and ask one thing before making my escape: “Am I hammy?”

“Yeah.”

“For sure.”

*

Rumbling away, because the potholes in this city are atrocious, makes for difficult pondering. When Angela first told me about the role she framed it as a make-or-break. That turning it down would send signals across the industry. At the time, I assumed she meant it would signify an unwillingness to work. Ironically, after hearing about Steve Harvey, I hadn’t considered the blackness of it all. Being the first in anything is important, but is it okay if I don’t want others to follow in my footsteps? But then again, what if I want people to follow in his footsteps? What if me doing this helps normalise the idea of Black men in roles outside of stereotypes?  

What if Martin Scorsese sees my film and hires a Black man to kill some guy eating red sauce? What if Wes Anderson saw that movie and hired a Black man to stand in a perfectly symmetrical room full of pastel nonsense? What if David Lynch saw both those movies and hired a Black woman to eat an apple in the black-and-white dream of a longshoreman? All of those things could happen if I were to say yes, but what would it cost me?

Jesus Christ, it’s 9.30 on a Thursday and I have to wonder if I’m a man or a race.

“So, you a student?” the driver asks.

“Sorry?”

“We’re headed to the U,” he clarifies, “you go to school there?” The pulsing lights of passing lamp posts reveal a stocky man with a short haircut. His short glances into his rearview show his interest in a conversation, as well as crisp green eyes.

“No, I’ve got a gig there. Or near there. Sometimes it’s easier just typing something simple and walking a block than the exact address.”

“Oh, sure. I just figured cause you look like a student. You a singer?”

Chatty drivers are a type of hell, but it still beats the bus. “No, I’m a comic – a comedian.”

“Really? Tell me a joke.” 

Fuck you. “It doesn’t really work like that.” 

He nods along knowingly. “Sure, sorry. Just the first time I’ve driven a comedian. Have I seen you in anything?”

“No, but I just got offered a role I’m thinking about.”

“Yeah? What’s it about?” 

Playing it off would be faster, but avoiding it doesn’t seem likely. Also talking to drivers tends to make the ride faster. “I would be this frustrated clarinet player during the Harlem Renaissance who supplements his income by teaching this kid how to play. The problem arrives when the kid starts writing these great songs that I would then steal for fortune and glory.” The driver changes lanes in silence. Letting him get on the exit feels like an eternity. I want to add more, it was described to me as the Harlem of Midnight in Paris.

“Is it a comedy?”

“Yeah.”

“So he’s just committing a crime?”

“And performing, and talking to people, and figuring it all out.”

“Sure but if he keeps the songs he’s just a bad guy. If he doesn’t then nothing’s changed. So he’ll steal the songs, reveal that he’s done it, and deal with consequences?” 

We lock eyes in the rearview. “Essentially. But there will be jokes and stuff too.” He shrugs. Great, another variable. I hadn’t even considered the story. Without thinking, I just assumed it would be another Woody Allen classic. But the man’s made 50 movies and I only know like five. What are the odds this will be as big a hit as Annie Hall? Oh my god, I haven’t even seen his new stuff. What if I’m the first Black man he hires and we make a terrible movie? It’d be like if Jackie Robinson played for the Cubs.

“Sounds neat.” 

I wanna die. “So how long you been driving for Lyft?” I ask, eager to change the conversation.

There’s a shift in his posture. “About a month now. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Is this your only gig?” I ask.

“Well, I used to be a cop, so I’m still getting assimilated, you know?” It’s wild how fast one problem can be replaced by another problem. Ideally, you’d have two problems. But the speed of it just knocks the other out of the park. “Hey, buddy, you can relax,” he says.

“I’m fine.”

“I know what fine looks like. I said I ‘used’ to be a cop. I’m just a driver now. No badge. No gun.”

“Thank you for bringing up the gun,” I joke.

“You know you pay for the gun? People never talk about that. It comes out of your check over time, but it doesn’t take long to own. Though I didn’t want to hold on to it after I left.”

“How about the cuffs?” He laughs at that. He’s got a slow, shallow laugh that scrapes against the back of his throat.

“You really are a comic.”

Now I’m the chatty one. “How long were you a cop?”

“Two years, four months, and some change.” 

“And you just stopped?” Little shakes come from the road. He doesn’t talk during the rumble.

“It just wasn’t what I wanted it to be,” he finally admits. Maybe it hurts, or maybe he knows what will happen next. Either way, there’s no happiness in that answer. “Do you know how many abusive boyfriends and absent parents and prostitutes you meet as a cop? Just the number of weird shitty people that live in this grey area of right and wrong? I only wanted to put away bad people, but they’re really hard to find.” Not sure if I’d put abusive boyfriend in the grey category, but okay.

“So you just quit?”

“Hardest decision of my life. Just like that. Now I drive for Lyft.”

“Wow. I wouldn’t have thought you were all that. Thanks for sharing.” There should have been a hundred follow-up questions. Things about being a cop, the training, his family. All of it. But the conversation was too good. Before I knew it, I was at my destination. 

We exchange pleasantries, and before his silver Mustang reaches a light, I give him five stars and an extremely small tip (I’m not made of money). With only a few minutes before I’m on stage, I’ve gotta hustle if I wanna enjoy a pre-show drink.

I run through the University of Minnesota campus and it makes me feel like I’m late for class. The bending bike paths with their perfectly stationed light posts guide me past libraries, dorms, and so much green surrounding brownstone. This place is too big, and I’ve never been in shape. Winded, I stop at an intersection dedicated to bordering downtown Minneapolis from the university, or vice versa depending on how you look at it. Across the street, a homeless man watches a group of students walk around a sweaty comedian – he knows my occupation from my black blazer and blue jeans (thank you, Mr Seinfeld).

Yada yada yada, I’m 10 minutes late. The nice thing about being an artist is that we’re considered temperamental, so the booker expected I’d be 20 minutes late. In his eyes, I’m early. The bar’s packed. Being so close to the university, I’m surrounded by soon-to-be bolshevik boys and bohemian girls. Also Croatians but that’s a whole other thing. A touring band is performing, and while the lead singer explains transcendental feelings in ripped pants, I think: maybe this Woody Allen thing doesn’t have to be all the things I’m making it out to be.

Running here, goofing off with the fellas, telling jokes: that’s essentially why I got into comedy. If I can get the same thing with this movie, should I say no? Is it fair to think I might lose all that if I say yes?

“Hey, I think you’re on next,” the host says before I realise who she is. “Are you doing burlesque to the Communist Manifesto or are you the comic?” 

My expression answers for me. “The comic.”

“Okay, great. After this song, you’re up.” She walks away, presumably to have another strange conversation. I nurse my drink as I wait for the band to finish. In the garage punk haze, a tall figure makes for me. This old coot – old in terms of what we do – has been getting laughs as long as I can remember. Strutting forward, Charlie’s big arms splay open, ready for a hug. I move inside them and try to squeeze harder than the big lug but know that won’t happen.

“How ya doin’, ya little fuck?” They wheeze as they smother me into their Cosby-esque sweater. It smells like smoke and candy.

“I’m good. I’m good. I get to headline tonight. You goin’ up?”

They shrug. “I don’t know, I heard it was happening and figured I could sweet-talk the booker.”

“It’s a weird woman.”

“They’re the best kind.” They laugh. Charlie first debuted in 1979 at some now-demolished club in Minneapolis. The large, larger-than-life comedian burst out onto the stage and told a crowd of baby boomers what a trans person was, how they were trans, and a bunch of silly things about being trans, all in three minutes. In 1979, two decades before being intolerant was considered rude. They never stopped doing it. Somewhere there’s an album with their face on it, next to a cassette with their name on it, collecting dust beside a CD full of jokes of theirs, all of which have never been played. And now they’re here, hoping to sweet talk some 20-something for seven minutes on stage. “So you’re headlining? Good for you! How was Atlanta?” they ask without a drop of negativity.

I tell them everything besides the Woody Allen part. Looking at them reminds me of the hardest truth of this business: it isn’t necessarily about the work. There’s a good part of luck involved. “Steve Harvey? Are you kidding? The man dresses like a pimp on Sunday!”

“Exactly! His moustache is so big it’s like he’s hiding a cleft lip.” 

They laugh. “That’s good. You’ve gotta use that somewhere.” Charlie once told me about something that seemed like a big break. It was a roadshow that would have started in California and gone all the way East to Edinburgh. Twenty minutes a show, $650 for each performance. The problem was that the promoter called it The Tranny Tour. Of course, they turned it down.

“You’re the only one I can do this with,” I say. “I told my agent that and she said it was too much.”

“Everybody wants to stand for something until it’s time to stand up.” The elder comedian has been shuffling from joint to joint making people laugh as Carson turned to Leno turned to O’Brien turned to Fallon. With every year, their story turns from inspiring to cautionary. We don’t often talk about it, but Charlie is something of a nightmare scenario: working in your late 50s, telling jokes for drink tickets. It’s fun, but what does all of that work mean if it doesn’t build something?

“Yo, if you want, I can ask the booker to have you open for me.” I wonder what Charlie would do if they were offered the role. Would they take it? Would any of the moral hang-ups matter to them after decades of obscurity?

“Nah, nah. These liberal kids are so eager to be open-minded. I’m sure they’ll offer it up on the spot.” They’re better than my pity. I should have known better. “Alright, I’m gonna find that booker before it’s too late. If I miss you, break a leg.” A nod is all I give. Watching them move past the crowded bar is all it takes to wonder if doing something I don’t believe in would be all that bad. Isn’t it better to have regrets in a life you’ve strived for, rather than be proud of a life with zero accomplishments? That’s not quite true for Charlie; they’ve lived in other ways I’m sure. But never as a comic. I wonder if they ever regret not taking that tour.

I hate thinking about comedy like this. I hate thinking about comedy. Taking it seriously feels insincere and ignoring it makes for pointless pondering. If this is going to hurt people then making the movie is a bad idea. But ignoring a break feels disingenuous. I just want to tell more people jokes.

My pre-show beer goes down in the nick of time. Placing my glass down, I hear the band thanking the crowd before shouting my name in a raucous introduction. A sea of strangers part as I make for the mic. And for 30 minutes, I’m fantastic.

Aron M Woldeslassie has been writing and performing in the Twin Cities for over a decade. His writing has been featured in The Almanac, Running Wild Novella Anthology Volume 4, Mpls. St Paul Magazine, The Nordly, and MinnesotaPlaylist, and his comedy has been featured in Minnesota Tonight, Rinky Dink, Vector 9, and Smash Bang Sketch Comedy. Aron currently lives, writes, and performs in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

 

*Image by Bogomil Mihaylov on Unsplash

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