Stan wasn’t funny. Fifteen years of doing stand-up, he hadn’t learned one thing about delivering a joke. And improv didn’t work for him either.
He’d tell stories and the audience ended up crying. He tried ventriloquism and the dummy didn’t talk. Somebody suggested puns. For the life of him, he couldn’t figure out what a pun was. Limericks? He couldn’t rhyme. Funny songs? He was off key and his timing was unbelievably bad.
He was so bad the other comedians felt sorry for him. So they suggested he get a partner. Stan kept talking over Ralph Horowitz’s delivery. And when Ralph tried a Tommy Smother’s bit of “Mama liked you best,” Stan agreed.
It wasn’t that Stan didn’t have a sense of humor. He did. That was the tragedy of it all. A fellow comic would tell a joke, any joke, and Stan was guffawing all over the place.
Knock knock jokes? Stan was on the floor.
Impressions? Stan was on the floor.
Light bulb jokes? Stan was on the floor.
Poor Stan. He was desperate to be funny. It was his mission in life. To make people laugh. It all started with George Carlin. Carlin has set so many comedians on their road in life that they’ve given up counting. Stan was just one in a crowd of many to catch Carlin-itis.
Since Carlin had his “seven words you can’t say on tv,” Stan tried “seven words you can say on tv.” Not funny.
Bill Cosby did Fat Albert; Stan tried Skinny Phil. Fat is funny; skinny is not. He tried out tennis jokes. Little did he realize that golf was funny; tennis was not.
Bob Newhart used a phone as a prop. Stan tried that. The thing Stan didn’t get was that Bob was talking to an imaginary person on the other end. All Stan got was dead-phon-itis. The bit went over like a fart in church.
And speaking of church. Stan tried the Stan Kinnison route. Just so you know Sam was a Pentecostal preacher before he became a comedian but that’s not a stretch. Both are show business.
Anyway Stan was impressed with Sam’s take on religion, so he went and got himself baptized. And he almost drowned. Glug-glug jokes didn’t work for Stan either.
One sad day, a Tuesday morning, after a Monday night of really, extra special, bad performing, Stan looked in the mirror. Tears streamed down his face. “When am I going to ever learn?”
Stan could have prayed but he had tried that. After 1,917 prayers, he knew that was not going to work. God wasn’t listening. He wasn’t even sure there was a God. If there was a God, maybe he was having a laugh at Stan’s expense.
There was only one thing left to do. He left the dump of a hotel he’d been staying at. He walked several streets over and came to a hardware store. He went down the aisle and found a coil of rope. Took it to the cashier.
“How long is this rope?” Stan asked.
“Long enough to hang yourself,” the clerk answered.
“Yeah, it’s right there on the label.”
He went back to his apartment and threw the rope onto the bed. He opened the closet door and pulled out his dummy.
“What are you doing?” the dummy said, then saw the rope. “Not that. Please not that.”
Stan sat the dummy down in a chair, then grabbed the rope and made a noose.
“Please, no,” the dummy cried.
“Whether you like it or not,” Stan said, holding the rope tightly, staring into the dummy’s glass eyes, “you’re going to teach me how to be funny.” He shook the noose at the dummy. “Or else.”
The dummy let out a sigh of relief. “I thought you’d never ask.”