Making People Laugh for a Living Sucks
By Sam Tallent
I’m in Great Salt Lake State Park, 3:03 AM on a Wednesday, and the fireworks are lit. Blue smoke billows out over the dead shore as the sizzle turns into a screech and then a star explodes. The show was earlier in a bar that did not turn off the TVs. These other comics never smoke pot, but tonight they did. We are trespassing and drinking Coors, and I have to pee again. I drop to both knees to dodge a bottle rocket, and the bones of a million extinct fish lacerate my shins. I light a Roman candle with my Pall Mall and aim it toward the laughter.
I’m in Tama, Iowa, 2:12 AM on a Saturday, and the two old women say they are princesses. They wear their coarse gray hair in woven braids that hangs like earrings over their strong shoulders. The other comic is wide-eyed in the doorway sipping Ten High from the bottle.
After the show, on the walk to their compound, they said they’d have to cleanse the trailer because their brother killed himself in there last winter.
One princess repeats the name Eugene over and over as her sister stacks feathers. The younger princess takes the bottle from my friend and pours whiskey into a copper cup. The older princess pulls a feather from the bottom of the pile and dips it in the whiskey. She lights it and tosses it on the feather pile. They kneel next to the fire and blow across the flame to drive the smoke out into the night.
That night, I sleep like I am dead.