The club opens, and all the patrons take their seats and order their alcoholic beverage of choice, some with ice, some without. Most are social drinkers, but some are merely masquerading in regards to the first word of that phrase. They talk quietly amongst themselves, killing time before the show begins. A look around the room makes it clear who is actually enjoying themselves, and who is paining themselves with small talk designed to fill the awkward pauses. Some of the latter group are good at it, and can still hide their visible discomfort from their companions, while most haven’t yet attained this level of skill and merely chop the silence into small pieces.

After approximately fifteen minutes of this, the house lights dim, and the emcee takes the stage.

“Welcome to the club!”

He actually says the name of the venue, but at that moment, the speakers pop, obscuring the proper noun — but, of course, everyone knows where they are, so it’s not a problem.

“We’ve got some very funny people for you tonight, so sit back, sip your drink and put your hands together for Morty Rizzel!”

The slicked back cliché emcee steps back into the curtains, just as he does every night, and just as millions of emcees have in millions of clubs all around the world. The accents and languages are different, but the voice and manner is always the same.

At this moment, Morty comes from stage right. Full of confidence, in a beige suit jacket, collared shirt with no tie — the uniform of his profession — he jogs to center stage, waving to the audience to a full round of applause.

He pauses to collect himself, gain his footing, and begins his act. He deftly pulls a razor out of his breast pocket, rolls up his sleeves, in one motion, and pulls the blade across his exposed skin.

The audience roars with approving laughter. Each new cut causes more to come out, small nicks getting titters, larger slices getting roars. Morty’s smile never fades, and you can tell that he was a real professional, both from his demeanor and the masses of scar tissue around his hands.

Soon, his set is over, he takes his bow, thanks the crowd for being a great audience, and jogs off stage, almost exactly as he came on.

The emcee comes back out from behind the curtain to introduce the next act.

“Morty Rizzel, ladies and gentlemen, Morty — whoa, slipped on the blood a little! Don’t worry, I’m OK, folks, I’m OK! Anyway, Morty Rizzel, what a class act that guy is, huh? And speaking of class acts, we got another one for you! All the way from Toronto, where he’s been knocking them dead in Canada, we’ve got Bill Knights! Give it up for him!”

The emcee walks back into the curtains and lets Bill take the stage. While not as active as Morty, Bill’s walk is just as confident, and briskly moves towards his rightful place.

He removes a long dagger from the pocket of his slacks and removes his shirt. It takes him a little while to unfasten all the buttons, especially while holding the blade, but it merely adds to the suspense. Once the shirt is fully off, he takes the blade, holds it against the skin and begins to make very thin slices of flesh. Nothing too substantial, just enough to free the blood, and in a friendly gesture, Bill offers the small pieces as souvenirs of the show to the crowd. It was easy to see that Bill, too, was a professional, and it appeared he’d been working much longer than Morty had — he was much more skilled, and even though Morty was more outgoing, Bill’s sheer proficiency blew the previous act away.

By the time Bill says his goodbyes, you couldn’t hear him even through the PA from the crowd’s guffawing.

“Wow, what a great act, wasn’t that, folks? Man, Bill Knights! Bill Knights! What a showman, hah? And he’s real true blue, too! I’ve met him at another show a long time ago, and he even remembered my name after all these years! What a professional! That’ll be a hard act to follow, and now, here’s…”

This happens three more times, each comedian getting great results. The audience loves them, and shows it with their praise and laughter.

“All right! Whoa, Susan Marott, she’s great, isn’t she? She’s really something! I’m surprised at the talent we’ve got out here tonight! This sure has been a great night, and I’m sorry it has to end, but here’s the last one! We weren’t sure, it was going a little long, so we thought we might have to bump him, but, well, everyone here decided that we were on a roll, so we should bring him on out and let him tear the house down! Ladies and gentlemen! Give a big how-do-you-do to Mister Michael Nepune!”

By this time, the crowd is ecstatic and is clapping wildly. A meek looking man of small stature cautiously takes the stage. He looks around, and clears his throat a bit. He slips his jacket off and pulls out a broken glass bottle.

The crowd is clapping and making a loud, loud noise.

Michael takes the bottle and lifts it.

The crowd falls silent in hesitation.

He smiles a little, and then jams it into his cheeks and twists.

There are a few chuckles, but nothing more.

He pulls the bottle from his face and thrusts it into the soft spot behind his chin.

Nothing. No response at all. If you listen closely, you can hear a yawn.

Michael removes his shirt — much more quickly than Bill. Where Bill gingerly undid the buttons, Michael jerks his over his head, and begins stabbing his stomach. Deeply.

Two sighs are heard, and Michael can make out the beginnings of conversation. The worst thing is that they’re not even talking about how they’re not liking the show — they’re talking about totally unrelated topics.

In a last ditch attempt to curry the audience’s favor, he stabs himself as deep as he can go in his gut, and then drags the broken bottle up towards his sternum, leaving small shards of glass in the wake.

Someone in the back of the house stands up and boos him, prompting the emcee to come out to Michael’s rescue.

“Everyone! A hand for Michael Nepune!”

The audience weakly claps. It’s not even a golf clap. Only about half the audience is even participating, and they’re only doing it out of politeness.

“Michael Nepune! Everyone! Yes! He had a really hard act to follow, but I think he did a bang-up job of it! Come on, everyone, give it up for him!”

A few more people chip in to the applause coffers, but it’s obvious that everyone is severely disappointed.

“Thanks Michael for coming out! Maybe next time, you can actually bring the entertainment!”

This actually gets a small rise out of the audience, a few laughs, but again, nothing major. Michael isn’t even seen as someone to hate — he’s not only a bad performer, he’s a non-entity.

“Anyway, come back tomorrow, and we’ll have some more great stuff for you! I hear Bill Knights is coming back for a second night! But yeah, thanks for coming out, and have a safe ride home!”

In any show, someone has to be the one to bomb.

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