On Friday night, my friend invited me to go with him to a stand-up comedy show on Mission at 10pm. (Partially this is because 1. He likes stand-up comedy 2. He wants to do stand-up comedy 3. He wants me to do stand-up comedy and 4. Stand-up comedy is the cheapest entertainment in town occurring outside one's own house.)
It is very rare for me to go to things that begin at 10pm, particularly on Mission Street, though I'd appreciate it if you didn't tell the cool kids. God knows I'm having enough trouble getting a date in this god forsaken town without you announcing to everyone that I'm not cool. Anyway, there we were. On Mission. At 10pm. I learned that many, many people are wandering the street in difficult shoes and inadequate outerwear at that hour seeking [more] alcohol. They stand in line outside noisy places to get it. I had no idea. It seems like a terrible way to spend an evening, but what do I know?
We waited with some other comedy patrons in a confused cluster for about 15 minutes until we were allowed in to the little theatre, to which (I add parenthetically), I proved to be allergic. Literally. Not is highbrow "the theatre did not meet my requirements" type of way, more in a "oh man, this place makes me itchy" kind of way.
When we walked in, there was already a five-piece band cramped on the tiny stage: a banjo player who looked like a Prohibition-era gangster; a skinny mandolin player with Kenny G. hair; a guitar player with a close-trimmed beard, trousers with suspenders, and a plaid shirt, like a farmer headed to church; another guitar player sporting a copious and poorly maintained beard, a bandana tied sweatband-style around his head, and a tan suit--an ensemble that, taken altogether, said "homeless hippie going to a job interview"; and, on the double bass, an incongruously short, rather androgynous guy with a shaved head, a sideways baseball cap and large glasses. For what seemed like a very long time, they noodled around on their instruments, not actually playing anything. When the lights at last dimmed, they launched into the first of several seemingly identical bluegrass songs. I have no explanation for this. My friend asked me several times if we were at the right show. I reminded him that he had invited me, so if anyone should have some insight into why we were currently watching a bunch of very earnest young bluegrass musicians at a comedy club, it was himself.
After about four songs, a special guest was invited to join them for the next (still identical-sounding bluegrass) number. I'll be honest; I was expecting a fiddle player, or possibly a stronger vocalist. What I was not expecting was a very full-figured woman in garters and spangles to come out and strip. But that's just what she did. She shimmied and shook and vamped and winked to the country twang of five string instruments all the way down to her knickers and pasties.
There really wasn't anything funny about it, or, at least nothing funny in a way one associates with amusement or, more specifically, comedy. It was funny like, "I don't know, but I've got a funny feeling about this." or "Does this smell funny to you?" It was perplexing as hell is what it was.
Just when we had given ourselves over altogether to the Twilight Zone episode "The Wrong Theatre," an actual comic took the stage. He was funny. You know, like a comic. We were relieved. Nevertheless, the band, cramped though they were on the wee stage, stood there for the entire show behind the comics like an eccentric Greek chorus. They didn't play again until all five comics had finished their bits*, which is to say that they just stood there for about an hour. Possibly the theatre itself was too small to accommodate five more people in the house?
*Speaking of people's bits, the stripper came back on at the very end. I know you were wondering.