Every Sunday for 8 weeks, I was coughing up dog hair and smelled like ash after each class.
The teacher, Sandi, brought both of her Lassie clones (AKA collies) every week.
She would sit in the dark back corner of The Belly Room at The Comedy Store and every once in a while, she would interject, “That’s funny.”
At least once per class, she would tease, “I’ll have my brother stop by next class. He’ll be around, I’ll call him up and have him drop by.”
…As though the reason we were all in a comedy class was in hopes of glimpsing Encino Man supporting cast member, Pauly Shore.
Not once did he stop by. Though I don’t get the feeling any of the students cared either way.
For one particular class, I had a whole bit I’d written from the perspective of working as a receptionist at The Magic Castle.
“Now try it this way” is not a direction I was eager to hear from someone whose comedic sensibilities, I learned during the class, often teetered on the edge of (when not falling straight into) bigotry territory.
I acted out what it was like to mute my headset repeatedly in order to mutter expletives when on the phone with a demanding or otherwise irritating guest.
Sandi stopped me.
“Oh yes… people will relate to being annoyed on the phone with a call center! Can you do a Filipino accent or an Indian accent?”
I tried to explain that what I had written was taking the opposite perspective… but quickly caved when met with a blank stare and further goading to “just try it out.”
I looked several classmates in the eye while honoring these contextually and otherwise inappropriate suggestions.
“SAVE ME” and “THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING” were no doubt written into my expression.
I got a lot of “I feel your pain” nervous laughter, which I’m pretty sure Sandi interpreted as validating her creative instincts as a director…
…indicating it was then time for one of the 3-4 smoke breaks she took during our 3-hour class.
I could stay inside and inhale the fur of her collies… or go outside and try not to inhale the thick cloud of smoke.
It was a comedy class, but I didn’t expect to feel like the cigarette butt of the joke.