"Wendell F-word Wit"


For the purpose of this entry, a certain familiar but controversial word will be represented by thefword.png. Please excuse the gratuitous self-censorship, but I am doing this blog entry at a library computer, sitting between two nine-year-olds, and, besides, I’d like to stay below the NetNanny radar until I get a chance to really corrupt America’s youth… Bwa-ha-ha-ha…

In 1984 and 1985, I was making a public fool out of myself on two Los Angeles radio stations while barely keeping up a computer drone job. One of my day-job co-workers (or more accurately: cow-orker) had, during his bar-hopping, picked up a fistful of free passes to a new Comedy Club. The new club was a class act, owned by a former partner of The Ice House, and after a few evenings laughing loudly and not heckling, my cow-orker got passes to a super-secret event. Robin Williams was going to do his first live stand-up since the death of John Belushi at a few small venues, and this new L.A. club was the second stop on his mini-tour. My cow-orker invited me (and a date) and I invited a lady friend (who will sue me if I EVER call her ‘girlfriend’) I knew from the radio. His date stood him up (no sense of humor), so the three of us gathered outside the club a half-hour early and got a table front-row center for Robin Williams. He did over an hour on stage, including several recognizable ‘bits’ and a few outbursts of manic improvisation, one of which consisted of pointing at ME in my white cable-knit sweater and saying “Look! It’s Bill Tilden!” A true brush with fame, having a comedy legend mistake you for a great… dead… gay… tennis player.

Afterwards, my tablemates started lobbying me to go up on stage at the club’s weekly “open mike night”. Well, if I was going to be the next Jerry Seinfeld, I already had my own George and Elaine (and my own Kramer at that time I wouldn’t have wanted to see me anywhere…). While most of the not-yet-pros going up on stage for five minutes on Tuesday Night were trying to polish five minutes of material into a Tonight Show audition, I was challenging myself, my moderate fear of public speaking, my ability to memorize five minutes of material, and multiple variations on “Wendell”‘s personna, by preparing a different routine every week.

One week I was observational (“Mobile homes… I could never feel secure living in a house you could break into with a can opener.”), another I was topical (“Reagan wants the school lunch program to re-classify ketchup as a vegetable… who’s the vegetable here?”), another I was just silly (“I just finished appearing at Sea World… I was held under for an extra week”). But I generally “worked clean”, until I decided to do five minutes on relationships.

MyGeorge had told me the most embarassing story about his sex life, ending with his girlfriend asking him “When are you gonna learn how to thefword.png?” I commented “If any woman said that to me, I’d immediately sign up for a full semester of intensive tutoring!” After I picked him up off the floor, MyGeorge said “I wish I was quick-witted enough to have thought of that.” I decided right there that the story – and the comeback – would be part of my five minutes on relationships, because, frankly, anything from my own personal experience was a lot more embarrassing and a lot less funny.

Nothing I’d done in several weeks of Tuesdays had gotten anything like a standing ovation, and that Tuesday was no exception. I got scattered laughter as I told the story how my girlfriend had asked me “When are you gonna learn how to thefword.png?” and I immediately signed up for a full semester of intensive tutoring. But after I left the stage, the owner took me aside and told me I had violated one of the club’s unwritten rules… I had used thefword.png as a verb.

(Verb. It’s what you do.)

I just nodded and skulked away, but if I’d been as quickwitted as MyGeorge thought I was, the following dialogue would have occurred:
Club Owner: I have a little problem with the language you used in your act.
Wendell: But I’ve heard plenty of other comics say thefword.png
Club Owner: Yes, but they didn’t use it as a verb.
Wendell: So I can say “Oh, thefword.png” or “What a thefword.pnging mess”?
Club Owner: Yeah, that’d be acceptable.
Wendell: But not “I thefword.pnged her good”?
Club Owner: Right.
Wendell: But I heard one comic say “thefword.png you!” Isn’t that using it as verb?
Club Owner: That’s an interjection.
Wendell: How about “I am so thefword.pnged”?
Club Owner: That’s really kind of an adjective.
Wendell: As opposed to “I got thefword.pnged”.
Club Owner: I think you’re getting it.
Wendell: But can I tell you to “Go thefword.png a duck”?
Club Owner: Well… uh…
Wendell: And you’re getting tired of me thefword.pnging around with you.
Club Owner: Yeah….
Wendell: I really thefword.pnged myself, didn’t I?”
Club Owner: You could say that.
Wendell: But not on stage.
Club Owner: Assuming I’ll ever let you on stage.
Wendell: You know what I think that kind of rule is?
Club Owner:thefword.pnged?
Wendell: No, just stupid.

So what have we learned from this story?
(1) Deep down, the “standards” behind all censorship are very arbitrary.
(2) No would-be stand-up-comic is as quick-witted as Jerry Seinfeld was on his show (and neither is Jerry in real life).
(3) Robin Williams has very bad gaydar.
(4) Even though I ‘borrowed’ the anecdote from a friend, I did need a full semester of intensive tutoring, and I guess I still do today.
(5) Sometimes you just gotta say thefword.png. And sometimes you don’t.

1 Comment (so far) about

"Wendell F-word Wit"

  1. Katie K. Says:

    ha ha

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