Sunday, April 24, 2011 | 7:33 p.m.
You have to wonder what inspires an audience member to disrupt a stand-up comedy show. Let's climb inside the head of such an individual and find out ...
The billboards and signs strategically placed around the Mirage say, “Aces Of Comedy, Lewis Black.”
But those slabs of advertising do not reveal the entirety of this entertainment experience, for tonight, I shall co-star. It will be an unbilled performance, as always, yet just as vital to the evening of laughter as the 20 minutes of comedy put forth by opening act John Bowman.
Bowman is but a mere warm-up act. Me, I turn Black’s burners red.
As always, mine will be an unbilled and entirely unexpected insertion of comic genius uncorked from the very middle of the Mirage Terry Fator Theater. Somehow I have a ticket that positions me ideally in the center, a perfect spot whence to fire my own inspired witticisms during pauses in Black’s precision stand-up show.
Lucky me. Lucky Lewis.
Call me “The Interloper.” Some are fast to refer to me as a heckler, but I do not heckle. Rather, I mischievously play the role of artistic trespasser. And it is an art, passed down through generations of interlopers.
Remember the guy on the album “Let’s Get Small” who shouted at Steve Martin, “What’s your Mood Watch say?!”
That man was my father.
Martin chuckled and said, “Yeah, I remember when I had my first beer.”
We’re not always appreciated by comedians, we interlopers. The late Bill Hicks practically waded into audiences to physically take us on. Our female members have been told by such comic aces as Brad Garrett, “Hey, I don’t walk into the bedroom and interrupt you when you’re working!”
But we provide -- for nothing! -- a valuable service. I mean, where would Michael Richards’ career be today without some perfectly timed audience participation during a 2006 show at the Laugh Factory in L.A.?
Well, maybe that’s not the best example.
Tonight, tonight is a challenge. Lewis Black will be a tricky target. He is smart. He is angry. He is experienced. I need to be on my game to be on his nerves.
Early in the show, Black struggles to pull the cap off a bottle of water. I shout, “Fiji!” He halts, nods and grins slightly.
Off to a good start. I have planted the seed.
Several minutes later, he talks of performing recently in Wendover. It matters not that I have no idea where or even what Wendover might be. Seems it’s a small town.
“Wendover has a newspaper, which is great to read if you don’t want to read any news!” he bellows. “There is no Japan in Wendover! We have no president! Libya does not exist in Wendover! Only Wendover exists in Wendover! When I was there, they put me on the front page of the newspaper, I think only to make people aware that there would be a Jew in town!’ ”
Waiting … waiting ...
“Wendover is on the Nevada-Utah border. You know why?” he calls out. “So the Mormons can sneak over and gamble! You can see them, you know. They come over at night, in their covered wagons!”
“Yes, they do!” I interject.
“You know,” he says, now addressing me directly. “There is no reason for you to add to the show. I have put A LOT OF THOUGHT INTO THIS ACT WITHOUT NEEDING INPUT FROM YOU!”
The audience cheers. They are mine.
He moves on to his new Android. This is a funny routine, how he has had to set up a means to make a call from his iPhone out of his house by calling AT&T and setting up additional technical infrastructure.
“Yes, I have had to call AT&T to provide the infrastructure I thought I was buying with my cell phone to do what?” he cries. “To make a call from a cell phone in my house from a LAND LINE!”
Waiting … waiting …
“So I have now switched to an Android,” he tells us. And the crowd applauds.
“DON’T APPLAUD THAT!” he says, building to a punch line.
“Why not!?” I shout.
Again, he breaks from his act.
“Look!” he shouts, “when I write this material, I consider every possible question. THAT’S WHAT THE PAUSE IS FOR! THE PAUSE LETS THE AUDIENCE ASK THE QUESTION IN THEIR HEADS, NOT OUT LOUD, YOU IDIOT! Some comics build audience response into their acts! I AM NOT ONE OF THEM!”
Then he says, “Where was this joke? Oh, don’t applaud that! Never applaud an inanimate object!” Then, turning back to me, he says, “See what you did? The crowd is going, ‘What was he talking about, again?’ You ruined that effing joke!”
This is because I am a star!
I’m in what athletes refer to as “the zone” now. Black leads into a joke and says, “I’m getting old!”
“Yes, you are!” I shout.
Like helium inflating a balloon, the room fills with tension. “Shut up!” Someone shouts from behind me. Too late!
Black has had it.
“Look!” he says. “Next time you want to shout something in the middle of my act, just cover your mouth with your hand! Because if you don’t, SOMEONE SEATED NEXT TO YOU WILL DO IT FOR YOU! AND BE GLAD YOU CAN STILL BREATHE OUT OF YOUR NOSE! You know, we had a woman last night who was just like you, sitting in the front row, BUT AT LEAST SHE HAD THE GOOD SENSE TO WALK UP THE AISLE AND LEAD HERSELF OUT!”
The crowd cheers again, with renewed vigor. Many are angry. Black turns off stage to an unseen individual -- maybe it’s Bowman -- shrugs his shoulders and shakes his head. There is the feeling that security will be summoned to wrest me from my seat and drag me from the show. It’ll never happen. That would be more disruptive than anything I’ve said all night.
I am brilliant.
Black, having spent a good segment of the night dealing with me, takes the show to its conclusion. The evening has been funny, but it also has been different. This was not a typical Lewis Black performance, and as the audience rises for a standing ovation, I felt they are applauding me, too.
I bask in the glory. I have earned it. I am already preparing for my next show, somewhere in a Las Vegas club or theater. My act will be unique, yet familiar, and I do hope you treat me accordingly.