It was, all things considered, a pretty good set.
Which shouldn’t have surprised me, I’m a pretty good comedian. I’m not amazing, but I’m funny, and I can kill at a local club easily enough. Could probably middle for somebody funnier than myself too, were I inclined to live in hotels in small towns nobody’d ever heard of whilst doing it. I’ve clocked a bunch of practice on stage from various gigs, improv, musical theater, other standup clubs, so all in all yeah, there should have been nothing surprising about the fact that I did pretty well.
I was, nonetheless, surprised, because I’d been seriously thrown off my game by a gentleman sitting at the back of the house as I took to the stage, and I’d worried for a moment or two if I’d be able to get it back in time for my fifteen minutes.
He didn’t DO anything to throw me off my game, I suppose. He was just… off-putting, somehow. Distracting.
He was huge, for starters. The size of two men, broad and strong looking, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn he was taller than me by a good six inches. I’m hardly tiny myself, but there was no comparison. Also: I’ve never seen a guy actually go out in a toga. I mean, drunken frat-style house parties I’ve seen guys in makeshift togas, but his was no bed-sheet, it was a full-on toga, and this was no house party. It wasn’t even House Party II.
So: Three-hundred-plus pounds of imposing presence clad in a toga, sitting at the back of the room as I hit the stage to do my set. Yeah, I was thrown off my game.
Still, I’m a performer, and while I can be thrown off my game no amount of batshit-crazy at the back of any room is going to KEEP me off it, so I launched into my set.
I compared myself to Jesus Christ (unfavorably), I accused newborn babies of being racist, and I closed with jokes about the genocide in Darfur. I got laughs, I made people profoundly uncomfortable, overall it was, like I said, a pretty good set.
By the end, I’d nearly completely forgotten about the weird giant dude sitting at the back of the club. By the time I hit the bar for my first drink of the evening, I was feeling pretty good about the night.
However, before my drink could arrive, a huge hand was placed upon my shoulder and I was spun around to face the giant, weird dude. Or to “chest” him, I suppose, since I was right about the height difference. He was easily seven-four. Maybe taller.
“Greetings!” His voice boomed, and I was shocked by how loud he was. He cut through the club’s sound system like it was nothing. “Your comedy has pleased me greatly this night, and I extend my hand to you in congratulations!”
He extended his hand to me. In congratulations, I suppose. Intimidated, but always willing to be told how entertaining I am, I took it, realizing as I did how much larger than my own hand it was.
“Erm, thanks.” I responded. “I had a great time up there. Glad you liked it too.”
“Oh, I did. You have done me proud.”
It sounded off, in a way I couldn’t quite place. “Done you proud?” I asked, hoping for clarification.
“Yes, proud indeed! Allow me to introduce myself, I am Dionysus, the ancient God of drink, and of song, and of laughter and madness. And, while temples to my honor no longer exist upon this mortal plain, I am everywhere that drink flows freely and men exchange japes and barbs! Your comedy this night has done me a fitting tribute, and it only seemed fitting that I congratulate you personally!”
I have no idea what it was, maybe the twinkle in his eye, maybe the timber of his voice, maybe the fact that I was slowly growing to realize that I appeared to be the only one in the club who could actually SEE this man, but I believed him. This was, perhaps, a survival strategy my subconscious kicked into play to stop me going mad.
After all, either the ancient Greek God Dionysus was congratulating me for a fifteen-minute standup set at a small, local club, OR I was losing my mind. And like I said, I do love being told how entertaining I am. Sometimes, things happen in this life that you can’t explain. And when they do, you just gotta roll with them.
“Well thanks!” I responded, beaming. “Heady praise, considering who it’s coming from.”
“Indeed it is, my small friend, indeed it is. And I too would “tap” Zooey Deschanel. Now, drink with me!”
It sounded more like a commandment than an offer, but what could I do? I do sing, I do drink, and I do jape. I’ve been called insane more than once, both affectionately and in anger. Were ever a deity purpose built for my lifestyle, it was the one standing before me. How could I deny the request?
“A jug of Keith’s, barkeep” I called out in my best old-timey prospector voice, “And two shots of Jagermeister!”
And that’s all of that night I can remember, so I assume that, in terms of the “drinking” and “madness” portions of the evening, that first snowflake turned into a blizzard.
But I will tell you one other thing.
When I woke up the next morning, I had no hangover. At all. My apartment was fairly trashed, as though I’d tripped over every single piece of furniture in a drunken stupor over the course of the night, and the remains of a failed attempt at cooking 4am eggs stained the bottom of a frying pan in the kitchen, but my head was clear, my stomach was settled and I felt absolutely fine. Better than fine, in fact. I felt like I could take on the world. Energized, both physically and creatively.
I wound up spending most of the day finishing a short story I’d been tooling around and writing a good ten minutes of new material about how the city of Winnipeg uses the souls of the damned as an alternative energy source for my next standup club night. And as I did, I realized: I’d not just been congratulated on a set well executed, I’d been granted a great boon. Freedom from hangovers. Days of creativity to follow nights of debauchery for the rest of my life, and no more to have to choose one over the other.
He was a relatively minor deity, even back in ancient Greek times, but you’ve really got to hand it to Dionysus.
He knows how to take care of his people.