I’ve always been the straight man, or straight person. I’ll see a joke coming and set it up. Like last night at that concert I was telling you about. My friend took a picture of me, and then a couple of minutes later we were looking at the pictures, and since it was dark in there, and the screen’s really tiny on those phone things, at first all I could see were just shades of color. I said, “Is that me?”
They laughed, so I realized it must not have been. The other thing is, I’ve got braces on my teeth due to some faulty dental work (I had very straight teeth and the last thing I wanted or needed before the faulty dental work was braces). I look hideous in pictures and I’m not exaggerating. They did a little blurb about me in The Oregonian and sent a photographer to my house, and he must have taken 500 pictures, but since every camera makes me look like some toothless doofus no matter how I pose or the skill of the photographer, I looked like an idiot. “It wasn’t the best picture of you,” my friend Joyce said, which I thought was very kind.
Anyway, I hate getting my picture taken, but not as much as I hate seeing the picture. Laurie was sitting in the middle, holding up the pictures for both of us to see, and as my eyes finally got focused on the camera, I saw that she was showing a picture of her pet frog, an ugly close-up shot from an angle that distorted him and made him out of focus so that he looked like a brown cow pie with a giant froggy eyeball. I piped up and said, “Is that me? I just don’t look like myself with these braces.”
Laurie and Olivia about wet their pants because they could obviously see the frog in the picture. Tears started rolling down their eyes, I’m not kidding. They were bent over like they were checking their shoes and laughing, only coming up to wipe away the tears, then bending back down again. Now, mind you, we all had a couple of pints of IPA, except Laurie had that black poison of a beer – a porter – because she must have thought she needed more hair on her chest, so maybe that made them a little more susceptible to my humor, but that’s what I’m talking about being the straight person.
I had a friend once named Steve Bingham who I snubbed all through high school but “met” in Fort Myers Beach, Florida when I was there with two girlfriends spending the summer after my sophomore year in college. Bingham (that’s what we all called him), by sheer coincidence, had come down there with a pack of his friends, and we ran into them and invited them to our apartment. A hurricane was raging outside – wind bending the palm trees almost 90º and sheets or horizontal rain pounding the windows. I discovered that Bingham was naturally very funny. We were listening to The Who, and I had on a pair of headphones so I could hear over the wind, even though the speakers were up plenty high. Did I mention I’m going deaf? Anyway, Bingham would ask me questions like, “You’re ugly, aren’t you?” and then start shaking his head up and down in an exaggerated way to get me to agree with him. Everyone in the room thought I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but I could, though I pretended I couldn’t and I’d start nodding yes along with him. Everyone cracked up. I could see them all giggling, but I kept a straight face. They acted like it was the funniest thing on earth. There was beer involved there, too. Then Bingham would say, “You like girls, don’t you?” and I’d nod and smile. “You eat Palmetto bugs, don’t you?” and so on. Seems like we did that for hours until we were overcome with hunger and walked downstairs to Vi’s Restaurant to get Key Lime Pie.
You know, I think some of this stuff gets lost in the telling, but I’m sitting here laughing like I’m at a comedy club thinking about it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laughed about that frog picture – it probably wouldn’t have been so funny if the frog hadn’t looked so bad. I woke myself up snickering about it in my sleep. See? When you laugh, you forget about the bad things, like how hideous you look in braces. For a couple of minutes, anyway.