Parental Pressure

Parental Pressure

Charley’s parents always hoped he’d be successful… (12/2002; ultra short)


Charley was nervous. Really nervous. More nervous than he was when he took the advanced placement tests in Biology, Chemistry, Physics or Calculus. Even more nervous than when he had to give his graduation speech as his class’ valedictorian. Charley paced back and forth outside the bar’s front door, occasionally shaking out his arms and legs but his attempts to loosen up didn’t seem to work. He re-entered the bar and headed to the back of the smoky performance area. There he waited.

Scott, a guy he’d met in his comedy class, was just finishing up. Scott was doing a “being single is hard” routine. Although the topic was as old as sin, Scott did a fine job modernizing the subject. Thirty seconds later, he heard Scott do his bit about how dating was like the Super Bowl (both involved a whole lot of hype and were essentially over after the first quarter). The crowd howled in laughter as Charley expected. He liked that joke, too.

After the laughter died down, Scott began introducing the next performer: Charley.

Charley walked up the narrow center aisle passing the fifty or so rows of people sitting in the folding chairs they’d set up just hours before. The room was filled with perhaps a hundred people, all of who paid the $10 cover charge to hear the lineup of amateur comedians. So far, except for one woman bombed completely doing a bit about waiting out the person next to her while she was in the bathroom stall, the group was doing pretty well.

Charley was 25 and was a recent graduate from University of California, Berkeley. He was Chinese and had grown up with all the stereotypical pressures of being an Oriental kid. His parents had pushed him to succeed his entire life. Somehow, through what he considered the ultimate cosmic joke, Charley was about to get up in front of a crowd and do a stand-up comedy routine. Fittingly, his routine was about the pressures experienced by Oriental children.

Charley introduced himself and unnecessarily pointed out that he was Chinese, in case people hadn’t noticed. Of course they had and he got his first laugh of the night. The chuckles gave him confidence and he surged ahead with his routine. The crowd erupted with laughter when he did the bit about how he once told his parents that he wanted to be a plumber so they told him, “Go to your room and don’t come out until you want to be an astronaut!” They also liked his bit about having gone to Science Camp, and how nothing will suck the life out of you as a kid like Science Camp.

Charley had the crowd where he wanted them. They were a sea of spontaneous giggles. The last portion of his show was his bit about how being Chinese meant being hairless. He finished pretending to lament about being single and with his line about how women apparently want to sleep on a Persian rug rather than on a hard wood floor.

The crowd applauded heartily after Charley waved to signal the completion of his act. Time slowed for him for the next thirty seconds or so as he stood on stage and absorbed his well-deserved applause. He felt relieved. He was amazed. He’d done it.

After the crowd noise died down, Charley introduced the next performer, a guy named Mark who was also in his class. Mark did a hilarious bit about being a hairy guy and Charley reflected on how great it was that the lineup ended up with Mark following directly after his bit about having no body hair.

As he walked back down the aisle, past the crowd, many people waved and signaled to him what a great job he did. As he reached the back of the room, Charley could hear Mark start his routine. “I’m the Persian rug, Charley! I’m the Persian rug, baby! Hi everyone, my name is Mark, and I’m a hairy guy…”

Charley smiled as he headed to the bar for that drink he’d so badly wanted – but had avoided – before going on stage. He sat and listened to Mark slay ‘em. His parents would be so proud, he thought with a cynical smile.

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