I was excited when Cortez librarian Kathy Berg asked if I would consider taking part in February’s Amazing Authors Tour. My partner-in-crime on the three-city tour was none other than David Feela, one of my favorite Four Corners Free Press columnists.
I only knew David from his work, which I am a fan of. Getting to know him in real-life was incredible as he is a funny, warm-hearted former English teacher. We hit it off.
Kathy said there was only one rule for the tour: Be funny.
Now that’s not as easy as it sounds. As a reformed class clown, I can tell you that there is a thin line between what people find funny and stupid.
Johnny Cash may have walked the line, but I’ve stumbled back and forth over it more times than I can recall.
I saw this tour as a chance to do something I’ve always dreamed of – performing stand-up in front of an audience. Now stand-up isn’t easy, especially with erectile dysfunction.
But I was game.
“You have plenty of time to work up a routine,” my wife, Sara, said in August. And again in September, October and November.
I will, I assured her. The first show wasn’t until February 9 in Bayfield.
I began to prepare in December. My modus operandi was to watch some of my favorite comedians do standup.
I always loved the clean comics, such as Bob Hope, Jonathan Winters, Rodney Dangerfield and Rich Little. They were zany and made you think.
Of course those who worked “blue” – Richard Pryor, Chris Rock and Andrew Dice Clay – could also make me laugh.
I spent hours on Youtube watching everything from Billy Crystal at the Oscars to Amy Schumer, Moms Mabley and Tim Conway. Then I’d usually find myself watching an old Charlie Chaplin film.
Now, there was a genius.
Of course you can’t spend time on the Internet without coming into contact with a Kardashian or 20. That got me thinking and I came up with my first joke.
I’d tell the crowd I was new at standup and was a little disappointed that Kim Kardashian wasn’t here:
“That way, even if I bomb, I wouldn’t be the biggest ass in the room!”
Now there are different types of comedians, and I considered all kinds. I like Steve Martin, but I’m not really a wild and crazy guy, so I started thinking about Gallagher. I don’t find him funny, but I figured I could smash watermelons all over the crowd.
Next I found myself watching Sarah Silverman. I thought I might imitate her schtick. I could tell jokes about my va-jay- jay. Only the more research I did, the less sure I was that I even had a va-jay-jay. “Are you working on your routine?” Sara asked.
“I’ve got time,” I replied. It was February 8.
That’s when I began to fell the stress. But it wasn’t because of the tour starting the next day.
I was watching ESPN – I mean working on my act – when a brown bird flew through my open door. In my culture – Narragansett Indian Tribe – this is an extremely bad sign. It happened twice to me before, two days before my mother died and the day one of my aunts died.
I was immediately concerned that some ill wind was blowing my way.
It got worse the very next morning. Sara and I are beginning our journey to Colorado when a coyote ran across the road in front of me. This is a bad omen to Navajos, Sara’s tribe. Two really bad omens in two days were working on my mind. It’s hard to be funny when you are wondering if Death is waiting for you.
As we neared Bayfield, three deer ran across the road right in front of us. Luckily Sara was driving – because I only saw one deer and likely would have swerved straight into the other two! Then as we approached Telluride I came around a bend and there was a boulder in the our lane. I didn’t realize it, but Sara warned me in time.
To protect us Sara did an emergency Navajo blessing. She splashed a watery mix on me that included herbs and twigs. After we checked into the Telluride hotel I started to brush my hair and noticed small sticks and twigs falling out. I looked in the mirror and my head was covered in them!
I began laughing. Telluride is kind of an upscale, snooty place and I wondered what the clerks were thinking when a guy with twigs all over his head signed in.
Well, despite having half my mind pre-occupied, the tour went well. The best turnout was in Cortez, a place Sara and I really love.
On the way home we stopped off for a couple of days in Cortez. We were having a coffee when I met a fan – one of Cortez’s leading citizens, Helen Rohrbaugh. She said she loved my column in the Free Press.
That capped off a great author tour.
So, if Kathy Berg ever wants us to come back on tour, I’m game. But maybe I’d better get paid up front from Telluride. While the other venues paid me the night of the show, I’m still waiting for my payment from Telluride.
The average house in Telluride is $1 million, but I guess scraping up a few hundred for a poor author is too much to ask for!
John Christian Hopkins, an award-winning novelist and humor columnist, is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe. See his writings at http://authorjohnchopkins.blogspot.com.