Success hasn't diminished the deep respect
I have for my predecessors, guys like Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett,
Alan King, Richard Belzer -- comics whose collective aroma
is not unlike that of the Stage Deli; corned beef, rare.
About six years ago, when I was fairly new
to the business, those idols of mine, the ones I just mentioned,
showed up at the Friar's Club Comedy Festival in New York
City. I nearly orgasmed when I saw them there. It was largely
because of them that I'd become a comic in the first place.
So, eager to introduce myself, I weaseled my way backstage.
I was among giants here, and feeling really
out of place. I tried desperately to blend in, but I still
looked like a groupie. What am I saying? I was a
groupie. So I lurked in the shadows and schemed. How would
I approach them? Next thing I knew, they approached me. This
was the break I'd been waiting for. Though the only thing
they were waiting for, I noticed, was the elevator, next to
which I was standing. To the casual observer, it probably
looked as though I were a member of this comedic rat pack.
In reality, I might as well have been a panhandler.
If I couldn't join them, I decided, I'd
eavesdrop. So I pricked my ears and hunkered close. Jerry
was nearing the end of a story he'd begun earlier, something
about a recent event he'd attended. " . . . and people
were packed in so tight, you couldn't do this without
hitting somebody," he exclaimed. As he uttered the word
this, his fist lashed out and accidentally drilled
me in the sternum. I went down for the count.
To add insult to injury -- really, it hurt
-- no one seemed to care that I'd been knocked on my ass.
I mean, who'd have thought he could throw like that? While
part of me felt strangely honored to have been slugged by
the King of Comedy, the rest of me felt like spit -- in a
humorous sort of way. No "Sorry kid." No "Let
me help you up." They just continued their conversation
as if nothing had happened.
I was still on the floor when the elevator
arrived. From my wormlike vantage point, I watched them board,
and as the doors began to close, I heard one of them ask,
"So, Jerry, you seen Dean lately?"
You're nobody until somebody loves you.