“Well that’s something you don’t see everyday,” I mumble into the microphone. A football floats down the Ohio River flowing brown and quick next to the wooden stage. “There’s uh…a football.” I direct the crowd’s attention to stage left, focusing their gaze on the bobbing pigskin. I’m thrown off of my normal rhythm. I was going to say something…but…now it seems as though whatever joke I was about to tell isn’t half as absurd as what’s going on in the water. How did that football get there? I look across the river to a fisherman on the other bank. “Is that yours?” I call out. My voice is echoing off the water, bouncing off the concrete aqueduct and dying in the pine trees. The faceless angler looks at me briefly then switches on an orange lantern.
Earlier in the evening, a 9-year old had heckled Ray Zawodni as she and her family took leave of their evening meal. They sat up from their quesadillas, said weren’t funny, and dissolved into the horizon with the setting sun. We proceeded with our mission, making everyone else laugh at the bar. Ray won over the audience and was starting to make this night a success. But an omniscient voice rang out over the crowd. The tone was a struck bell at the end of its vibration. It was ephemeral and angelic and it shouted, “You suck!” then giggled. The heckling child was now on a boat. The dad was driving the boat. The family laughed together then hit the gas, heading several leagues West at a speed of 10 knots. We comedians were being heckled by land and by sea. I am afraid she will return later during my set in a hot air balloon.
But the football. What are its alien origins? My answer is drifting in the muddy water. Presently, a party barge with a dozen 40 year-olds pulls alongside the stage and then forward to the dock. The group looks like they just got done filming a commercial for Twisted Tea, the iced tea with a kick. They are all sleeveless and sandaled, both man and woman alike. They unload on the dock like pilgrims weary from a long voyage. Perhaps they are looking for spices or silks or $2.50 Bud Lights. They instead find a comedy show. And like Columbus, they do not comprehend what they’ve discovered upon their landing, but they know it is important nevertheless.
The sun sets completely during my set. Twilights nocturnes begin with wisps of moonlight. The sounds of night are punctuated by the dull thumps of forearms hitting volleyballs just a few feet away. Because I’m also next to a sand volleyball court where people are playing sand volleyball. As I wave my arms frantically trying to sell my last joke, a lightning bug lands on my finger.
“Would you look at that?”
The Summer season of comedy is upon us. It’s a truly beautiful time.