By Max Burbank
October 1, 2001
It's hard to get back
to the business of comedy. Leno
and Letterman took the week off, as did The Daily Show. I don't know
when their first night back will be and what all they'll do. I'm glad
I'm not them. They have to do something, lord knows we need them, but
what, exactly? I on the other hand, don't have to do a damn thing, because
I don't get paid. On the other hand, I just won a Weenie award for best
Just Laugh columnist, so I guess you need me, too. On the other hand
I begged and pleaded with everyone I knew to vote for me. On the other
hand, I beat Dave Barry. On the other hand, I'm sure Dave Barry doesn't
know, let alone care, and wouldn't be worrying about his Weenie Award
status even if there hadn't been a global catastrophe. By now I've got
more hands than a Hindu God or a cabin full of Boyscouts after lights
out, what can I say, I'm not at the top of my form right now. But here
I am, punching the clock as it were.
I'm kind of taking the cheap
way out, though. I'm sending this essay to all the zines that publish
me. It's a way of putting some space between myself and the next set
of jokes I have to make. Plus, my standard response to tragedy is to
increase the amount of time I spend face down on the couch. Incidentally,
that's also my standard response to stress, birthdays, sundown and weekdays.
I'm early to work, but I'm
not the first. There were only three comedians with the stones to get
right back on the horse. Fellow Weenie award winner Howard Stern, Jerry
Falwell and Pat Robertson. While I'm not yet sure if I think Stern's
take has been truly funny, I certainly admire his guts, but Falwell
and Robertson blew me away with their whole "Blame the Homos!" schtick.
Honestly, I laughed till I cried. And when they said the ACLU were guilty
as well, it was priceless.
I can't seem to keep a train
of thought going for very long. I'm easily distracted. I keep finding
myself in the middle of a task I've forgotten, or looking for something
under the bed and having no idea what I've lost. Maybe it's in the fridge,
but how likely is that since I'm only wearing my right shoe? The left
shoe is in my hand though, so maybe I am hungry, in which case, why
am I half way under the bed? Plus, I'm still naked, so what's with the
shoe and also the floor is cold.
I can't look at the skyscrapers
without seeing a plane hit them. Every building I see collapses in a
slow motion of blossom of dust, but it's still there, like a double
exposure. I'm anxious and afraid and I can't imagine the next ten minutes,
let alone the future, which is not all that different for me than September
10th was except in degree. It's like life is now Spinal Tap, turned
up to eleven.
And everyone I look at has
that same stunned, sheepish look as if to say, "I'm half crazy, aren't
I? Do you know what I was just thinking?" It's a look I'm familiar with,
I see it about half the time I shave, but now it's on everyone's face.
And I don't know what to
do. I mean, sure, I could drive around all night honking and shouting,
but that's what you do the night of your Prom, or Spring Break or if
your team wins, or if it loses, or if it's a weekend. It's almost as
hackneyed as shooting your AK 47 up in the air, although marginally
less dangerous, at least until that second six pack.
So what do you do? I went
to a candle light vigil, looking for a little peace of mind. I spent
it trying to convince my six year old that A.) This was a serious enough
event to test the hypothesis that her talking is NOT analogous to a
shark swimming as far as life support is concerned. And B.) Her little
sister IS flammable.
It didn't happen to ME.
I'm lucky. None of my loved ones are dead. Yes, we're all vulnerable,
yes, it could have been any of us, but I could get hit by a bus any
time I cross the street, and that never made me think about death all
the time. Why are we, all of us, no matter how little September 11th
physically touched us, frightened and suspicious and angry and crazy
and terrified to even laugh?
Because we're in the Tower.
We're all in the Tower one
second after the plane hit. And we don't know what happens next. We
don't know what hit us. We don't know who to listen to or where to go,
if we should run or stay put. We know it's serious, but we have no idea
how bad it is. We don't know if we'll get out alive.
It seems impossible, but
the Tower could collapse.
It's enough to make you
crazy, isn't it? It's enough to make you do all kinds of things. And
all I know how to do is call you and leave a message.
"These two guys walk into
a bar… no, wait… it's these two nuns. And the first nun says… she says…
no, wait, it isn't nuns, it's a talking dog, and the dog says 'I never
had… never had… no, no, wait, it isn't a bar at all, it's a psychiatrist's
office, because of the eggs. We need the eggs, don't we? No, no, wait!"
Wait. That isn't right either,