No Working Title
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, just wait.