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Always Leave 'Em Laughing
Beth had asked me to come and see her in her one-woman show. "Please come, I want your opinion," she said, smiling sweetly. I have found that when most people say they want your opinion, they really don't want your opinion at all. They really just want you to say how wonderful they were. Knowing this, I should have run for the hills when Beth asked me, but, being a sucker for a pretty face, I said, "Of course, I'll be there."
It was a Halloween performance – that should have told me something – and I was going to a party after I saw Beth's show. For my party costume, I was wearing a tuxedo, and most of the casually dressed theatergoers must have thought me a tad eccentric – or excessively formal. Nonetheless, I took my seat and dutifully watched Beth's show. I'm sorry to say, that although the audience laughed a lot, I could only muster a smile or two. It wasn't very good (or, at least, it wasn't to my taste). Still, I dutifully went up to Beth after the show to congratulate her.
Her eyes blazed when she saw me. "You!" she said. "You didn't laugh once! You ruined my show! You and your damn tuxedo!"
Mortified, I apologized and slunk out of the theater, vowing never to be caught like that again.
A month later, Beth called me. "Hi," she chirped, pleasant as could be, my past transgressions apparently forgotten. "I've rewritten my one-woman show."
"Really?" I said suspiciously.
"I'd like you to come and see it." I was silent. "No, I really would. It's much better. I'd like your opinion."
Feeling like a man compelled to self-destruction, I found myself saying, "Sure, I'll be happy to come," this time vowing to see but not be seen.
Having learned my lesson, I dressed in the most nondescript outfit I could find, arrived at the theater early, and found a seat, high up in the shadowy rafters. During the show, whenever Beth would glance in my direction, I quickly ducked further into the shadows, hiding like some poor wannabe in a forgotten film noir. It was no use. When I went up to see Beth after the unfunny show, it was deja vu and j'acuse, with a little bit of "no good deed goes unpunished" tossed in for good measure.
"You didn't laugh!" she cried to me when I came to say goodbye.
"But how could you see me?" I asked.
She never explained, and that was almost the biggest mystery I ever encountered, perhaps dwarfed only by the question of why I even bother going to these things.
January 18. 2011