Dirk was painfully funny. His wit, his instinct, were paired like Abbott and Costello for comedy. Unfortunately, his timing was off by five hundred years.
‘Why would they send a comedian to deliver The Joke? Didn’t they think of the torture it is to constantly bomb night after night, with no hope of getting a laugh, cause The Joke is five hundred years too soon?‘
But the future did send a comedian to the past to tell the present The Joke that would save the species five hundred years in the future. Dirk was from a time of time machines and sober second thought. Five hundred years from now had discovered that if The Joke Dirk had been sent back to deliver would percolate through society for 500 years, it would save an entire century’s worth of bloodshed and war.
They sent their most popular comedian, believing Dirk would be the best to sell it to the past.
“No body could sell this joke!” Dirk screamed at the passing subway. The subway whistled back. Dirk was coming back from his tenth set of the week. Ten sets, ten bombs. The audience never laughed. Most sat glaring at him, some heckled and booed.
“Get off the stage, you suck!”
Dirk hadn’t heard this kind of animosity to one of his performances since his first year at standup. Though voted Funniest Man on the Planet past three years running, still, Dirk couldn’t manage to squeeze a single laugh out of a single audience. He cursed the material, yet, he had faith in it, knowing it would kill in the future, kill so much, it would stop people from killing. He had to say it, but, it was killing him that he couldn’t tickle the audience’s funny bone.
Worse was remembering he had given up an incredibly successful life and career, to get stuck in a world that could never appreciate him. Stuck, cause, though, the future had time machines, they only went one way. Dirk had volunteered for a suicide mission.
‘A true comedian can get a laugh from any material. It’s not The Joke, it’s you,’ he belittled himself. Problem was he didn’t see the problem. In his inner ear, his voice and timing was pitch perfect. It was simply The Joke. It simply wasn’t funny. And worse, it was a knock knock joke said in a time when even the mention of a knock knock joke gets a groan. Really, what hope did he have?
Or, so he thought, till he tripped over the wording of The Joke. Though, and because he had said it so many times ad nauseum, Dirk’s tongue slipped all over the words.
“Sorry. I’m from the future and I was made to memorize this joke before I came and I still can’t get it right.”
Then, a breakthrough, a laugh. His first big laugh since landing in this laughforsaken land. Dirk wanted to surf the wave. He tried: “You don’t know this, but this joke will save the world, it’s that good.” Another laugh. Dirk kept rolling, “Cause in the future knock knock jokes will be the ultimate form of entertainment,” the audience was beside itself, then Dirk really let them have it, “because we don’t have doors. What’s the point? We got teleportation. Knocking is for cave men, no offense.” Dirk felt the audience as primed for the joke as they were ever going to be. “Are you ready for The Joke that will save the world? Ready for The Joke that’s five hundred years before you’re ready for it?” The audience whooped and hollered they were. “Ok, here goes… knock knock.”
“Who’s there?” The audience roared back. It was the first time the audience had ever given him a, ‘who’s there?’
“Zyphroid who?” The audience sang back.
“Oh, you know him?”
Something was in the air at Mo’s Bar that night. The punchline that had always sucked the air out of a dead skunk’s ass, hit the funny nerve. The air was ripe with laughter, delicious laughter to the comedian who’d gone through the longest dry spell of his life, dying on stage, one long, slow, painful death; like reincarnation in reverse, and Dirk died to wake to die again and again, then finally, nirvana.
A kill. A comedian must kill to live. Kill was what the comedians said in the twenty-first century, and kill is what they say in the twenty-seventh. And tonight, Dirk lived cause he killed.
Laughter is a drug to a comedian. They mainline off it like heroin. As soon as he walked off stage to euphoric applause, Dirk bee-lined to the next open mic to get another rush of laughter.
The joke never worked again. The next audience would throw a beer bottle at Dirk. Luckily it was thrown by a drunk, so it was thrown wide, still, it was enough to get Dirk to cut his set short and flee for his life as the drunk who had thrown the bottle stood from his barstool, winding up to throw an ashtray.
Even a well seasoned comedian as Dirk could never figure out the chemistry to set off the audience like he had that one night at Mo’s. He tried repeating the same words, but, got nothing. Everywhere they fell flat, like a belly flop off a ten-metre diving board. It stung, smack in the ego, where it hurt the comedian the worst.
Dirk decided to put his comedy before his future and dropped The Joke from his act. He found he could get laughs from improvising. It was as soon as he started The Joke, he lost them. So, he lost the knock knock joke and he found his audience. He figured he told The Joke enough that it had been successfully ingrained in the public psyche, at least, he hoped. He figured we’d know in 500 years.