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  • Writer's pictureBen Terhune

Bikers and Brownies

Updated: May 24, 2018

Nothing positive comes from a friend request on Facebook. At least that's what I keep telling myself as I sit here and type this. Honestly, I didn't know that a simple friend request sent in the middle of the night while browsing local comedic talent on Youtube, would actually turn into me being thrown into the proverbial deep end of the pool and literally landing atop a 40 foot wide stage in the middle of nowhere-ville, Indiana; telling jokes to a bunch of drunken bikers. I am to a crowd of hardcore inebriated motorcycle enthusiasts as Stephen Hawking would be to a fucking square dance. I also didn't know that by say yes to this gig, it meant that I would later become more stoned than I'd ever been in the entirety of my fucking life.

Have you ever set out to do something while knowing that logistically whatever you're about to do is probably going to end up fucked from the start? That's exactly how I felt while I sat on my porch taking sips of illegally brewed garage made hooch from a slightly less than clean mason jar, as I waited for two of my comedian friends to arrive. The three of us together, were heading to what I'd only ever known on paper as “ The Party in the Pasture”. Now, I can tell you from my abundance of past experiences and from the often misspent days of my youth, that any party that takes usually place in a pasture, often results in the many people in attendance passing out in said pasture. As I sat there on my porch, feeling the burn of highly concentrated alcohol eviscerate the tender lining of my throat, my thoughts were completely conflicted in that I was nervous, but those very feelings of nervousness were far out weighed by my overall feelings of excitement.

We drove through 12 miles of twists and turns meandering down dilapidated half-destroyed back country roads for what seemed like an eternity, before we finally brought the car to a stop behind a crudely constructed pole barn nestled in the back 40 acres of a field filled full of motorcycles, RV's, pick-up trucks, and tents. Upon arriving, we soon learned that we didn't really have a host nor did we even have a plan. In fact, the guy who opted to introduce us on stage was a more than lightly stoned biker with a full on mullet ala Joe Dirt. Suffice to say, our host didn't know even know our names, our particular brands of comedy, and he was just basically the ticket master for our one way ferry ride up shit's creek. To make matters worse, before we even parked the car, we had to stop at a small registration area and sign a personal safety waiver. Now I've been to war. I've made my share of poor choices. I have a long list of regrets. However, the one thing I've never had to do? Sign away legal responsibility for injury just so that I could tell some fucking jokes to a bunch of middle aged Sons of Anarchy fans.

So what do five amateur as fuck comedians do when they're given a situation that puts them all entirely out of their cumulative depths in which no one assumes liability if someone dies or gets shot? We improvise. We improvise a whole fucking lot. In no time at all, we put together a set list and determined in what order we were all going up on stage and who among us would be the intro guy. Everything after that was just minor details to be worked out while we sat in what was supposed to be a green room, but in reality was more like a cross between a Meth head's studio apartment and a trap house awaiting imminent foreclosure.

If you've never performed on stage, let me be one of the first to tell you that right before you go on stage, panic can and will set in. Essentially, overcoming that panic; the racing fluttering heart, the turbulence of a sour stomach, the involuntary shaky trembling legs, all of that is key when trying to do a successful set and make people laugh. However that panic is much more prevalent when you're a group of comics used to doing 5-7 minute routines in dive bars and comedy clubs, and told to do the double the amount of time that you normally do; even more so when your audience is a bunch of 30-50 something bikers hellbent on giving you shit the minute you walk out on stage.

The first one of us to take the stage lived and died within a span of three minutes time. He didn't even get to finish his first joke before someone in the crowd yelled out, “How old are you?”, and another yelled out, “Are you even old enough to be here?”. Still, I have to hand it to him. It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to walk out on stage before a small gathering of leather clad bikers when you weigh maybe 120lbs soaking wet and you're all of 5'4” tall and shout back, “Out of all your mother's kids, you're the one that survived?” before packing it in and walking your shell-shocked ass off the stage with your head held high. I mean, at least he gave as good as he got.

I was the second one of us to go on, and I worked hard for the first 8 minutes of my routine. My jokes were on point. My delivery was clear and succinct. My voice carried well across the sound system. Initially, I didn't even get heckled near as much as I thought I would. I even tried to appeal to the crowd by altering my routine and saying shit like, “Pay me the same attention you would pay to your probation officer” however, towards the end of my routine, I started faltering and running out of material. The crowd, like sharks, could sense blood in the water, and that's when the last 8 minutes of decent jokes I just told did no longer seemed to matter and that's when I lost the crowd completely. At one point towards the end of my set, I started to do a joke about how kids go through weird phases in life, when someone yelled out that they didn't have kids because they use condoms and I responded with, “The majority of you old fucks haven't used condoms since the Reagan Administration.” and that's when the training wheels came off my comedy bicycle. It went from a comedy show to hey everybody, let's yell random shit at the slightly overweight, balding amateur comedian on stage. I tried bantering back and forth with the crowd for another few minutes, but it was pointless, and my only saving grace came in the form of another comedian walking on stage with a still burning joint in his hand and saying,“You look like you could use this. Hit it.” and I totally did. So yeah, I hit a joint on stage at the end of my mediocre comedy routine in front of twenty or so middle aged bikers.

When I got off stage I was furious with myself. I was angered by my lack of overall successful material and at just how rattled I had gotten when I ran out of it and I was secretly kicking myself inside because I knew that deep down I had completely annihilated any good repertoire I'd had with the crowd at the end of my routine. So naturally, my first instinct in coping with all these not so positive emotions was to seek out a jar of 150 proof moonshine that I'd set aside before hand to hopefully commemorate what was supposed to be my first big success but in all actuality was my first real complete and utter abject failure in comedy. So what does a guy do when someone steals his high proof hooch and he's hating himself inside? He rage smokes joint after joint and bowl after bowl with 6 musicians and 3 comedians while shame eating one of the tastiest Marijuana edibles on the planet.

Now this was no ordinary brownie. If anything, I should have taken more from the name of the bakery that made it. Just know, that when you're eating a peanut butter chocolate chip brownie from a company aptly named Darkside Bakery, that you should probably be prepared to go pretty deep into the fucking dark side. While I got busy punishing myself with Bob Marley's favorite flower, our third comedian went on stage and by 5 minutes into his routine he had taken to a drum set left on stage by one of the bands performing throughout the night and he was doing his own rim shots to extend the punchlines of his jokes while sporadically saying, “Man, I'm high.” It was then that everybody backstage took the time to tell me how well I did and that I'm like the Andrew Dice Clay of biker comedy. For me that was a rough one to hear. I honestly don't want to be the guy who's known as the funny asshole. I really just want to be the guy who's known for being funny.

Our fourth comedian took the stage as the sun set and our time started to dwindle down and he did a decent 7 minutes of material, and then tried some of his more off color jokes and even finished off the ones that didn't go over with “Man, I'm bombing.” I've learned that when doing comedy, the best defense against a joke that doesn't work is just to openly talk about it and why it doesn't work. Now, this was the same guy who had walked on stage with a still burning joint at the end of my routine, and honestly he was doing better than the three of us who had gone on before him. At that particular point, I think all of us were just impressed by his ability to persevere through all the fucking heckling.

Our rapture and renewed faith came in the form of our fifth and final comedian. He walked on stage, dressed in flannel and a trucker's cap, and started doing his routine in a fake country accent. You could've sworn that not only did he belong in this crowd, but he'd have been the first person they'd have elected to be their fucking leader. His enthusiasm was that unbridled type of shit you only see on Netflix comedy specials and his jokes were spot on. Any time he got heckled, he simply ignored it and went on with his routine By 10 minutes in, he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. By 15 minutes in, he had the crowd offering him free beers and weird drugs whose names I'd never heard of. By the end of his 23 minutes of purely improvised comedy, he had this crowd of would be quick to anger hardcore bikers in fits of hysterics and booming belly laughter. All of this combined with the brownie I had just eaten 30 minutes ago, left me in a fit of euphoric giggles like a school girl huffing a stolen tank of nitrous oxide.

Sometime around when the last comedian got on stage and when he got off, things took a rather bizarre and unsettling turn. Over the course of my 32 years, I can honestly say I've tried more than one or two illicit drugs. In fact, I'm fine with admitting that I've tried multiple drugs at multiple times and sometimes all at once and mostly, I still had the ability to maintain and understand things. However, when this fucking brownie hit me like the peanut butter and chocolate freight train it was, it brought with it an inability to stand, a distorted perception of time and reality, and some god awful tingling sensations that words can't adequately describe. Now, don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good buzz as much as the next person. I'm an advocate for drugs when they're used properly and responsibly and I'm also a huge fan of hallucinogens. Hell, I even get drunk a few times a month because I find it to be a therapeutic release. However, do you know what's not therapeutic? Not being able to stand up and triple checking everything you're going to say before you even say it. It's not a good feeling when you're covered in a sheen of cold clammy perspiration and your heart is hammering away like a construction worker getting paid overtime in your ears. It's all the more worse when you can't physically articulate how you feel or why you feel that way. I have quite a bit of experience when it comes to tripping, however, I didn't think it'd all hit me this hard and certainly not all at once like it did.

One of the comedians I came with had the bright idea to go out and mingle among the crowd of bikers I'd just told jokes to and insulted the shit out of. You know how I knew I was stoned off my fucking face? Because I thought this was a really great idea. What could be better than drugged out bikers and a classic rock cover band when you're tripping your face off? I'll tell you, silence and being left the fuck alone. I stood in front of the stage for about 6 songs, before my legs started to go completely numb and they felt like they were the consistency of melting jello. There I was, in the middle of nowhere, bobbing my head to the beat of Angus Young's greatest fucking hits, and I was so high it wasn't an enjoyable experience at all. The stage lights were terrifying and brighter than stars going Super Nova. The music had it's own particular pulse that radiated inside of my chest like some type satanic defibrillator. I looked to my left and then to my right in search of the two comics I came with and I found that I was leaning against someone's pick-up truck and that I was barely able to hold my head up under my own power. That was enough for me. There comes a time in every person's life when they realize that their mind and their body can and will not work in conjunction with each other, and in the same span of time people often realize that it's because the drugs they've just consumed are too strong, way too fucking strong.

With barely an audible word I nodded at my two comedic companions and headed back to where we parked the car. The entire walk back to the car felt as if I were walking underwater and for some reason my eyes kept gravitating up to the night sky and involuntarily fixating themselves upon the stars, causing me to trip over my own feet again and again. Now, I did make it back to the car, and for almost 2 hours, all I was able to do was just lay in the back seat, as if I were melted into it's vinyl like an aftermarket accessory, and occasionally nap while thinking some of the weirdest shit I've ever thought in my life. My mind was working overtime and I was questioning every choice I'd ever made in my life and just how right those choices had been. At one point, I was so high and so out of it, I had a whole series of thoughts directed at how I should show more appreciation to my girlfriend for being able to tolerate just how fucking weird I am. Do I know anyone else whose girlfriend would let them go to a biker rally in the woods and tell jokes while eating strange and unidentified hallucinogenic and psychotropic compounds? No, I do not. In fact, I vowed to myself that I needed to hug her when I got home and tell her just how much I fucking loved her for putting up with my shit.

Eventually my two friends came back to the car and told me it was time to leave. Part of me was glad to be going home while the other part of me hoped like hell they weren't as stoned as I was, because I knew that if they were, then we were probably never even going to make it out of the fucking parking lot. The ride home was eventful, in that one of us couldn't stop singing classic country music like we were all on an episode of Carpool Karaoke, and that the other one whose car it was couldn't stop analyzing how fast we were driving down the road and why everyone's headlights seemed so fucking bright. It was readily apparent that all of us, in our varying fucked up modes of inebriation, barely accounted for one functioning brain and one complete intellect. Still, through all of it, all I could think about was how badly I'd failed when I'd gotten on stage and how badly I'd lost the crowd.

Like he could read my thoughts, my comedian friend stopped singing country music and tilted his head back towards my flaccid form lying there in the back seat and said something to me that I'll never forget.

“You know, I get on stage knowing that I'm the entertainment. Yes, they're bikers and they're fucking savages. However, those people still work boring monotonous day jobs and they probably work all week just to have this one weekend to party, maybe they even work all year just to come out here to this one event. I wanted them to laugh and I like telling jokes because I know that I'm their escape from reality. For 7-10 minutes or however long I'm up there on stage in front of them, they don't have to think about all the bad things going on in their lives and in the world. That's how I look at things and that's why I love doing what I do.”

Now I was definitely stoned and most definitely bordering on unconsciousness, but my entire body actually perked up at hearing this. Seriously, in the backseat of a Mercury Grand Marquis, under the influence of what were probably laced pot brownies, I had actually achieved a moment of clarity and enlightenment. I had failed at maintaining and keeping my crowd because I was there for the wrong reasons. My jokes and my performance were about me, and not about the crowd as they should have been all along... You see, all my life I've been a bit of an overachiever and a perfectionist. I mean, it's not often that I attempt something and it doesn't go as planned or that I fail at all. However, tonight I had failed and I had failed due to my own selfish reasons.

Maybe it was the brownie wearing off or maybe it was just the purity of the moment and the truth of his words, but there in that car while we were rolling through a deserted college town on a humid Indiana summer's night, I had a full on come to Jesus meeting with myself. It was then that I chose to no longer care anymore about my own personal quest for success when it comes to comedy. It was then that I chose to make a conscious decision to care more about being a good entertainer than a well known entertainer. It was there, in the backseat of that car, that I looked down at my lap and shook my head in affirmation as I made a silent vow to myself that no matter what jokes I told or in what way I told them, I would go on to make a difference in the lives of the people I told them to; because in the today's world, it's apparent that we need humor now, more than ever.

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