My Voice Is Gone, My Spirit Remains
Today was tough. I woke up cold, crabby, and with a sore throat that made me feel as if I had spent the previous evening blowing Neptune, God of the sea. That’s a bad way to start any day, unless you are Mrs. Neptune (or perhaps, even if you are Mrs. Neptune). I figured the throat would resolve itself as soon as I got some hot tea down my gullet. No such luck. The pain subsided somewhat as the day progressed but my voice faded from rough and sexy to tracheotomy patient within hours. Not good, especially considering I had a show at NYU later in the day.
People might think that writing a television show is a largely silent activity, but the truth is, there’s a lot of talking involved. Talking about what you’re going to have for lunch, various real estate opportunities, the naked photo of Cindy Crawford in the new edition of Allure, etc. So there is a lot to talk about, which did not allow me to rest my vocal chords as much as might have been wise.
As a result, by the end of the day I was straining to speak above whisper volume. The thought crossed my mind that I should cancel my NYU engagement, but then I thought: all I have to do is show up and I think they are obligated to pay me, whether I can speak or not. Worse comes to worst, I figured I could always do the show in mime. After all, I am very good at “invisible box,” and “fighting against the wind.” If I did that for an hour, that more or less fulfills my contractual obligations, yes?
So I show up at NYU thinking it probably will not come to that. The adrenaline and the microphone will allow me to power through an hour of hilarious comedy. And if my voice is a little scratchy, so be it. All well and good.
Things start to turn south when I show up at NYU and am escorted to the eighth floor. What kind of theater is on the eighth floor? As it happens, no kind of theater. A fluorescent lit classroom? Yes. Those do exist on the eighth floor, and that’s where I am scheduled to perform. But I don’t know that yet, because the door to the classroom is locked, so I have to stand out there with all the kids waiting to get into the show, which is awkward. Especially when a kid sitting on the floor keeps saying to me, “This isn’t funny.” Good stuff, buddy, I love it.
When they finally get the door unlocked, I discover the classroom and ask if there is a room where I can go sit before the show. No. No there is not. There is no room and there is no backstage. What there is is a tiny alcove where I can sit on the floor and hide from the audience who have already seen me. It’s that or stand on stage while they file in. I decide to hide.
Another minor consideration is that my face is broken out. I have two pretty big zits on the left side of my face and one on the right. I wouldn’t mind if my acne were at least symmetrical, but asymmetrical acne is really unattractive, and the fluorescent overhead lights aren’t doing much to help.
When the nice lady from NYU finally brings me out, I take the microphone from the lectern and open my mouth to speak. Nothing comes out. When I say nothing, I mean NOTHING. My voice is not there at all. Gone. This has never happened to me before, not even when I was the lead singer of my high school punk rock band. I have certainly strained my voice in the past but never has it abandoned me completely like this. A hundred young people are staring at me, unsure if what I am doing is a bit or not. What I want to say to them is, “It’s not,” but I can’t because I cannot say anything at all.
After a minute or so I discover I am able to whisper into the microphone if I am very quiet. And I find myself thinking, “Can I do an hour of whispered comedy?” I do not know, but I think I may have to find out. The audience to their credit are lovely. They do not seem to begrudge my impairment at all, perhaps because they are young and sympathetic, unlike real New Yorkers who are hateful. I count myself among the hateful.
So I’m going along, attempting to do my jokes in a whisper when suddenly the bottom of my voice opens up and it’s like somebody just turned on a vibrator on the highest setting. All of that gorgeous chest resonance comes barreling out of me for a moment or two and I feel compelled to masturbate a little on stage as I get off on the sudden emergence of my own utterly masculine vocalizations. Do I work up a little pre-cum getting off on my own voice? I do.
This is obviously much better, but it is still a struggle to keep the voice from disappearing as I muscle through my set for the next hour. I ended up getting through it alright. The students seemed to enjoy the performance, and I enjoyed them enjoying me. Except for the guy with the Backstreet Boys goatee who told me he didn’t like my outfit, and the guy who was unapologetically videotaping the entire performance until I explained that that wasn’t cool because I was going to fuck somebody on stage later and that somebody was going to be him.
When the show ended, I had dinner with my dear friend Ken Marino, who did most of the talking. Not because of my voice but because he’s a fucking loudmouth. I’m kidding. Not about him being a loudmouth, but about him being my dear friend. Now I am at my studio apartment in New York City recounting my travails for you, dear reader, because I want you to know the sufferings I endure to make you laugh. Am I hero? I certainly would never answer yes to that question, but yes. Yes I am.