Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Redemption at the Elks

No I cannot forget where it is that I come from I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be.

--John Cougar Mellencamp

So once again, I knocked it out of the park at the Summit Elks Lodge. I don't quite understand it. Maybe it's simply because they know who I am. Maybe it's because I grew up in Summit, so I "get" people there and what makes them laugh. Or maybe it's just dumb luck. But for the fourth time in two years, I've sold the place out and delivered an all-new set to literally thunderous acclaim.

And God, did I need it.

Yes, I know nobody's laughing in this photo. I wasn't on-stage at the time.

I was handed a gift from God shortly before showtime. A girl I knew from high school -- let's call her Carly -- came up to me to say hi. "You remember my older brother." And there, standing in front of me, looking ridiculously hot, was one of the most frightening bullies from my childhood, Jason. (Also not his real name.)

Jason and I had both attended Camp Skoglund, an all-boy sports camp in Maine run by my elementary school principal, Wilbur Nelson, in the summer of 1980. It was a fucking nightmare. I feel like I've blogged about it at length before, but I can't find any such post, so here's the Cliffs Notes version:

1) It was all sports, all the time.

2) We had mandatory skinny dips in the lake on a regular basis.

3) Most of the counselors were anti-Semitic, as well as homophobic.

4) I was, well, me.

I was bullied constantly. I was taunted, teased, punched (on at least one occasion) and otherwise ridiculed.

How insane was it? Allow me one brief anecdote:

I had brought a little tape recorder to camp with me. I used it to make silly audiotapes, collaborating with other outcast campers like myself. One time, we made a parody of "60 Minutes." I was Dan Rather. (The fact that at age nine I was familiar with Dan Rather, let alone "60 Minutes," should give you some idea of how big a freak I was.) At the time, Dan Rather would always end the show by reading viewer mail. So on my tape, I did the same.

"Dear Dan," I said. "I am writing to complain about your story from last week..." and so forth.

One night, while I slept, some of the counselors found my tape recorder, listened to the "60 Minutes" parody, and taped over key parts of it. By the time I listened to it again, it sounded like this (and I recall it verbatim):

"Dear Adam: You promised me a blowjob several weeks ago, and you haven't given head once yet. What the fuck is your problem? Faggot!"

Nice, right?

Another one:

We had a camp log, written by the counselors, that was read in its entirety on the final night of camp. Here's a choice passage I remember:

"The following Saturday, the campers went to a parade in Boothbay Harbor. Adam Sank and Randy Schwartz followed the parade, hoping to pick up as many pennies as possible."

Randy was the other Jewish boy at Camp Skoglund.

And you wonder why I became a comedian?

Anyway, of all my fellow campers, Jason was the scariest. I don't recall actual physical violence from him, but there were constant threats and intimidation. His hatred for me was visceral. And I spent most of the summer trying to stay the hell out of his line of sight.

So flash forward 30 years, and he's sitting in the audience at the Elks lodge watching me perform comedy. I took full advantage of the situation.

"I understand some old friends of mine from childhood are here tonight -- Carly and Jason Kale! Carly, I have such great memories of you... doing theater together, and singing in choir together. And Jason, I have such great memories of you beating the shit out of me...!"

After the laughter started to die down, I continued.

"...Pushing me down in the dirt and calling me a 'faggot....'"

Another wave of laughter, before I added: "You were right, by the way. And if you'd like, I can prove it to you after the show."

The place exploded. I had 'em. And I would keep 'em for the rest of the night. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Anytime I said something remotely homoerotic, all I had to do was tag it with, "Right, Jason?," and the crowd would go wild. As my brother-in-law, Bill, put it, I was in the sweet spot.

Happy Comics: Me, Veronica Mosey, Naomi Ekperigin and Mike Cannon.
The crowd loved them, too.

After the show, I greeted Carly and Jason again. I must say, he was good-natured about it. We hugged. But apparently he had accused Carly of giving me advance notice of his attendance. Neither of them could believe I had come up with all that stuff so fast; but I explained that that's what comedians do. Good ones, anyway.

All in all, it was a pretty wonderful night, and a reminder that there are still thrills to be had in this crazy business.

Now if I can just get Jason to come to every show.

Homo vindicated.


Kirsten said...

Omg. Love it. Kills me that I had to miss it. Funny from knowing you mainly by just seeing you around town and pool from about 6th grade on I just always thought you were this incredibly good looking guy with a certain magnetism. I cant even imagine the camp stuff. So awful. Goes to show you we really all are tge stars of our own movies and we never really know what is going on with anyone else. Glad you feel some measure of levelling out the karmic balance and bummed I didnt get to be there for that. You are ALWAYS hilarious for the home crowd. i always assume you are saving your best stuff for us! Xoxo

Walt said...

I can’t imagine how wonderful that must feel to:

#1….have a great night on stage

#2…and in my opinion better….stick it to a bully all these years later!

I bow to you Mr. Sank!

Anonymous said...

Well, Mr Nelson did wash his mouth with soap in front of the whole camp assembly at some point, so it wasn't all bad! Jason was a menace to us all at that time.

Sorry about pissing the bed all summer! :)