“So I was at the gym the other day,” Branton lied, glancing around the dingy basement barroom. Forty-five people wasn’t typically a packed house, but he was pretty sure the Fire Marshal’s “suggestion” was to keep it under 30.
“Okay, so I use the term ‘the other day’ pretty liberally,” he corrected. “It was like three months ago.” The crowd chuckled.
“And I’m working out next to these two cute girls,” he nodded to the girls at the front of the stage. “Yeah, like you guys, just…sweatier.” He shrugged. They laughed and rolled their eyes as he continued. This wasn’t his best bit, but it was a safe one. It always got a good chuckle from the audience and allowed him to settle in.
“And this big, jacked dude comes up and goes ‘hey, if you ladies are looking for some more exercise later, you know where to come.’” Branton paused as the crowd giggled and gasped, guys pretending they would never be so creepy and girls moaning at the reality of such pickup lines.
“Which was weird…” he continued. “Because they clearly knew where to go to get exercise…..because we were at the gym….exercising…”
He sipped his beer as the crowd chuckled. 7/10,he internally ranked his performance. It felt like he’d been stalled at that level of performance in his career forever.
“The girls aren’t having it,” Branton resumed, beer in hand. “But the dude’s unfazed. He slaps me on the shoulder like, ‘you see that, bro? That’s how it’s done.’”
“’I’m like ‘that’s how what is done? It’s 7 AM. You’ve pissed off more people already than I’ve spoken to all week….including this conversation…..I’m lonely….’”
The tiny theatre rang with a smattering of appreciation as Branton smiled and set his beer back down, stroking it gently. “Shh,” don’t wake the baby up.
“Nice set today, guy” Margot nodded, tossing Branton a slight elbow. She was a hippie girl if there ever was one, and no matter how many cigarettes she chain-smoked or free Coors Lights she bummed off their club’s bartender, she never lost her natural beauty. The comedy world wasn’t known for manners, subtlety or beating around the bush, and thusly she’d had to turn down half the male comics with whom she worked, always with just enough biting sarcasm to both destroy their inflated egos and remind them of just how funny she was, making them want her even more. Branton wasn’t one of them, but he’d certainly thought about shooting his shot.
“Thanks, Marg,” he replied. “By the way, thanks for letting me steal your gym story. People seem to like it. That guy really try to use that line on you?”
“C’mon,” she scoffed. “You think I go to the gym?”
Branton’s eyes wandered across her slender frame before snapping back to reality and deciding not to respond honestly. Perhaps she didn’t need it. He changed the subject. “What’s the move tonight? You wanna rework some stuff?
“Nope,” she shook her head firmly. “That can wait ‘til tomorrow. I need a drink. You’re coming with.”
She bounced away as Branton hid his smile. A quick glance at his checking account, and the smile reversed, but what was he going to do, say no? It had been nearly nine months since he’d moved to New York to “pursue his dreams,” and if he didn’t catch a break soon, time was running out. Two paid sets a week and the occasional writing gig was hardly complementing his income from Uber and the quickly-drying up savings he’d brought with him after three years of working a “real job” in sales while comedy took a backseat, and the pressure was starting to weigh on him. As Margot returned, passing him her flask, he set those thoughts aside and grabbed his coat. That can wait ‘til tomorrow, he reminded himself.