Here is another piece of short fiction, involving everyone's hellspawn The Devil. I don't know why it's so easy for me to write stories that depend on his existence, but I can't complain when it's given me so much material. This is a rough work I thought up on the spot this morning, here it is in its entirety for all of you to ponder, criticize and suggest edits and changes. Basically, i'm workshopping this piece with all of you, simply because...well, I like you all and your opinion matters. (And years down the line I'll probably try to sell you on my material, so I might as well start making friends now.)
With that I give you, "The Devil's Comedian".
There once was a comedian who, as his first ever live act had just begun, collapsed on stage. As it turns out, his heart gave out rather randomly, and through some sort of clerical error he was sent to Hell. Once there he met The Devil, who in this incarnation looked like a young Jerry Lewis.
“Ok…why am I in Hell?” asked the comedian, who did not have a clue and as such decided to start his string of inquiries in the most likely of places.
“Very simple, my dear boy”, said Jerry the Devil, “I need a laugh, and I figured I’d put you to the ultimate test down here.”
“But Mr. Satan…”
“Please, call me Jerry. I didn’t take on this form for nothing, and I HATE when people call me Mr. Satan.”
“Mr…Jerry, look I’m terribly sorry, but I never even got to finish my act. Not to mention, I’ve yet to test it or tell anybody the jokes I was going to use. Basically, you’re expecting me to make you laugh with a joke that’s never been told. A joke that for all intents and purposes may not even make you laugh. It might actually make you cry.”
“Look kid…I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve even sang and danced a couple times throughout eternity. Do you seriously think your act is going to make me THAT upset?”
“No”, replied the comedian, “but this was the joke that basically killed me.”“All the more reason you should tell it.”
“You sure you don’t want to hear a knock knock joke? I have a couple good ones, actually.”
Jerry grew slightly impatient, “No, no, no. I want to hear THE joke, or else you’re stuck here for all eternity.”
The comedian thought it through, chose his words carefully, and then answered. “Alright then. Here it goes. My name is Jon Forward, and I’ve had the worst life ever. You see, I was born an orphan. My mother and father were killed right in the operating room by a freak lighting bolt that tore the hospital I was born in to shreds. I was sent to an orphanage straight out of a Dickensian nightmare, where I worked and slaved away as a sweatshop employee. Shall I continue?”
Jerry looked a little bored, but realized that with time a punch line could be coming any second now. “Go right ahead”, he answered expectantly.
“Right. Well, after fifteen years on the job, I was prematurely retired by the fact that my right thumb doesn’t work properly anymore from all the sewing and weaving I’ve done with it. So I became a television repairman, and for ten more years, I was slaving away for little recognition and little wage. All the while, I was repairing people’s televisions so they could watch ‘Funny Freddy’s Friday Night Fun Fair’. So, I watched a lot of it and one day I decided to write to Funny Freddy in an effort to become an intern on his show. He accepted me, and he gave me my own segment, “Keep Moving Forward”. In it, I’d be made to do all sorts of embarrassing things…things any person in their right mind would want to back out of. Now at this point, Freddy would repeatedly answer my objections with the key phrase, ‘Keep Moving, Forward!’ This would naturally make the audience laugh, and would make Freddy and I both laugh.
In reality, Freddy couldn’t stand me. He thought I was nothing more than a talentless leach who tried to take over his show. So, as revenge, I decided to end our little ‘Keep Moving Forward’ bits and strike it out on my own. Our last bit, written by me, involved me in a dress, on a treadmill, with Freddy throwing eggs at me. I’d finally had enough, and at that point I produced a prop gun from my dress, causing Freddy to put up his hands in fear. I pointed the gun into his back, and he said, ‘Jon, what’s the meaning of all of this?!’ I told him to ‘keep moving forward’, and the audience laughed! Now this wasn’t all my doing, but it was a nice, encouraging start to my stand up career. I got myself signed on as an opening act to a big comedy show and just as I went on I froze. I didn’t know what to do, so I started to tell this story. Just as I was getting to about this point, someone yelled out…”
“Keep moving, Forward! I didn’t want to hear your life story, I wanted to hear a joke!”
Jon laughed, “That’s EXACTLY what the heckler said! I thought it was so funny, I laughed myself to death. Had I lived, my punchline would have been, “Sir if I was telling my life story, you’d be at my funeral!”
Jerry the Devil pondered the joke for a second and tried to laugh. He couldn’t. As a matter of fact, he was a little depressed as Jon had said he would. Finally, he came to a realization: “Wait a second, you’re saying that your death was the highest point of your life?"
Jon looked at Jerry and smiled. “Yeah. At that point, there was nowhere to go but down. Doesn’t that just make you laugh?”
At that point, Jerry laughed about as hard as he ever could. He laughed so hard, he shook the foundation of hell. Jon smiled, satisfied that he’d accomplished his mission.
“So, you thought that was a good one?”
Jerry looked at him square in the eyes, and through half laughter answered, “No. That was an awfully depressing, and painfully unfunny joke if I've ever heard one."
Jon looked crestfallen, "So, I assume I'll be stuck down here forever then?"
Jerry, still laughing, answered him through gasps of air, "Most certainly not."
This confused Jon. "But you said I wasn't funny?"
Jerry, still settling down from his laughing fit, answered slightly more firmly, "True, but this is the PERFECT payback for the boys upstairs kicking me out!” And with that, Jerry the Devil sent Jon up to Heaven, where he would play to Jesus, God, and St. Peter. But that, is another story.
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