The king is sitting on his throne getting a mani-pedi from doting eunuchs, and here I am cowering behind this stone column trying to stop my teeth from chattering because I just watched my mentor get eaten by—fed to—the bear in the pit.
I’m up next. In a few minutes, it’ll either be my moment to shine or my time to die.
My onboarding buddy LaBazzo—the tenured foole who’s been showing me the ropes since I got hired last month—taught me to be nimble and adaptable in the face of a tough crowd. We might hone our bits and keep zingers at the ready, but ultimately, every time the king wants to be entertained, it’s a whole new ball game. You gotta be cool, you gotta be calm, you gotta stay together.
All I know is the king didn’t like LaBazzo’s last set.
Now the eunuchs are shaving the king’s toe hairs and I have a three-minute intermission to figure out how I’m gonna open. A string of puns about the plague might do the trick; maybe a mock trial monologue as that baker accused of seeding rolls with roach droppings; or a riff on the wanderer camp that sprang up east of town this morning.
One thing I definitely won’t do: witty observations about the king’s personal health care choices. LaBazzo gave that a shot, and let’s just say it didn’t land. Want to hear a review? It’s in the crunching, chomping, and belching noises coming from the bear pit.
Why can’t Merry Anne go next? Why’s it gotta be me? I’m still green, and Merry Anne can play all the hot tavern jams by jiggling the bells on her hat. That act always kills. Seems like a proven palate cleanser might be in order right now instead of an unknown like me.
Wait, that’s how I’ll open—physical comedy! Of course! Right out of the gate, I’ll spread my arms in greeting and then pretend to slip and fall. I’ll slam my face to the ground, come up bleeding profusely from the nose, and the king won’t be able to contain his laughter. “Who’s this new foole?” he’ll ask. “Very well done,” and he’ll toss me a grape.
But then what? Even if I milk my nosebleed for all it’s worth, I’ll still have a good eight minutes to fill. Keep being klutzy? Go blue? Oh hey, Sir Jarvis just arrived! I know, I can goof around with his sword for a while, pretend I’m a knight in shining armor, the doofus in the ranks. Good ol’ Jarvis is a great sport—he won’t mind if I grab his sword, will he? Knights aren’t protective of their swords. What’s it called again? His sword has a name. Hrungaar or something. Doesn’t matter, I’ll call it Trish.
And then I can go into that tight three minutes I’ve been developing about living with my grandparents after mom and dad got trampled by mules. LaBazzo loves the part where my grandpa hides parsnips on the roof. He says it’s very relatable.
But hang on—how can any of that be relatable to a king? And is it even funny? I’ve never tried it in front of a crowd. Maybe LaBazzo didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, otherwise he wouldn’t be halfway through a bear’s digestive tract. It’s highly probable that my month of onboarding has been a total waste. Actually, worse than a waste: flat-out misleading. I’m doomed!
And sure enough, there’s the king’s helper, giving me the signal. Okay, here I go. You got this. Let me slap myself a few times to get in the zone. Harder. Harder. Put some knuckles into it. Hey, wow, the king is laughing! I’m just gonna strut out there and keep beating myself up like this for my entire set.