You should see how I make them laugh, the employees at the co-op. One time, I pretended to ride a pumpkin. Lena tried to contain her laughter by yelling really convincingly, right in my face “Don’t sit on the produce.” and it became this bit we were doing, where she was trying to pull me off the pumpkin, and I refused, staying in character as a guy riding a pumpkin, until she slapped me, which was pretty comical. Just pratfalls and jokes.
No one said, “Classic Harlow” out loud, like I kind of expected them to, but I could tell they were thinking it. They’d felt the magic of that comedy space where nothing is quite what it seems. Where, to a comedic mind like mine, a pumpkin can become a great charging steed, and where an angel like Lena can become a screaming hag.
Lena actually got me in with everybody. She first let me set up my electric cello, looping pedal, and amplifier in the produce section. I played on Wednesday nights. Everyone has this running gag about how I have to shut up and play. It’s hilarious, because everyone’s in on it. It’s fun to see real, comedic, group-mind at work in a place of business.
Lena, the bridge of her nose smooth and clear as the hollow of a spoon, her eyes sparking on either side, said, “I’ll take a dollar out of your case for every word I hear you speak to a customer.” I said, “Then I’ll just bark at them instead. Fight the power.” Then the flint and tinder in Lena’s eyes finally caught, so I just kept my mouth shut and played.
Another “Classic Harlow” bit was the time I pretended to get my hand caught in the bread-slicer. I was like, “Oh no, my hand’s caught in the bread-slicer. Ahhhhh!” Then I was like, “It’s got my sleeve! This is my favorite hoodie! Ahhh!” And I’m just yelling it in the store, which doesn’t even matter to me, because I’m totally committed to the bit. And then I started writhing around, which is how I bumped the machine on and how my sleeve then did get caught in the slicer, which is how I got my cast, which everyone in the store signed, even Lena.
Then the store got a new bread-slicer, because I guess it’s pretty hard to get blood out of every nook and cranny in one of those things. Everybody won that day.
But it’s not like we haven’t had some hard times too. Like how after I had my cast, I couldn’t play cello, so they needed someone to fill in, and they got this horrible guitar player, James Brontë. He knew maybe six or seven chords, played everything in C Major or A minor. And it might have just been me, but some of the songs seemed to have pretty suggestive lyrics. Which this Bronte delivered like he was trying to seduce a brick wall, and needed to make every extra effort. But they actually had people filling out the produce section. Lena stared at him the whole time.
Then I had this great idea for a hilarious bit where I’d pretend to be really pissed off at this inconsequential hack. So I yelled, “Brontë is an affrontë to good taste!”
I think everyone felt embarrassed at my insight, as in, I had just said what they were all thinking, and it was in many ways too true, and everyone was shocked to see this guy completely eviscerated. I’m basing this on the fact that it was completely silent. In comedy, when you shock your audience into total silence, it’s actually better than getting an eye-bulging laugh-gasm from them. It’s what we’re all striving towards.
But our friend James pretended not to hear it. It’s possible that he didn’t hear it. He music suggests that he has an advanced degenerative hearing disorder.
At this point, I thought I could really close out the bit strong by pretending to be so mad at the situation that I gave this goon the finger and then stomped out with a screamed “Classic Harlow!”
I haven’t been able to get my Wednesday spot back since. And I’ve seen Lena often in the company of James Brontë. But I also have this new bit I do, where I go buy coffee, and sit in the corner of the dining area watching everyone, while crying. It really gets a reaction. Everyone knows me. It’s hilarious.
Image by Gabe Stevenson