The Comedian by Thomas Molander

“My relationship with rich people follows a predictable curve,” I said to Robin. We sat on stools with hunched backs, looking at traffic through the translucent Tim Hortons logo on a large, clean window. We sipped that awful coffee.

“At the beginning, the rich love me,” I said. “Wait, hang on.”

I spun my head. I’d seen a telling motion peripherally. There were thumbs whirring plus a smirk. I craned my neck and confirmed the suspicions: little blue bird, red hearts, green arrows.

“You’re live-Tweeting my coffee date with ol’ Robin here?” I yelled at the offender, and she made a quick exit, coffeeless.

I gestured my exasperation to Robin. If she gestured anything in return it was either indecipherable or too subtle. A suited man materialized on the stool to my right.

“Now that was funny,” he said, clapping his hands together.

“What was?” Robin asked.

“The whole shebang. I saw it all and it was good.”

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That’s comedy, baby.”

“I book Thursdays at Bullcrap Bar,’” the suit man said.

“Bullcrap, eh? Nice gig.”

“If I had a nice gig, I wouldn’t be in here drinking this barfwater coffee,” the man said. “But the Thursday comedy night does alright. Can I slot you in for fifteen minutes this very Thursday? It’ll pay $50, plus a couple free drinks. You’ll be opening up for Brent Burnaby.”

“You’re wearing a lot of cologne, but I can’t tell if it’s cheap or expensive,” I told the man. “It could have cost you $5 or $5000 and, to me, it is impossible to know.”

“Is that another one of your jokes? Stay away from ones like that. Ok, so what is your name? Do you have a website or business cards or something?”

“Bill me as Tim Hortons. That’s pretty funny, right? Seeing the name Tim Hortons on a comedy bill? ‘Hey Marco, have you heard of that new comic, Tim Hortons.’ Not bad, right? The plural thing?”

The suit man scowled.

“This is all a bad idea,” Robin said, turning to me. “I haven’t known you very long, but I’ve literally never laughed at a single thing you said.”

“Fuck both of you then. I don’t give a damn about comedy. I’m sitting here in the worst of all possible coffee shops, drinking this absolutely gross version of coffee, and I’m bored out of my bean, and I’m trying to keep a conversation going, and a big, stinkball of a man in an admittedly nice suit is telling me how to run my comedy career when I’ve never even liked comedy and, honestly, have been feeling mostly serious lately.”

“Ha!” the man said and shook me by the shoulder. “Alright, see you Thursday at Bullcrap, Tim Hortons.”

“Sounds suitable,” I said, quickly checking to see if Robin would laugh at that, but she would not.

On Thursday I was at Bullcrap Bar, as promised. What’s more, I had tracked down a slightly-used Tim Hortons uniform on Ebay and was wearing it, hairnet and all. I saw the local comedy hero Brent Burnaby in the corner with his arm draped around the shoulders of a beautiful woman. He was polishing a big, shiny, red nose with a white cloth. We were in for a pastiche of clown culture courtesy of Brent, I had to figure.

I also saw the suit man from across the room, and he was wearing a tuxedo. I executed a royal wave. I had never asked for his name, so I still mentally referred to him as the suit man. He mimed someone speaking into a microphone. He mimed crying, and then he punched the air with tight fists. He did a small dance and then blew me a kiss. I pretended to catch the kiss and put it in my breast pocket, along with the two pens in there. I looked around the room for Robin, even though I knew she was elsewhere. Our first date at the Tim Hortons hadn’t gone very well, and when I asked her to watch me perform my comedy, she flatly declined.

“And now, a new comic on the scene,” a squirrel-looking man said into an SM-58. “Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Tim Hortons.”

“I make the bad coffee, and the donuts too,” I informed the crowd. This was not in my act; I was winging it.

There were about thirteen people in Bullcrap, and maybe five of them were looking at me. They were waiting for the jokes.

“Some people say that when you first start lifting weights and even the lightest weights are too heavy for you, you should attach some cans of Coca Cola to the bar and lift those instead,” I said, pausing to take a long drink from my complimentary vodka milkshake. “But I think this is just soda pressing.”

“No,” the suited man said into the absence of laughter. “Do that other kind of joke.”

“You’ll never get anywhere telling jokes like that,” I heard Brent Burnaby mutter to the beautiful woman.

“Give me a break, guys,” I said into the microphone. “I never asked to be a comedian. I was just trying to have a nice date at a local coffee chain and I was swayed by the promise of cash.”

At this, I experienced the crushing wave of applause and laughter for the first time in my life. I looked up at the crowd. All of the faces in the Bullcrap bar were pointed toward me now. Most of the mouths I saw were agape with laughter, and one man was rolling on the floor amidst dust and little pieces of popcorn.

“This doesn’t make sense! Let me tell the jokes I wrote!”

A steady stream of people were now entering the bar, and a straw hat with bills spilling out of it was being passed from person to person .

“Ahhhh!” I yelled, and clunked myself over the head as hard as I could with my microphone.

I blacked out before I hit the floor, I think, crumpling into a cannonball on the stage. Patrons of the packed bar rushed the stage, lifted me up, and carried me out onto the street, down the road to the Yuk Yuk Hut, where a sign read TONIGHT: Tim Horton, 9pm! Sold Out!

Thomas Molander is twenty-four and is from Vancouver Island but lives in Montreal and studies Creative Writing at Concordia and edits fiction at BAD NUDES.