It ain’t easy being cheesy. I should know. Before television, I spent 4 years turning song titles into sexual innuendo on the radio. Add to that all the Dad Jokes my kids have groaned at for the past 25 years. It’s a wonder anyone in my family has laughed in a quarter century.
But my cheese is just that. Goopy, sloppy retorts I slather on every conversation. I’m more of a joke shot gun than anything else. Fire enough ammo, and I’m bound to hit something.
My oldest son inherited that. Sorry dude.
My youngest, well, he’s more analytical. Before he could even talk, we could see it. When Nick learned how his fingers worked, we could something happening behind those brown eyes. It was like his brain was trying to take this new-found skill and use it for something all together different than its intended purpose.
There was always something happening behind those eyes. Whether it was deconstructing Barney the Dinosaur’s “Clean Up” song, or befuddling his older brother with a 4-year-old’s logic, Nick kept us on our toes.
While his older brother excelled at sports, athletics never clicked for Nick. But he would insist on following in his brother’s footsteps. Still, we could see, it didn’t quite fit.
Nick was a rebel. Not in the usual sense. He didn’t get into trouble. But unlike kids his own age, he didn’t care what anybody thought about the way he looked, the things he did, or the people he called friends.
While his brother could walk in and own a room, Nick would rather sit with the adults and ask questions. He didn’t ask normal questions either. He always took conversations to deep and unexpected places. Like his first sex question. Not the usual, “what’s making out?” or “where do babies come from?” Nick asked, “What’s a blow job?”
Kinda glad I wasn’t in the car for that one.
In high school, his brain got him into all sorts of scrapes . . . mostly with teachers ill-equipped or unwilling to humor a kid with a mind of his own. Imagine a free thinker in a high school religion class.
Then came that day in his senior year. The semester was winding down. It think it was just before exams. Nick came to his mom and me and told us he had finished studying, and wanted to go to a bar the following night. (It’s Louisiana. So, yeah, it was legal.)
He didn’t want to drink or party. He wanted to walk on stage and tell jokes.
We were floored. The kid with the huge intellect and the weird questions, the kid who would rather sit in his room and read the internet from start to finish, wanted to stand up in front of people and dare to make them laugh.
What could we say?
We could have said, “Hell no! You’ve got exams this week Mister Funny Man!” I may have even tried. My wife stopped me.
The first time we saw him, we could not believe it. He was funny! Not just family-gathering-inside-joke funny. For nearly 30 minutes, Nick held a barroom full of people in the palm of his hand. And they laughed.
They laughed hard.
A funny thing happened that night. Our awkward rebel found a home. It was amazing to see. In 30 minutes, my whole vision of my son changed. He wasn’t that awkward kid who listened to that man who cusses at movie screens on the internet.
He was a man. Talking about grown up issues. Challenging the conventions of everyone in that room, just as he had in all those discussions in our living room. Only this time, his audience wasn’t a curmudgeon who thought he was a communist, it was a crowed bar full of people. And they ate it up.
I don’t know when my chest puffed out bigger, or when I had seen our little brain so happy.
That was more than three years ago. Every opportunity since that first open mic, Nick has hunted a stage to make people laugh — a job that may be even harder than being a parent.
This week, Nick heads west to chase his dream. (Something I could have never done at his age.) Seven booked shows in seven nights, in Los Angeles.
So, if you’re in LA between June 30 and July 7, look him up. He’ll be the kid in ill-fitting clothes cracking wise beyond his years.