Posts Tagged ‘Bud Abbott’

In comedy, there’s often a “straight man” – one person who is sane and sober and “normal” while someone else is delivering the jokes or being a clown.

The straight man makes the scene funnier, but if the straight man is the only person on-screen, nothing’s funny.

Which is why I once risked my own digestive safety and well-being for the sake of a short food video.

It was more than a dozen years ago, but the friend I made it with recently dusted off the video in a new post on Facebook.

Two important things about this friend, whose name is Lee:

1. Ordinarily, anyone who is with Lee is the straight man, the Abbott to his Costello, the Ice Cube to his Kevin Hart. Life is a rich tapestry of humor to him, and he is constantly cracking jokes. Visiting a friend’s ailing mother in the hospital, he tells her, “You have more tubes coming out of you than a radiator.” Someone on Facebook posts something like, “Name something you can say both at a birthday party and during sex,” and he answers, “Howdy howdy howdy, I’m a cowboy.”

2. His mouth is made of asbestos. Hot peppers mean nothing to him. He will eat anything and like it. Do not challenge him to a pepper-eating contest. At best, it will end in an agonizing draw.

This is where the video comes in.

More than 12 years ago, Lee and I both were living in Richmond, Virginia, where he was the features editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. One day in a staff meeting, he told everyone that a chicken wing restaurant in Richmond had what he considered to be the hottest wings in the world. They were named Suicide Wings.

The paper’s executive editor decided that if the wings were really that hot, it might be funny if the paper shot a video of Lee and someone else eating the wings.

Lee told me he had put out the word to the entire newsroom that he needed someone to go with him. I had an instant clairvoyant vision: No one would volunteer.

This would be a huge problem. A video of Lee eating the hottest wings on the planet, without the contrast of someone else also eating them, would look like a man eating a plate of plain fried chicken.

I told Lee that if no one else volunteered, I would go.

My vision came true. No one volunteered. I had to go.

Understand, I like spicy food, even to the point that my eyes water and I turn red (redder than usual, that is). But I’m no “Man vs. Food” fanatic about it. If you label the food anything like “Suicide Wings” or “Stupid Wings” or something with the word “death” in it, or you require me to sign a release of liability, you can generally count me out.

But there I was with Lee and a videographer, walking into Planet Wings one sunny day, resigned, head up, trying to sound cheerful about my impending gastric doom.

It went pretty much the way I envisioned. From the first bite, I was in agony. Maybe they were the hottest wings in the world, maybe they weren’t. But they were the hottest I had ever had.

Next to me, Lee chomped quietly away on his wings.

I gasped, exhaled sharply, turned red, then purple, and Lee looked over at me, then back at the camera and rolled his eyes. 

For perhaps the first time in his life, Lee was the straight man.

I called it quits after just three wings. Lee ate all of his wings plus one of mine and took the rest of mine home in a box.

The video is pure gold. I may never take part in a greater comedy bit in my life.

The editing was a bit misleading. I did not get up in the middle of eating and get a large soda refill. That came after. Also, the videographer put text on the screen at the end saying I ate only two wings. But both of those edits make the video funnier, so … whatever.

Years later, after we both had moved on to other cities and other jobs, Lee dared me to show the video to my new employees. Too late, I told him – I had already showed it to them because it was too hilarious not to share.

I don’t mind being laughed at – at least not in that context. All I want is acknowledgement of my commitment to the bit. I sacrificed the lining of my mouth and throat, and the entire contents of my tear ducts, for the sake of making people laugh.

Read Full Post »