It was quiet before he started his set.
Edmund “Ed” Burke sauntered up to the mic as a pale young woman dashed towards the restroom, in the rush of her exit she had left behind a stack of papers—a captivity narrative that she felt compelled to share with everyone// she finished reading aloud
He didn’t have a bad slot either, Ed thought to himself as he glanced at his watch. It was 10, right on the dot. Getting a slot at The Long 18th Century club was hard, Burke had to dash over during his lunch break to get here, but it’s worth it– this is his shot to the big leagues.
Ed grabbed the mic, shoved it a couple of paces to the left, hunched over a bit and said, “Uh, howdy everyone—” before being interrupted by a wail coming from the speakers.
“Yikes.” He heard a voice say from the crowd. He could barely see the crowd; the light was glaring right into his field of vision. How was he supposed to see the exit, much less how the people in front of him were reacting?
“Sorry ‘bout that. Just trying to get a feel for the place. Anyway…” He dragged out the word to give himself a moment to get his bearings back. The wail of the speakers had put him off more than he cared to admit.
“Get on with it won’t you!” Someone called out from the dark blob that was the crowd. It wasn’t the same voice as the yikes from before. Why couldn’t these people just give Ed a break for a hot second?
“Right right! Anyway I’m here to talk about revolution! We all love a good fight for what’s right right? We all saw how Captain America and Iron Man save the universe right! God bless America’s ass? Yeah?”
“Is this a joke?” Another voice from the crowd murmured loudly enough to drift up the stage.
“I was a little concerned that joke wasn’t going to land. Thanks for getting it!” He laughed nervously, hoping someone would join in from the crowd only to be met with cricket-less silence. Okay so maybe it hadn’t landed?
“Right so we all love superheros that save the day! Like our president! He’s really doing something good for us right? Like you ever just look at the government and think wow things are getting better? Like that’s exactly what we’re going for! Now I will admit that initially I thought it was a little weird to suggest that we, America that is, aren’t great already but then like I realized we could do more? Like maybe we should stand our ground and go from there? That kind of leadership takes a certain kind of strength and I think our president is just really exemplifying that powerhouse strength. Also not gonna lie I’ve never had a thing for blonds till now. It’s a really good look.”
And again there was silence. Why weren’t these jokes landing? James “Jamie” Mackintosh, his best friend in the whole world, had assured him that these would work. The whole Great Conversation discord server had sung their praises when he’d rehearsed with them. It was okay though because the next set of jokes were going to slap. He just knew it.
“Also let’s talk about the kids! We’ve been talking a lot about putting women into powerful positions and we’re already doing that now! Our first daughter is the peak of strong leadership and legacy! Like I’d definitely vote for her if she ran in 2024! I don’t know why we have to take our pick from old stuffy senators with empty promises and small town mayors when we have a legacy queen just waiting to step up for the role of president. She’s our lady liberty in the making.”
Like the beautiful Sunday Mass choir the sound of laughter brought genuine joy to Ed because finally people were laughing. They were on the same wavelength now. This was the thrill of stand-up. It was everything he wanted.
“And I know there’s been so much talk about statues this like past year. I have a suggestion! Instead of taking down statues why don’t we just erect new ones? I’m not saying a new Lady Liberty statue is a good idea but a new Lady Liberty statue is a good idea! Maybe on the west coast of the country? They kind of don’t have much history on their side of the country.”
“Heh yeah fuck California!” Someone called out. That was the energy Ed had come to rouse. Yes this was everything! The server had been right!
“We shouldn’t stop there though! There’s so much more we need to do as a nation! Like I know the bees are dying and whatever but have you ever considered eating like we’re in space? Cause then I feel like we might not need the bees as much for our agriculture? Then like if we had a civil war again a la Captain America Civil War we’d probably still be good? Like yeah there might be some split in the team but it’s time for a change and California? They just want all of us to go along with everything they do? But it’s not even that good.”
“Yeah like your act!” A mature and feminine voice drawled from the crowd, gasps were gasped, a deep voice crowed as people murmured–
“Lel, the audacity!” a girly someone said, as they cackled obnoxiously.
A haughty slightly deeper voice laughed, “Lmao, can the real comedian please stand up?” The pair was, obviously, drunk. Normal people don’t say “lel” and “lmao” out loud, with their whole mouths.
Ed’s face burned, his shoulders tensed– he’s never had to deal with a hater before (because he had never performed in front of a real crowd but that’s beside the point).
“Uh, thank you,” He sputtered, and tried to continue talking, but something in him stopped him from just moving on, “Okay, can someone dim the lights? I really need to see the crowd now that there’s a funny guy in our midst.”
“Did you seriously just say ‘midst’ unironically? It’s two-thousand fucking nineteen.” The same mature voice said. The spotlight swung and landed on an exasperated woman; brown hair curling from out her cap, arms crossed, and lips curled upwards into a condescending smile.
Burke knew her, it was Mary Wollstonecraft from English 102. They had gotten into an argument about semantics before, and she was a huge feminist. Very radical, she was like super into the guillotine and revolution? It was a blur, all he could remember was that she was loud and mean, and,
“Are you done?”
“I can do my own introductions man.”
Could she read his mind?
“No, you’re thinking aloud dumbass,” the chair she was in screeched as she got up, “Someone hand me a mic– I’m done listening to this horny clown.” Drunken cheers and whistles drowned out Burke’s protests, “Horny?? Clown??”
“I said what I said,” Mary said into a mic that the bartender handed her, “The Trumps suck and we all know it, the American government is so corrupt and needs to be put back into the hands of the people– and you, are a misogynist!” The bartender whistled and clapped with the audience.
Burke groaned, “Et tu, Paine? I didn’t say anything misogynistic! I love women, maybe even too much!”
“She’s right and she should say it! Besides. Your time is up.” Paine said, pointing at the clock. 10:15. He was right, his slot was through. He heard the sounds of heels clacking against the floor as Wollstonecraft made her way onto the stage. Burke sighed loudly and got off the stage.
“And now, a vindication on the rights of women- or whatever,” she said, “Okay so I don’t care how hot Ivanka is– hot babes and loud dudes does not a government make. We get it, you’re edgy and love the presidency, but their titles don’t make them gods. They don’t just get to do what they want, like displacing families and telling women what they can or can’t do with their bodies– if so then why can’t I tell Trump to ease up on the spray tan? Dorito is just…” Somebody in the crowd screamed as people laughed and clapped, “Dorito is just not a good look.”
Burke couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Some people were seriously into this?
“Like, I’m not just mad that we’re being represented by a goblin with terrible fashion sense.” She paused and people laughed, “Ivanka is just too much, people shouldn’t rule with emotions– we need sense. Like, duh? Is it too much to ask for some sense here? Don’t let everyone starve, when we leave the poor behind we’re leaving our entire workforce for dead! Like are we not teaching people properly? Obviously not if ‘covfefe’ is something that our actual president tweeted. Was he trying to say coffee? What’s up with the whole food thing going on here?” She took a sip from the wine glass in her hand.
“And Endgame? Was absolute trash, ruined the characterization of Thor, killed off Black Widow even though she’s got a movie coming up– and like the outfits? Sucked.” She took an even bigger sip. “Sip on that, folks!”
“Endgame was a masterpiece! What are you talking about? Also can you make a point that actually has some thought to it? We didn’t really come here for your emotional stream of consciousness nonsense.” A woman called from the front row.
Mary just raised an eyebrow in silent judgement and sipped her wine. The nerve of some people.
By Diana Lara and Maria Nguyen Cruz
THE REVIEWS ARE IN:
On Mr. Burke Does Stand Up? Lmao.
This piece is incredibly amusing and full of detail despite its short word length! I found it very interesting how 18th century figures were characterized for a modern American audience. The references will definitely make sense to a younger audience while still holding a lot of important commentary for older audiences. The dry humor coupled with Burke’s seemingly genuine belief in his jokes leaves the audience wondering who is to be believed? Is it Burke and his seemingly pro-Trump conservative rhetoric? Is it the reader’s own beliefs that might clash with Burke’s? This dilemma is one that amply exposes how divided people are about current modern politics while still keeping the subject relatively light. The choice of setting the story in a comedy club is a fantastic choice on the part of the writers because it creates the sort of atmosphere in which people can actively have discourse and more than likely have a willing audience for all speakers. Not only that but it also helps to discuss more underlying issues like the inequality women face when trying to participate in activities that are generally done more by men than women. Mary Wollstonecraft stepping up to disagree with Burke and receiving disapproval from another woman speaks to deeper issues about feminism and its general public perception. Overall, the message seems to be that there are a lot of issues in modern America that need to be hashed out and what better way to do so then through comedy? A medium that allows for audiences to discuss heavy topics without feeling fully weighed down by the magnitude of the issues. They say the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem and that understanding comes in part from discussion. America needs to talk it out that’s for sure.
Also let me just say that maybe the writers should’ve warned of the Endgame spoilers but at the same time it’s been more than a week so if you haven’t seen it yet then jokes on you.
Should we have written less than a thousand words for a fanfiction? Probably. Initially, we aimed for a two hundred and fifty word collaboration with two submissions. What we got was one long story where we reinterpreted A Vindication On The Rights of Man and Burke’s pamphlet. Initially we were thinking about writing a twitter thread, where four thinkers of that time period were arguing amongst themselves. The idea for a stand up/cafe reading esque scenario was too good to pass up. It was a perfect opportunity to write dialogue, internal thought, and to subtlety insert Diana and myself into our work.
Last class we discussed what it means to be an American, or rather a “true citizen” of a nation. Despite Wollstonecraft and Burke being English citizens, I believe they are exemplary of the kind of reflection we should all be doing. Interacting with politics, whether one is choosing to front an anarchist, centrist, conservative, or revolutionary stance, benefits society greatly. All opinions, all musings on the direction of a country, help to lead it in the right direction.
And yes, there is end game spoilers. Can you really blame us, though? It’s been a week
~Maria Nguyen Cruz