Last weekend was the craziest show of my life. I did comedy for a group called the Confederate Motorcycle Club in Starr, S.C. Did you get my Facebook invite? Just kidding.
By local comedy reputation, I am known for roast humor and crowd work. In my "day job," I teach kids how to stand up to bullies through Jiu Jitsu. I have never had to use martial arts to defend myself, but three years of comedy has sharpened my love of handling hecklers of all stripes. With that in mind, it may make more sense that last weekend I found myself walking into what can only be described as a motorcycle compound off Highway 81.
A little bit of background: My family has all the hillbilly credentials.
I have toe thumbs, I'm one of five kids, and my aunt swears we are related to Reba (not kidding). Growing up though, I felt out of place in Southern stereotypes. Before I learned more about its history, I intuitively saw the rebel flag as the symbol of people with no symbols, a mark of the least, to twist a Bible phrase. Or to use one more Revelation play on words, dicks, dicks, dicks.
On the drive up to the Confederate Motorcycle Club, I started to panic. I was concerned for my safety, and frankly, concerned for my reputation. I didn't want anyone thinking that I was going Duck Dynasty. But there is a part of me that is fascinated by people I don't agree with. Case in point, when I'm bored, I listen to Christian prosperity preachers, the crazier the better. I have this theory that being around people with whom you are at odds with sharpens your intellect. To know yourself, you have to know the other, even if their beliefs are repugnant.
After talking to some comic friends, I decided that I would go, but with one condition: that I was not going to modify my set in any way. There is only one way I know to be funny, and that is to be vulnerable.
I was going to talk about my gay brother, I was going to talk about how we all come from Africa, I was going to talk about my sex life, in other words, I was going to risk being myself in front of people that I would easily hate if I judged them by their Facebook posts.
I pulled into the Confederate Motorcycle Club compound. After being introduced to the leader who was wearing a leather vest, top hat, and no shirt, I was escorted to what can generously be called a bar. The first thing that hit me when I walked in was how old everyone was. Mostly female too. There were plenty of people who looked dangerous, but I saw more salt than pepper in the hair of the leather clad crowd.
I sat on the side preparing for my set, and I chatted with a fellow comic. I told him that I wrote a joke about the rebel flag, and if I started to bomb, I was going to do it. He laughed nervously.
The host told a few jokes, asked the crowd to be respectful (crazy, right?), then brought me up to surprisingly enthusiastic applause.
First joke: "I feel bizarrely at home here ... I feel like this is kinda where my mom would have ended up if my dad pulled out." (I'm so sorry I threw you under the bus, Mom).
I started to do my set and against all odds and reason, they were digging it. Then I launched into a bit about sucking an older woman's titties. Shit. Got. Crazy.
They loved it. At one point, women started calling out their ages to me. "51," one shouted. "63," said a leather daddy golden girl from the back. "You're getting colder," I teased.
By the time I had hit the 15 minute mark, I had time for one more. A part of me wanted to skip the rebel flag joke and just move on. Even though the joke wasn't particularly offensive, I have no idea what was fighting words for these people and I didn't want to find out. But before I could stop myself, I started.
"I'm thinking about getting a tattoo."
"Actually, I'm thinking about getting a rebel flag tattoo."
Them: Fuck yeaaaaaahhhhhh.
"But I want to get it right above my ass."
Them: (Crowd pumps brakes.)
"Just to give gay men a moral dilemma before they fuck me."
It killed. I couldn't believe it.
Comedy success is measured in weird milestones. I wish I was so funny that I could instantly change people's minds, but I'll settle for knowing that maybe people can change a little, and if comedy and being open-minded doesn't work, I can always suck an old motorcycle lady's titties.