It was the summer of 1994. The Contract With America was still just a glimmer in Dick Armey's eye. The players' strike was about to ruin Matt Williams's attempt at the single-season home run record. Gavin Rossdale taught us that we lived in a wheel, where everyone stole, and when we rose it was like Strawberry Fields.
I was in a teen theatre production of Bye Bye Birdie playing my usual role of "Chorus". As a chorus member, I had much less responsibility in the way of rehearsing, or changing costumes, or appearing on stage in any form whatsoever. What I had a great deal of time for was making stupid jokes with other mediocre performers backstage.
Most of these jokes were completely asinine. We had a long-running gag where we'd pretend someone else had a spot on their shirt. "Is that mustard?" Dave would ask. Or, "Whoa, you're going to go on stage like that?" When the other person looked down, they got flicked in the nose. Is it a sign of immaturity that I still find that hilarious?
We also ripped off older, funnier people. We did characters from Saturday Night Live constantly, particularly Jon Lovitz's Pathological Liar character. Sometimes the jokes would be tangentially related to the show. "Oh yeah, I know Conrad Birdie," Chad would say. "Taught him everything he knows. Yeah, that's the ticket. I wrote all his songs." Most of the time we'd repeat the Lovitz bits verbatim, discussing "my wife, Morgan Fairchild. Whom I have slept with," even though we had only the vaguest idea of who Morgan Fairchild actually was. Or what sleeping with someone was, for that matter.
The childish antics did pave the way for the Devil Mountain Improv League, which was founded by many of the same sarcastic, ungrateful punks from the Bye Bye Birdie ensemble. Former roommate Mike had an actual speaking part, but he was an honorary member of the crew, despite his tendency to fall for the mustard trick.
At the cast party, our director took time to thank the many parents who'd volunteered to help out with costumes, music, and stage crew. Of course, our group paid no attention, choosing to focus instead on repeating the same jokes we'd been making for two months. Loudly.
However, the cast party taught me a lesson about paying attention that I'd failed to learn in six weeks of rehearsals and eight performances. The director presented an award to her middle-aged assistant, a mom to two of the cast members. She said some very nice things about her commitment and sacrifice, and how the show couldn't have happened without her. "This gift goes to Carol," she said. And in the brief silence before the applause began, one voice rang out from a completely different conversation.
"Whom I have slept with," I declared.