Last night, I did my first set at Comedy Works in Denver. I was floored at the amount of support I received from my friends and family who came out. No need for a Facebook invite. I had two minutes to make them giggle. It was a success.
My main joke was about dating a deaf guy and having learned all of my sign language from playing poker with the hearing impaired. Which is actually a true story… slightly exaggerated, of course.
I started playing poker when I was living in New Jersey in 2004. The town I lived in neighbored Seaside Heights, where the ‘Jersey Shore’ is filmed. I hated that place and dove into playing poker nightly to deal with the anxiety and stress of my job and living in the least friendly state in the union. It was a crazy time, and I spent most of it in Atlantic City.
After a year of misery, I got the hell out of Jersey and quit playing poker.
Then, last summer, I started playing free Hold ’em at a great little coffee shop/bar, Gallop Café, in my neighborhood. This weekly activity completely changed my life as I knew it. I met a group of people that turned into my Denver family. Among them, Emily Chaney (Paris on the Platte), who is responsible for me getting into the comedy scene. She is a poker force to be reckoned with… I’d give away all of her tells, but then she would change them, and I would no longer be able to take all of her money. My poker family has seen me through substantial weight loss, depression, several boyfriends, break-ups, unemployment, a new job, and my start in comedy.
Among this eclectic group of people were three players who play regularly for the National Deaf Poker Tour: Ken, Raymond and Genie. They were constantly signing across the table to each other. I started asking about the signs, because it was crucial in my winning against them. Regardless, they would almost always take all of my chips.
Of the three, Ken was the one that I felt closest to. This wasn’t because when I pointed to my mouth and asked if he could read lips, he puckered up and leaned in.
Ken has traveled all over the nation; teaching sign language classes and training ASL instructors. The plan (my plan) was to bribe him with a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue to get him to teach me sign language. He was just as sneaky with signing as he was with pocket pairs. I asked him the sign for “University” once. He tricked me and had actually taught me the sign for “Pussy” which I used about 20 times before he told me that he had been messing with my head. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why he always wanted to talk about where I went to school and why he couldn’t stop laughing when I did. I did not graduate from Pennsylvania State Pussy. Most of what he taught me has made it into my joke. (except for fisting… which Ben Kronberg suggested. It’s funny. I like it. Not Fisting. The joke. )
I did learn all of the sign language that I know from playing poker with deaf people, their family members, and ASL instructors. I did go out with a deaf guy who was under the impression that I knew sign language. I never bought a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue for Ken, which is why I still speak sign language poorly.
Immediately after I did my first set at Comedy Works, my friend Tammy told me that our friend, Ken, had died that day.
Rest In Peace, buddy. You will always hold a place in my heart… and my joke.