I’m inside the lobby and milling about a few minutes before the show. I feel great, and I’m walking around with a pep in my step. Sure, I had a good vibe about the evening’s festivities, but mostly I was glad to be back at The Paramount. Six weeks or so had been far too long, and tonight was to be my first show of the new year for me. But, finally, here it was: “Cocktails with Larry Miller.”
Dare I toss out the pun? Why not. Everyone was in good spirits that evening; ready for an extended cocktail hour with the talented Mr. Miller. The lobby was far from sparse, as many wanted to grab their own tasty beverage before settling into their seats. Tonight promised to be a more adult brand of humor. Not adult in the NSFW (Not Safe For Work) category, but adult as in “more mature.” Since Larry Miller has been anointed as “the funniest man I’ve ever met” (by Jerry Seinfeld, no less), I had high hopes for something more than cheap laughs.
Glancing around, I found there was merchandise to be had (caps, autographed books), and everyone was taking it in like a fine wine. Once I entered the auditorium, I was impressed by the set on stage. It was an elegant decor, yet cozy. Music was playing that made me want to hold a highball glass and snap my fingers like a rat packer. All it needed was a working fireplace and I would easily thought I was in someone’s personal lounge rather than a playhouse. The atmosphere put me perfectly at ease, like a swig of Johnny Walker.
After a brief introduction, Larry Miller came out and sat at the piano on stage. As his fingers danced over the ivory keys, he sang about the virtues of… cocktails (naturally). It was a fun introduction to a show described as “Little League, Adultery & Other Bad Ideas.”
Miller was quickly established that this show would be a funny but relaxed affair. His style of observational humor and anecdotes bring to mind the style of Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, yet not remotely as snarky or acerbic. His tone was so conversational and benign, only punctuated with gut-busting punchlines.
For an overriding theme of the night, Larry mentioned that in a relationship, tension equals passion. And based on the stories of married life he shared, I certainly hope he’s correct.
There are many battles over the course of a day when you live with someone you love, Miller clarified. Among the first he referred to was over an appliance most consider to be utterly harmless, the dishwasher. Surely he’s joking, we all thought. Alas, don’t be fooled. It is here where skirmishes can break out over pre-rinsing; where the proper placement of dishes in a dishwasher is tantamount to a nuclear arms treaty. At first I merely chuckled, but only because I also see no room for debate in the matter. Forks must ALWAYS be placed tines up, just as Larry explained. Come one, it’s so they won’t get caught in the utensil basket, don’t you see? No? Am I alone in agreeing with this? Is it a guy thing? Anyone? Bueller?
Proclaiming every story was devoid of embellishment, Miller continued. His tales sustained a chronicle of domestic
misery tension. Stories about broken water heaters, uncapped toilets, broken barware, date nights and redecorating bathrooms may have appeared simple to the casual listener that night, but I saw through the tears of laughter and peeked at the truth. These are the minutiae of life that no one ever warns you about. In these details, you can either laugh or cry (and sometimes both). Trust me, I’m starting to see that now.
You know, I’ve listened to comedians refer to their marital bliss (to use the term lightly) as material for their acts, but historically it’s always been an abstract concept of humor to me. However, over the past year or so, my own life experiences have opened my eyes and ears to these tales of relationships and family in a whole new way. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to start running a daycare based on the comedy of Louis C.K., but there were many stories in Miller’s routine that I surprisingly identified with.
His show continued on the silliness of relationships and anecdotes of the battles of married life and the futile merits of Little League baseball. Little League has ultimately become an enabling influence on our children. Rewarding any effort with the usually cry of “good try” and a giant-sized trophy just for participating. Miller suggested that perhaps we need to start pointing out the underachieving with a rally of “BAD try.” Worth a shot?
Occasionally, he’d return to the piano and serenade about the merits and pratfalls of liquor. Most of his lyrics struck me as clever. I mean, how often do you hear “Jell-O shooters” rhyme melodically with “that waitress from Hooters?”
Although jabbing at the nuisances of married life, Miller never gave the impression of tarnishing the act of marriage. Even bits about looking for escape clauses in regards to adultery all had a deeper morality attached. “Marriage is a promise,” he said repeatedly. That is also truth. To hear such sentiment was sweet, to be honest. Kind of like a vermouth.
He did save the best for last. Larry concluded with a bit he calls, “The five levels of drinking.” It’s a hilarious and surprisingly accurate look at the snowballing effects of imbibing alcohol on a given night. Allow me to recount it for you:
“It’s 11:00 on a weeknight, you’ve had a few beers. You get up to leave because you have work the next day and one of your friends buys another round. One of your UNEMPLOYED friends…” You rationalize that as long you get seven hours of sleep, all will be fine.
“It’s midnight. You’ve had a few more beers. You’ve just spent 20 minutes arguing against artificial turf. You get up to leave again, but at level two, a little devil appears on your shoulder…” You rationalize that as long you get five hours of sleep, all will be fine.
“One in the morning. You’ve abandoned beer for tequila. You’ve just spent 20 minutes arguing FOR artificial turf. And now you’re thinking, ‘Our waitress is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.’ At level three, you love the world. On the way to the bathroom you buy a drink for the stranger at the end of the bar just because you like his face… But at level three, that devil is a little bit bigger and he’s buying…” You rationalize that as long you get three hours of sleep (and maybe a blood transfusion), all will be fine.
“Two in the morning, and the devil is bartending. For last call, you ordered a bottle of rum and a Coke. You ARE artificial turf. This time on your way to the bathroom, you punch the stranger at the end of the bar just because you don’t like his face. And now you’re thinking, ‘Our busboy is the best-looking man I’ve ever seen.’ You and your friends decide to leave, and one of you knows an after hours bar…” You rationalize that, at this point, you might as well stay up ALL NIGHT. “Yeah! That’d be good for me. I don’t mind going to that board meeting looking like Keith Richards.“
“Five in the morning. After unsuccessfully trying to get your money back at the tattoo parlor, you and your friends wind up across the state line in a bar with guys who have been in prison as recently as that morning. It’s the kind of place where even the devil is going, ‘Uh, I gotta turn in. I gotta be in Hell at nine.’ A waitress with fresh stitches comes over, and you think to yourself, ‘Someday I’m gonna marry that girl!’ You crawl outside for air, and then you hit the worst part of level five ~~ the sun…
Let’s be honest, if you’re 19 and you stay up all night, it’s a victory. Like you’ve beat the night. But if you’re over 30, then that sun is like God’s flashlight. We all say the same prayer then, ‘I swear, I will never do this again as long as I live!’ And some of us have that little addition, ‘…and this time, I mean it!’“
Larry brought the house down with this, and let me tell you something: that was comedy gold. Miller’s Five Stages will now be quoted every chance I get (hopefully around level 2 at the absolute latest). There is something ridiculous yet familiar about each of those stages. In particular, the term “God’s flashlight” is the prefect description for the rough coda of many nights in my early 20s (usually due to Russian vodka). Nights like that made me down right vampire-esque. The pretty airbrushed Twilight kind, you ask? Nyet. My nights of liquor and hedonism made me look more like Murneau’s Nosferatu. Yeah. Rarely a pleasant sight.
I left Larry Miller’s show that evening with a greater appreciation for the folly of youth. Combined with the recognition of relationship battles, I guess my sensitivities were revealed as more mature after all. Whoa. Who’d have thunk it? Miller’s show raised some interesting points about the facets of life best viewed through a humorous lens. At the end of the day, life is but a cocktail itself. Just be sure to make the best of your ingredients.
Now, if you excuse me, I have to go do the dishes… the right way. Or maybe I’ll just pour a drink and get ready to negotiate what that correct method may be. Either way it may well be a long night. Cheers!