tribute

Maybe it’s because that sexy beast Kevin Smith has been all over the universe with the press push for Clerks II and my old friend/roommate/moocher extraordinaire Paul always reminded me of Kevin Smith, with his similar penchant for wearing short pants and telling off-color jokes.

Whatever the reason, I’ve been thinking about Paul lately, and his most goddamn brilliant joke, universally referred to as The Sick Clown Joke.

I first noticed Paul when we ended up on adjacent bar stools at my old favorite haunt in grad school, a place called Taps (it had been a funeral parlor once). Something of a monologuist himself, Paul talked my ear off and at closing time convinced me to slouch around the corner to his house to watch So I Married An Axe Murderer, which I had never seen at the time.

I think we watched it twice that night.

Not much of a flirt, but one hell of a drinking buddy, Paul had long black hair and a visible affection for beer by the pitcher. Although he and I never had any chemistry, I ended up involved with one or two of his friends over the next few years — mostly crazy cute goth boys with sensitive souls. Yum.

Paul was also known as the guy who woke up in the middle of a late night party once, having passed out early on in the middle of the living room, sat up straight and inquired, “Are there… ‘EGGS?’”

By the way he said it, you knew he wasn’t wondering if we had any in the fridge. He was seriously wondering if eggs actually existed, or if he hadn’t just dreamed it all.

Paul could tell an amazing number of jokes and tell them well. As a person who can only remember one long joke at a time, I was amazed at his repertoire. Midget jokes, blonde jokes, quadraplegic jokes, bestiality, pedophilia — do you see the Kevin Smith connection?

He had a sidekick — Gary I think was his name — who would constantly ask for The Sick Clown Joke at times like these, when the jokes were flying fast.

Paul would invariably look dismissive, or modestly down at his shoes, or hush Gary up by indicating that the crowd was too mixed, or the hour too late, the drinks too strong — whatever. Some story about why he couldn’t possibly be compelled to tell the greatest, best joke he knew. It was only, he said, for very special occasions.

C’mon, please! Gary would plead, and usually the rest of the drunken gang would too.

But Paul would not be moved.

After a few years of this I became convinced that the joke was a figment, a ruse, a masterful piece of PR, nothing more. When I accused him of this, Paul was struck dumb, then lashed out at me suddenly, with a furious, accelerated rattling off of the set-up to a very long, very complicated joke involving a clown, some spooky woods, and a little kid.

Then he abruptly broke off, waved a disgusted hand at me, and turned away.

Unbeliever! he said.

If you don’t believe there’s a Sick Clown joke, then you don’t deserve to hear it.

I ran after him then, apologizing and assuring him that I did, I DID BELIEVE!!!

Like he was goddamn tinkerbell or something.

He never told me the rest.

I still think he was lying.

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