The first sign of strangeness in Oroville was the name of a Taco place I saw on the side of the road. Joe Bob’s Taco’s. Joe Bob? That is not the name of someone I think of to make a good taco. A noose yes, but not a taco.
I am working the Gold Country Casino in Oroville, CA. it’s the sort of room where subtly goes to die. Actually, it’s the sort of room subtly would be called a fag, beat up and kicked out for starting a fight. Oh, that is the sign of a good show by the way, not having a fight start. Seriously. Afterward the guy who ran it said “Good show. No fights started.” Man, I guess I have higher expectations for shows. That explains why the bouncers outnumbered the “audience” I guess. The audience was composed of caricatures if you called a casting agent and asked for white trash spectators. I felt like the people in front of me kept thinking, this isn’t NASCAR! Now, I am not going for the cheap shot here when I tell you they were fat. It is the only way to reasonably describe them to you. It is the first thing you notice about the people in the casino. You can’t help notice it. They were either morbidly obese or rail thin. Seems like people picked their poisons to be either gravy or Meth. The five people in front of me were not only huge they were also a family. The Mom, smoking a cigarette from the comfort of her electric Lark didn’t so much as sit in the chair as kind of leak all around it. She no longer had a laugh like we might think of one so much as a cough that indicated laughter. Her daughter arrived late. I remember her entrance only because I was stunned at her size and ability to move so fast. A joke I have told for years suddenly took effort to remember because I could not take my eyes off her with the words, she is fucking huge going through my mind like the crawl at the bottom of cable news channels. I wanted to stop and just say those words. Not to be cruel or try to get a cheap laugh but I was so genuinely amazed. In talking to her I learned that her brother, had a bad knee from a childhood incident where they were riding bikes and she said the street was clear thereby leading him into traffic where he was hit by a car. I wasn’t performing in front of an audience. I was performing in front of a reality TV show!
I would say trying to get these people to laugh was like pulling teeth but that would imply they had any teeth left to pull. Everyone’s mouth lived by the same creed as Highlander; there can be only one! Again, I know it’s a cliché but I now know where that cliché went to settle down and raise horribly unfit children. I saw a baby that easily weighed 75 pounds already. It looked like a seal stuffed into a stroller. People would smile and I would notice a few teeth missing here, a dark corner of a mouth there and plenty of jagged grins. I’m sympathetic to this of course because of my own recent dental battles. Being on stage though I thought, there goes those jokes.
The “room” wasn’t separated from the casino either. It was wide open to the sounds of slot machines, ringing phones and even the PA system. I felt like I had to yell everything and when I did talk to them I couldn’t hear them. Being a poster child for ADD on stage in front of slacked jaw hillbillies where I couldn’t say most of the things going through my mind made for a very long 35 minutes. I think my biggest round of applause came from a joke about the evils of tofu. There’s a shocker! You mean you guys don’t like tofu? Another woman, huge said it tasted like a sponge. I couldn’t open my mouth and trust that the right thing would come out.
Here is the sad part. After my set I roamed around the Casino for a while. A few people who were in the show talked to me. What became clear to me was the mentality. This is Tea Party country, folks. Guns for everyone, keep the government out of my healthcare, Obama is going to turn us into Nazi Germany and misspelled protest signs for all! I pointed out to one guy that he has no healthcare now. Making it more affordable to everyone and creating a climate for job growth does not lead to death camps. Besides, it was the republicans who just blocked even taking a vote on extending unemployment benefits. When you state something clearly without shouting do you know what answer you get?
Yeah, oh as in, shit maybe I have been voting, when I actually do vote against my own best interests.
Then there is the gun issue. Over and over I am told Obama wants to take away guns. Again a little fact goes a long way. One of the first bills he signed into law was making it legal for people to bring their guns into federal parks. Why you would need one I don’t really understand. Its not like a lot of drive bys occur in Yosemite. One of the guys says, “what about wild animal attacks?”
“I don’t know how many wild animal attacks happen every year in a place like Yosemite but lets be honest, from the look of most of you you’re not getting out of the car so I wouldn’t worry about that.”
Another one of these guys now gathered around me in a circle and sucking on a cigarette says, “I’ve seen animal planet! Those Black Bears can reach in your car window!”
There was something about the way he said black that was unsettling.
I said. “Dude, the only thing going through your car window you should worry about killing you is the shit you ordered at a drive-thru. You have better chance of dying from a lifetime of Big Mac’s than a bear attack.”
Luckily, they laugh. That’s the beauty of honest comedy. People laugh for two main reasons, it is funny or it’s the truth.
This entire evening was brought to you by melting pot irony. Here I am standing in front of a Indian Casino with out of work poor over weight white people who blame a black guy for all their problems as Mexicans handle all the work, Asians deal cards and a tribe rakes in the cash while they complain to me about not needing wanting to pay high taxes to support lazy people and healthcare they don't need between bouts of coughing fits from all the years of smoking.