Sample Chapter

Prelude

 

“The best? That’s tough. First off, I don’t have that many I remember and the ones I remember aren’t necessarily the best.”

“I can listen to your excuses only so long. When you’re ready to play the game let me know.”

“Jeez. Lighten up. I’m just trying to think of the funniest joke I ever heard. It’s not like we’re building up to anything that’s going to change the world.”

“You can keep stalling. You’re right, they’re not going to drop a nuclear bomb on Palm Springs and destroy this epicenter of comedic talent.”

“We can do that ourselves.”

“Exactly, so come on, let’s hear it. You can change your mind the second after you say it but put up or shut up. What’s the funniest joke you can remember that comes to mind right this very moment?”

“Okay, okay, okay. I’m sure it’s not the funniest, but it’s the first one that comes to mind. It’s actually not a joke per se. This recently happened to me and when I heard it I had the biggest laugh I’ve had in a while. I was standing in the backyard of Joey Bishop’s house…”

He paused milking the moment and trying to drag out however many status points he could get out of being at Joey Bishops house.

“I’m drinking a lemonade. It’s afternoon and I’m standing on the patio talking to Joey about this very event. The backyard is full of his friends, some family, kids and his two dachshunds. We’re talking and one of the dogs is sitting in front of us and all of a sudden the dog starts licking its balls. I look at Joey. He looks at me. We look at the dog and I say, “I wish I could do that.” And Joey says to me, “You’d have to pet him first.

“I tell you the lemonade came flying out of my mouth and nose. That guy is one of the funniest.”

I wasn’t drinking any lemonade as I stood in the reservation line as we waited to check into the hotel, but I did laugh. Which I took as a good sign.

It was March 1985, I was at the Inaugural Comedians Conference in Palm Springs, California and I was getting paid for being here.

I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think about a conference for comedians but I thought there would be a lot of funny stuff going on, a lot of depressed people and since it was a conference and I was here, maybe they’d be a murder or two.

 

Chapter One

The Backstory

 

I go to my share of conferences.  I used to go to conferences hoping to learn something and maybe have some romance. Maybe in reverse order. I still go to learn something, and certainly hope to have romance, but ever since the killings at the sex conference I attended, I now go to a conference and wait for the shoe to drop. Or better said, the bodies to drop.

I’m a big believer in hope. With hope you got a chance. Without it you give up. I go to a conference hoping murder won’t happen. But, like with a lot of hopes wishes don’t always come true. Since I’m also a believer in going with the flow, if and when the murders happen, I stick things out. It’s not my fault they happen and the best I can do is help solve them and later write a book about it.

You know, you try to turn lemons into lemonade.

Turning lemons into lemonade is kinda my job description and why I was being paid for being here. The organizer of the conference wanted to create an environment for comedians and people who like comedy to come together to celebrate the joy, art, craft, and business of comedy. He promoted the conference as an opportunity for aficionados, fans and working comedians to come together for a week to learn, laugh and live healthier and happier lives.

That latter part it where I come in. There were going to be workshops/playshops all week on various aspects of the comedic arts as well as comedy making laboratories and comedian showcases. There would also be workshops on lifestyle and living well. There would be yoga sessions, movement classes and a range of holistic living activities. I was asked to run a daily ongoing therapyesque workshop for interested parties.

When the organizer, Sammy Mitchell, had contacted me he said he had heard good things about me from his friend Bennett Price, who is a New York Times bestselling author of mystery books. Bennett is also an on again off again client and previously had hired me to be with him for a week in Las Vegas while he attended the Mystery Writers of America’s Annual Conference.

Sammy and Bennett had spent a night on the town and when they got to talking about the comedy conference Bennett had recommended me as I not only was a therapist, but I wrote a mildly amusing mystery series that could be considered comedic. Plus, I had some special skills that if called upon might be worth having around.

Like a lot of my clients Bennett calls me up when he thinks it would be helpful to talk about how his life is moving along. After our week in Vegas some seven months ago, he’d taken a therapy hiatus and just recently had called me up to have some sessions. After Sammy had contacted me and offered me the weeklong job, Bennett starting gushing about our being at the conference together. That prompted a discussion about how our being there would affect our professional relationship.

Professional boundaries are a dicey topic. When I was his therapist in Vegas we’d smoked a joint together and I assisted him in purchasing some cocaine. (I just need to take a moment here to remind the licensing board that sometimes I enhance scenes for the sake of the reader, and they can rest assured that I would never stray from the legal and ethical boundaries of my profession). I also almost conspired with Bennett in covering up the death of Louise, the Vegas brothel owner who since then has played a bit of ongoing role in my life. Fortunately, she wasn’t dead so I didn’t assist in any cover up and she was just pissed at Bennett.

Sammy had invited Bennett to the Comedy Conference to talk about comedy in mysteries since a lot of his rough and tumble private eye series had a lot of funny asides. In Vegas he wanted me there to help support him as he was nervous about presenting, but he now felt ready to go it alone, but was glad I was there just in case. He figured since we would both be presenting and peers our therapeutic relationship would be on hold for the week and we could just be friends.

I gave him the standard therapist response. I’m your friendly therapist, not your friend. But really there is not much difference when you get to the heart of it. Your friends are there for you when you need them and hopefully so too is your therapist. Where the comparison falls short is the client isn’t always there for the therapist. It’s hard to overcome the roles and become true back and forth, give and take friends. Some relationships make the transition. Most don’t. Either way you’re not supposed to change the dynamics of the relationship until therapy is over for a couple of years and certainly not in the on again off again midst of it.

Flexible and pretty loosely defined as I am, I couldn’t see flipping back and forth like that. When we were in Vegas he’d hired me so he was my client the whole time. He hadn’t hired me to support him in Palm Springs, but I’d just seen him last week and we had plans to see each other next week so I didn’t think the buddy/buddy thing was going to work. Of course, when you’ve smoked a joint with someone it’s not like you aren’t already being buddy buddy.

Hard to always know what’s gray and what’s not.

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