In my nearly-43 years on this Earth, I've earned money in strange ways (drove limos, posed nude, parked celebrity cars, shot pool, go-go danced, reviewed restaurants, attended concerts, watched animation, counted F-bombs, etc.) but tonight, I may have topped myself.
I've just returned home $150 richer after indulging a wonderful woman named Esther in a devilish party trick. She'd hired my improv troupe, The Rodents of Unusual Size, for her annual holiday party for her family, friends and Denver Housing Authority co-workers. Only three Rodents were available so we borrowed our funny friend, Will, and off we went with our game list and bag of props.
When we arrived, it became immediately clear that Esther had no idea what our group did. Our first clue came when we asked Esther where we should perform and she said, "All over the house."
After some clarifying conversation, it was determined that Esther expected us to make up outlandish stories about ourselves - essentially, be crazy characters - and mingle. That's right, Esther paid us all to mill around her wonderful party, eat and drink to our heart's content (and I am kinda big-hearted), and just flat out make shit up.
I was all for it but Will had some doubts. "But I HATE parties! I HATE mingling," he said, a twinge of fear and annoyance in his voice. Christa just stood there silently with a deeply furrowed brow and Steve was a tad flummoxed. But there we were, with no other option. (The excessively decorated house - Santa toilet seat covers, Virgin Mary flags - was packed tightly with guests, no real 'space' to perform anyway.) So, we all agreed to give it a go and then, we separated.
As logic insisted, my first stop was the bar, where I tripped up by using my real name. When somebody asked how I knew Esther, I stated flatly that I did not but was simply driving by and spotted a party. Crashing holiday parties was just a way to pass the time, y'see. As I filled my cup with Jack Daniels, they just stared at me, aghast. So far, so good!
Soon, I settled into the character of "Blaze", a magician's assistant with a troupe of 20 called The Majestic Minstrels. We travel the country (300 days a year) in a large purple bus with a decapitated clown head on the hood. Esther had seen our show the night prior and invited me to her party. I am working to pay for my nephew's medical school and yes, I expect free medical care in return when the time comes. (Also, my nephew is actually my son though he does not know that.)
There were many "girl-in-the-box-getting-sawed-in-half-jokes" and I professed to have terrible scars across my abdomen. Also, I was homeless so the job was a perfect cover. Our Minstrels show could be anything from PG to XX - whatever we were booked for. And my boss, the magician, was mean. He was very old school and didn't believe women should have opinions. What he didn't realize was that I've been studying the Dark Arts and have elaborate plans to turn him into a fat turkey someday - hopefully, around next Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, Will brilliantly played the role of "Rupert", an academic specializing in the field of Paleography (the study of ancient handwriting) with a special interest in a peculiar bold font used by Nazis. Rupert was 1/2 Welsh, 1/2 Brit with a loud accent that stood out among the cowboy hats and Bronco fans. For all Will's hesitation, he really pulled it off.
Steve remained "Steve" but was an ordained minister in Wyoming. He'd been adopted by lesbians and raised in Kentucky - named after his Aunt Steve. He left his first church (a strange cult) due to an intense dislike of "love seizures" - padded pews were not his style. He eventually started a catering company specializing in food for senior citizens. He basically served a lot of soft food and in many cases, just used a blender.
Christa remained "Christa" but took on the outward behaviors of someone very sad, very scared and very troubled. Everyone was trying to comfort her but I decided Christa needed a reason to be scared. We made a few scenes together when I determined that she was the ex-wife of my ex-husband and I hated her guts and WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE DOING THERE ANYWAY? Did she think that restraining order was just a joke????
We kept fighting throughout the evening and I made some physical threats - always fun. Some people, especially some poor girl named Sarah, was pretty freaked out by our confrontations. At certain points of the evening, it felt like being in an episode of "The Office" with lots of workplace stories, definitive awkwardness and raised eyebrows.
The whole evening was like one long sociological experiment. After we all piled in the car at the end of the gig, we exchanged stories and agreed it was time well spent.
We also came to a few conclusions:
The party guests were pretty interesting in their own right. One old guy talked about having to eat a dog during the Depression and another guy told me about inadvertently blowing up his high school as a teen. Another fellow had escaped political upheaval in his home country of Eritrea and another was a statistician/activist - using science to change the world. I loved these stories and don't care if they were making it all up ...
Also, that while people were interested in our crazy tales, they were unfailingly polite and accepting. Mind you, we each scared away our fair share of party guests (Sorry, Dottie!) but most were like, "Hmmm, lesbians? You say? Cults, you say? Sounds delightful. More cake?"
Most importantly, we found that people like talking about themselves, no matter what. "You've been shot out of a cannon? Wow! That reminds me of the time my brother and I strapped a bazooka to my truck and went to town .." This circles back to the first point, which is everyone has bizarro stories and are happy to share.
Being a big, fat phony has never been so fun. Want to liven up your party? Give us a call: 1-800-BUL-SHIT. (Or, better yet, go through the Rodent website.)
Man-o-man, if I could find a way to do this full-time - I am set.