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Richie Tozier: Come Out & Play

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“Hello New York, how are we doing tonight? Better than I was doing a year ago, most likely.”

Richie’s hands are shaking but he pushes through it, keeps the goofy grin on his face. He listens to the soft laughter of the crowd before continuing. “If you weren’t aware because you live under a rock, or you’re old and don’t know how to work the Wi-Fi, last year I had what some tabloids called a mental breakdown!

His voice sounds excited, he’s smiling widely. He’s nauseous.

“You have no idea how fucking weird it is to see your face on one of those shitty magazine covers at the grocery store. I’m in line just trying to buy some fucking pickles and there’s me, the worst picture they could possibly find staring up at everyone, with huge yellow print next to it saying they have the inside scoop on my drug addiction.

“And you know, I always wanted to be famous as a kid. Dreamed about it, wouldn’t shut up about how I’d be the world’s best comedian with my own Netflix special.”

He pauses. “And yes, I know Netflix didn’t exist back then. Let me fucking live. But the truth of the matter is that being famous kind of sucks when you’re famous for being a drug addict. Especially when you’re not even a drug addict.”

There’s laughter and applause. He breathes in slowly and deeply, tries not to make it obvious he’s literally using a calming technique he used in therapy while onstage.

“I know, finding out I’m not addicted to drugs is like, kind of boring? But I hate to break it to you, I’m kind of boring. Because I’m over 40 and I go to the grocery store to exclusively buy pickles.”

More laughter. His grin is real this time. “Did you notice I chose pickles for that story? Very phallic. Very on brand for me. Just to like, prepare you for the amount of dick talk there’s going to be tonight.”

He exhales as he listens to the laughter. “But anyway, I’ll tell you what actually happened that caused me to forget my own name and then run off stage and then disappear for a year. But I’ve gotta start somewhere else first, I have to work up to it. Gotta build in that background information through relatable anecdotes.

“So who here lives in a small suburban city? Had to drive, what? 45 minutes? An hour? Just to get here.” There’s some cheering. “Now, who used to live in one of those towns but realized you were actually living in Hell so you moved away?”

More cheers. He grins. “Cool. You guys are my target audience and everyone else is dead to me.”

They laugh at his deadpan voice. “But uh, I grew up in one of those towns, too. Outside Bangor, Maine. Little town called Derry. Not spelled like the other dairy, the one that gives like, 75% of us the shits? Although, Derry the town has some nasty water systems so… Could be both. Anyway, growing up in Derry was… Complicated? That’s a word I could use. Probably the nicest word I could use to keep my parents from feeling like they failed me as a human being by raising me there.

“But I’m gonna go with Derry was fucking Hell. If there are demons on this earth, they live in Derry. If you find one anywhere else it just means he’s on vacation. Because it’s so awful even the demons want to leave.”

He’s hit his groove, casually walking back and forth on the stage. His hands have stopped shaking. “So I wasn’t very cool when I was a kid, which you can probably tell by the everything about me. It was this awful combination of like, glasses that magnified my eyes, buck teeth, and the inability to ever shut my fucking mouth. Honest to God, I was a fucking loser.”

Someone in the crowd yells, “you still are!”

He pauses, frowns. “Alright, fuck you, too, then.”

The audience laughs and he breaks, grinning. “But you’re absolutely right, I am still a loser. I’m also a Loser. But that one’s with a capital L, because my friends and I decided the best thing to do was to name ourselves the Losers Club. That way everyone would know who they were dealing with. And this is what you were dealing with: Big Bill, the leader of the group, unofficially of course, who lost his little brother when we were 12. He stuttered so bad he could barely get a sentence out sometimes.

“You guys might know him. William Denbrough?” There’s a quiet cheer. “Oh, some enthusiasm, crowd going wild over middle-aged author Bill Denbrough! He writes horror novels and his wife is a hot actress who’s actually famous. Then you’ve got Stan. Stan the man, Staniel. My first ever best friend, the only Bar Mitzvah I ever went to, and the only one of the Losers that’s no longer with us.”

There’s a ripple of quiet “oh”s spreading through the crowd.

“Yeah, the fucking asshole lives in goddamn Georgia.” Loud laughter and cheering. “He’s the only one! Seven of us and we all live in the same two states except for this guy who literally couldn’t get away from us fast enough.”

He lets the audience chuckle for a moment before continuing. “Stan’s great, though. Loves birds. Loves puzzles. Loves bird puzzles.” He grins. “He tried to take me bird watching with him one time when we were like 10 – yeah, no, fucking birdwatching – and after five minutes he looked me dead in the eyes and told me to go home, I was existing too loudly. Stan’s like, the dad of the group, if the dad just rolled his eyes at his children’s antics and then went along with it anyway. Stan was like, maybe we shouldn’t go sneak in to that old, dilapidated house by the closed down train yard, and then we were like, come on, Stan, it’ll be fun!, and then Stan would be like – “ he mimes rolling his eyes very dramatically – fine, I’ll go. But we’re gonna wear shower caps on our heads so we don’t get spiders in our hair.”

Richie laughed along with the audience. “I’m totally serious, too, he went to the fucking store and bought 2 packs of 4 shower caps. Like, he would go along with the absolutely stupid thing we wanted to do, but he was gonna make sure he kept up his nerd reputation while doing it. Wouldn’t want anyone to know he enjoys things. Other than, you know, birds, and his own sense of humor. He’s the guy that like, mid-conversation would say something so fucking outrageous that didn’t make sense at all and then just start laughing to himself.

“Stan’s a weird-ass dude and he lives in Georgia like an asshole.”

He pauses at the front of the stage, picks up his glass of water and takes a long gulp.

“And Mike! He grew up on a farm right outside of town, his black family living right next door to the biggest racist assholes Derry had to offer. If demons are running around Derry, then this kid and his dad were tight with them. The kid, Henry, was a grade above us and he killed Mike’s dog when we were 13.” There’s a horrified gasp. “Yeah! Shit’s fucking wild! That happened before we met Mike so it’s not actually important but isn’t it, though?” He pauses. “Mike didn’t go to school with us so we met him a little later, when we were 13. That summer, actually, 1989, that’s when we met Mike. And unfortunately small towns are full of horseshit people so just being black made him an outcast in our otherwise white demon town.” He says it in a loud, judging tone, scanning the audience as though a racist is going to pop up. “So Mike became a Loser. Honestly, he was never really a lowercase loser and is probably the coolest of all of us? Like, the dude just finished a year-long solo trip where he went to every single state!

“Are you kidding, Mike? I feel like I’m being judged for being alone when I like, get up from the table at a restaurant to walk to the bathroom, and this guy’s just out here doing his fuckin thing. I’m too busy needed everyone to like me all the time. In fact, Stan once told me that walking down the street with me is like walking with someone who’s running for mayor of nothing.” He pauses and listens to the audience laugh. “So yeah. I’m not as cool as Mike.”

“Then you’ve got Ben. Good old Benjamin. I called him Haystack when we were kids for a reason I don’t remember. Ben’s a good dude, which I said already, but it bears repeating because he is probably the good-est dude I know. You know? Like, not the best, that’s the wrong word, sorry Ben, but like, the best at being good. The most good. Like the end of Boy Meets World. You guys remember that?”

There’s cheering from the audience.

“Yeah, when Feeny tells them to be good, and then Topanga’s like –“ he prepares to imitate her, “well, actually,” he returns to his own voice, “like a nerdsplainer or something. So Feeny has to actually explain that he means be good, as in be a good person, you dumb idiot. So yeah. That’s how Ben is. He built us a clubhouse when we were kids. Like, all by himself? With no direction from any adult? He’s an architect now, by the way, and fucking rich as hell, so. Natural instinct or what the fuck ever.

“And he’s married! Can you believe that? Dude’s married as fuck.” The audience chuckles. “And his wife is actually another Loser! See, losers can find love. Except, in this case, Ben and Bev, his wife, the Loser, both outgrew their lowercase L loser-ness. They got really hot. Unfairly hot, honestly. Sometimes I look at Ben and I’m just like… what the fuck. We’re the same age. Why do I look twenty years older than him?” He gestures at himself, kicks a leg up a bit to demonstrate. “But this is it. This is all it’s ever gonna be, and I think it’s time to stop wondering when I’m gonna grow up and get big and strong and accept I grew up and became pudgy and addicted to caffeine. Like, Ben could run a marathon and I can’t make it ten minutes being awake in the morning without having coffee.”

“Bev is also beautiful. Maybe not as beautiful as Ben. You can decide, because she went and got famous, too. Beverly Marsh, you may have heard of her?” The crowd cheers loudly, possibly the loudest they’ve been all night. “Oh that’s gonna go straight to her head.” They laugh. “No, but seriously, you guys know her as Bev Marsh who kicked ass and got her shithead husband charged with domestic violence and took back her own company, in what has been a very popular story in the media.”

There’s more cheering. He waits for it to slow. “And before anyone asks, yes, he is as big a dick as he looks. And not a big dick in the good way.”

He picks up his water again and only takes a sip when he realizes how obviously his hands are shaking. “So she left her ex who has a small penis probably and now… She’s married to the good-est dude on the planet. Happy ending, right? Right. But you’ve seen pictures of them, right? Is Ben not ridiculously attractive? At least he’s a good guy. A good, very pretty man.

“By the way, I’m into guys, if that wasn’t getting increasingly obvious.” He’s clutching the microphone so tightly his knuckles are white. There’s a short pause before he can make out the two main responses: cheering, and uncomfortable laughter like they’re unsure if this is a joke or not. He breathes in deeply, exhales slowly. “That’s not a joke, in case you’re like, waiting for a punchline or something.”

Then the cheering gets even louder and a few people whoop and he grins. And then there’s a light suddenly at the back of the auditorium and he realizes the doors are opening and there are people walking through them, people leaving even though the theatre’s rule is that you can’t leave once the show starts unless there’s an emergency. In a panicked haze, he counts about 15 people before the doors close again.

“Well, damn,” he says finally. “They aren’t supposed to let you out unless there’s an emergency.”

The crowd quiets and he takes another sip of water. “Like, is the comedian coming out an emergency? Honestly. I had all these really graphic gay sex jokes prepared to make the already uncomfortable homophobes even more uncomfortable.”

He pauses, pushes through it. “That makes it less fun for me, but whatever.”

The audience cheers again and he feels a little lighter. He knew people weren’t going to like it. At least nobody like, threw a tomato at him or something.

“Anyway, in case you were wondering, no I am not secretly pining after Ben, even though he’s very attractive, as I’ve said multiple times. Or even Bev, because I’m bi and they’re both beautiful. No, currently not pining, sorry to disappoint. Moving on to the very last capital and lowercase L Loser! Before I begin, I just want to physically describe what Eddie Kaspbrak looked like as a 13 year old in the 80s. He wore either a Polo or a graphic t-shirt, red athletic shorts that were incredibly short – and yes, they were always red, because he had five pairs of these red athletic shorts that he rotated through the week – and he wore a fanny pack, either a black one or a red one, because he had two – and for a short time during that summer of 89 he had a large white plaster cast on his arm, and written in giant letters in black marker was the word LOSER.

“And like, that information isn’t actually relevant to the story, but I needed you to know that.”

He lets the audience laugh for a moment. “If you’re wondering about the LOSER on his cast thing, apparently he went to the pharmacy to pick up his medication – the inhaler he didn’t need for his fake asthma and the sugar pills his mom made him take at a set time every day. Now we don’t have time to unpack all of that… - but a girl from school was the daughter of the pharmacist. And because it was the 80s and nobody cared about anything kids did, she got to sit at the counter and see just what medication everyone was getting. So this girl tells Eddie she wants to sign his cast, right? And, oh God, poor naïve little Eddie, didn’t realize she had written LOSER until she was done. And then she told him that all his medications were placebos and that his mom had only convinced him he was sick.”

Richie can literally see horrified faces in the first few rows. He pushes on. “Anyway, Eddie ended up fixing his cast by taking a red marker and putting a V over the S so that it said LOVER instead. And then he got mad when I laughed and told him that made it even worse.” There a few chuckles. He’s too nervous, his hand is sweating around the microphone.

“So all of that was just a very longwinded way of telling you all how absolutely batshit Eddie’s mom was. I used to go over to his house after school or on the weekends and knock on the door, and she’d answer in this long nightgown, wearing slippers and sometimes curlers in her hair even though she never fucking went anywhere, and she’d glare at me with those beady little eyes. And she wouldn’t say anything, she’d just stare and wait for you to say something.”

He prepared his young Richie voice, very high pitched and slow. “So I’d stand there and I’d be like, Hey Mrs K., can Eddie-, and she would say no! and slam the door, and then I’d go, -come out and play?, except obviously I was staring at a closed door by that point, so Eddie clearly could not come out and play.”

He’s got his rhythm back, the audience laughing along.

“So sweet, innocent, pure naïve little Eddie would sneak out his window and we’d go the arcade or the movies. Mrs. K. didn’t even catch on to the window thing until we were like, 16. And by then, Eddie had already had his shining moment of glory.

“Eddie went home from the pharmacy and after redecorating his cast I called him and told him to meet all the Losers down at the old creepy house because where else would 7 thirteen years olds hang out? So Eddie starts walking to the front door and he’s blocked by his mother. She’s still wearing the nightgown and slippers, by the way.

“She told him he couldn’t go because we were a bad influence and we got his arm broken and he loved his friends more than his mother and like, yeah, all of that shit was true-“

He stopped to listen to the audience laugh, unable to hold back a few chuckles of his own.

“So then she tells him to take his medicine. Like a fucking sugar pill was going to make him suddenly be like, actually mommy, I want to stay here and watch soap operas with you!” As the crowd laughs he pats himself on the back for his perfect Eddie Voice. They’d put a lot of work into this particular bit to make sure Richie got it right.

“Then Eddie looks at his mom, pill bottle open in his hand and he says, my pills, ma?, and the fact that he called her ma was important, because all of this shit messed the dude up so much he once called his ex-wife mommy, and he says, he tells her, I fuckin swear to you he goes, my pills, ma? These are gazebos! They’re bullshit!”

It’s difficult to get through it without laughing, but the audience is laughing so hard that he thinks it’s probably okay.

“And when he met up with us, because he threw his pills at his fuckin crazy-ass mom and just walked out of the house like a little pint sized badass, he told us what happened. He was fuming, pacing around in circles and ranting, which he did often, there was a lot of repressed anger stored up in that tiny body, and when he’s done his face is so red you could barely see the freckles on his cheeks, like, tomato red with fury, and Stan starts fucking laughing.

“And the rest of us didn’t understand what was happening because as far as any of us knew, a gazebo was just a nifty little place where you could be indoors and out of doors at the same time. And I asked what a gazebo was because fuck, maybe I had the definition wrong! And Eddie just said, I told you! It’s bullshit! And that was when Stan explained what a placebo was, and when Eddie heard the word placebo he’s like, oh yeah. My bad.”

“Now you may recall a mention of this particular Loser having an ex-wife who he once called mommy, and not in a sexy way, and I’ll tell you a little bit about her. Do you remember when I described Eddie’s mom? Okay, picture that but twenty years younger.”

The crowd seems unsure if it’s okay to laugh.

“And listen, I’m not saying Eddie has an Oedipus complex or anything but, like, draw your own conclusions.”

That gets the audience laughing, and he waits a few moments and plays with the cord of the microphone a bit before he continues.

“And now,” he announces grandly, “your feature presentation.”

There’s laughter of people who haven’t heard those words in 15 years. “But seriously, that brings us around to why I became a drug addict in the eyes of society. Which, like, isn’t that such shit? To make things up about something as serious as addiction just to sell your stupid fucking magazines? There’s not a joke in there, it’s just stupid as shit.”

He hears agreement from the crowd but it’s quiet, so he goes on. “So I’m backstage, ready to go on, and my phone rings, right? Oh, another detail I forgot is that, uh, we forgot. Like, each other. You know how everybody goes off in different directions because you’re currently living in Hell and not even the best of friends can keep you there, and before like, texting and shit, communicating with people was hard, man. What am I gonna do, write a fuckin letter like I’m in the old times? Those fuckers had it even worse! They wake up every day and they’re like, fuck, I need to contact someone far away, but it’s the old times. I’ll write a letter and give it to a bird and hope that works out. No! So you drift apart, you don’t visit your hometown because your parents miss you so much they just follow you to California, you meet new people, you form new friendships, and you forget about your teenage best friends.”

He takes another drink of water.

“Yeah, I know, so super sad. Anyway, I get this call and I answer even though I didn’t recognize the number and this guy is like, hey Richie, it’s Mike!, and I’m thinking, who the fuck is Mike? Do I know a Mike?, and he’s like, you know, from Derry?

“And it’s crazy how all these memories hit you, you know? Like, shit, how did I forget about this stuff? Why have I not thought about anyone from my hometown in like, literally 25 years?” He holds his hand up to block his mouth and loudly whispers into the microphone, “it’s called repression, look it up. If you don’t remember your childhood you might have it, too!”

“And like, by the way, these thoughts are happening like, onstage.” He hears laughter and grins. “Yeah, Mike reminds me that we’d all made this agreement 25 fucking years ago that we’d all meet up and I was immediately like, yeah, no, that’s not happening.”

More laughter. “I was like, fuck you Mike, I’ve repressed this, like, gay half of my soul for 25 years and now all of a sudden I’m puking off a balcony? Fuck that shit, right? No, I’m good right here, living in my homeland called Denial. Thanks for calling.”

There’s laughter again, like he’d hoped there’d be. He’s been so nervous about his jokes that were actually about being bi weren’t going to connect, that no one would feel it, no one would laugh.

“Anyway, I basically walk onstage with this fucking movie of my childhood playing in my head and then I realize that holy fuck, being attracted to men is not the only thing I repressed, holy shit, oh God, I don’t know my own name.” He puts on a panicked voice, then laughs.

“But seriously, so, do any of you remember anything from the summer of 1989?” There are some cheers but not many. “Well. I sure fucking didn’t. And then I did! Does anyone remember a news story in August of 1989, about this fucked up kid dressed up as a clown, going around and like, murdering other kids?”

He can see horror on every face in the front few rows. Back then, it had been blamed on Henry, once he was caught for killing his dad, and he apparently confessed to everything, including the fact that he wore a fucking clown costume when he did it. Richie’s not going to tell his audience that it was actually It, injured but alive, guiding Henry on what to say and do.

Richie puts on a fake cheery voice. “Welcome to Derry!”

There’s uncomfortable laughter. Richie thrives off discomfort and he fights a smile. “So you might remember I mentioned a particular demon spawn named Henry? Killed a dog?” There are gasps. “Yep. One of his first victims was a little boy named Georgie, who just happened to be the little brother of Big Bill Denbrough.”

He nods at the gasps he hears.

“So naturally, as 13 year old children with absolutely no self-preservation, we start searching for Georgie. That summer, there were so many kids that went missing. 9 total. There were missing signs everywhere, because there were no bodies.”

He pauses. There’s quiet murmurs. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he says, holding up an apologetic hand. “Did that make you uncomfortable?”

“Try remembering that from your childhood while you’re trying to introduce yourself onstage!” He can feel the audience warming back up. There’s some laughter. “Anyway, eventually Mike convinces me to go back to Derry. We all meet up at this restaurant, and it’s like we hadn’t spent any time apart. There’s this moment where I’m like, oh. So this is what friendship is. Interesting.” He laughs at himself. “And, you know, I’ve never been a particularly romantic guy. Most people don’t like it when you make dick jokes during sex, which like – “ He exaggerates looking confused. “But holy shit, you guys. When I walked in and saw everyone for the first time in 25 years, it was like there was only one other person in the room. 2 dicks, 1 room.

“And I feel like you can probably see where I’m going with this, so I’ll just say it. When I saw Eddie for the first time in 25 years, my immediate thought was, holy fuck I wanna bone that guy so hard!” He grins at the laughing audience. He starts laughing, remembering Eddie’s eyeroll when he’d run that line by him. “And then, then my second thought was like, holy shit it’s not even just a boner! It’s like a boner in my heart. A heart boner! So I start remembering all these little moments, like I was trying to remember how I handled this crush as a kid, right? Because I made it out unscathed, so obviously I did a good job? What did kid me do? Well, kid me’s way of dealing with wanting to bone his best friend was to do some really fucking dumb shit.”

He pauses. “Like, I’m in this homophobic ass town and I take my bisexual little ass to the goddamn kissing bridge so I can carve our initials into it with all the other couples. I thought it was the epitome of romance, and if Eddie ever saw it I would just walk into the ocean.”

He smiles. “I could go into detail about our time in Derry, and why a certain story that you probably saw on the news was such a mystery, but honestly, it’s not particularly funny, and I don’t want to waste your time.” He talks in his most polite voice, making the crowd laugh. “Basically, the same weekend of our reunion, Henry Bowers thought it would be fuckin cool to escape the institution he’d been in since we were kids. And he thought it’d be really fuckin cool to dress up as a clown and kill some more kids! And while I’m at it, if I happen to see a particular group of Losers walking around town, I might just try to kill them, too!

“None of us were terribly injured, or anything. Except for the PTSD we’re all sure to develop,” he laughs. “But Eddie. Eddie was a little hero, and uh – the dude took a fuckin knife through the cheek to save my ass. Not like, my literal ass. My figurative ass. And he’s still got this big scar on his face and like… You know how people always say that scars can be sexy? I’ve always been like, what the fuck does that even mean? But now I know, and I eat my words as passionately as I eat Eddie’s ass.”

Someone shrieks with laughter, and the whole audience is cracking up. He grins. “See, that joke would’ve given me so much more satisfaction if those homophobes were still here, feeling incredibly uncomfortable.” The laughter doesn’t stop. He waits.

“Anyway. Eddie divorced his wife because it turns out,” he says excitedly, “I wasn’t the only one repressing gay feelings!”

They clap and cheer.

“Now, you might notice that we are currently in New York City. Do you know that?”

The audience keeps cheering.

“I used to live in California. But between the two of us, I’ve got the more flexible career, and he’s got the more flexible… well.” He smirks. “So I live here now! And Eddie still works as a risk analyst – yeah, my boyfriend is fucking risk analyst, whatever the fuck that is, and it was created before fun. But in all seriousness, living with him is amazing. Do you know how awesome it is to have clean sheets every week?! I use hangers for my clothes now! I order so much less takeout! Living with my boyfriend is the best thing that ever happened to my sorry ass. I know how to run the dishwasher now,” he says with wonder. “I’m so much better as a human being! And he doesn’t even do anything except exist in the same apartment as me!”

He smiles at the laughter he hears. “See, Eddie’s a bit of a hypochondriac, which means very many things, of which I will tell you.

One, it means he is always one step ahead of germs. Our apartment is spotless. I never really knew what bleach was for before he told me to get off my lazy ass and help me clean this fucking kitchen, Richie. And I don’t even mind? I’m like, this heart-eyed motherfucker – sorry, Eddie’s the motherfucker –“ he pauses for the shocked laughs. “ – I’m this heart-eyed motherfucker and I’m like yeah babe, I’ll get right on it babe, oh you want me to stick a fork into that electrical socket? Sure thing, babe. I don’t even – it’s fucking ridiculous and also fucking awesome. Nobody ever told me that being in love is so good.”

He smiles at the applause.

“Number two, is that he also takes his physical health very seriously. So, and you’re absolutely not going to believe me when I say this because I’m me, but he is in shape. You can actually like, see his abs. It’s insane. I always thought that was fake. At first I saw him take his shirt off and I was like, yikes, actually, I’m going to go before you see my naked body, but I guess the dad bod is in right now. I’m not even a dad, I just eat terribly.

“Three is that we are stocked up on like, every over the counter medication that’s ever existed. So I never like, have a headache and then realize I don’t have anything to take because I’m a disaster human being, now I have to go to the store with this headache! No, man. The store is already here.”

He pauses.

“So the hypochondria thing is good for some things. And it definitely sucks that we spent so much time apart, but it also makes it fun to reminisce on shit. Like, apparently one day after I was like,” he brings his kid Richie Voice back, holding back a laugh. “Can Eddie come out and play?  - which, damn, isn’t that suggestive wording. Calm down, kid Richie - and Eddie was standing behind his mom and after she closed the door on Richie she’d told him to, and I quote, ‘stop hanging around that Tozier boy, he’s dirty’ which, okay, rude, teenage boys are not exactly the pinnacle of good hygiene but there’s a lot of shit going on, and Eddie fuckin – He fuckin told her, I don’t care, I like him dirty!”

Loud laughter fills his ears.

“And now he’s telling me, I didn’t even mean it in like, a sexual way! I was speaking very literally!, and I just kind of give him that look that says I absolutely don’t believe you, and he goes, stop trying to make our childhood love about sex! It was good and pure and innocent!”

The laughter continues and he keeps going. “And so I tell him that it was definitely not pure or innocent from my side of things. But I also told him about the kissing bridge and he cried. Also, quick note, I want to make it known that I asked Eddie if he was alright with me making fun of him in my act and he said yeah, just don’t, like, say I’m an asshole or that you don’t like me.” He feigns shock. “I’m like, that’s it? The bar is so low! And why would I say those things anyway? Do you expect me to walk on stage and say,” he deepens his voice, “my boyfriend is an asshole! And I don’t like him!”

The laughter makes him giddy.

“Besides, it’s not even true! My boyfriend is an asshole and I like him so much! So yeah, he’s cool with me telling everyone he cried. Besides, I cried when he got stabbed in the face so. That probably makes it even. But then he remembered when I told him writing a V over the S on his cast just made it worse and he said, I was trying to be poetic! You just wanted to be a little shit! And I said, nah, I was definitely just deflecting.” He stops to feign what is supposed to be Eddie’s confused face. “Yeah, the word lover combined with the tiny shorts you used to wear really did it for me, I tell him. He was not impressed with my answer, but he rarely is,” he says happily. “Like, a few weeks ago I let him read over all my jokes, just to be 100% sure he was okay with everything, and he okayed it, and he was laughing while he read it, and I was like, well shit, that was easy. The bar really is low.”

He waits for the audience to finish laughing and grins.

“And then, he smiled at me and said, Hey Heart-Eyes, go stick a fork in that electrical socket.”

He exhales, listening to the sound of success with a smile so wide it made his cheeks hurt.

“Thank you so much, New York! Goodnight!”