***“It is funny.”
***“Here man, it is.”
***“I think if you told that joke at a stand-up show you’d get hella laughs.”
***“And I think I wouldn’t.”
***“Right well, there’s only one way to decide this…”
Rory walks over to the UNIVAC, inputting the numerous variables. The hulking computer comes to life, whirring, its tiny lights blinking on and off as if adorning a Christmas tree. Seconds later the whirring is replaced by a mechanical grinding as a piece of paper emerges from the UNIVAC’s printing port. Rory tears it off the reel.
***“Let’s see now.”
Ziggy sidles up alongside him and they begin to read the UNIVAC’s projection…
UNIVAC SIMULATION 42,572 — THE JOKE
The crowd erupts in a frenzy as Ziggy takes to the stage, looking like a young Chris Rock by way of Wexford. They’re going nuts and bananas, like some sort of incredibly decadent banana and nut flavored milkshake. He was here — returned from his worldwide tour of every single country on earth (for that was the extent of his appeal) — he was finally home.
He casually walks to center stage, the audience swelling before him in anticipation, like a wave about to crash, then stops at the microphone, adjusting it to his height. The noise of the crowd dies to a hush, everyone waiting for what comes next.
The crowd erupts again, unable to contain themselves. He just stands there smiling, waiting for them to settle down.
“It’s good to be back.”
Again the crowd goes wild – some people in the front starting to speak in tongues. He raises his hands and silence gradually returns.
“Now I’ve been all over the world and I can tell you that — some things? Some things never change. Take airplane peanuts for example.”
There’s a low murmur of laughter from the crowd as they imagine airplane peanuts.
“I mean, what’s the deal with them? I’m sitting at 36,000 feet, flying through the air, and the best thing they have for me is peanuts? I mean, come on!”
The crowd is in hysterics.
“Another thing that never changes is clubbing. I had a show in Dublin the other night.”
A handful of hollers emanate from the crowd.
“Yeah, shout-out to Dublin. Anyway, after the show I decided to go to a club — just a standard run-of-the-mill Dublin club. So I walk up to the door man, pretty much ready to stroll on in — and he stops me, ‘Not tonight.’ I’m like, ‘Not tonight? Then when? Can I come back in the morning?’”
The crowd laughs at the funny joke.
“He doesn’t see the funny side though, he just says, ‘You’re not getting in tonight, tomorrow, or any other day.’ So obviously I’m confused, but I can hazard a guess as to why he won’t let me in, so I take a shot in the dark, I say to him, ‘It’s because I’m black isn’t it?’ He just kind of chuckles and looks at me for a second, then he says, ‘No, it’s because you’re from Wexford.’”
The crowd is dead silent — so silent you could hear a Wexford penny drop. They stare around at each other, shell-shocked, processing the joke that they’ve just heard. Was it funny? Should they laugh anyway? The vast silence seems to stretch out for an eternity. Then, out of the nothingness, a lone clap cuts through it.
The crowd strains their necks looking to the source of the sound: a woman has taken to her feet, clapping — slowly at first, but steadily, tears streaming down her face. Every time her hands connect it shakes the audience to their core, hammering at their hearts, ringing out like a church bell of truth. Suddenly a man behind her stands up and joins the rhythmic chorus. Then another, and another, until the whole audience are on their feet applauding what was now, undoubtedly, the greatest joke of all time.
Rory, having finished reading the UNIVAC’s detailed report, looks over at Ziggy.