I used to blame myself for every little misstep: found out about my dream job the day after it was filled? MY fault. Missed the bus? Darn you, Steve. Son from my first marriage gets daughter from my second marriage pregnant while I had them for the weekend? I guess I should beat myself up.
Then everything changed. One night, I was performing at this party. The set was going great. Not laughs exactly, but the sort of soft eye contact that says "keep telling it, brother. Your observations about life as a saved Christian make my soul shine." I had just killed with the bit about the Korean Pentecostal who everyone thinks is speaking in tongues when he' actually speaking Korean, then all of the sudden the mood changed. I mean, Satan entered the room in a palpable way-and he made that microphone hot in a jiffy.
When I got home, I went to the videotape of my performance and pinpointed the start of the heckling, booing and chair-throwing to one specific joke about my friend Mike. Now this is a joke that kills on most nights. It was the one about St. Peter turning a guy in the room (in this case, Mike) away from heaven because of what he did on the 11th green all those years ago.
As I watched myself on the video, dodging makeshift missiles and even a couple of small children, my mind traveled back in time to something that my mentor, Jared Bosta, the accordion-playing Christian impressionist, told me before my first gig: "Steve, timing is everything."
Watching myself fending off the gentleman who was trying to stab me with a broken picture frame, it hit me that Jared wasn't just talking about comedic timing. He was talking timing in life!
If I had allowed a little more time after the Korean Pentecostal bit, or if it had been any night at the Christian Community center other than the night of Mike' wake, people would have laughed-a point that I tried to explain to the crowd as I held Mike' widow, Cheryl, hostage as a human shield and backed my way out the front door.
And as I sat in my apartment that night, watching the routine over and over on my camcorder, I started thinking back to all of the other things I had blamed on myself that could just as easily have been written off as "bad timing."
The time I got drunk and drove my Prius into my ex-wife' wedding reception, the time the police burst in on me with the Nixon mask and all that pig' blood-even the timing of my life. Had I been conceived, say, 10 years later, when my 16-year-old mother would have been allowed to get an abortion without asking her father for permission, this whole predicament could have been avoided.