I once had a friend named Joe.
Well, “friend” is probably too strong a word. We worked together, and inasmuch as one “gets along” with certain co-workers more than others and chooses to spend what minimal downtime there is chatting with Person A as opposed to Person B when the choices are extremely limited, we were friends. Joe was trying desperately to get me to audition for his improv troupe. He said that I would be perfect for improv, as I had a terrific sense of humor, and additionally, since every member of the company was supposed to “recruit” at least one person to audition, it would really be helping him out as well.
I was a tad skeptical, as this had all the earmarks of a cult, but I had been taking some improv classes with ComedySportz New York, and Joe said the group he belonged to was the licensed Theatresports group in NYC – which was at least as reputable as say, Amway or Scientology. Seriously, though, after asking around I did learn that Freestyle Repertory Theatre (as Joe’s company was officially called) had a solid reputation. In fact, I had actually read a review of the company a few years prior in an old issue of “Games Magazine” and was intrigued by what I had read. I eventually stumbled across ComedySportz, mistakenly thinking the two companies were one and the same.
So I went out for the audition, and lo and behold, got in. However, people were very hesitant to warm up to me, and after a short period of time, I found out why. Joe had told the company that he and I were “best friends from way back” which of course made them all wary. You see, I didn’t know it yet, but Joe was a pathological liar. And after all, what kind of person would be friends with Joe for such an extended period of time as he had claimed I had been?
As I later learned, the “jig was finally up” for Joe within FRT when he told them all that he had booked a gig doing a segment for “Sesame Street” in which he was to perform alongside Hillary Clinton. He missed a few weeks of rehearsals as a result, but it certainly was for a good reason. The company was all excited for him, but when the segment with the then-First Lady eventually aired, Joe was nowhere to be found. He acted all dejected, saying they must have cut his part.
This was apparently the last straw in a series of lies which always seemed to involve Joe needing to miss rehearsal, and apparently, Joe’s family tree had a few extra branches than most humans, which the directors of the company finally figured out when one of his grandmothers passed away – for the fifth time in a three-year period.
I like to make my own opinions about people, rather than rely on others’ impressions. Just because a person has rubbed you the wrong way doesn’t necessarily make them a bad person. If they’re loyal to me, then I’ll stand by them. However, it was when I heard Joe telling a familiar sounding story in the lobby before a show that my eyes were thrust wide open to the reality of Joe’s subterfuge.
One of the first stories Joe had told me when we worked together was about how he had gone to see a showing of Berry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon” at one of those retro film-festivals. He said there was a guy with a thick Jamaican accent sitting a few rows in front of him who kept shouting at the screen throughout the film, and had the crowd rolling in the aisles. The coup de grace came when the film’s hero did a roundhouse karate kick, knocking out the much-larger-than-he foe. Joe said the Jamaican guy stood up and headed for the exits, remarking to the audience as he left, “He knock him on his ass, and there ain’t no comin’ back from dat… ah-ah-ah.” It was a real funny tale.
Imagine my surprise when a few months later, I overheard Joe telling an audience member that he had just come back from Toronto – which was actually true, as he had gone for an International Theatresports Tournament with two other FRT members – where he had filmed a scene in a sequel to Berry Gordy’s “The Last Dragon” and even got to deliver a line of dialogue, which he then shared with his enrapt audience… ah-ah-ah.
At least Joe was telling the absolute truth about one thing: I was perfect for improv. So I do thank him for that.