Tuesday, June 10, 2008

THE DATE by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. After telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gethard recalls his first date. The next installment of Bedtime Stories is July 9th.

Mike Cohen was my best friend. And I hated Mike Cohen.

This might seem like a peculiar thing to say, unless you’re the main character of “A Separate Peace.” But it was true. I secretly hated my best friend in high school.

There were many reasons for this. Mike was an all-county level tennis player; I got cut from every sports team I ever tried out for. Mike lived in a big house in a tony neighborhood; I lived in a modest house in a middle-class neighborhood. Mike had excellent grades and got along with his parents; I had shitty grades and constantly pissed my parents off.

But these were all secondary reasons to the real reason I secretly hated my best friend.

The main reason: Mike always had a girlfriend. And I never did.

And, to make matters worse, I usually had a painful, obsessive crush on whatever girl he was dating. But not while he was dating her. It was always before.

Hi. I’m Gregg Gethard. I’m the host of the spectacularly famous show entitled Bedtime Stories. I’m also the sexiest person in Philadelphia sketch comedy, as made evident by my many nude roles in The Sixth Borough. I’m also a revered lover of both life and song.

But before all of that, I was a 16-year-old boy. I was scrawny, I was dorky, and I was a dateless loser.

This is a story which you have not heard before, unless you are my wife and it’s the first night we met and I tell this to you. It is a story of jealousy, loneliness and good-old fashioned teenaged angst. Also, it briefly touches upon the legendary O.J.
Simpson Car Chase.

This is the true story of my very first date.

Mike and Me
Mike and I first met in reading class in 8th grade. We bonded over a sense of humor that leaned towards the grotesque: serial killers, the music of legendary costumed death metal band GWAR and the many weirdos who populated our town we unanimously referred to as “drifters.”

(My favorite drifter: my old next-door neighbor, who one day became the midget/dwarf bodybuilding champion of New Jersey.)

I’m not sure when I first started to secretly hate Mike. It was probably around junior year. Both of us that year joined the marching band (I pretended to play the flugelhorn, a story in and of itself) and this opened up a new demographic of girls to us: nerdy band geeks. (Say what you want about American Pie, but they nailed that.) More accurately, it opened up a new demographic of girls to him while I constantly played third wheel.

But that suggests that I was that creepy dude who always liked the girl his friend was dating. This is not accurately true. I was certainly creepy. However, in almost every case, I liked the girl before Mike even noticed her. It never failed. Beth. Aubrey. Jen L. Sue. Allison. Jen W. I would develop a crush on said girl, ask her out (re: have a mutual friend ask her out for me), get politely turned down by said girl (“You’re such a good friend!” are still the worst five words in the English language to me.), and then a few weeks later get awkwardly approached by Mike, who knew full-well the crushes I suffered through. He’d be really cool about it. He’d either call me or talk to me after school when we’d hang out. He would ask if it was okay if he asked out whomever, that if it bothered me, he wouldn’t, etc.

Making matters worse, I would hear all about Mike’s dating rituals. He had a whole routine set up. He’d invite said girl over to his house. At that time, he’d cook dinner for her. Then, after dinner, he’d read to her his favorite poetry. (Usually Jim Morrison lyrics. Mike could’ve use better taste.) And then, after that, there would be a make-out/heavy petting session on a couch in his rec room.

It was like I was a football scout team for his romantic life. I’d like said girl, I’d find out the details about her, I’d start initial conversations with her -- the equivalent of running plays in practice-- and then a few weeks later it was actual game time. And I’d get to watch the game, but I was the third string quarterback. I wasn’t even the backup quarterback who can play if the starting quarterback gets hurt. I was the backup to THAT guy, who is usually found pacing the sidelines wearing a team-issued rain coat and holding a clipboard.

But then, Mike started dating Nina Schwartzman.

Enter: Amy
I had a bunch of classes with Nina and Mike. Nina was funny and had giant boobs. She was also about three inches taller than me. I was ridiculously short growing up. As a result, I am unable to find myself attracted to any women who are more than 5’3” in height. (So, if you are taller than that and are attracted to me, I’m sorry, I won’t make out with you no matter how badly you want to make out with me, which, let‘s face it, is probably very badly. Also, I’m married.)

So, I was relieved. Mike had finally started dating a girl that I wasn’t into at all. But there was one problem with their relationship. In New Jersey, you can’t drive until you’re 17. Both Mike and Nina were 16. And Nina’s parents were notoriously strict, so there was no way they would let her go to Mike’s house unsupervised after school. Or out with him in any scenario whatsoever.

Nina’s best friend was Amy Klein. You remember Diane Court from Say Anything? Amy Klein was West Orange’s version of that. She was brilliant (she went to Stanford on a full scholarship) and, most importantly, she was really hot. And she was also 17.

Nina and Mike approached Amy. They inquired about her going out on a double date. Her parents would let her hang out with Amy, and they wouldn’t have to know Mike was involved at all. So, they then asked Amy who’d she’d like to go out with.

Her answer was me.

To say I was flabbergasted is an understatement. I just assumed Amy Klein had no idea who I was. Or, if she did know who I was, she probably thought I was pond scum.

Mike broke the news to me during gym class. I tried to play it cool -- sure, I’d go out on a date with Amy Klein, that’s cool. But I’m pretty sure everyone could have detected my excitement as I now had a gigantic sweatpants boner.

The Date Begins
Being this was a double date, Mike could not do his usual pasta dinner/bad poetry/rec room routine. We decided to actually go out.

Amy and Nina arrived at Mike’s around 7. We hopped in Amy’s car and went to the Grand Palace Inn, one of three diners which catered to high school students in our town.

While waiting for the girls to pick us up, Mike and I performed our favorite ritual: pounding Mountain Dew after Mountain Dew while watching taped episodes of The Richard Bey Show. Our sugar rush/hyperactivity hit an apex when, before our meal arrive, Mike and I started throwing containers of creamer on each other. Nina soon joined in the fun, pouring artificial in Mike’s hair. Amy, the entire time, turned her back completely to us and kept on muttering “oh my god” over and over again.

After dinner ended (after being scolded three times by our waiter), we then embarked on the second part of the date: a trip to Caldor.

Caldor, for the uninitiated, was a white trash version of K-Mart (wrap your head around that) which had franchises located throughout North Jersey. On four separate occasions, I saw Caldor employees arrested in the store while their co-workers didn’t even flinch. Their bathroom was also notoriously disgusting -- during one bout of diarrhea (the only way I would ever go into that bathroom), I saw smeared on the mirror “FUCK U” in human feces.

The reason to go to Caldor on our date was because the store had a photo booth in the front. The plan was for the four of us to take pictures (like Daniel LaRussa and Elizabeth Shue did in the date montage in the first Karate Kid.) However, Amy remained outside the store, telling us that she wouldn’t be caught dead entering Caldor. (Mind you, at least 65% of my wardrobe -- largely plaid, button down shirts – came from the store.) Mike, Nina and I then took a series of pictures, including one that I know I have somewhere but I can’t find to upload onto the blog -- the border is a fireworks pattern which reads “GRANDMA’S GANG” on the bottom, Nina is in the middle laughing as Mike and I are shirtless and somehow upside down.

We then drove back to Mike’s house. He and Nina immediately went to the rec room for their long-awaited make-out session. This left Amy and I alone. I had no idea what to do or what to say.

Then Amy asked me to go on The Deck with her.

The Deck
Mike’s backyard had a huge deck which was perfect for floor hockey and setting off fireworks. It had a sweeping view of the New York City skyline, the true sign that your parents had money and that I can relate to class conflict as detailed in The Great Gatsby.

Amy sat down on a bench. I sat down on a chair away from her. We didn’t talk at first, but then we started making small chit-chat about our mutual classes, mutual friends and mutual funds. Then there was a lull
in the conversation.

“You can sit next to me, you know,” Amy told me.

I went and I sat next to her. On the far opposite side of the bench.

“You can sit closer to me, too.” She then slid all the way to my side of the bench, where she then wrapped her arms around my body and placed her head on my shoulder.

Up to this point of my life, this the most physical contact I had ever been with a member of the opposite sex, except for the time Michelle Nagle beat the crap out of me in 7th grade.

And then she started weeping.

“My life… my life is so hard. It’s just so FUCKING hard. And no one… no one knows how hard it is.”

Once again, I could feel the boner emerging in the crotch of my Caldor-purchased khaki pants.

“My mom, she puts so much stress on me. I have to get an A. If I don’t I won’t please Mother Dearest. I… I have to get an A. If I don’t, I can’t sleep. BUT NO ONE KNOWS WHAT THAT IS LIKE!”

I started to think that this might actually work. I might actually make out with a chick, let alone a hot chick that everyone in my peer group wanted to make out with.

“Do… do you remember last year when I went to physics camp?”

I lied and said I did.

“I never told anyone this before… I didn’t go there... I... I went to a mental hospital and rehabilitation center. I… I’ve been bulimic and anorexic since I’ve been 12. My... my kidneys almost shut down completely from the lack of nutrition in my body.”

Now, Amy had asked me to sit on the bench with her. Then, unwarranted, she threw her arms around me. Then she started to cry about the myriad of her problems. And then she confided in me the secret burden of a series of eating disorders.

No doubt, Amy Klein wanted me to touch her boobs, no matter how withered they may be from her routine of brutal starvation and constant vomiting.

I now had the biggest boner of my life.

I plotted my move. How was I going to French her? Should I dip my head under? Should I grab her by her chin? I saw Casablanca for the first time a few months earlier -- should I go full Humphrey Bogart style and ram my tongue down her thorax, or should my first kiss be a gentle and brief affair, like Fred Savage with Winnie Cooper in the pilot episode of The Wonder Years?

But then everything about this evening was about to make complete sense to me.

“Do you know what the worst part of my life is, Gregg? DO YOU?” Amy then looked at the rec room window. “I… I am completely in love… with Mike Cohen.”

On cue, Mike and Nina came running out of the house. They told us to hurry up and come inside. O.J. Simpson was in a car chase. I sat on a chair, with Amy on the opposite side of the room. I didn’t even react when Captain Jenks got on the air and had a conversation with Al Michaels resulting in him saying “Bababooey” over and over again.

About an hour later, my dad picked me up.

And that’s when I started weeping.


Anonymous said...


Ryan Wood said...

Holy crap, Gregg. I laughed so hard my sides hurt. We had a Caldor up here, about 20 minutes outside Plymouth.