The first nine chapters of The Regular Guys are free. Enjoy.
A Dark, Smokey Comedy Club
Morty Klineman, professional talent agent, sat in the back of the room and nursed his glass of cheap bourbon. The room was typically dark and this one smelled like booze and cigarettes – not that Morty Klineman disapproved of, or was unfamiliar with, those smells. In his upper 50’s with half-glasses perpetually perched on the end of his nose and a toupee that looked like it was about to meow, he had been a professional talent agent for what seemed like every single one of his years. This was hardly the first smelly room Morty had ever nursed a drink in.
The comedian he had working tonight was second up, sharing the bill with a hot woman comic who was fresh off a late-night talk show appearance and two guys he had never heard of. His guy had knocked out some good shows recently, the crowd seemed live – they were certainly drinking enough – and Morty felt they were in for a good night.
First, however, he was obliged to sit through two misfits who called themselves The Regular Guys, whoever the hell they were; Morty had never heard of them.
As soon as they took the stage, however, Morty found they had his complete and undivided attention. One guy, sorta chubby wearing a navy blue suit with black hair that was both slightly thinning and a little curly on top immediately jumped off the stage, pulled out a roll of money from his pocket and started dispensing dollar bills to those in the first row. When he got to one man he started to proffer a bill, thought better of it, then reached into his pocket for some spare change. The other misfit, a tall, lean man with all of his brown hair was filming the audience on his phone.
They did a bit where an Iraqi, kidnapped by the Lutheran Liberation Squadron, was threatened with beheading, only to be sent to a potluck instead, with the Iraqi returning immediately pleading to have his execution carried out.
Later, the chubby guy, who turned out to be named Lenny, was telling an audience member to pick a card and show it to Lenny. He then had the audience member place it back in the deck and Lenny, who had the general bearing of someone who actually knew magic, then searched through the cards one by one until he found the card and then triumphantly produced it and raised it above his head. Morty laughed out loud at that one, which was saying something since after 20,000 comedy shows he seldom laughed out loud at anything anymore.
After the show, he worked his way to the corner of the bar where the performers usually sat after their set. Morty spent as little time with his client as he could without completely offending him, before finding Lenny and Larry.
“My name’s Morty, Morty Klineman,” he said offering his hand and a card. “That was a hell of a show.”
Lenny and Larry graciously said thank you and the three talked about The Regular Guys set for a bit.
“How long have you guys been together?” Morty asked.
“A year or so. We ran into each other on the road,” Lenny said,
“Yeah, it was love at first sight,” Larry said, needling Lenny.
“Really? You guys hit off immediately?”
Lenny laughed. “Actually, I was pretty cold to the idea of working together at first.”
“Really?” Morty asked, sounding surprised.
“Yeah, I’m an idiot. I thought who’d want to see two guys on stage.”
“I think you’d be surprised,” Morty said.
“Bless you,” Larry said while actually blessing Morty by making the sign of the cross.
“Seriously, there are not many doing what you do. And they’re not doing it as well.”
“It took a while to get our sea legs, and we’re still under construction, but I like where we’re at,” Larry said.
“You’re an improv act, you’ll always be under construction,” Morty said, making it sound like the compliment it was intended to be. Morty had spent a lot of years representing comedians who did the same act every night and found more or less new material every night refreshing.
“Lenny thought we were whack taking the stage without a script, but I think he’s used to it by now.”
“How’d you ever convince him?”
“I didn’t actually,” Larry said. “It was…”
Lenny’s mobile rang. He fished it out of a pocket, saw who was calling and excused himself.
“It’s Officer Ann Shelton,” he told Larry.
“Really? Tell her I said hi.”
Lenny nodded, got up and left.
“Officer Ann Shelton?” Morty asked. “He’s not on parole, is he?”
“I don’t think so,” Larry said seriously. “I think it’s more like probation. His ankle bracelet must be off.”
Morty laughed a comedians-what-are-you-going-to-do type laugh. Larry related the story of how they met Officer Shelton.
“You’re kidding, you met the person who suggested you work together and who gave you your name – by definition a significant person in your life – when she pulled you over for speeding?”
Larry considered that for a moment and nodded.
“Yeah, I suppose so. I never thought of it like that.”
“So what’s she calling for now, to give more career advice? Does she have a routine for you? Hell, you should have her on the payroll.”
“She and Lenny became fast friends. She calls every now and then to see how we’re doing.”
“Lenny was really hesitant about working together?”
“Oh yeah. He was surrounding himself with force fields at the very mention of it. He was sure it wouldn’t work.”
“He’s still skeptical, but he’s giving us the benefit of the doubt for now.”
“What kind of goal do you guys have?”
“Lenny wants to hit it big. He always has.”
“I’m through with goals. I just want to do a good show every night. Everything else will take care of itself.”
“Everything else? Like what?”
“Fame. Fortune. You know.” Larry said, dismissing with a wave of the hand what a lot of people wanted, or thought they wanted.
“You’ll reach both goals.”
“I think so. We’re starting to reach mine every night. And I think Lenny realizes we have something here, and that if we make my goal he may well reach his.”
“I think you have something here. Who does your bookings?”
“Lenny actually takes care of that. I’m just R&D and Quality Control.
As if on cue, Lenny returned and took his seat.
“The Fuzz says hi,” he reported to Larry. Larry smiled and nodded. “She also wanted me to kiss you but I’m not going to kiss you.”
“Your loss,” Larry said, shrugging.
The three made small talk for a while, then Morty asked Lenny about who was representing them. He mentioned a talent firm out of Chicago. Morty nodded and sang their praises as if he owned it.
“Very reputable; very good people. And they’re obviously doing well by you. And if The Regular Guys ever want to branch out of the Midwest, I can help.”
Morty was a gentleman and was not about to say their current agent was not likely to get them anything west of the continental divide or east of the Appalachians and he certainly was not going to qualify his praise for their agency by using the words ‘but’ or ‘however’. But he was not above some subtle inference.
“We’ve been working pretty regularly,” Larry said.
“Yes, you have,” Morty said, sounding like someone who knew what he was talking about while having a hand dismissively when in fact tonight was the first time he had laid eyes on The Regular Guys. Morty had seen something in The Regular Guys, but he didn’t want to pester them. He changed the subject, the three chatted for a while longer with Larry staying up way past his bedtime, before parting.
The Rotating Bar
The French Quarter
New Orleans, Louisiana
“Well, what do you think?” Larry asked Lenny a couple of days later. They were in New Orleans to play one of the casinos down there for a few nights. Lenny and Larry weren’t actually staying at the Hotel Monteleone, which is one of the nicest hotels around, they were staying at the casino’s hotel, but they were wandering around the French Quarter after their show and had stopped in for a nightcap.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rotating bar before,” Lenny said.
“I meant about Morty,” Larry said. “What did you think about Morty?” Since having met Morty earlier in the week Larry had hardly mentioned it.
“I think he’s blind. Did you see that wig he was wearing?”
“No kidding; I had to fight the urge to pet it.”
“I talked to Morty yesterday,” Lenny said. “Morty’s pretty good at what he does. I did some checking. Not as good as he used to be, but his best clients retired or got nabbed for dating children or some stuff like that.”
Larry knew Lenny well enough to know that his labeling him ‘pretty good’ was a compliment. Still, though, Larry did not want to give the impression that he wanted to dump their current reps.
“Well, you know, we’re certainly keeping busy,” he said. “And we’re making some good money and the Precision Broom Corps is well in our rearview mirror…”
“They’re a squadron, Larry.”
Larry thought it over for a second.
“I thought they were a brigade?”
Lenny shook his head.
“Really?” he asked
“I think so; either that or a division.”
“Either way they were a tough act to follow.”
The two sat and enjoyed their drinks for a few moments.
“Morty’s kinda right about us not working either coast,” Lenny said. “I mean, I love the Midwest as much as you do, Lord knows, and I’ve been with these guys a long time, but, you know, sometimes you’ve gotta be flexible.”
Larry said nothing, allowing Lenny to complete the process of talking himself into changing agents. If Lenny had been the insecure type, Larry would have been quiet long enough for Lenny to convince himself the whole change of agents thing had been his idea in the first place.
“His heyday may have been a few years ago, but he still knows people and he’s repping a dozen or so people right now.”
Larry took another sip of his drink.
“I was curious as to what you thought about Morty,” Lenny said after a while.
“I liked him from the start,” Larry said. “He seemed genuine. Of course, serial killers have been reported to seem genuine, too.”
“Same with insurance salesmen. They should all rot in hell.”
“What do you think we should do,” Larry asked, thereby cementing it that this was all Lenny’s idea.
“I think we should meet with Morty together.”
“He doesn’t have a PowerPoint presentation does he?” Larry asked.
“That would rule; he could produce some bar graphs and flowcharts showing how much more we’d be working then ZAP! he could move to a cartoon showing you and me at the bank.”
A couple of bar patrons looked at Lenny as he said ‘ZAP!’; Lenny smiled and nodded at them.
“Do we have to file papers on our old agents?”
“They’ll take it well; they’re a big outfit, we’re not the brightest light in their sky.”