Can I Write My Jokes in Peace?

by PAUL LAO
edited by ANDREW HICKS

Newman and Ms. Swan have a glorious message to share with you, unprompted, in the mall food court.

I was sitting in a comfortable wicker chair at the Irvine Spectrum with my comedy buddy Ryan Papazian. We were working on standup bits at the Red Rock Bar. I was in good company, and the jokes were starting to flow out. We analyzed Ryan’s routine about his problems with girls. Add this. Leave this out. Maybe if you use an act-out or use this type of voice. The beginnings of a productive afternoon were underway. We were sitting in public, though. When you sit in public, people can approach you for absolutely no good reason.

Enter the odd couple. He wore a powder-blue button-down shirt and khakis, and he also looked just like Newman from “Seinfeld.” She looked like a Filipino Ms. Swan (from “MADtv”). They approached us as if they knew us, asking, “So what do you guys think of this May 21st business?”

Oh, the Rapture? That’s nonsense. I don’t care. I am an atheist. That’s what I should have said. Instead, I answered thoroughly and seriously, and so did Ryan. We talked about the mass manipulation and misallocated funds of the Mormon religion and the guilt builders of the Catholic religion. We chastised the Saddleback Church for spending 4 million dollars on a basketball court and Crystal Cathedral Ministries for declaring bankruptcy to the tune of $48 million.

I also talked about things that happen for no reason. I told Newman and Ms. Swan that natural disasters are not acts of God. There are underwater volcanoes and storms and floods that hit nothing. Are there ocean hurricanes out there punishing gay fish? Is a meerkat in the Serengeti incurring God’s wrath for making bootleg DVD’s? No.

Why so much hypocrisy and lack of understanding exhibited by many religions? Because the bible says so. Do you know who else has that slogan? Stone Cold Steve Austin: How ’bout no gay marriage? How ’bout no abortions? How ’bout we teach intelligent design in school? Why? Because Stone Cold Steve Austin said so!

Professional wrestling’s catchphrases reduce our intelligence to fierce emotion, wrought with a primal urge to yell and hit. I feel like religion is exactly the same. You might as well preach Ric Flair’s “Wooooo!!” or “Can you smell-ell-ell-ell-ell what The Rock is cooking?”

When I challenged these people to think about the evidence of why I was an atheist, they started telling us what they believed. Newman told us that Jesus was perfect and without sin, that there was an afterlife, and that The Bible is the literal and immutable word of God. Ms. Swan told us that she’d married rich but her life spiraled to rock bottom by the age of 26. She switched religions, from Catholicism to Christianity, and her life got better again. When she talked, Filipino Swan spoke in broken English that made each word sound like a small expulsion of gas. She essentially was a 20-minute fart fest. Her best quote during all this was, “You have culture, and you have religion. And when you put those together, you have a collision.” She punctuated this revelation with a raised eyebrow. Cue the part where my head explodes. Boom!

People who follow normally need some sort of moral compass. I get that. But when you try to convince me about your coping mechanisms with no scientific evidence or societal evolution, your claims hold no weight. Emotional blackmail doesn’t work with me.

And, you know what? I have learned my lesson about sitting in public. Now when confronted by anyone, I will simply reply by screaming, “Don’t tell me I don’t love my mama!” and removing my clothes.

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