The Last Comedian

He went by the name of Guffaw McGraw and he was the world's last funny man. It was an art nobody learned or practiced any more...making people laugh. Guffaw perfected his routine by watching old tapes of those he considered the Great Ones...Laurel and Hardy, Milton Berle, Jack Benny and Red Skelton. He also studied the techniques of more modern performers like Robin Williams and Stephen Wright, who had been blessed with an impeccable sense of timing. They were all long dead now, those consummate maestros of comedy. He was the only one left to carry on the tradition.

"Thank you, thank you, happy to be here," hollered Guffaw to the silent crowd that watched him, dressed in a loudly checkered Zoot suit, bound onto the stage of Stone's Supper Club. "I flew here all the way from Chicago and boy, are my arms tired!" He flapped his sleeves which dangled a good six inches past his fingers, beamed at the rows of dismal faces, and refused to be deterred.

"Take my wife," insisted Guffaw, throwing up his hands. "Please!" The melancholy drummer tapped a half-hearted "BA-BOOM" on the skins.

"Advocate of fornication," accused a resolute voice, followed by a ripple of applause.

Guffaw opened his case of props and removed a pair of bushy eyebrows attached to spectacles, false nose and black mustache. He slipped on the mask and stuck a stogie in his mouth. Stooping, he fluttered his coat tails and lurched across the stage. "If I could walk that way...," he began.

"We don't ridicule the afflicted around here," somebody shouted. Guffaw straightened up and shielded his face from the spotlight.

"But that was Groucho," he said with a persuasive smile. "Surely somebody recognizes..." His explanation was cut short by an oversized bouncer who pounced from behind the backdrop.

"No smoking," growled the gorilla.

"Filthy habit," tutted an elderly woman in disgust, as she patted her blue hair.

"But it isn't even lit," protested Guffaw as the bouncer ripped the cigar from between his teeth. The comedian removed the mask and tossed it into the case. Grabbing the microphone and setting his bowler hat at a jaunty angle, Guffaw slapped his thigh. "This is sure to tickle your fancy," he announced, assuming there was at least one funny bone to share between them. "There was this priest, this rabbi and this evangelist..."

"Religious insinuations," screeched a dark-eyed young girl, looking as though she were about to call upon the wrath of God. Guffaw was taken aback at the hostility. Men, demanding a refund, began to escort their shocked and horrified lady companions to the door.

The owner of the Supper Club rushed to the middle of the stage. "Ladies and gentlemen," he shouted, ignoring the comic's whisper of: "That's ladies and GERMS," as he hustled Guffaw into the wings. "Please remain seated. The act which follows is an extremely talented torch singer and, for the rest of the evening, drinks will be on the house."

People sat back down with mumblings of, "That's more like it!"

"Sorry son," said the owner, "you'll have to leave."

Guffaw shrugged. "Thanks for the opportunity anyway, Mr. Stone." He extended his hand.

"You seem a nice kid," continued the owner. "Try a different profession...this stuff will get you nowhere."

"Can't do that, Mr. Stone," stated Guffaw. "You see, I know I'm not the only person left who remembers the laughter. Somewhere there are others and I have to keep on looking until I find them."

The world's last comedian left Stone's Supper Club behind him and flagged down a passing eighteen-wheeler to hitch a ride to the next town. "Those were only a few of the jokes, folks," he muttered, climbing into the cab. "I've got a million of 'em!"

"You say something?" queried the sour-faced driver. Guffaw grinned. It was just the kind of lead-in he loved.

"Funny you should ask that," he said, rubbing his palms together gleefully. "I was just wondering if you'd heard the one about the trucker..."

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