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Once again, we are at each other’s throats, wanting “justice,” yelling for “equality,” and complaining about “divisiveness.” Yet, if we stop and look around we will recall there is still one thing that levels the playing field, and makes us all one with each other and the universe…public embarrassment.
There is something about being utterly humiliated in front of a large group of people that makes us all the same. (RELATED: Totally 80s Videos for that Truly Awkward High School Experience)
Embarrassment is the great equalizer and God’s way of saying, “Yeah, you ain’t all that, so get over yourself and just enjoy your life.”
Ergo, in my support for uniting the world, I will share with you my Top 5 “greatest hits” of publicly embarrassing myself in front of the aforementioned God…and everyone else.
(1) Proposal Interruptus. I was a waitress at a comedy club when I was taking a semester off between college and grad school. It was a particularly busy night, and the upper bar area was packed with people waiting for the early show to let out before piling in the theatre. This was always stressful for us on the wait staff as we found ourselves running from the theatre to the bar area to take care of two full-size-audience crowds.
Sometimes it got hard to pay full attention to everyone. This was the case for me when I seated a young couple on some barstools against the wall, and noticed the man seemed a little fidgety and nervous. I figured it was the first date, and didn’t think anything of it. He asked for a menu, and as I went to retrieve it I picked three other bar orders along the way.
Making sure everyone got efficiently served, I headed back to the couple with menu in hand and held it out to him as I turned to give another customer her drink. It took me a couple of beats to realize the man wasn’t taking the menu from me, so I turned around to see I was holding the menu over the hands of the couple, who were both giving me stunned looks. As I pulled the menu away I saw he was holding her hand…and was in the process of placing a shiny new engagement ring on her finger. I’ll forever be part of this couple’s engagement story, but not in the way I wanted.
(2) The Everflowing Beer Trick. This also happened while I was a waitress, and anyone who has had to wait tables filled with drinkers knows there might be the occasional drink spillage. When this happens at a comedy club, any chinking of glass on the floor is followed by the comic’s on stage oh-so-original declaration of “job opening.”
Anyway, I was waiting on down front, and was getting ready to hand a drink to a very nicely dressed woman in her 50s. When I did, my hand brushed a full bottle of Heineken and it tipped over on the tray and began to pour beer right in the woman’s lap. To make matters worse, I tried to pick it up, but held it too close to the bottom, and it tipped over in my hand with the open end pointing straight down into the customer’s lap where it proceeded to quickly dump the remaining beer onto her already soaked crotch.
The comedian on stage saw me do it and was speechless. It really takes something special to shut up a standup comic that, for all practical purposes, was being handed a gift of the perfect one-liner opportunity. Thankfully, the lady thought the entire incident was funny, so I kept my job for another chance at screwing something up royally.
(3) Who Needs A Hug? It seems like some the most embarrassing flubs are the little ones, especially when you’re working in an open office filled with very judgy reporters.
I was working as a Lifestyles Editor at an East Texas newspaper, and had too many “irons in the fire.” I received a call from someone asking about getting a calendar item listed in the paper, just as another client walked in to ask about another item. In person inquiries take precedent, so I asked the person on the phone if, “I could put him on hold for a second.”
Well, that is what I intended to say. Instead, I asked this nice stranger if, “I could hold you for a while.” After a short pause I hear from the other end of the line, “Uh, yeah I guess so….”
Did I mention I had him on speakerphone? Yup. Everyone in the office heard the exchange and for the rest of the week I gained a reputation as a “cuddler.”
(4) Defiling The Pope. Every Christmas, my family was invited to brunch as the family of a wealthy classmate at his home. By “brunch” I mean a generously massive party everyone who was anyone was invited to. It was only right that “normies” like me were a bit self-conscious about things. No worries.
I’ve made several jokes about me not being the most attractive person on the planet, but, hey, I’ve spent a lot of times around comedians so self-depreciation is a kind of my thing. Anyhow, this time I thought I actually looked good for once. I was dressed in spiky heels, those big flared pants that somehow were a thing in the early 90s, and a black turtleneck, just like “them movie stars.” I was standing in the middle of their fancy dining area, which was filled with expensive relics, including a huge one-sheet sized autographed and personalized picture of Pope John Paul II surrounded by little candles and statues.
I wanted to take a closer look at it, but my long heel caught in the carpet, anchoring my feet in place. My arm, which was holding a big cup of red punch, was very animated, and flung its entire contents on The Pope and his surrounding paraphernalia. Out of nowhere, six servants showed up with rags and dirty looks to clean up the dripping mess.
Luckily, there was no permanent damage, but my brother, who I didn’t know was standing at the other side of the room, said from his point of view it appeared as if I looked over at The Pope and, in a fit of rage, deliberately threw my drink in his face with enthusiastic relish. To this day, he can’t even think of the incident without cracking up so bad he loses his breath.
(5) Beachball Fail. This was by far my biggest audience for public embarrassment. In the 1980s, when I was a junior in high school, the Beach Boys came to perform an in-the-round arena show, and it sold out. My brother and I were pumped, as we had acquired front row seats where everyone could see us.
I thought it would be cool to wear this blue and white striped shirt I had that resembled the classic “Beach Boys” wear in the 60s, so I kinda stood out. We got to the show early enough for the big packed-house pre-concert beach ball bouncing that for some reason is a staple at concerts. There were two or three beach balls making their way through the crowd, and everyone cheered each time one bounced to new heights in another section. One of them landed at my feet, and my brother immediately yelled, “Pick it up and hit it!!”
Since I was dressed to impress and front and center, I picked up the ball like I was ready to serve a volleyball. I suck at volleyball. As as I tossed it up, I miscalculated where the ball was and just hit the edge of it. The ball when “pfft” forward and rolled away from me only a few feet on the floor. I was “booed” by 12,000 people at once. Wheee.
Even the “pretty people” in life whose job is to dress up for pictures to make the rest of us look like bridge trolls have to occasionally be cut down to size. The genuinely cool ones who realize they are just humans and not demigods, however, know how to make it work for them.
Here’s Hugh Jackman talking about his on the Graham Norton Show, which is something hopefully most of us never had to experience:
There you have it, folks. If the toughest and coolest of the X-Men (and probably the Marvel Universe) can pee himself in public and still be one of the coolest cats in Hollywood, then whatever happened to you, personally, you will bounce back from, as long as you can laugh about it.
But seriously, you might want to steer clear of chugging too much liquid before a stage performance.