Milt Abel is a stand-up comedian traveling the world, and places closer.


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Rhapsody Rambles 5-15-2010

By Milt Abel | May 20, 2010

| May 20, 2010

Rhapsody Rambles 5-15-2010

I’m aboard the Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas and we’re heading for its first of the season seven-day roundtrip Alaska cruise out of Seattle. I’ve been on this ship more than any other and yet I still have trouble finding my way around. Compounding the problem is melding one ship into another in my memory, ‘this is the ship where the crew bar is directly above the entertainment crew’s cabins, no, that ‘s Princess, a totally different line…’  It’s one thing to be lost, but another to have your memory misdirect you.   In the past I have thought how ludicrous the expression, ‘If memory serves me’ was, who else would it serve? But when it causes you to wander about unnecessarily and question out loud, “What is a wall doing there…?” My memory appears not to be serving me but someone out to thwart me.

Last night we had our Welcome Aboard Show. A forty-five to fifty-five minute show where the Cruise Director gets in front of everyone and introduces themselves and a few key staff, the show band usually play a number, and the review singers and dancers give a taste of the production shows due later in the cruise. And then a guest entertainer comes out for a twenty to thirty minute set. Last night it was me, and the show went great, despite an awkward start. The first two rows were empty, people are always afraid in a comedy show to sit up front thinking the comic will make fun of them or attack them in some way. I mentioned this, and that I was now going to have to attack people in the third row, and leapt off the stage and converged, with a growl and fingers curled like claws, toward a couple in the third row. I thought it would be hilariously silly, most of the audience thought they weren’t safe anymore and didn’t laugh. I got them laughing again in seconds and proceeded to have the kind of show that makes being a stand-up comic fun, people enjoying themselves at no one’s expense.

Welcome Aboard Shows are notorious among cruise ship entertainers; the crowds are tired from traveling, disoriented from all the new surroundings, and apprehensive if all the trouble and expense of the vacation is going to be worth it. Not the best audience to do stand-up comedy in front off, there could be worse…
“Fine, you’ve refused the blindfold. Before I ask these men of the firing squad to do their duty and pull the trigger, are there any last requests?”
“Well, I’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy. Will they let me try a joke or two?”
“Okay. But don’t be surprised if they don’t think something’s funny and shoot you.”

Earlier in the day, when everyone was wandering around the ship and cacheing food for  further expeditions, I was approached by a man who talked incessantly in a language I couldn’t place. Usually I’ll hear something I’ve caught on a foreign movie with subtitles, or seen in a dubbed Magnum P.I in one of the dozens of countries I’ve overnighted in hotels at, but this older gentleman was making sounds I couldn’t pin down. Somewhere on earth would be my safest guess, north of Africa, east of England and West of Korea, but more specific than that would have been a role of the dice.  On top of his continuous  spiel he gestured mildly but very vaguely. One of the service staff walking nearby got dragged into our black hole of misunderstanding and although these crew members work with fellow crew from all over the world, I could tell he too was at a loss over what language this small, elderly but energetic man was trying to communicate. Once, we two listeners caught one of his gestures moving his hand near his mouth and, certainly, this meant he wanted to eat. I was headed up to the Solarium to get a bite of pizza, he could follow me. I gestured for him to follow and we got in an elevator where he continued to talk, not just to me, but anyone who entered or left the six deck ride up to the pizza. No one understood him and shot sideways glances of pity to me as they disappeared beyond the closing elevator doors.

When we got to deck nine a bade him to follow me and when we were in sight of the line for the pizza I pointed to it and rubbed my stomach to indicate if he went that way, he would soon be full and content. I stood and watched him walking by, and talking to, people seating at the casual cafe tables as he made for the line. I left as soon as I could see he was in line and planned on pizza later.

A strange man. Not frustrated at all. Just rattling on and on with no response, hoping from listeners to listeners with the same undaunted verve, mildly gesturing now and then to explain a message no one was getting. So like a stand-up.

Topics: comedy, cruise ship, humor, travel | No Comments »