In 2003 I did the Second City writing workshop and finished the program by putting on a stage show. One of the actresses from the show later invited us to her standup comedy class "graduation," which was a show at Zanies, a traditional standup club (compared to improv spaces or more alternative comedy clubs or spots.)
Steve (then my boyfriend) and I went and were surprised to learn that in addition to paying $15 each for a matinee comedy show, we still had to stick to the 2 drink minimum, which did not put us in the mood to laugh, even to be nice. On top of this we were sat really close to the stage, which was excruciating when these tender baby bird comedians were thrust into the spotlight in front of their friends and family. A handful forgot their routines. Many wrote their jokes on their hands, which seemed to have been part of their education. Also, several comics seemed to have been coached to go big and semi-blue: I remember an Asian impression, a single lady talking about the produce in her fridge reminding her of penises, and a lady talking about her ethnic butt.
Also the show was 2 hours long. I assume. We left after an hour and fifteen minutes.
There was one lady in this mix whom we felt bad for at the time: maybe in her late '50's or '60's, she was a tiny meek Indiana lady who clearly had been encouraged to be "The Indiana Lady." She wore a huge shimmering Colts jersey and told the following joke. "There's a sign when you leave Indiana to hurry back soon." (pause) "But you can't hurry too fast or else you might get a speeding ticket!"
While Steve, now my husband of 10 years, and I remember this comedy show as being one of our most awkward performing arts experiences, we also recite that stupid joke several times a year. Last night I recited it after Steve told our son to get his pajamas on as fast as possible. "Don't put your pajamas on too fast, or...."
So think twice before you pity someone. We felt bad for that tentative little Indiana comedy lady but little did we know she was about to drop the world's most memorable joke on us.