I Was Hired to Write Jokes for John Wayne Bobbitt (and Lived to Tell)

I Was Hired to Write Jokes for John Wayne Bobbitt (and Lived to Tell)
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It was a day like any other, only this one started with an unusual classified ad in the Hollywood trade paper, Daily Variety. The ad proclaimed, "John Wayne Bobbitt is embarking on a national comedy tour. Needs great writer with stand-up experience. Fax resume and sample of work to A.M. Gordon Management."

I couldn't believe it. Could John Wayne Bobbitt, whose wife Lorena lopped off his manhood, seriously be interested in standing in front of an audience and telling jokes about it? Well, as it turned out, and in the words of one our time's most inspirational political figures, Sarah Palin -- you betcha!

But this was no job for any prestigious writer who cared about his image, I thought. After all, I had written for the likes of Jay Leno, Roseanne, and Dana Carvey. I was a nationally syndicated humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times. For God's sake, I had a B.A. in English and American literature. I did my honors thesis on Selflessness As Fulfillment: The Character Of Virtue In the Works of Bernard Malamud.

But what about the character of virtue in Bobbitt? Here was a guy whose specialties were partying without his wife, being selfish in bed, and verbal and physical spousal abuse. I had absolutely nothing in common with him. Okay, maybe the selfishness in bed thing, but otherwise, I'd have nothing to say to, or about, him. He disgusted me and I felt he deserved what he'd gotten.

Later that day, I happened to glance at my bank account balance... Half an hour later, I was faxing a letter and samples of my material to Bobbitt's manager, telling him how eager I was to help turn John Wayne Bobbitt into the next Rodney Dangerfield.

I got the job. Every person to whom I mentioned my Bobbitt assignment, had a Bobbitt joke for me that they'd either heard, or had made up -- including my doctor, my mailman, and, I swear, my mother. I came this close to having to wash mom's mouth out with soap. Payback.

For the first time in my career, my assignment was to write sex jokes. In fact, Bobbitt's manager's letter to me actually contained the line, "Please feel free to be vulgar and on the thin lines of decency, as that is what has made this story the sensation that it is." As I read the letter, I heard a faint whirring sound. It was Bernard Malamud spinning in his grave.

Bobbitt is given a performance coach, named Leslie Coogan, actor Jackie Coogan's daughter, to help him learn to be a stand-up. Leslie's job involves taking Bobbitt around to little clubs to try out the material. Which turns out to be more difficult than we'd initially imagined, as Bobbitt suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. And it falls to us to transfer his attention from his penis to the work he's now required to do. Not unlike the task President Clinton's strategy team once faced.

I meet Bobbitt for the first time, at Leslie's house in Malibu. He is a compact, powerfully built man, with blue eyes. In the Marines, he'd trained lieutenants in hand-to-hand combat. (Unfortunately, he himself turned out to be the victim of hand-to-gland combat.) He is likeable, but soft-spoken, and speaks in a monotone; clearly not a born performer. Still, he offers to show us his re-attached penis. We're having lunch at the time, and take a pass on his offer. For a guy who underwent that kind of trauma, he seems remarkably well-adjusted.

I go home and continue working on the material. Leslie helps mold the material into an act for Bobbitt, and takes him to the clubs, where he often reads the jokes off index cards. But he's easily distracted--by his brothers, his friends, his own insecurities and lack of discipline, and doesn't seem all that motivated. It will be a miracle if he's ready for the planned kickoff date of the John Wayne Bobbitt Sleep On Your Stomach Tour. Yes, its actual title.

In addition, he keeps having to go back to Vegas to face paternity suits from two different women, and domestic battery charges filed by his new fiance, a Vegas topless dancer. (She takes it off for a living; he had it taken off and lived.) Then there are his bar brawls, jail sentences, therapy sessions.

I end up writing nearly 100 jokes, such as: "I remember waking up in a pool of blood, with my penis missing, and my first thought was, 'Y'know, this would make a really amusing stand-up comedy routine.'"..."They told me they were going to re-attach my penis using Micro-Surgery. I was humiliated. I wanted Jumbo-Surgery"... "My medical and attorney bills are over $750,000. Not to brag, but that's $95,000 per inch"...

Perhaps this will become my specialty--getting victims and perpetrators of heinous crimes into stand-up. In fact, if any of you have contacts with Joey Buttafuoco, the Menendez Brothers, Charles Manson, or O.J. Simpson, please feel them out on the possibility of their doing a nightclub act. We already know Manson can sing and Simpson can act. The others must have hidden talents. Perhaps Lyle Menendez yodels, or Joey Buttafuoco does mime. They can reach me care of this website.

Sadly, Jeffrey Dahmer was killed before I was able to pitch him my idea for a one-man show for him. It's called "An Appetite For Life."

As for John Wayne Bobbitt, his career seems to be in full swing, though not necessarily in good taste. Then again, Bobbitt has never attracted a lot of Shakespeare scholars. He regularly m.c.'s evenings at what used to be called strip joints, but are now referred to as Gentlemen's Clubs, because, I suppose, the men get dressed up to watch the women get undressed. He uses his comedy material as he m.c.'s.

In addition, Bobbitt has starred in an autobiographical, pornographic movie, called "Uncut," and is planning a sequel. He is working on a music CD, in which he'll do cover versions of songs such as Chuck Berry's "My Ding-A-Ling." He has even come out with his own telephone debit card, the ad slogan of which is, "It Won't Cut You Off."

Finally, ladies, if you're ready for a man who has hopefully learned his lesson, I'm told that Bobbitt is not currently involved with anyone romantically. That's right--he's unattached.

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