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Looking for a laugh

Published March 25, 2005

[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
Nigel Davis paces in the parking lot of Side Splitters in Tampa as the laughter for another amateur comedian rings out into the night.

Nigel Davis has had plenty of unfunny days.

A father shot. A mother taken by cancer. A childhood in Brooklyn.

He served in the Persian Gulf War, worked in a mail room and waited tables at a Mexican restaurant where he hated singing Happy Birthday to customers.

He's sung in a jazz band and had his heart broken after moving 1,000 miles for a woman.

But always, he's been able to make people laugh. More than anything, he wants to do it for a living. Ask him why, and he says, earnestly, "For those few minutes, they aren't thinking about anything bad."

Tonight, on amateur night at the comedy club, he had five minutes to make the people laugh. He joked about pimps and did an impression of his uncle. None of it brought down the house.

Under the spotlight, with 200 mostly quiet faces staring back from the darkness, his jokes ran dry and his confidence wore thin. Five minutes, and it was over.

They clapped when he walked off stage, just not as loud as they'd clapped when he arrived.

Now he's outside, pacing the parking lot, too embarrassed to walk back through the door but too full of pride to walk away.

He calls his fiancee on his cell phone.

"I bombed," he tells her. "Yeah, I'm serious. I couldn't concentrate. I missed you."

After they talk, he paces again, alone with his thoughts. He can hear the roars of the audience inside, laughing for someone else.

Another month, on another amateur night, he'll have another chance. Until then, it's back to leasing apartments for a living.

Nigel Davis slips into his car and heads home to the woman who loves him, even on the unfunny nights.

Editor's note: 300 Words provides glimpses of everyday life that often go unnoticed.

[Last modified March 25, 2005, 01:00:17]

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