Notes about the Marriage Story

You have just read the Marriage Story pretty much as I first told it, standing in front of Paul Mazaitis and Hayley Asay, facing a medium-small crowd of relatives and friends. (Except that when you read it on-line, you don't get to see me sweat. I'm not used to live performance these days; I was nervous as hell.)

(And yes, that really was the first time I had told it. I'd recited large segments of it, several times each, to empty air -- as I was inventing it, and just for practice. But not all at once, beginning to end. And I'd never told it to anyone. Frankly, I knew that if the jokes got out they'd wind up on Usenet, and then on (thought I, without any hint of irony. It still wouldn't surprise me.) I'd tried out two of the jokes on one friend -- once -- after swearing her to secrecy.)

Anyway, the premiere version was somewhat trimmed. The wedding ceremony turned out to be even shorter than I expected; I was up there within five minutes of the beginning of the ceremony. And I didn't want to outweigh the rest of the festivities by more than a factor of two. So here are several ideas which didn't make it in.

First, I left out all of God's jokes. I was planning to make it a back-and-forth contest, with God telling two jokes in between the man's three. Well, not so much jokes -- just strange things -- funny from God's perspective rather than a human's. My first idea was:

I couldn't come up with much else like that, so for God's second joke I was going to use:

On the way to the wedding (a four-hour drive), I remembered a thought I'd had before, which would fit in nicely:

Well, that's a nice story, and I'm glad to have put it up here for you to read. Better than the ear thing. But both the creator joke and the thread joke are quite long, and would really unbalance the heck out of the overall story; the audience would forget where I'd started. So it's probably just as well that I decided to cut material.

There are a few other gimmicks that I would have liked to throw in. God was going to offer the man a glass of fruit juice -- "Mind the pips." (The Persephone thing. Did you notice that the fisherwoman spends six months out and six months in?) But it sounded better for God to say "Have a beer," and I didn't want to break the rhythm by giving the man a second drink.

"Cloak of divinity" is some sort of reference, but I can't remember to what. It's supposed to be vaguely cynical in implication -- a "cloak" as something to hide behind, rather than a vestment of power.

The first line in my original notes says "? You explain it to me." I wonder what that meant. I think God was supposed to say it to the man, but I have no idea why.

In case you're wondering, this whole thing started because Paul invited me to say anything I wanted at his wedding. I tossed around various ideas -- a palindromic toast, on several levels, was the best one. (And the hardest. I never wrote any of it.) But then the light bulb joke hit me in a flash of, er, enlightenment. It was immediately clear I would have to use it. The Buddha joke followed moments later, when I started considering various canonical joke formats. Then I was stuck for a couple of weeks; the knock-knock joke came up eventually, but I'm not totally happy with it.

The frame story, the joke-contest with God, is also problematic. It also popped up, essentially in its final form, as I was casting around for something to embed the jokes in. But I keep thinking there's a much better idea I missed. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's just that the ending (the "shaggy-God story", someone called it) is such a cliche -- at least in the sort of books I read. My meager contribution was to put it in there twice. Woo woo.

That's all.

Last updated September 10, 1997.

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