It Had All Started With A Joke About Mark Linn-Baker
“…Mark Linn-Baker? I hardly know her!”
And with that, Jared’s audience (of two–he was hanging out at the pub with Joe and Casey, grabbing a couple of beers) burst into laughter.
But the weird thing was, their laughter sounded…off. Jared couldn’t quite put his finger on it, other than that it sounded like more than two guys laughing, for some reason. And the same thing kept happening every time he or Joe or Casey–or the bartender, or anyone else, for that matter–said anything remotely funny.
Jared eventually decided not to worry about it. He figured maybe the acoustics in the pub were just strange, or that he had a buzz going and it was making things sound weird. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter–it’s not like Jared wanted people to NOT laugh at his jokes.
But he didn’t completely put it out of his mind, and that night, on his way home in the car alone with his buzz wearing off and able to clear his head and think, he figured out what it was: The laughter sounded canned.
“I have a laugh track”, he said out loud to himself.
And over the next few weeks, it went from barely noticeable–white noise, really–to obnoxiously intrusive. When Jared kissed his wife, he was bombarded with hoots and hollers. He and Sarah had stopped having sex because he was afraid of what the reaction to that would be.
Just about everything Jared said killed with this unseen (and apparently, undiscriminating) audience. His breaking point came one day when he was on his way out the door to work; Sarah stopped him and asked if he could pick up diapers for Jared Jr. on his way home that night.
He had simply said, “Sure–I guess we’re running low, huh?”
Jared dropped his keys, clapped his hands over his ears, and shouted “That WASN’T FUNNY! That WASN’T EVEN A JOKE!”
And the audience ate that up, laughing louder and longer in response to that than they had for the “running low” line just a moment before.
Things quickly spiraled out of control from there. Jared lost his job, Sarah left him and took Jared Jr. with her, and he wound up in a psychiatric facility, living out his days tormented by the non-stop chuckles and guffaws accompanying his every move and utterance.
His only consolation came at the end of the day. Each night, as he drifted off to sleep, he was given a hearty round of applause as his theme song played lightly in the background, and he enjoyed that.