Ozzie Dean, psychologist, teacher, and comedian: "I just flew in from Algeria and ..."

Monday night at the Comedy Store

Humor is a funny thing. What is the appeal, exactly, of standing before a room full of strangers, risking humiliation for the sake of “evoking an expulsion of air from the lungs” of your audience, usually accompanied by “certain characteristic, even grotesque facial and bodily movements”?

According to Ozzie Dean, psychologist, teacher, and comedian from Algeria, it is “...touching people. Touching people and educating them. Educating them to the fact that we are all the same despite our surface differences. Educating myself to the fact that I can touch people. Research shows that comedians tend to see themselves as outsiders. In other words, they are a little alienated. Not all of them, but...”

Dr. Ozzie Dean, seated on a picnic bench on a sunny day at La Jolla Cove, sips light coffee and comments on how his ex-wife from Massachusetts wouldn’t come with him from San Francisco to San Diego when he went after his Ph.D. “She didn’t like the weather. Can you believe that?” He finds this hilarious.

Ozzie Dean

Ozzie Dean

He is a slim, dapper, 36-year-old man with close-cropped black hair. His eyes squint happily from behind his glasses as if he’s thinking of something funny; or he’ll look away and blink as if pained, perhaps at a loss for the English phrase he wants. When he speaks, it’s in a quiet, heavily accented voice. He teaches psychology at National University. He also teaches cross-cultural management. Before that he was teaching at USIU. He has been a comedian for two years as well, with over 100 performances at the Comedy Store. He has never worked another room other than the classroom. Born a Berger in Constantine Algeria, Dean (whose real name is Azzedine Mezbache) has been in the United States since 1978. He lives in a boarding house in the Scripps Ranch area with an Egyptian and an American.

Does he feel alienated? An outsider?

“You want my neurotic side.” He chuckles, his eyes disappearing, his head sinking into his shoulders. “There’s a feeling of being different. You want to melt in, be looked at just like anyone else....” He pauses, shifts his weight on the bench as if looking at the question from another perspective. “Hey, I’m not just like you.” He turns back to his coffee and speaks into it. “Comedians tend to be depressed, really. Comedy is a way to let it out and to deliver a mes- sage about diversity, how to work together, not become alike.”

What depresses him?

“Closed-minded people. Especially people who have never been anywhere, have only one perspective. Ignorance bothers me.” Indeed he looks momentarily sad as he watches a group of older people take up the next picnic table.

“Ignorance.” He pronounces it again as if saying “cancer."

Has he ever been discriminated against because of his ethnic background?

“Once. No big deal. I applied for a job, and this woman discriminated against me. I was able to prove it later. My American friends wanted me to sue the company. I said no. This is one individual.... I’m not going to penalize the whole company. I only wanted to prove to this woman what she was doing. I did everything she asked perfectly. The organization admitted it.”

Generally speaking, how does he find America?

“Turn left over the Atlantic Ocean.”

John Lennon.

“So sue me.” His laughter is bark- like. He talks a bit about his role models, Robin Williams and Yakov Smirnoff.

Could he give an example of some of the material he’d be doing later at the Comedy Store?”

He smiles in anticipation, thinks. “Okay. Like I say, ‘Algeria is the only country in the world that doesn’t have toilet paper.’ Then, what I do is take my hand and smell it and say, ‘Hi,’ and stick it out to someone in the audience like I want to shake. That always gets laughs. Always.”

Touching people and educating them.

“Hah hah!”

He blinks into the sun and fingers the collar of his plaid flannel shirt, wondering, perhaps, if he’s just bombed. Does he ever have periods where he simply cannot be funny, because of, say, the occupational hazard of depression?

“Yeah.”

He looks as if he were passing broken glass. “There was this woman I was dating, meant a lot to me, but we weren’t getting along, and we had to split. I had to call the Comedy Store and tell them I couldn’t perform. Not for three weeks. Mood is very important when you perform. I’ve seen comedians who, I knew they had a problem, but they went onstage, and they were funny. They were doing a routine, of course, but that sadness didn’t show. My sadness would show. I don’t know how they do it. I have to read a lot when I’m depressed. Books by psychotherapists, mostly.”

If he were to consult himself as a psychologist, what would he say about himself? A long silence.

“I’m not paranoid.... I don’t know. I’m not compulsive. Maybe depression is the closest. When I’m depressed I don’t like to relate to people.”

Eager to shift the subject, Dean says that he grew up with two mothers under his native country’s system of polygamy. His birth mother died a year ago. “I have very few complaints about polygamy. You always have at least one person to provide moral support. The bad part would be, when you do something wrong at school, you get punished twice — or maybe four times. You can have four wives under Islamic law.” He still feels close to his remaining mother, pointing out that there is no word in Berber dialect for stepmother, “or step-anything,” he says. “My father used to say, ‘Azzedine, you eat in two houses and you don’t get fat.’ That was his joke.”

Was his father funny? He thinks and shakes his head no.

With several references to polygamy in his material and the supposedly humorous differences in the way women are treated in his old country and his new one, does he hear from women in the audience that he is sexist?

“No. It’s just a cultural thing. Culture is a behavioral map; it’s a grammar of being. I get no hostile comments from women. I like women. They sense that. I come across as friendly. I like to think of myself as friendly. I’m very gregarious, and I put that impression across onstage more than anything else.” He runs his hands over his grey pin- stripe pants legs and blinks questioningly as if asking if that sounded okay.


Smoke rolls toward the ceiling past the spotlights, candles in red glass holders wink and strobe dimly. Silhouettes of couples are guided to tables by comedians doubling as hosts or hostesses. An unattended microphone stands to one side of the stage, and from the shadows in the corner, the piano player is rolling out the chords to “Keep On Runnin’.” It is Monday night at the Comedy Store on Pearl Street in La Jolla, and while the room fills with patrons (no cover, two- drink minimum), the 20 or so comedians scheduled for five- to ten-minute slots that night mill around the lobby — smoking, gauging the mood of the crowd, bantering nervously with each other while studying 3-by-5 cards full of material. They even take turns checking IDs at the door.

Dean is among the first to go on. Number four tonight. In a few minutes he will be introduced as “the world’s greatest Algerian comic.”

The black curtain that separates the nightclub and stage area from the foyer swings wide. A small, bespectacled man with shoulder- length hair and a mustache shows his face. It’s Fred Burns, assistant manager, comic and booker-of-acts on Monday and Tuesday nights. He signals to a blond man in a Comedy Store jacket, “Okay, Dante.” He gestures at his watch. It’s eight o’clock. Showtime.

Dante, a youthful-looking comedian/actor nods and bounds toward the stage. The piano player gives him a jaunty musical intro. Burns sees Ozzie and nods to him. “Hey, Ozzie, I’ve got a line for you!” Burns propels himself forward on crutches intricately decorated with rainbow-colored tape. The crutches have been with him since birth.

Ozzie sips at his white wine, nervously tugs at his thin, blood-red leather tie. He smiles, blinks, “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Burns tells him. “How about this? ‘In my country, a good hump is a camel.’ Or hey, Jimmy Condor the piano player came up with this one. You get up there, you go: ‘Just flew in from Algeria, and boy, are my hostages thirsty!’”

Ozzie laughs and the comedians waiting all laugh. Ozzie nods and taps his forehead. The line is in.

Across the room, Eric Schwandt, comedian and bartender, is making margaritas and cracking open beers. He will go onstage very late and talk to the audience much like an exhausted high school teacher — complete with patched elbows on his tweed jacket — who has given up trying to teach an unruly schoolroom and just decides to mess with ’em a little. “Yeah, I know Ozzie. I’ve watched him and thought, ‘What the fuck is that all about?’ You get the feeling he’s still working on a language barrier. He’s just Ozzie. Everybody’s lookin’ for their own way to go. He’s gettin’ better.”


Onstage, Dante is pacing, smirking at the stage floor as if put-upon but grudgingly amused at the bizarre events in his life. “Strangest thing happened to me today. I was on a bus this morning? This idiot gets on the bus and says, ‘I’m hijacking this bus to Cuba!’...and I’m thinking...[scratches his head]...[beat]...any- way, I’m in Cuba...” Two people at a front table are studying the cocktail menu by the candlelight. The room is painted glossy black with portraits of W.C. Fields, Laurel and Hardy, Gracie Alien, and Joe E. Brown breaking up the gloom. A couple seated in the rear are making out, oblivious to the stage or anything else. The guy’s hand is under her skirt; she’s making fishlike motions with her mouth while twirling a strand of hair in her left hand.


Back in the bar/lobby, festooned with 8-by-10 glossies of famous and not-so-famous comics from Arsenio Hall to Janice Hart, Robin Williams to John Kreng, performer Stan Simmons leans against the bar and studies Ozzie across the lobby, who is still talking with Burns. “Yeah, he can be funny...offstage. Hah He keeps at it. Keeps goin’. If he ever finds his niche...” He trails off and shrugs.

Schwandt leans over the bar, “I’ll add this: Of all the comedians that come in here, Ozzie is the best, and I mean the very best, psychologist at the Comedy Store. Okay?” He laughs. “Here he comes. Hey, we’re talking about you, Ozzie.”

Ozzie is going through his notes, which are key words written on scraps of paper he keeps in his jacket pocket. Separate envelopes are marked “jokes,”“hecklers,” and “savers.” “Maybe I should go to the bathroom.” He smiles, looks down at the papers in his hand. “Most of these are old jokes,” he says. The pieces of material are numbered from five to ten. When asked about that, he says, “I tape the routine, and then I go home and listen to it, and I rate every joke from zero to ten. The response, the laughter.” But none of them seems to be rated below five. “No.” he smiles proudly.

Any examples of 3s or 4s that he threw out?

“Well, there’s one. I say, ‘Do you know in Algeria we have MTV? Yes! Muslim Television.’ ” He barks. “But that didn’t get a good response. I got rid of it.” Ozzie excuses himself and goes into the club to hear Dante for a moment. “Tell me what they say.” He laughs and rearranges his sport coat on his shoulders.

William Lewis, a barback assisting Schwandt behind the stick, says, “I kind of believe in Ozzie. You can’t count anybody out in this business. I remember when he used to suck. People would laugh because it was so bad. He’s unique, though.”

Burns says, “I told him that thing with the water balloons doesn’t work. But Ozzie’s main problem is English. That’s a major obstacle.”

Did Burns consider Dean basically funny?

Long silence. Burns’s jaw worked, but no sound was forthcoming for several beats. “Eeeyehhhh...not yet. Not yet. Some people are natural; some people got to work at it. He’s got to work at it.”

How does Dean feel when the stuff doesn’t work? Does it bother him?

Approaching the bar again, Ozzie smiles at Schwandt and Lewis. “No. it doesn’t bother me, to tell you the truth, because I try to disassociate myself from my material. In other words, my material bombed, I didn’t. That’s a very healthy kind of thing.”

In the next room Dante paces the stage, says, “So I go into this McDonald’s in Cuba with all these Cubans from the bus. I get a ham- burger, they get jobs....” The crowd likes it. Four women get up from their table and go to the ladies’ room together. They are dressed in heels and tight- fitting dresses. They leave an overflowing ashtray behind them. Half the room is smoking cigarettes.

When Ozzie is asked what are “savers,” he replies, “You know, like...’Come on guys, that joke is a killer in Algeria! ”

Does he have much of a problem with hecklers?

“I tend to get friendly hecklers, people who heckle me, but it’s not because they hate my guts. It’s because they want some input. There’s a comedian in every one of us. I encourage them. Like one time I said, ‘Does anyone know anything about Algeria?’ This woman in the audience said, ‘It starts with an a ,’ and I said —” Ozzie starts laughing here — “The mind is a terrible thing to waste!” He claps his hands together.

Dante is having a little trouble of his own at the mic. After delivering a line to only the clearing of throats and a few groans, he whips his fists out of his pockets, rocks back on his heels, and gives the audience the finger with both hands, like a gunslinger. “Hey, piss off!” he shouts. “That’s hilarious and I know it!” He paces the stage, moans. “All right, all right...anyway, she gets undressed and lays on the bed. She says, ‘Do to me what you do best,’ so he ties her up and steals her television.” He gets some “expulsion of breath and characteristic bodily movements” from the audience with this.

From the back table, Fred Burns shines a flashlight toward the stage, the signal to wind it up and introduce the next comic. Dante introduces Frank Manzana, a heavyset, long-haired Chicano with a disarming whine for a delivery. Manzana is a regular at the Comedy Store. “I can’t stay very long,” he apologizes tiredly. “I gotta get to Balboa Park...before those real good places to sleep are gone.”


Ozzie is still reminiscing about hecklers. “One time I used that ‘saver’ about a joke being funny in Algeria, and this woman says, ‘Well, it bombed here.’ So I brought out this Tampax I had in my pocket and said, ‘Here, use this!’ That got a lot of laughs. A lot of laughs. But yes,” he gestured at the envelope marked “hecklers,”“I seldom use these. Sometimes people are so drunk, they don’t get the jokes, though I make them very simple. I have one joke that always gets laughs, and it’s all in French. I’ll tell you.” He runs down a few phrases in French (Dean also speaks Arabic and Berber) accompanied by hand gestures indicating the numbers of a woman’s measurements from her hips, waist, and bust. When he points to his head — her head — he says “zero” and laughs. “Measurements and no brains, see?” He chuckles and adds, “I have a lot of stuff, a lot of stuff.”


Frank Manzana is talking to the audience about coming to this country with his friends and family. “My grandmother very much wanted to come with us,” he deadpans, “but she wasn’t able to — her blouse got caught on the fence...”


Ozzie is getting a little nervous, shuffling his notes. He talks about his theory of comedy, which involves the differences between people, specifically people in Algeria and the United States. “For example, I will say, ‘In my country, women walk behind men. In this country, women walk all over men.’ Or, ‘In my country, you can marry up to four wives at a time. That is called polygamy. In this country, you can only marry one wife at a time. That is called monotony.’” He laughs uproariously. “I have tons of those, tons of stuff!”

Would he be content to remain teaching if the comedy thing didn’t work out?

“Well, if I have to choose between comedy and teaching, I would go for comedy. That’s where the money is, and I love doing it.”

Has anyone seen him at the Comedy Store and offered him work elsewhere?

“No. I didn’t seek anything like that. I don’t like traveling.”

No agent?

“No. Not really...except Fred. Fred is thinking of putting me on Sundays in the Comedy Store in L.A. He mentioned that once. But I know a lot of comedians do the circuit. You know, they go around, but I don’t know if I’d do that. I’m not very comfortable spending nights in hotels. But I guess I’m gonna have to do it, because it’s one step you go through to get exposure.”

If he were offered a job in a major city, would he take it?

“Oh yeah.” He nods.

What made him decide to try stand-up comedy? Where did he get the idea he was funny?

“When I was a student I used to give presentations, and I wanted to make them entertaining. The students in my class one day said to me, ‘Ozzie Dean, why don’t you go to the Comedy Store?’ I go, ‘What’s that?’ Well, they said, that is a place you go on a stage and tell jokes. I went there and I thought, this is great; people actually doing this for a living. That’s just amazing! So I came a couple of times, I started gathering material. And that’s how I began.”

Is there any money involved for performing on Monday nights at the Comedy Store?

“No, no. They don’t pay Monday nights or Tuesday nights unless they integrate some of the professionals from Hollywood. They pay them.”


A round of applause signals the end of Frank Manzana’s set, and Dante again takes the stage. He talks with the audience a little. There are the usual jokes about bald men or men who wear toupees who seem to be seated in the front rows as a matter of course. It’s about 8:30 and the room is full. The audience is in a good mood: that tremor of well-being between the second and third drink, the fourth and fifth cigarette. It’s an illusion of passive license that resembles sitting in front of a television set — unlike the sweating, flesh-and-blood men and women trying to elicit a life-affirming response to pain or chaos in the form of guttural, respiratory release.

Dante introduces the next comedian, Lorian Elbert. She takes the stage to a rollicking piano progression that promises much mirth. She is a young blonde woman with the stage presence of a demure, slightly nervous Joan Rivers. She stands as if riveted to the stage. “How’re-you-all- doin’?-good,” she asks and does not wait for an answer, which gets laughs. She clutches the microphone stand as if for support and looks waif-like as she launches into a series of flatly delivered one-liners reminiscent of Henny Youngman.

“I’ve always thought of myself as very intelligent and rather brilliant...of course, I mostly date 12-year-olds.” Chuckles here. “Yeeah...”

“They’ve got a new board game called La Jolla-opoly. Instead of going straight to jail, you go straight to Kmart.”

Groans here. Men sit with arms folded, two of them wearing sunglasses in a room darker than 4 a.m. regrets, their impassive countenances demanding What? What?

C’mon, make me laugh, honey. One woman stirring her drink with a long, polished fingernail is fascinated by the cherry garnish; another woman taps a stir-straw against her bottom teeth. Both are smiling as if recollecting something that made them laugh once. Everyone is eager, quietly, stoically, or politely embarrassed that they want/need something from this girl. Something funny, please. Just funny enough. Take me out of me.

Ozzie squints past the curtain up toward the stage but does not seem to be focusing on Lorian Elbert. “There are some audiences that are easier to make laugh than others. You can tell from the first ten seconds. It’s hard to verbalize, but that’s the way it is. I know when it’s a quote-unquote good audience right from the beginning. Algerians tend to be ‘being’ oriented, Americans tend to be ‘doing’ oriented. Algerians just ‘are’ funny, Americans go out and ‘do’ funny. Americans go onstage and do their routine, and they forget about the audience. I like to relate to the audience. Break down the wall. Sometimes I don’t even do my material. Sometimes I just go into the audience and talk to people. Interact with them instead of focusing on myself, you know, me shining onstage. I don’t do that.”

He falls silent and after a moment is urged to go on. “To me, it seems like what you have in America is what I call professionalization mentality, which means you want to make everything into a profession. That’s why you have stand-up comedians and we don’t have stand-up comedians in Algeria. You want to laugh, you come to the Comedy Store and laugh. It’s a service industry. I heard that in Chicago they have a service that provides people to lie for you. You pay a fee and they’ll call your boss and tell him you’re sick. Isn’t that amazing? In Algeria you want somebody to lie for you? You ask your best friend. He’ll lie for you.” He laughs the kind of laugh some comedians might pay for.

Still clutching the mic stand and staring at a point over the heads of the audience (perhaps looking for Fred’s flashlight cue to vacate the stage), Elbert is rolling on a series of laughs from quick lines. “Payless Shoes...you could pay more but why?...[beat]...because they’re plastic and they’re ugly comes to mind.” Big laugh. The women mostly. The men shift in their chairs, some smile, some drum their fingers on the table or against the sides of glasses.

Come on, c’mon... “Have you heard of the latest birth control for older women? It’s called nudity.” Middle-sized laugh. Ozzie might give it a five.

“Went to a psychic fair last week.... They knew I was coming.” Someone snorts a loud, aborted ‘Hah!’

“Recently I tried to join Liars Anonymous. I swore up and down I was a liar, but they wouldn’t believe me.... I couldn’t find the meetings because they never print the right address.” A smattering of chuckles and guffaws.

Ozzie is talking about Algerian humor. “It’s everywhere. That’s why Algerians can- not understand how you go to a bar and pay some- body to make you laugh. If this was Algeria, everybody would be relating, touching, hugging, and laughing more than they are here. Italians, Mexicans, and Jews are the closest I can compare it to. In Algeria you meet somebody for the first time, you could become friends in 15 minutes. Like yesterday I met somebody in the computer lab. He was from Indonesia. Just because we had something in common, we became instant friends. He asked me to come over to his house and all that stuff. That’s the closest I can come to what Algerians are like. We have no fear of strangers.”

An example of Algerian humor? What’s funny, Ozzie, in Algeria? Dean is eyeing the stage and Fred’s flashlight. He is on next. “Let me think...okay. Remember that commercial that said, ‘Put a tiger in your tank’? Well, this joke is in French, but it would translate to ‘What’s the use of putting a tiger in the engine if you have an ass at the wheel?’”

The crowd is applauding Lorian Elbert, and Dante is again onstage. Ozzie has moved up toward the stage now. Dante makes a joke about McRib sandwiches as he tugs at both sides of his neck. He then raises his arms and says, “Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest Algerian comic alive, direct from the Dunes, Dr. Ozzie Dean!”

Ron Clark, a comedian who looks as if he just wandered in off the beach, is sitting in the box office watching past the curtain as Ozzie goes onstage. “Ozzie is very determined and tenacious. Sometimes that pays off. It’s good to see someone not be discouraged. There’s a lot of sets he has where, if it was another guy, he’d just cry about it. It’s admirable.”

Does Clark think Dean is funny? For the second time, this question elicits a long silence. Finally, “Yes. Yes, I do. I laugh when he’s onstage. Not so much at his jokes, it’s just his persona. He’s a comic’s comic.”

The piano player does a few bars of phony desert music, and Ozzie takes the stage carrying a gym bag and a Chinese coolie’s large hat. “Good evening, First-World amigos,” he says, setting the gym bag and hat on a barstool near the mic. “How are you guys doing tonight? My name’s Ozzie, sorry Harriet couldn’t make it. As you can tell from my accent, I’m from Cleveland, Ohio.” The audience is laughing in a steady, rolling energy that moves around the room in waves. There is no doubt they find him funny immediately.

“Okay, I can see you’re not easily fooled. I’m from the country of Algeria. In fact, I just flew in from Algeria, and boy, are my hostages thirsty!” Very big laugh. The energy clicks up another notch.

“In Algeria, we do stand-up comedy a little differently. You see, in Algeria you cannot talk about the potty, women, religion, the state. Of course, there are still a lot of things to talk about, like, uh...[long beat]...come to think of it, what else is there?” This dies. The energy is hanging somewhere in the room like the clouds of smoke weaving across the spotlights.

“Yeah,” Ozzie sighs, an admission of dying. The sigh gets a laugh. Dying is okay, at least for the moment. It cuts the tension. “I’d like someone to help me with my routine. The way we do it in Algeria is that every time you tell a sick joke or you talk about women, I’d like some- body in the audience to throw...” he reaches into his gym bag, “...water balloons at me. How about you, ma’am? Every time I make a sick joke, you make my day. Okay?” He lightly tosses two water balloons to the woman and knocks over her drink. She gives him a way-to-go-schmuck look, but the drink was mostly empty anyway. She’s gonna be a sport about it.

He shrugs, “A little incentive.” Big laugh.

Holding up the coolie hat, he asks, “Do you know what this is?” There are some garbled responses from around the room. “Shamu’s diaphragm.” Much laughter. The woman throws the water balloon and it glances off Ozzie’s suit without bursting. “Right on the money,” he says. “She’s good.”

Holding up the coolie’s hat once again he says, “It is also a one-tit bra for Dolly Parton.” Pause. “It is also a water balloon protector.” On cue the woman throws the second water balloon and strikes the hat as Ozzie lifts it. “God, it’s getting dangerous in here.” The audience is already in a rhythm, a habit of laughter. Ozzie sets down the hat and walks to the curtain at the rear of the stage. He takes the mic with him and disappears. He keeps speakng, “I have so many jokes in my head, I don’t know where to start...let’s see.” The crowd loves this. “Okay, I found one.” Still speaking from behind the curtain, he asks, “Have you guys ever wondered why every time a plane is hijacked, the hijackers insist on taking it to Algeria?” They are already laughing at this. Long pause. “Well, actually, I am still working on a punch line for this one.” They love it. It works. They’ll buy death from this bookish camel-jockey in a suit because he dies funny.

He reappears hesitantly looking around. “Where are the water balloons?” Steps forward, ducking. “The water balloons. Donde está the water balloons?” He picks one up that is lying on the stage. “You see, I never give these to guys, you know why? Because guys don’t know their own strength. I always give them to women because women are compassionate. Here, ma’am.” He tosses it to the same woman again, knocks over her drink again. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

The audience thinks this is great. The woman at the soaked table doesn’t seem to mind terribly either. She is smiling happily, a little high. “What can I do?” Ozzie touches his heart with sincerity.

He now delivers the line about Algerian women walking behind men and American women walking all over men, and he dances back from the woman with the balloon. “Oooh,” he says. “I’m worried about you.” He looks at her, decides she needs yet more provocation.

“Women are not very good at throwing these. omen throw like this...” He makes a dainty, spastic gesture. That does it. She throws the balloon, and it bursts over his jacket and the mic stand. Everyone applauds. “Thank you,” Ozzie says.

“You know, English is a very confusing language. If a small book is a booklet...shouldn’t a small toy be a toylet?”

Nervous, indulgent chortles.

“You know, the concept of female beauty is also very different in Algeria. It’s like, in my country, a beautiful woman is one who is...” He gestures to his hips, “44,” his waist, “44,” his chest, “44 — you know, built like a bus. I don’t know about you, but that is one bus I don’t want to ride.” He paces and gauges the response. Not too bad, but he’s lost momentum at a crucial point. Laughter continues to drift in the longer he waits. Just standing there, Dean is funny. Funnier, somehow, than anything he might say. “But in America she is 36-26-36 — zero!” Groans. He hands the woman the remaining water balloon, but she doesn’t throw it. She seems to know it wouldn’t be funny a third time. “You know, in my country, weddings sometimes last two weeks...I hear that in this country, marriages sometimes last that long.” Almost no laughter here. There’s the sense that he has stepped in something. The room seems to darken. He hasn’t taken them out of themselves.

Ozzie gets the flashlight signal from the back. “All right, all right. I’d like to leave you with this: Knock knock!” The audience obliges with “Who’s there?”

“Ozzie.”

“Ozzie who?”

“Ozzie you later!”

Phony, boisterous desert music and much applause. It is beyond polite recognition. They are applauding something, there is no mistake.

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