Shy on a Bench, The Language of Love Knows No Sarcasm
Bob Morrissey, Private Faggot, reporting for duty:
My name is Bob Morrissey and I do standup comedy in Houston. I’ve organized events and open mics for over six years. I try to perform jokes in front of people at least five times a week. I’ve played shows and festivals with some of the top names in the business. I used to be a soldier and I used to think I was straight.
This is what a typical Standup Comedy Set List looks like:
1) “A” Is for Insult 2) Lurker 3) Blackout Drunk 4) Toilet Bowl 5) Y’all Fuckin?
I am a master of comedy, but I wasn’t a very good soldier. I was always getting into trouble. One of my sergeants at Fort Campbell forced me to shave my head to the scalp all the time because I never looked shaved right or clean enough. He’d refer to me in front of others as that “broke-dick fuck up with the dick suckin lips.” He’d found out what the Drill Sergeants used to say about me at Fort Sill.
They called me all sorts of things.
I kiss because I love.
There’s a story I tell on stage about my first time messing around with another guy. I was in his car and we were almost arrested for indecent public exposure, but because the police saw me in my Iraq War Combat Veteran Desert Fatigues I was able to convince them not to arrest us. This was my personal “Stonewall” experience. There’s a whole explanation for why I was wearing the Army clothes, and there’s also a lot that goes into explaining why it took me until my mid-twenties to feel confident as a confirmed homosexual.
1) Failed Joy 2) Men’s Balls 3) No Pets 4) Zero Dark Flirty 5) Cum Jars
I used to have a lot of jokes about cum jars. I don’t remember any of them now. Now all of my jokes are about dildos, donuts, and why I went to war. What I saw in the war. Whether or not I was gay in the war, or why I am the way I am.
It’s hard for me to judge my own motivations with regard to why I do comedy, why I went to war, or why I’m gay.
Life is full of mystery and I’m very mysterious.
In 2001 I joined the Army in order to buy a car and pay back a few months’ worth of rent money I owed to a friend I’d lived with in New Orleans. I was twenty-one years old and I had nothing better to do. I didn’t know the September 11 attacks were about to happen. I didn’t sign up to go to war, and I wasn’t aware of the fact that my sexuality was officially illegal once I was in the Army.
Nevertheless, the situation was stressful. I knew people in the Army who worried about being gay. One soldier friend of mine told me he couldn’t be queer on account of how his brother already was. We both believed in the improbability of two gays deriving from the same pair of loins: his parents’ loins. This soldier and I used to shower together all the time and watch porn for hours alone in his room. We never once acted on each other in any overt way. We kept our pants on when we weren’t showering together, and we never once touched dicks or even kissed. There was nothing sexual about that.
We weren’t gay at that time.
I was gay in Basic Training.
In Basic Training I’d been caught jacking off in my bunk in the barracks room late at night. A drill sergeant saw what I was doing and screamed: “Quit jerkin off up there, faggot!” For the rest of the training cycle in Fort Sill, Oklahoma everyone called me “Private Faggot.” It was good-natured fun. We all thought it was funny. The nickname followed me to my permanent party unit in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. There, the name “Private Faggot” evolved into “Private Pebbles.” People called me “Pebbles” all the time, as in: “Fruity Pebbles.”
Those were the types of jokes people played on each other in the Army. Humor was based on shame, and being gay was endlessly funny to everyone at all times. I could identify with that, but I refused to identify as gay. To do so would have meant social and perhaps literal suicide. Anyway, I’d tricked myself into thinking I couldn’t be gay because that would have been too easy, and I didn’t want my complex personality defined by sex.
I tell a joke on stage now about a friend of mine whose teacher pulled him aside from the class during recess. She told him it was “okay to be gay” when he was ten years old, before he even knew it himself. I say that I never had such an experience when I was ten years old because no one ever thought I was “special needs gay.” In terms of other people’s ability to detect me on their gaydar, I’ve always been “light skinned gay.” I can pass for straight. I do it all the time. No one in the Army knew I was gay except for that one sergeant who called me a “broke dick fuck up with dick suckin lips” all the time. Or that other guy who gave me the nickname “Private Faggot.”
He knew I was a faggot before I did!
I was very closeted for an unnaturally long time.
I moved to New Orleans after the war because I could. I had thousands of dollars all at once for the first (and last) time in my life. I wanted to be drunk every day with my friends from Chicago who’d moved to New Orleans to go to college. They’d all finished college at this point, and I’d just come back from the war.
I was the only one who’d done that, but I still felt insecure. I made grand gestures to prove that I was cool.
I went out with friends one night and wore my Iraq War Desert Fatigues to a party. I had a uniform with my name patched onto it. There was still sand from the war in my clothing. People wanted to touch it. People wanted to ask questions and hear more. Some girl thought it was really hot that I’d been in the war. She touched my clothes and asked me about movies.
My dick did not get hard enough when we were in bed that night. I was so nervous and so inexperienced. I’d never touched a man at that point, but I’d wanted to so badly. I was dying for it every day, and somehow this wasn’t working. The woman I was with was beautiful, but nothing felt like anything I wanted. I’d hardly been with anyone at all at that point, so it still felt like the best thing that had ever happened to me. I thought we were in love when we woke up together. I really wanted to date her more.
She didn’t answer any of my calls for days. Our plans for coffee fell through. We’d made plans for coffee. Those plans were important to me.
I knew she was playing a show at this bar downtown called Circle Bar. I went there by myself to see her play music, and once again I wore the Army uniform out in public in order to look cool. The effect was not impressive. Romance did not happen. Her performance was great. I’d left my car at home and had to walk back alone, pissing drunk, crying, and sure that no one would ever love me for the rest of my life.
A car turned around as I was pissing on a building. Someone parked and got out of the car as I quickly reassembled myself. The voice called from behind me: “Hay.” I ignored it, but he called again. I thought I was getting robbed. He got closer. I turned around to face the man, to see what he wanted. He said he liked the way I pissed on that building.
That was all he had to say.
We started kissing.
It was really great.
We went to his car to continue what we were doing. We couldn’t go to my place because it was full of a bunch of roommates who thought I was straight, and we couldn’t go to his because he wasn’t allowed to be a fairy at his house. We kissed in the car. He really fogged up my glasses. I didn’t see in the rearview mirror that a police car had pulled up behind us. Neither of us knew the police lights were flashing until we heard the squawking police voices address us over a speaker. We were already in trouble. I was already in trouble for being gay.
The cops told us to get out of the car. The man I was gay with was so frazzled that he didn’t put his boner back into his pants before stepping out of the car. The police were horrified and so was I.
Fortunately, I got out of the car wearing my Iraq War Combat Veteran clothing, and I had an ID that matched the name sewn onto my jacket. The police respected me more than the guy I was gay with because I didn’t seem as gay as him, so I did all the talking. I was so afraid of losing my access to the GI Bill and VA benefits. I’d just come back from the war in Iraq. I had rights. I didn’t think it was illegal to be gay. We were in a car. We weren’t hurting anyone. I told them they wouldn’t have bothered us if we were a straight couple doing the same thing. I stood up for myself. For the first time in my life, I told people I was gay. I said it out loud, and I defended it as a thing I didn’t have to be ashamed of. I’d been to war.
They let us go.
The cops left and then we finished each other off in some field. We never spoke to each other again. I didn’t tell my roommates or anyone else what happened. I was so happy no one knew.
I moved to Houston and became a full time gay on my own terms.
I started doing standup, and now I co-host and help coordinate a comedy showcase every two weeks at The Secret Group. The show I produce with my friends Drew Hollway and Jamal Rahal is called Gay Shame Parade: Gay Standup by Gays, Probable Gays, and People We Wish Were Gay. Non-GLBTQ comedians do our show all the time, but we like to make them feel as if they’re in the minority. We like to make them feel like they have to pretend to be gay in order to fit in at our comedy parade. Mainly we want people to feel comfortable laughing at being whatever it is they are, and we say we wish all people were gay because we want everyone to be happy.