Having a crummy childhood is a perfect training ground for comedy. Few things can suck the innocence out of a kid faster than being the only person sitting at a table covered in colorful Visqueen, helium filled balloons and a beautiful birthday cake that were all bought just for them.
Patti Sweeney, the office manager at Hyena's Comedy Night Club, read about just a case. A mother in Kalamazoo, Michigan tried to organize a party for her 10-year-old turning 11 known only as Colin who couldn't get any friends to commit to a birthday party. His mother said he suffers from a sensory processing disorder that makes it hard for him to socialize with other people. So she took to Facebook and created an event page that went viral and attracted more than 1.7 million likes with promises of gifts and guests for the kid who likes Doctor Who and playing on his Nintendo 3DS and (here's the kicker) wants to be a comedian.
"I cried," Sweeney said. "I literally cried, just because I have [nieces and nephews] in my life who are that age and I know it's tough having friends at that age. Hearing the story really touched me."
Sweeney decided to organize a little birthday surprise of their own for Colin by tapping on the shoulders of the local comics who turned up for last week's Wednesday open mic show.
The people there all signed a birthday card for the future comic, an appropriately geeky one of a pug dressed as Darth Vader wishing young Colin to "Birthday greetings ... from the Bark Side!"
Sweeney said the story hit a personal nerve with her.
"I suffered from anxiety attacks when I was his age so I can relate to him," she said. "I would go to a birthday party and have a freak out and then the kids are afraid to talk to you. I totally related to him."
Of course, since comics are signing a card, she had to put out a sign asking them to watch their language and keep their inner-Anthony Jezelnik from writing greetings to the young boy that he might use in a future routine.
"I was going to see if they had any money, but they're comics, so they're broke anyway," she said. "I just wanted to let him know that he had friends down here if he's ever in Dallas seven years from now when he can come in."
However, the comics who showed up were more than happy to jot something down for the boy and encourage him to go after his dream.
"I think he should go for it," said comedian Diane Michelle.
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"It's something I always pondered on and put off, so I'd tell him don't put it off," comic MJ Moody said. "At the end of the day, I can say I did everything I wanted to do in my life."
Others decided to do a little more than jot down a friendly wish. Comedian and 2013 Funniest Comic in Texas finalist Clint Werth said, just like Sweeney, the story hit home for him even though "I'm probably the most cynical guy ever."
So he decided to send him a couple of Nintendo games and comic books that were just "lying around" to go with the card.
"I wrote him a kind of cheesy 'it gets better' letter and told him I was a comedian in Dallas and that he could write me if he ever had any questions," Werth said by email. "He's way too young to ever watch my stuff, but that's OK. It's about encouragement. I felt like a cornball but it's an 11-year-old kid. Another comic busted my balls about it so I dick-punched him and told him never to be a bigger asshole than me. So I still got my street cred or whatever."