The Universal Language of Comedy: What I Believe the Stand-up Comic on the Television in my Barcelona Hotel Room is Saying

I haven't got the best grasp of Spanish. Maybe just enough to get by. You know, order some food, say thank you, ask how much the food costs, remark what a good meal it was and what a beautiful night it has been. Sometimes, if I'm feeling especially confident, I will tell somebody that they are beautiful and express my wish that their country "live a very long time." Anyway, none of it matters because on the first night of getting here I have elected to stay in, watch TV, and order room service. On the television, a hilarious Spanish stand up comic. I'm fairly confident that what follows is a translation of his entire set.

[Comic comes out onstage, says "Hello", "Live Long" and "Good" several times. Crowd applauds.]

"There is a sky for me that leads to most of my performances of comedy. Who has the food of the sky or air? Where do the owners of the sky shop at a market? If there is a large room or concert hall somewhere holding similar matter, local men and local women would never consume or purchase it. Not on earth instead of sky."

[This seems to be a resort type of tourist crowd and they are laughing and looking at each other as if they've been through this recently and can really identify with the comedian. Then he switches gears a little bit.]

"There are several rooms for habitat. Right? Maybe it's time for several of these rooms to be for me and a woman. Ha ha! So many large rooms, and now I have those rooms, and now I have that woman. But where are these rooms tonight, friends? I am funny in so many places, and so I am never in those rooms. I can't make a good life for anyone but one single me. You can carry her away, please. It is a favor you are doing. It will be even better now for me!"

[Crowd is laughing, especially the guys with dates. Comedian rolls his eyes and shakes his head. I'm feeling pretty smart for understanding Spanish pretty well. Like the kind of smartness you fell when you watch Jeopardy! alone.]

But listen now, as I speak with no laughing. The one way of speaking that we all know. Even men, even women. A process of joining two things up is the only thing that means two things are together. Yes! A process of joining two things together! Don't make elderly people listen to me! Don't make very small local people listen to me! When male friends here go away from this theater and go to sleep, you will remember the words I am using.

[The men in the crowd really get a kick out of this one. The women don't seem to like it as much.]

I switch the channel and take a look at the local weather while I wait on my room service order. I look around for a local newscast and find one that has just finished the sports highlights, so my timing is impeccable. Just as they move into weather there's a knock at the door. I open the door and realize I have ordered three omelets and three side orders of salted almonds for dinner, which accounts for the strange look on this waiter's face. I hear the television weatherman say something as I sign for my dinner. Evidently, the sky will be on fire tomorrow and people are encouraged to go up to the clouds to seek shade. I finish signing my tab, pay a tip, and tell the waiter that the night is beautiful and that I hope his country lives a long time.

About the author:

Dan Kennedy is a writer living in New York. He is a frequent contributor to McSweeney's, and Random House/Crown will publish EVIDENTLY I KNOW EVERYTHING in 2003.