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Bill Frisell's Remarkable Joke

The show was in March, 1992 at the Hot House, then still in Wicker Park. I went by myself. It was supposed to be Wayne Horvitz's band "The President" and the Bill Frisell Band, but there was a terrible snowstorm that night, and several of the musicians were stuck circling the airport, unable to land at O'Hare. Frisell, Joey Baron, and Bobby Previte were the only performers who made it to the club. The crowd was pretty tiny, too - it was a small room anyway, but only few dozen people decided to brave the weather.

I remember having to take a Red Line train from Rogers Park all the way downtown and switching to a Blue Line to get out to Damen and Western. When I first got out there, the club was delaying the start of the show, I think hoping that more of the band might make it. I remember to pass the time, I decided to take the train back downtown and wander around the nighttime Loop in the snow. I stopped to throw a few snowballs at the Picasso sculpture at the Daley Center, then headed back to see what was happening.

By the time I got back there, Frisell had started playing an extended solo improvization, which was followed by a completely brilliant, lengthy drum duet. By the time the drum set finished, I think it was already past 1am, but the crowd was not giving up on getting an encore. Finally, all three musicians returned to the stage, and Frisell stepped over to an onstage microphone, saying only, "You people stay up late here!" They played a couple few tunes together, and in the middle of a sort of quiet part of this one piece, Bill Frisell walks over to the mic again, and without any introduction or preface went into telling the following joke:

So, there's these two guys at a bus stop, and one of them has his pants down, and the other guy has his finger up the first guy's asshole. Now, this third guy comes along, and seeing this... this Grotesque Display, he asks them 'What are you doing?' And so the guy, the one with the, uh, the finger, he says 'I'm sorry, it's just that you see my friend here is feeling very sick. I'm trying to help him throw up.' So the third guy hears this, and he's like 'Aw, no - that's... that's not the way you... you're never going to get him to throw up doing that!' And the guy says 'He will once I put my finger down his throat.'

And, bang - Frisell turns away from the microphone and goes straight back into playing his guitar while everybody in the room tries to figure out how to laugh and wince at the same time.