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Two Candidates Walk Into A Bar
by Nick Edinger

Two comedians, each best friends, are hired as digital strategists by rival presidential campaigns. Their jobs are to create the memes that sway the election "Sounds interesting!"

Chapter I

The Setup
Holy shit, this stupid comedy book has parts?!?

Chapter 1
This was the last happy night Amal would experience until two years later, after the 2024 presidential election. He spent most of that night at an Arizona comedy club, looking for, and dreading the sight of, a politician.

Amal Beck entered the Chandler Comedy Club, on that night, a bit earlier than usual. He was scheduled to perform in 45 minutes. Most evenings, he would walk into the comed...

Chapter II

Chapter 2

Henry stood backstage. He tapped his foot, waiting for Amal to join him. He had developed fifty different non-sequiturs to help Amal ease out of awkward conversations, and had used none of them in the past two years. Whenever he got Amal out of polite company, something better always came to mind. And even now, as he loitered by the makeup mirror, Henry ran through a couple of new dinner-party-enders in his mind, and made a mental note to ask Amal about “having to go iron the dog.&rdq...

Chapter III

Chapter 3

Amal waited to speak until Henry finished— he knew Henry was on a roll. Henry outlined several strategies for tonight’s bit, but made Amal’s role clear— film Henry and Fulton when they talk later on. Henry would put the video on his Twitter page, and, fingers crossed, cause the resurgence of one of his favorite memes.

After Henry finished his talk, the manager of Chandler Comedy Club entered through the curtain. She told then that the headlining act’s r...

Chapter IV

Chapter 4

If Henry knew one fact, it was this: comedy was the most real thing in the world.

That statement wasn’t exactly true: Henry believed he knew several facts. He knew that Amal had left to work on his routine. He knew, as he peeked at the audience through the curtain backstage, that the man wearing only half a shirt would function as the ideal audience for his material, someone to direct jokes to. Halfshirt keep firing off witty asides to his friends—if Henry got him to laug...

Chapter V

Chapter 5

It was a killer performance, at least to Amal— he found himself laughing at some of the jokes he tore apart during his workshops with Henry. Henry, on occasion, joked about hiring Frederick as a professional laugh track. If he did, he needn’t had bothered. Amal set down what remained of his vodka at the bar top, and scanned the crowd. Even a good comedian would have trouble following Henry, despite his occasional missteps. Amal was on next.

Amal adjusted his one cufflin...

Chapter VI

Chapter 6

Henry joined Amal at the bar for the final act. The bartender (who played the police officer) resumed his duties after returning the uniform to the costume closet. The headliner performed after the double feature of Henry Cockburn and Amal Beck, to rave responses. Henry missed the act entirely. He was present at the performance, as anyone in the Chandler Comedy Club could attest to. But he spent the time looking at Representative Fulton, studying his every move. Not even Amal, seated next t...

Chapter VII

Chapter 7

Amal, filming, had to grab Henry’s phone with both hands to stop it shaking. Few people in the Chandler Comedy Club could contain themselves. The moment Amal caught on a phone; where Representative Fulton just repeated a crass (and worse yet, outdated) meme; had the makings of a classic. Well, as classic as Internet Videos could be, according to Amal.

All the twenty-somethings still at the bar found different ways to laugh. Some quaked. Some chortled. One odd woman beat her ch...

Chapter VIII

Chapter 8

“It is a hit!” shouted Henry, stretching his arms and leaning back in his arched, wheeled computer chair. None of his energy had left him. He and Amal were in Henry’s shabby apartment. Only a few hours had passed since they left the club with the Fulton video. Both combed through Henry’s Twitter feed, watching the responses to the prank pour in. Though Amal would probably use the word “trickle.” It didn’t matter to Henry— it was worth having h...

Chapter IX

Chapter 9

Amal woke up to a knock on the door. He stirred, and then arched his back. Amal once practiced his fire-starting routine on this couch, in partial hope that the ratty thing would die a deserved death. Amal sat up and stretched his arms, reaching towards a slightly damp ceiling. His back felt like it had slept on 20 books.

Someone knocked on the door again, harder this time. Amal jolted, but he remained sitting down. Henry could answer the door. In the meantime, Amal counted all the f...

Chapter X

Chapter 10

A dozen thoughts spun around Henry’s head. It was like a dream come true… but not a normal dream, more like one of the X-Men-circus-parade ones Henry might experience after eating too much frozen cheesesteak. Sam’s cute half-smile and slender fingers only made this decision-point more bizarre.

“Well then,” said Henry, balancing the weight of each syllable as he spoke. “I feel like I’m in The Last Starfighter, only with gifs instead of laser...

Chapter XI

Chapter 11

Amal had had enough. Just as Henry hopped up from his chair, his outstretched hand ready to shake Sam’s, Amal stepped forward to push Henry’s arm down.

“Amal, buddy…”

“If you liked Schmeling, then you would not take this job.” Amal turned to face Sam, blocking Henry from her view. ‘Does your candidate know how much information you add to your database without permission from Internet users?”

Sam crossed her arms. H...

Chapter XII

Chapter 12

Henry staggered. All his energy drained out of his head, and his body turned into a statue of jelly. He looked at Amal. Amal sat there, in Henry’s chair, his eyes glued to the floor, his legs tight together… how could he just sit there? Why could Amal maintain a calm face while Henry’s world slid further and farther away from him?

“Your… the thing… you never told—“

Henry put his hands on his forehead. He slowed his breathing,...

Chapter XIII

Chapter 13

Amal helped Henry pack in silence, for the most part. They placed books in boxes, argued about toilet roll placement, dismantled the computer, pried the katana off of the mantle, and left the couch for the next poor renter to worry about. Amal’s mouth had stopped moving, but his mind picked on the slack.

Amal recalled his first encounter of Henry. At a college kegger, Amal, bored, started offering a sale of his “Tarantino fanfiction” to anyone sober enough to liste...

Chapter XIV

The First Story
Political satire’s not dead, it just wants to sleep a little longer.

Chapter 14

On the flight to New York, in an under-lit and sterile plane cabin, at the middle seat between two large women, Henry Cockburn held his phone on his lap. The phone displayed a text message notification, from Amal Beck.

Henry frowned. He ran his fingers through his hair. He stared at the notification for several minutes. Then, he put his phone down.


Chapter XV

It was obsession at first sight.

The first time Amal saw Kaleo, he couldn’t stop staring at the birthmark on his forehead.

Amal was in a conference room of smooth tables and chairs. A pine air freshener hung from the overhead projector. Amal had performed all of society’s expected manners in the correct fashion, so far. He had showed up to the Victech conference room on time, with his stack of notecards in his satchel as opposed to his hand. He had sat down on the mahogany table, a...

Chapter XVI
There's a cute kitten in this video

Their first ElectON assignment was to make something popular. Anything would do.

Henry stood on top of a boulder pile in Central Park. His fists dug into his hips. He surveyed the New York City landscape in a Superman pose. He dressed as if he were a hipster Clark Kent, with a bomber hat, and a faded X-Men t-shirt underneath a size-too-small sweater. His bare, red fingertips trembled.

“They’ll never suspect us like this!” shouted a voice from below.


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