By Perry Crowe

It's hard to know what to feel right now. I'm ecstatic, sure. No more schlepping through those dingy nightclubs, telling jokes to people on awkward first dates, spending a nocturnal life with those who would just as soon set me on fire as say, "Nice set." But then, Combs got a standing-oh his first time on Carson and the next thing you know he's swinging from a bed sheet noose in the closet of a Glendale psychiatric ward. Guess I should just be happy with what I've got: a podium, a giant board to gesture to, and a cool twenty-two minutes on the telly. Just got to claim it. Like Dawson. He married a goddam contestant. Only a matter of time, the way he ran his lips over every piece of ass that came across his stage.

That's the way it's got to be done, though. Balls out. Dawson knew. Must've been his merchant marine instinct. What did he see out on those still English waters? Whatever the horror, it spurred him to pugilism of the worst kind. Sure, for money, but also just to hurt another man. They say his fists struck like ten-pound hams stuffed with twenty pounds of doorknobs. He rode that thunderous fury to American soil and wrestled an angel to her knees. Dawson was the king. Best keep that in mind. But don't get cute about it. Not like Karn. "Dawson Jr", indeed!

The Feud ain't cute. It's cold, calculating, mathematical. One hundred people. One question. Play the percentages. Crunch the numbers. Channel your innate autism and handle that $%@#! And yet the board shows the most common responses, not necessarily the correct answers. Get inside a hundred people's heads. Know their struggles, know their hopes, find their tender underbellies and strike. It's math versus heart. Logic versus emotion. Walking the great existential tightrope. Just bend your knees. Not too much, though. Not like Anderson.

It was that squishiness of character that drove him to broach the subject of paid autoerotic voyeurism that desperate neon night. Oh, but this wasn't one of those cotton-tailed Ojibwa casinos of his youth. Anderson had the misfortune of turning his longing, Midwestern gaze on the jagged edges of a Californian. And just like that the trap was sprung and his doughy calf was snared in the razor teeth of blackmail. Only trust a gigolo as deep as you can bury him. Bet Dawson knew that. Duck and weave. Duck and weave. Jab! Jab! Jab! But Anderson, the big softie, was too distracted with his cartoons and his books and whatever other crackerjacks he could lay his sausage fingers on. Damn fool. The Feud demands total compliance.

Karn learned that the hard way, too. It's got to be tough to resist these days, what with the media saturation. The one-sport athlete is a dying breed. The silver screen hawks autos, the stereo plays on TV, the books are written by faces, the series becomes a movie becomes a series becomes a novella becomes a movie becomes a play becomes a game becomes a movie becomes a series, and it's all downloadable. His old buddy from the tube even dicked around in movie theaters, dressed like Santa. Well, Karn had dreams, too.

Everybody knew the guy liked to sing, knew his background. They say he used to croon from the catwalk while the crew prepped the set. Sure, it annoyed the hell out of the grips and made the production staff force strained smiles, but the guy had pipes. People respected that much. But when you land the Feud, it's a marriage. You can't go chasing a tramp like Broadway and think the missus won't crack your head open with a rolling pin.

After Karn's big opening night in New York, he went out with the rest of the cast, looking to really put the shine on the apple. Master of music and TV; he was a renaissance man now. His glazed eyes spotted a retiring blossom at the far end of the bar. With a smile and a nod, the dance began. A kamikaze shot was purchased. Then another. And another. Karn and his newfound lover stumbled back to her hotel room, up to their wrists in hanky-panky. But after he tossed back a nightcap proffered by his ladylove, his head swam. Passing out replaced passion and, bam, wouldn't you know it: Chinese organ thieves. The next morning Karn awoke to find emptied-out plastic bread bags where his liver, kidneys, stomach, and right lung should have been. He survived, thanks to a quick-thinking concierge and a bike messenger in the grips of an amphetamine binge, but became forever reliant on horrible, giant, medical machinations to sustain his life. And that's just not telegenic.

They offered the gig to Dawson first. Wanted to bring the old cock home to roost. But the magnificent son of a bitch declined. He knew the Feud was a meat grinder. As a young man, his spry boxing steps had kept him dancing between the raindrops. But the shuffling feet of old age would surely get him caught in a fatal downpour this time around. He already almost fell on his sword back when he snatched the dangling reigns after Combs lost his grip. Smart, Dawson. Real smart. So what does that make me?

I've put seventeen years into the comedy circuit and I've only got an ex-wife, alimony payments, ballooning credit card debt, six frozen embryos in Reseda, a bleeding ulcer, chronic insomnia, and two sitcom leads lost to Jim Belushi to show for it. When the Feud called, I felt the winds shifting. And while this breeze is warm and has swollen my sagging sails, it also carries the ominous reek of sulfur and brimstone. But after investing so much already, after sacrificing so much, all you can do is just keep squeezing that motherlovin' stone even if the only blood you ever get from it is your own.