Kelly Alto

"Paul Scheer: The First Time I Got In a Bar Fight" [NY Times]

Kelly Alto
"Paul Scheer: The First Time I Got In a Bar Fight" [NY Times]

Paul Scheer: The First Time I Got In a Bar Fight

Paul Scheer: The First Time I Got In a Bar Fight

NYTPaul.jpg

There is an eerie silence right before you get punched in the face.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. It was 2014, and I had just become a dad for the first time. I want to go on record here and say that being a parent is a job you are never truly ready for, no matter how many books you’ve read or classes you’ve attended. Nor should you be. If you honestly knew what was in store for you, I don’t think anyone in their right mind would jump into it. But once you become a parent, your world changes. It’s amazing and it’s terrifying. Most importantly, you are now responsible for the life of another person and you have one consistent question, “Can I really do this?”

Will I be able to protect my family if something bad happens? I stayed up late having terrible thoughts. Would I be able to get to my son’s room if there was a fire? What if I were pushing his stroller down the street and a rabid dog started chasing us, could I use the stroller as a weapon? If we were in a nuclear war would we be as cool as the family in “The Road?”

Now, I’m lucky to have a partner who makes this whole parenting thing way more fun. We are a team, forever intertwined as the protectors of this amazing kid. But the question remains, what would we do in a crisis? Six weeks into postpartum we both were fried. We were like vampires who probably smelled a little worse than your average vampire, on account of the fact we were really just human targets for spit-up practice. But after weeks of being cooped up inside, we wanted to see if we could re-enter the world of the living. We wanted to be the cool parents who bring their kids to bars and on vacations. So we did!

We went to this new bar in our hood, stroller in tow. It was a place that catered to a crowd of people who did not have a care in the world. Basically us nine months earlier.

We found a seat at the bar and ordered a drink. We were cool parents! Then we heard in a thunderously booming voice, “Get the [expletive] out of my seat!”

I turned around to see a guy who looked like a hipster version of Pitbull complete with an extra long scarf, approaching us. Before I could even reply, he struck again: “Get your bitch out of my seat!”

Usually, the first instinct of a rational person would be to defuse the situation, mainly since my child was there. But chalk this up to the stress of a new parent and an utter lack of sleep, I came right back at this guy and nailed him with … “Excuse me?” (Sure it doesn’t sound super aggressive, but you should have heard my tone. It was very harsh.)

Without missing a beat he repeated himself, and soon stood almost nose to nose with me and mere feet away from our newborn.

This was the moment that you always prepare yourself for. What would you say/do in a bar fight? Now I’m an actor, writer, comedian — I’ve been performing improv since I was 18, so I can think on my feet and unleash a devastating barb at a moment’s notice. Or so I thought. I simply responded with …

“Oh, yeah?”

Wait! What? That was the best I could come up with!? I could have said, “Lenny Kravitz called, he wants his scarf back” or “Did it hurt when you finished last in a Pitbull look-alike contest?”

But no, all I said was, “Oh, yeah?”

Unfazed by my cutting blow, the Pitbull-looking dude upped the ante and said, “You better move before I kick a watermelon seed through your front teeth.”

Now that threat may seem violent, but it wasn’t. I’d argue it was creative. I’m a gap-toothed man and I was blown away by his specific and vivid imagery. I pictured a Pixar-esque watermelon seed who longs to be a football and senses his moment has finally arrived, with a gap-toothed man presenting him the closest thing he’ll ever get to a goalpost. Does he make it? We will never know because my whimsical fantasy had to end so I could continue my fight.

I couldn’t let what just happened happen again. I looked Bizarro-Pitbull dead in the eyes and blurted out, “I bet you’d want to put my [expletive] between my front teeth!”

Internally, I yelled WHAT?! What the hell does that even mean?! Then something unexpected happened. He responded with, “Yeah, I do!”

Which caught me entirely off guard. So I responded, “You do?”

Which questioned his entire vision of his own masculinity. Now he was confused and angry. He cocked back his fist. The loud bar went silent as I scanned my surroundings like the Terminator to figure out my next move.

When all of a sudden a raised hand came flying into my field of vision and just smacked this dude across the face so hard that the entire bar audibly gasped.

Was that my hand? No. I turned to see it belonged to my wife!

There is nothing more insulting than a smack across the face. It’s the quickest way to humiliate someone. When you smack someone across the face, you are essentially saying, I don’t care enough to hit you. I just want to embarrass you.

When the guy turned back to us a red handprint was smeared across his face. He looked shocked, and then he just ran. Like a deflated high school bully from an ’80s movie.

We had won! We had defeated the aggro hipster. We had protected our family! The bar bought us drinks, and we felt like we were on top of the world. At that moment we were the coolest parents. Then the bartender casually mentioned that the guy my wife had just hit was a recently released convict and could be dangerous. Instead of risking his return, we left a tip on the bar and got the hell out of there. We’ve never been back.

But I knew from that day forward, we’d be able to take care of our kid — as long as I was able to provide enough of a distraction for my wife to land a perfect sucker punch. That’s kind of parenthood in a nutshell: Someone’s always got your back, and it’s not about how you win the fight, it’s just that you live to see another day.