A woman, with the help of a man, nervously sets out to tell us all a joke: A man walks into a bar and meets a waitress. As they begin to perform the joke for the audience, lines between the performers and characters blur and a tense and funny standoff about gender and power emerges. Is the customer justified in thinking something will happen? Is the waitress justified to lie? Why are some things funny to her and insulting to him? Ownership of the story becomes a competition as the man and woman unpack every word and movement, catching each other out on their assumptions and contradictions as they inch towards the dark punchline.
2015 Toronto Fringe Festival Patron's Pick and Best of Fringe Selection
Named as an OUTSTANDING NEW PLAY, OUTSTANDING PRODUCTION, OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE, OUTSTANDING DIRECTION --Now Magazine
About the author
Rachel Blair is a Dora-nominated playwright and performer. Her play A Man Walks Into a Bar was a runaway hit at the Toronto Fringe Festival, remounted to sell-out runs at the Next Stage Theatre Festival and Ottawa's Undercurrents Festival. Recognized by the Globe and Mail as a "Favourite Cultural Moment of 2015," A Man Walks Into a Bar was nominated for Outstanding New Play at the 2016 Dora Awards. Her first play, Wake, won the Toronto Fringe's New Play Contest. She has been shortlisted for the Tarragon Theatre RBC Emerging Playwright's Competition and has developed work through Tarragon Theatre, Factory Theatre, and the Banff Centre's Playwright's Lab. Rachel is a graduate of York University's Theatre Program and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, England. She lives in Toronto.
Excerpt: Man Walks Into a Bar, A (by (author) Rachel Blair)
A fairly empty space except for a large bar and two bar stools.
A WOMAN and A MAN come out from behind the curtain, stand downstage centre and address the audience. She is clearly very nervous. He is very encouraging of her.
W: (To the audience.) Hello. Thank you for coming out. This is great.
M: Totally great.
W: What a wonderful thing to have you all here.
M: (To the WOMAN.) Are you all set?
W: (To MAN.)Yes. (To the audience.) Yes.
M: She's going to tell us a joke.
W: I am. I'm going to preface this by saying I don't tell jokes very often.
M: That doesn't matter. It will be great.
So. (She rushes.) A man walks into a bar and he goes to sit down and he sees this waitress and then the waitress says to him--
The MAN gently interrupts her.
M: Sorry. You're speaking very fast.
W: Sorry. I am? Sorry.
M: And, why don't you... expand it. Why don't you tell us... what kind of bar?
W: Oh. Um. Does that matter?
M: You might as well. You've got the floor. We're listening. People like details.
W: Okay. It's a... normal. It's a bar.
M: ...Is it classy? Is it expensive?
W: Oh sorry. It's casual, but no... it's not expensive.
M: Is it trashy? Is it a dive bar?
W: It's not a dive bar. And it's not 'trashy'. 'Trashy' isn't a very nice word, is it? It's a... it's a bar. It's a neighbourhood bar.
M: Okay. Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt. You're doing great.
W: Oh. Thanks.
Okay. Sorry everyone. Rewind.
So a man walks into a bar.
M: A man.
W: (To the MAN.) Should I say something about the man?
M: Sure. What's the man like?
W: ... Average.
(Excitedly, to the audience.) So this average man walks into a bar--
M: Well, what does that mean? What makes a man 'average'?
W: Um... nothing is particularly spectacular about him? If you saw him on the street, you'd assume he's just like every other man?
M: See, that sounds negative.
W: Oh. Oh no. I didn't mean it to be negative. I wanted him to be accessible. 'Average' isn't a bad thing.
M: Okay. I see what you're doing. Maybe 'normal' instead of 'average.'
W: Good point.
She has lost the plot. There are a few seconds of silence. She remembers the audience is there.
(To the audience.) Sorry, I don't tell jokes very often. I don't know if that's obvious.
M: You're doing a great job.
W: (To him.) Thanks. (To the audience.) I promise the whole thing won't be like this.
M: You're warming up.
W: I'm warming up.
Okay. Let me start from the beginning.
She shakes it off. He encourages her.
M: You've got this.
W: I got this.
So a man walks into a bar.
She positions him beside the bar.
She is enthusiastic.
Just a normal guy. And it's a very busy night and there's people everywhere and--
M: He's by himself?
W: Yes, he's by himself.
(She gestures to herself.) And he sees a waitress.(To the man, and very pleased with herself.) And before you ask what the waitress is like, she's... cute and--
M: How cute?
W: I don't know. She's not hot, but she's cute.
W: So a man walks into a bar, and it's busy, and the waitress comes up to him, and says--
She quickly walks past him and loops behind the bar.
Blair artfully tantalizes us with what could be a cute romantic scenario, only to starkly expose the misunderstanding -- to say nothing of the vicious misogyny -- that still blights male-female relationships in the 21st century. -- Torontoist
"There is a punchline to A Man Walks Into a Bar. But it's more like a gut-punch: it hits low, it hits hard, and it hits close to home. And everybody needs to see it." --Mooney on Theatre