Transcript of 1st Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. Darius Booth, Monday, October 5, 1998 at 3:00 pm.

Mr. Booth: Excuse me, Doctor Balis?
Dr. Balis: Hello.
Mr. Booth: I'm Darius Booth. I have an appointment for three o'clock today.
Dr. Balis: You're right on time, Mr. Booth. Please, come in; have a seat.
Mr. Booth: Thanks. This is probably a waste of time. And I'll be resigning next week anyway. But I've heard about you, and I just thought...well, you know, maybe it'd be good to get a different perspective, to try to get a clearer view of things.
Dr. Balis: Hmm...
Mr. Booth: I turn thirty next April.
Dr. Balis: Congratulations.
Mr. Booth: Thank you...
Dr. Balis: Well, Mr. Booth, you don't have to be employed at SII to use my services. And...
Mr. Booth: I'm pretty much finished with San Francisco.
Dr. Balis: I see. Well, do you have enough time to tell me why you're here?
Mr. Booth: Ha! You're right; sorry. God, it's like that Monty Python sketch...what is it? "Hello, I must be going." Is that Python? Or is it a Pink Floyd album? Surely not. God, I hope not.
Dr. Balis: I think it's the Marx Brothers.
Mr. Booth: Oh.'re right, start at the start. It's like Big Jill always says: "At least walk a few paces before you bolt for it." Ha! I just get a bit wired, you know?
Dr. Balis: That's quite all right. You can think of coming in here as a time-out from everything that's going on in your life. Some people like coming here just to drain away some of the stresses of the day.
Mr. Booth: Hmm. Time-out? Yeah, I like that. I need to get a perspective...but I don't think the couch is my style. I think I'd have a heart attack lying down there trying to be calm.
Dr. Balis: You can just sit on this chair. Whatever makes you feel most comfortable, Mr. Booth. Now, you said you're planning on resigning?
Mr. Booth: I think I will, yeah.
Dr. Balis: What's do you do at SII?
Mr. Booth: I'm an administrative officer in Accounts Payable. I've been there nearly six months.
Dr. Balis: And why are you thinking of leaving?
Mr. Booth: Well...oh boy! Where to start? Look, the thing is my job is nothing. It's...I'm a basically a low level clerk. It's a routine, an eight hour routine. I come in, get a stack of invoices from the mail room, take them to my desk, sort them alphabetically, match them up with our original orders, note down any discrepancies, flap around with the final notice warnings, and blah blah blah. Then I get to enter it all in the computer. And I can do all of that. I don't love it. I don't hate it. But I can "move to the groove," as they say. I've been working these treadmill numbers all my life. They keep me sane. It's like in the morning you get out of bed, have a shower, brush your teeth, put on your socks--it's just a necessary routine. You just do what you have to do.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Booth: A robot could do the job as well as I can. Yes. Exactly. That's what I want from this job.
Dr. Balis: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Booth: A Chinese tea ceremony. And isn't that what a place like SII should offer, with its Zen-like hive of computer hardware? It's banks and banks of quietly humming beige. Look at what happened recently. Some guy comes along and slaps a coat of duck-egg blue on a standard desktop unit, calls it a Bee-sting, or a My-dick, or whatever; and it's a revolution! But when I'm at work I don't want snazzy blue. I want beige. No ripples. And on certain quiet mornings, I want it with a cup of warm tea, over a stack of flattened invoices. It works. But then, sure as eggs, Doug Auble lugged his fat arse into shocking proximity, and wham! My main circuit was on the Fritz. The boiler was bouncing off the walls. And it was...I...oh dear...
Dr. Balis: What's wrong?
Mr. Booth: Well, I'm sweating quite a bit. I hope I don't ruin your chair.
Dr. Balis: It'll be fine.
Mr. Booth: I do tend to sweat a lot. I think it's the lights. In Payables, one might not be able to keep a stapler for five minutes, but no one has ever made off with my chair.
Dr. Balis: One of the perks of my office is an unlimited supply of chairs. So let's forget the chair.
Mr. Booth: Okay. What I was trying to say is this: my job provides me with a firm base, so I'm free to follow the call.
Dr. Balis: The call?
Mr. Booth: I'm a stand-up comedian.
Dr. Balis: I see.
Mr. Booth: That's why I came to America. Comedy died in Australia about four years ago.
Dr. Balis: I thought I recognized the accent.
Mr. Booth: Politics did it.
Dr. Balis: I'm sorry?
Mr. Booth: Politics killed the comedy. Australian comedy curled up in a cozy, little, left-wing cul-de-sac. It nested and curled, curled and snuggled, until it got its head stuck up its arse and suffocated. Ten years ago, Big Jill was trying to warn everyone what was happening. But they ignored her. And when she wouldn't shut up, they resorted to fat jokes. The hypocrites! I mean fat jokes? Jesus! Those mean-spirited, no-talent, low-lifes! As if Big Jill cared anyway. She'll have her day. You'll see.
Dr. Balis: Okay, Mr. Booth...
Mr. Booth: Oh, please, call me Darius.
Dr. Balis: Okay, Darius, we've already opened up quite a few areas for discussion. But before we go any further, I'd like to ask a few clarifying questions.
Mr. Booth: Sure.
Dr. Balis: When did you come to America?
Mr. Booth: A bit over a year ago.
Dr. Balis: And before that, did you grow up in Australia?
Mr. Booth: Yeah, I grew up on a dairy farm on the south coast of NSW. I moved to Sydney when I was seventeen.
Dr. Balis: And you came here to pursue a career in stand-up comedy?
Mr. Booth: Yes, but there were other factors, too. Part of the reason was simply because I could. My mother was an American citizen, so I have a US passport--I can work here. She met my father when he came over here as part of an agricultural lobby group. They fell in love at some Washington, cow-fest, knees-up sort of thing. She flew back with him to my father's farm, and they got married. And then they had me.
Dr. Balis: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
Mr. Booth: No. Shortly after I was born, my mother was killed by a tractor. It was in the days before roll-bars were compulsory. I never knew her. She was only twenty-two. Too, too young. Out of respect for her, I don't do tractor jokes. And let me tell you, it's the only taboo I do respect, comically speaking. You'd be surprised how many times I have to censor myself. As Big Jill says: "A comic's duty to Society is to 'unseam' her skirts."
Dr. Balis: Big Jill sounds like an interesting person. Who is she?
Mr. Booth: Big Jill? Big Jill is a woman, Doctor Balis. A big, big woman. That's how she got her name. We were together for four years. In every sense, mind and body, she was everything. But I realize now--now that I'm over here--that it had to end. If it hadn't ended when it did...well, God, it would have ended awfully. But please, can we not talk about Big Jill? I still have to get through the afternoon, to concentrate.
Dr. Balis: All right, we can leave that for now. Why don't we refocus on your work situation? I assume it's your eventual goal to earn a living as a stand-up comedian?
Mr. Booth: Not necessarily.
Dr. Balis: The way you described it, I thought it was your primary goal.
Mr. Booth: It is. But the thing is I won't compromise. I have a vision, a path to follow, and I won't deviate even if I have to pay the ultimate price, even if it meant I had to go back to Big Jill, which I won't. Take the early explorers. Australia's history of European exploration is littered with desert corpses. Burke and Wills--statues of these brave and famous explorers can be found in every city--lugged a cast-iron bathtub a thousand miles into an uncharted desert and died of thirst five miles short of a pub. Before they set out, when they were packing, people said to Burke and Wills: "Whatever you do, don't take that huge tub with you." But they took it. And today, we salute what we still barely understand.
Dr. Balis: It does sound rather eccentric. So, from what you're telling me, stand-up comedy won't support you financially for the time being.
Mr. Booth: I haven't cracked it yet.
Dr. Balis: Meaning?
Mr. Booth: There's no laughter yet. At this stage, the crowds aren't responding to my routine. There's noise all right: the muttering and murmuring of dawning distress; the chain saw clarity of front-row invective; and always the unnecessary wailing from the back wall. But there's no laughter. And there's a growing list of venues from which I've been banned.
Dr. Balis: You've chosen a rather difficult path for yourself, Darius.
Mr. Booth: If I'd chosen the path, Doctor Balis, I'd ask you to lock me up here and now. But no, it's not a choice. As Big Jill once said as she stood filling the double-doors of an inner city pub: "Go..."
Dr. Balis: So the stand-up is something you're always going to do?
Mr. Booth: Yeah.
Dr. Balis: That's good--you've a direction for your life that a lot of people would envy. But you also need a full-time job to support this direction. You should try to find a job that will give you a level of satisfaction...
Mr. Booth: It has to provide a firm, stable base.
Dr. Balis: But you're thinking of quitting, so you're not getting that from your current position at SII?
Mr. Booth: No. And that's the problem. It's always the same pattern. I get some drongo job in an office or a factory. I get the routine down pat, so I'm free to concentrate on what really matters--comedy. And just when I think I'm on the verge of flourishing, it all falls apart. Some distraction always creeps in. Some thread comes loose. The whole thing blows up, and I have to leave. So I got to thinking, maybe that is the pattern? Maybe that's how it's meant to be? Problem is that the time I spend at each job is getting shorter and shorter. And the jobs get harder and harder to find. I turn thirty next April. I'm an Aries, remember? I'm not sure I can keep up this pace.
Dr. Balis: What is it specifically that makes your job at SII unbearable?
Mr. Booth: Oh, the specifics don't really matter. They vary from job to job. It's the pattern that counts. I've been thinking, maybe I should spend some time in India or South America.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Can you name one specific thing at work that causes you stress or irritation?
Mr. Booth: Oh well, if you want to anthropomorphize it, I'll give you a name. It's Doug Auble.
Dr. Balis: Who's he?
Mr. Booth: A loser, actually.
Dr. Balis: Does this man work in your department?
Mr. Booth: Yeah. He has a desk about four feet from mine. Four feet, six inches to be exact. I measured it once while he was in the bathroom, trying to repair his scalp, or ease his eczema, or whatever the hell he does in there. But I don't give a snap about Doug Auble. A part of me thinks that if only he wasn't at the desk next to me...or better yet, if only he didn't work at SII, or if he didn't exist--if he had never existed, then everything would be fine. But I know that's not true. I can see things as they really are. Maybe in another place, another time, Doug would be...well, not quite so repugnant. Who knows? Hell, that's his problem.
Dr. Balis: Hmm. Our time is just about up, Darius. It's been good to meet you. Obviously, it's your decision whether you want to leave your job or not. But I suggest that you give it a couple more weeks. In the meantime, you can come and see me. We'll talk and see if we can help you get that clearer perspective you were looking for. What do you think?
Mr. Booth: Well, there are a few more venues round here I want to try to sneak my routine into. Do you know a place called The Cha-Cha?
Dr. Balis: No, I can't say I've ever heard of it.
Mr. Booth: Well, anyway...yeah. I don't know about my job. When I make my mind up, that's usually final. Although sometimes, I don't follow through on what I have decided. But yeah, I'd like to come back. It's been okay today. Yeah...
Dr. Balis: Excellent. Shall we say same time next week?
Mr. Booth: Ha! If only you were the manager of The Cha-Cha...yeah. Good one. See you soon.
Dr. Balis: Goodbye, Darius.
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Button to Dr. Balis' Notes Doctor Balis' Notes on this Session

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