Before we get to the meat of it, some info. About the story, from the author himself:
Comedian Chale Thayer has had enough. He's grown tired of living in an unjust and meaningless universe, inexplicably showered with blessings while others suffer and die. The time has come for a showdown with the cosmos, and only time will tell who gets the last laugh.
And a bit about the author from his Goodreads page:
You can get No Punchline on Amazon and most other ebook retailers, or read more about it on Goodreads. Suwak can be found on Twitter at @ghostelectrics.
This leads to some poignant encounters as Thayer goes about his daily routine, saying goodbyes that only he and the reader know are goodbyes. The strongest instance of that is a scene in a diner, where Thayer eats his last meal while assuring the owner that if he were to ever choose a last meal, that would be it. There's somber comedy in it, which goes hand in hand with the comedian's signature humorless-humor – a hint of a joke shines through the mundane darkness of life.
It's not entirely clear why, in fact, Thayer wants to kill himself. His problem with life is presented as a moral one – the world is bad, the world is unfair. He's struggling to make sense of his life, find the Punchline to his existence, but he seems to believe firmly that nurses, shelter volunteers, are people worthy of admiration – in other words he has a sense of good, and believes it lies in helping others. Yet he doesn't seem to consider entertainment a public service and as such himself someone who improves people's lives, nor does he try to help people in any more direct way. Perhaps he's a slave to his talent, or simply a slave to himself. As he says in the first pages, he can't change who he is. But his frustration is not with that, not with himself and his inability to live up to his own standards – his frustration is still with the outside world, with Life.
The reason he plans on killing himself publicly is also unclear. Maybe he is a hypocrite, and despite his condemnation of it, he does want fame; maybe he has found a way to achieve it while condemning it.
Whatever his motivations are, Thayer might be an unlikable character (and whether he'll garner any sympathy depends on the reader; he didn't get much from this one) but he's certainly a round character. The writer has crafted a protagonist that compels you to reason with it, to figure out the workings of its mind.
Suwak's voice is solid and the eye glides easy on the rhythm of his words, but there are a few places where it gives in to an overabundance of similes, and the language becomes somewhat monotone, jumping from one "like a" to another.
Overall this is a good short story that offers interesting insight into humor, its content, its structure and its place in the world. It's definitely worth a read, though it leaves me curious to see what the writer can do with different subject matter, rather than hungry for more of the same.
4/5 Stars. Check it out.