Matthew Bookin

Old Joke


In the winter of 2002 my sister’s fiancé froze to death while he was sleeping black-out drunk on our front porch.


He was wearing homemade pants that looked like they’d been stitched together from several different quilts. All they found in his icy wallet were a few skee ball tokens.


He always used to walk to the Wawa down the street from our house when my sister was at work. He’d come back with a Cherry Coke for me and a 16oz can of Red Dog for himself and he’d sit and watch me play Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. Whenever I’d wreck trying something like a nollie underflip into a casper 360 he’d say, “Hey hey hey! Next time, Matt. Almost had it.”


It’s impossible to get my sister to talk about him now.


His dream was to be a character comedian and he traveled here from Kaliningrad to accomplish it. He wasn’t very funny, as I remember. His monologues would drag on for way too long and there was something desperate about all of his characters. His English was pretty ramshackle, so maybe something was lost in the translation.


The characters he created are as follows:


dumpster king


rehab baby


heavily medicated cat lady


youth minister who unsuccessfully uses parables

about Batman to relate to at-risk teens


weed dealer who believes he’s been possessed by an entity

that has up until this point only identified itself as “Uncle Skin Man”


estranged older cousin who is probably your real father


craigslist roommate with a lisp who recounts in intimate detail all the times

women he thought he was in love with snorted various narcotics off of his

erect penis


writhing pile of legless welsh corgis


cop wearing a top hat


surgeon wearing a top hat


karate instructor wearing a top hat


single mother sitting next to a rotary phone


unemployed graphic design artist who married too young

and now secretly spends the allowance his wife gives him each week

to pay a college student in Stockholm, Sweden

to eat strawberries in front of her webcam


humorous mailman


beam of pale moonlight

gently creeping across the living room floor

of your first love’s childhood home.


His name was Artyom Kadnikov. He was my friend.


As the only other dead Russian comedian presently in the room, I’d like to take this moment to remember him.




Matthew Bookin lives in Buffalo, NY.