I officially stopped working the road two weeks ago. No, I didn’t quit comedy, but I did work somewhere that actually required a plane ticket. I got booked at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas.

It was spring break that week for many colleges. Either that or the American Association of Debauchery was having a convention at the resort. It was too packed to chill out on the beach or by the pool. In order to really relax, I convinced myself to go snorkeling because I had heard so much about it. If you don’t know about snorkeling, it’s like scuba diving, but you wind up with third degree sunburn on your back. Also, for all you SAT testers, snorkeling is to scuba diving as petting zoos are to safaris. But it still seemed like fun. Besides, the woman signing us up was super hot. I honestly didn’t expect the trip to be too eventful, but I was mistaken. Read on.

The boat ride out to the reefs was a bit shaky, but thanks to the $35 a meal prices at the resort, I was on an empty stomach, so it wasn’t that bad. The other comic on site, Mike Siscoe, joined the adventure. Little did either of us know that by the end of the day, Mike would be an island legend along with the crystal clear blue water and the beach lady who thinks everyone wants their hair braided. By the way, if yours is receding, you get a discount…very nice!

Here’s how it went down. The snorkeling pros brought a few of us tourists to three sites. The third destination featured sharks. That’s right, folks…sharks. Granted, they weren’t anything Fonzie would jump, but they were big enough to notice. Somewhere in the range of 4-feet long. We were told that they wouldn’t bother us because while we were snorkeling, they would be swimming underneath, feeding on buckets of scraps that consisted of fish heads and the fingers of people who didn’t tip the boat staff.

We pulled into a cove, and sure enough, holy crap those are sharks swimming around. At this point, the guides felt obligated to remind us that the depressing death-by-shark movie Open Water was filmed in the Bahamas. Wonderful. I’m sure that’s the way the British serve their beef: “Here’s your hamburger. Oh yeah, mad cow disease started here. Enjoy!” They then proceeded to tell us that we were not to let go of the safety ropes that were attached to the boat. This is where I had a problem. If the sharks were not going to bother us, why does it matter whether or not we’re holding onto a rope? We’re going to be in the water either way. It’s not like you can grab a rope when a shark is chasing you and say, “I’m on base, sucka!”

Anyway, down went the scraps, or what I liked to call “the appetizers”. Mike and I looked at each other, wondering if this excursion was worth it, and we weren’t the only ones. Several others had similar looks of trepidation on their faces. It was then explained to us all that the sharks in this particular cove were scavengers and not predators, so they wouldn’t think of attacking live food. So again, what is the point of holding onto a still, stationary, lifeless rope…to make us look more alive? Besides, what was the scrap bucket attached to again? That’s right…a damn rope! What if some idiot shark gets confused and thinks the meat dangling from one rope is just like the meat hanging on the other? I was thinking way too much about this. We finally decided that it was the Bahamas, this was part of the experience, and if these other schmucks could do it, we could too. Besides, one of the female guides was super hot.

Immediately upon entering the water, I envied every soul who stayed inside that afternoon. Why couldn’t I just read or lose more money in the casino? Why did I sign up for this? Then, almost suddenly, a sense of adrenaline-filled excitement came over me. There were about twenty or thirty real life sharks swimming around beneath me. I could only imagine that this was similar to other moments of death defiance, like bungee jumping, skydiving, or screwing Courtney Love. It was incredible. Truly incredible.

I just had to see how Mike was doing, so I emerged my head from the ocean, and holy shit there was a shark swimming on the surface of the water!! I was far enough away to not panic, at least not yet. But Mike was only about 20 feet from this thing. Fear struck me, because there was a big crowd expected at the club that night, and I didn’t want to do a one-man show. That’s just too much pressure. But I didn’t know what to do. I’ve heard experts say that you’re supposed to press on a shark’s eyeballs if one attacks, but hello…that would require letting go of the sacred rope, and that was supposedly a big no-no like crossing the streams in Ghostbusters. Should the flesh eater close in, Mike most certainly had no plan.

Sure enough, this fish was not descending. I prayed that Mike do something to protect himself. Apparently, flailing his arms like a little girl was his tactic of choice. And what a choice it turned out to be. As he whipped his arms around like an ultra gay windmill, his left fist landed on the shark’s nose. Mike didn’t know what happened, but in a split second, the potential predator not only descended, it retreated. There was a moment of disbelief in the air. Did that just happen? I was expecting the normal fish to gleefully dance around like those monkey guards in the Wizard of Oz did after Dorothy melted the witch. If they could, I’m sure they would.

Nobody wanted to wait around to see if this guy was gathering reinforcements, so back into the boat we went. The pros speculated that the shark simply approached a swimmer out of sheer curiosity and had no desire to attack. Uh-huh…and a Vegas show tiger won’t bite a trainer because he’s no longer in the jungle, right?

Mike suffered a severely swollen hand thanks to a couple of torn ligaments beneath his pinky and ring fingers. Evidently, “closed-fist” punching was the one gym class lesson he skipped in school. But the aftermath of his actions stretched to more than purple, swollen fingers. In a matter of days, everyone on the island seemed to be talking about the crazy American who punched a shark in the face. And I know that crazy American. You can too if you visit www.mikesiscoe.com when you get the chance. And catch his show sometime…he’s as funny as he is bold.

Yes, this story will most assuredly take on a tall tale life of its own over time, so I thought I’d put it down on paper before sensationalism catapulted it to the limits of embellishment. I certainly hope you enjoyed the drama. It was definitely fun to be a part of. Before I go, I implore you, on that tough road known as life, always remember to tip the Bahamians, wear sunscreen when you snorkel, and when in doubt…flail your arms. Good luck!

Categories: Columns