[A grubby city storefront with VINNY’S JOKE CONSIGNMENT AND PAWN SHOP painted in faded letters above the awning. A young hood carrying a small paper bag scurries inside the store.]
VINNY: What you got for me today, Johnny?
JOHNNY: Got a whole bunch of Oscar zingers I stole off a Twitter.
VINNY: Oscar jokes? Johnny, Johnny, please, are you serious? The Oscars were two months ago. What am I supposed to do with Oscar jokes? [Pours the bag on the counter.] Look at these. These are tiny. They’re already full of rust. These are no good to me. Everyone steals tweets, anyway. Bring me something fresh, something hot.
JOHNNY: Damn, Vin! Why can’t you take the usual stuff I steal? Like TVs and guns and shit.
VINNY: We deal in jokes here, Johnny. Jokes. We don’t mess with tech and firearms. Too risky. Jokes are easy to move and not important enough for any feds to get involved. Bring me jokes, Johnny.
[A week later…]
JOHNNY: I got some good ones for you today, Vinny. I went to the comedy club. These are exactly what you wanted. They’re hot jokes just like you said.
[Johnny takes a dozen large jokes out of his duffle bag and sets them on the counter.]
VINNY: Hmm… These look pretty good, Johnny.
JOHNNY: “Pretty good?” Look at the punch line on this one. Look how sharp that is. That’s craftsmanship right there.
VINNY: I’ll give you twenty bucks for the whole bunch.
JOHNNY: Twenty bucks!
VINNY: Take it or leave it.
JOHNNY: These right here are Patton Oswalt’s jokes! They’re worth more than twenty bucks.
VINNY: I don’t care who made ‘em, Johnny. The person who buys ’em ain’t gonna be sayin’ who made ‘em.
JOHNNY: Come on, Vinny. You gotta be jokin’.
VINNY: I don’t tell jokes, kid; I buy ’em and sell ’em. For a profit, Johnny. For a profit.
[Two weeks later…]
JOHNNY: Alright, I went to the open mic last night and I got a few good ones you’re gonna really like.
VINNY: Let me see them… Uh-oh. Wait a minute. Did you get these from a guy wearin’ wire-rim glasses? Had a big bushy beard?
JOHNNY: Yeah, how’d you know?
VINNY: The guy was in here last week. I sold him these. You got played, kid.
JOHNNY: Son of a bitch!
VINNY: Make sure they’re original jokes before you steal ’em, Johnny.
JOHNNY: I’m gonna break that hack’s kneecaps!
[A week later…]
JOHNNY: OK, I got a whole sack of fresh jokes for you right here.
[He empties a large bag on the counter.]
VINNY: What the hell are these? These aren’t funny.
JOHNNY: Vinny, come on! They’re hilarious.
VINNY: Where’d you get these?
JOHNNY: At the improv theater near the river. The one with the weird name.
VINNY: Improv? Johnny boy, come on. Why’re you makin’ this so hard? Those Patton Oswalt jokes you brought me were perfect. They sold out by the end of the day.
JOHNNY: What’s the matter with these? They’re jokes. People were laughin’! Swear to God! You shoulda heard the people laughin’ at ’em.
VINNY: I’m sure they were, Johnny, but I’m not. These don’t work out of context. Look at this one. I can’t make heads nor tails of it. No one would want to buy this. They need to stand on their own. [He tosses the joke back on the pile and pushes it toward Johnny.]
JOHNNY: I swear to God, this shit is harder than workin’ a nine-to-five.- – -
[A week later…]
VINNY: What’s that you got in the backpack, Johnny?
JOHNNY: I stole this from some college kid.
[He sets the bookbag on the counter, unzips it, then carefully removes the joke.]
JOHNNY: Pretty tight, no? It’s a joke about a joke.
VINNY: I see that, Johnny. Very fancy.
JOHNNY: Way I see it, this has gotta be worth a hundred, easy.
VINNY: And why would you think that? Because it’s so sleek and modern?
JOHNNY: Oh, come on, Vinny, don’t short me on this one.
VINNY: Johnny, I’ll be frank: most jokesellers wouldn’t even bother with this meta stuff. It’s too—what’s the word?—clinical, I guess. But I happen to appreciate meta jokes. I’ll give you fifteen for it, and that’s because I like you and you’ve been workin’ hard.
JOHNNY: Fifteen!?! Are you serious?
VINNY: Want my advice? Stay off the college campuses from now on. They’re the only ones who really get a kick out of stuff like this. Thing is, they’re not comin’ here to do their shoppin’.
[A week later…]
JOHNNY: Yo, Vin. Check this shit out.
[Johnny sets an aluminum Halliburton briefcase on the counter and cracks it open slightly. White light beams from the crack.]
VINNY: Jesus, Johnny! Where the hell you get that?
JOHNNY: You know what this is? Need me to open it all the way for a better look?
VINNY: No, no—don’t! I know what it is. It’s a joke about a joke about a joke. Where the hell you steal that?
JOHNNY: Don’t worry about that. How much’ll you gimme for it?
VINNY: Close the case, you idiot! The punch line’s unstable. That shit’s dangerous! You’re gonna blow up our whole world!
JOHNNY: Relax. Now, listen. Way I see it, this should be worth a thousand, easy—
VINNY: Close the damn case!
[Vinny lunges across the counter. Johnny jerks the briefcase back, but it falls out of his hands. As the briefcase hits the ground and fully opens, Johnny and Vinny disappear in the light.]