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Mastering simplicity since 1981! Galumphing through life with an understanding wife since 1974! Making people laugh since birth (except for a humorless vice-principal in middle school who didn't think I was very funny at all.)

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Welcome to 
Hodgepodge!

   In this section I present a hodgepodge of old and new things I've written which are not included in any of the books.  Some were published in one place or another, some were not. Some may be newer ideas that I have floating through my mind.  Some are performance ideas, some are rants, some are philosophical, some are just silly thoughts. Think of it as rummaging through my mind, which could be fun... or dangerous! 
 
   
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This article is suggestion for substantive change in the way the national organizations run their performance competitions.  They could, and should, be a source of pride.  Instead they are an embarrassment.  A "national" convention should be the place to highlight the best of what we have to offer.   Instead what is predominantly onstage is awful, unskilled, unprepared dreck... and even the officers of the organizations, among themselves, moan about it.  Unfortunately, they either have no will to fix the problem, or have no idea how to fix it.  Let me throw out an idea.  Don't like my idea?  Fine!  Think of another solution.  Just don't expect it to fix itself.
 
Escorting The Elephant Out Of The Room

 
    For as long as I have been involved in the national clown organizations there has been an elephant in the room.   The elephant has a name, and the elephant's name is Bad Skits.
 
    Lets start out by being totally honest with ourselves about our skits.   For the most part when we get together and present clown skits, they are 90% awful.  The 10% that are actually skilled, funny, and well executed do not redeem the other 90%.  They just highlight the amount of time we sit through dreck to finally find a diamond.
 
   Yes, its very true that no skit starts out great.  They need to be worked on and polished, rehearsed, and polished again... (repeat until desired results are obtained.)   But that isn't what happens. 
 
    It amazes me that the only criteria to get a skit presented and considered for honor and award on stage at our national convention... our National Convention where we should be presenting and considering  the best of the best, showcasing our highest achievers... is to be there, be a member in good standing, and sign up before all the slots are taken!  That is the only criteria!  
 
    Yes, I know all about, and share, the grand hope and desire to get people to find the nerve to get up on stage (any stage, anywhere) and perform.  But, ask yourself this... Is the National Convention the place to put  inexperienced performers on stage to perform under-prepared material?  I've been around when people signed up for competitions before they'd actually written out and rehearsed the skit they just signed up to perform!
 
    I could go on and on, but that wouldn't fix any problem.  I'm all about fixing the problem and getting the elephant out of the room once and for all.  Lets play a game of "What If?"
 
    What if skit stage time at the national convention had to be earned and not simply signed up for?   That begs the question of how qualifications would be earned.
 
    What if each affiliated alley could officially sanction a skit for performance at the national convention, with the one and only criteria from the national association be that the alley certify that the skit had been performed by its member or members at least 5 times in public performance?   By public performance I do not mean in front of their own alley, I mean in front of the real live public! 
 
   What if good entries got left out?  There could be a secondary means of qualification by allowing any skit winner of the many independent regional clown conventions automatic entry into the national skit competition. That would serve as an adequate vetting process as well.
 
   Before the Treasurer has a heart attack...I am not suggesting that the national organization commit itself to paying even one dime of travel or accommodations for qualifying skit members.  It simply means they would be qualified to compete if they desired to show up and perform.   Possibly the alleys or regional conventions would chip in convention registration for their competitors, but that would be up to each alley and region to decide.
 
   What if every alley submitted a skit nominee who showed up, as well as every regional convention winner?  First, that probably won't happen...but what if it does?  What a nice problem to have, too many skilled, well prepared, funny skits. 
 
    I think that the skit competitions resulting from such a set up would be fantastic!  It would be standing room only and something the national organization could be proud of.  It would also present to its members a clear standard of excellence expected from all the competitors and not just the winners. 
 
    I think the expectation of excellence would eventually trickle down and the regional competitions would fill up with higher quality skit competitions. 
 
    I think this would strengthen alleys by members having to become more active in their local alleys.   Alleys would avoid organizational stagnation by having a unifying annual focus of organizing and preparing skits for pubic performances in order to pick the best they have to offer.  They would have a vested interest in not only making their members better all around performers, but it would pressure them to find real live audiences and give their members actual experience in front of the general public... people not interested in them as friends, or family, or nice people... but as clowns. 
 
    And folks, it is in performing for real people that you learn the real truth about clowning... you exist to make them laugh!   Learn that at the local level, and get really good at it before you try to go national.  Please.  
 
    Its time for the elephant to go somewhere else.
 
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These next 7 short articles are from a series I wrote for The New Calliope and called


NOODLING WITH MR RAINBOW

A series of articles that take

 ideas from conception to performance.


The goal of the series was, as the title implies, to show clowns how to develop their own performance material instead of just copying the same old stuff.


#1

 

Idea Source: TV show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway”

 

Original routine:  The Three Headed Broadway Star.

 

I love this television show.  I’m not under the illusion that it is not edited to show only the best and funniest results.  Of course it is.  Still, it’s live in front of an audience, mostly unpredictable and shows how to set up an atmosphere of fun and creativity. 

The problem with using their exact game structures in my act is that it requires the players to be quite gifted.  You can’t count on that in an audience.

In the “Three Headed Broadway Star” game, for example, 3 players make up a Broadway style song one word at a time, alternating between players.  The song can go in almost any direction at any time and the players have to respond quickly to each new word.  It’s fun when one player comes up with a weird word that absolutely freezes the next player.

I also noticed that a lot of fun comes when players mistakenly throw in two words instead of one, or say only the first syllable of a multi syllabic word.  I thought I could use this aspect with real people.

First, I needed a song that everybody knows.  I picked “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.”  I truly believe that it is the first full non-repetitious song that most children learn.

The game is simple.  Players only get one word of the song at a time.  Sometimes I do it one-on-one, alternating with a child.  Sometimes I make it a child vs. parent game (and like the Memory game, it is a game where a child can actually beat an adult.)  With more players, I put them in a circle.  It becomes an elimination game with me as the referee.

They must keep up the tempo of the song!  That adds momentum and pressure. That in itself will cause brain freeze.  People’s reactions are hilarious.  They know they know the song!  How can something this simple be so slippery?

It is more difficult than it sounds! Do it yourself right now!  Keep up the tempo and sing every other word. Ha! See what I mean!

What the heck, try it!  See if it works for you.



#2

Source: The Return Of The Good Clean Jokes compiled by Bob Phillips

 

The Joke:  “Show me a burned-out post office and I’ll show you a case of blackmail.”

 

This joke made me stop and think.  I first imagined the visual.  Charred, blackened letters….mail….black-mail.  I get it, but not much there in the way of big yucks.

Then the noodling started.  Does it have to be burned?  Who would even like this joke?  Who could I entice into this joke?

The answers started coming.  No it doesn’t have to be burned.  All it has to be is black.  Even then, if just the inside letter portion was black, and it was folded in a regular white envelope addressed to me, it would work.  Actually, it would be better because it would delay the revelation of the punch line.

I would need to get audience members interested in the letter and what it may contain.  Once they get interested, I can pull out a solid black sheet of construction paper, unfold it, and announce, “Oh, no!  I’m being blackmailed!”

Where could I use this gag?  Almost anywhere that anybody would recognize the pun.  It could be used in a walkaround.  It could be a two-person gag with one clown delivering the letter and leaving, and the second clown discovering to her exaggerated fright that she is being “blackmailed!!!.” 

 It could be an aside in the middle of your act. Between routines you can pull out a letter.  “Hmmm, I wonder what this is?”

 It could be a two-clown parade gag, with one person delivering the letter and moving along while the other delivers the punch line.  The second clown then puts it back together and “delivers” it to the first clown further down the route, switching roles each time.

Getting back to the question, “who might be enticed into this joke?”  Hmmm…who investigates blackmail?  Who do you report it to?  The police! 

At almost every public function where I perform there is a police presence for security and safety.  I’ve noticed that crowds love it when you can have fun with the police.  The officers almost always try to maintain their official demeanor, but I can usually crack them up.  This could be a great gag to involve the local police.

“OFFICER,OFFICER…. Thank God you are here.  I’ve got a crime to report.” Pull out the envelope and unfold the black paper. “I’M BEING BLACKMAILED!!!!!”



#3

Source material:  3500 Good Jokes For Speakers by Gerald F. Lieberman, page 441

Original Joke: “ In any municipal parade always place the street cleaners right behind the politicians.”

 

    The first thing that struck me about this joke was its strong visual potential.  I could visualize it immediately.  So, how can it adapt for clowning?

It already incorporates a performance venue easily accessible to clowns, parades!  Clowns could not only fit into this scene, the comic potential of this joke can be even greater as performed by clowns.

    Doing political humor can be risky business.  A joke at the expense of one political party or political figure can potentially alienate half the audience.  Jokes at the expense of all politicians don’t run so great a risk.

    Visualize this.  Two clowns walk down the parade route.  One carries a big sign that reads, “Republican Candidate.”  The other carries a sign that reads, “Democratic Candidate.”  Candidates for what?  Who cares!  Leave it vague.

    Maybe they also wear sashes that read, “Vote for Me.”   Maybe there are other sign carriers behind them with signs that read, “Send In The Clowns” or “Had enough?  This time send in a Real Clown.”  Maybe there could be a “Third Party Candidate” all decked out in New Years Eve Party regalia.  A supporter’s sign could read, “We put the Party back in politics.”

    The portrayal of politicians as clowns, by itself, could get laughs.  A bit I use every election year as I go about my normal work is to meet someone on the street or in a hallway and say, unprompted by anything, “No, I am not running for any office this year…if elected I will not serve!”  It always gets a smile or a laugh

    After the “politicians” pass, following behind them in drab jumpsuits, brooms and pooper-scoopers in hand, can be any number of clown street cleaners.  Prominent in the middle is the collection can being rolled along.  Hanging right and left on the can are signs that read “Candidate Promises. Please watch your step.”

    This could be a large group routine but it could also be done by as few as 3.   It has no dialogue.  It would be a great way for an alley to incorporate less experienced clowns into a gag.

    An interesting idea to consider might be to have both clown “candidates” look exactly alike.  A common voter complaint is that there is no difference between candidates these days. One could carry a pig, I’m sure a lot of people would catch the significance of “pork” to a politician.

    I know an idea I’ll try for my character.  As a “candidate” I would walk toward any lady holding a baby saying,  “Time to kiss the baby, ” a stereotypical thing for a politician to do.  I’d stop just before the baby or take a step just past the baby and say to the next closest woman, “Hellooooo Baby!!!!”

   What the heck, try it! It just might work for you.



#4



Source of idea: While strolling through a flea market, I came across a bin full of large, rubber, two-tone capsule type pill shaped items. The giant faux pills were 4 ½” long, 1 ¾” diameter, and 5” in circumference. 

 

That got my mind whirring.  The were interesting to look at, but most importantly they were cheap! Three for a dollar cheap!  Have I ever mentioned to you that I am cheap?

Things don’t get made without an original intent!   I imagine these were originally intended as “stress” pills.  “When under stress, squeeze!”  I bet they were probably supposed to be stamped with a company name on them. 

OK, lets start there.  When kids get out of hand, or a magic trick goes wrong you could go for your “stress” pill.  A follow-up line as you squeeze (and squeeze and squeeze…possibly with both hands) could be to look at the wild child and say, “Ahhh!  I’m feeling much better now!”  The greater the exaggeration the better!  The wider the contrast between the before and after feelings the better.

 The attitude with which the “…feeling better now” line is said could go many different directions that either support the words or completely contradict the words.  Different characters and different situations would dictate different approaches to the line.

Another possibility is for partnered clowns.  The pill could be used skit style as one clown continually hassles the other clown over everything.  The hassled clown pulls out a big bottle marked, “FOR STRESS RELIEF.”  The clown pulls out the large pill and stuffs it in the mouth of the hassling clown, muffling all sound thus getting the promised relief.

I had another idea that didn’t work immediately as I had hoped, but it highlights a valuable lesson in presentation, timing and comedy.  I originally started out by saying “I have good news, bad news, and worse news.”  The good news was that “one pill will now cure hay fever for a whole summer!”  The bad news was supposed to be the size of the pill.  The “worse” news was to be a funny topper to the gag.  It didn’t materialize as I had envisioned.

I finally recognized that, by announcing a third part to the joke at the beginning, I was preparing the audience for a topper.  Toppers for maximum effect should come as a complete surprise.  The audience has to believe that the joke is over for a topper to work well. A surprise brings a good response.  An “announced” surprise prepares the audience for a surprise and deadens the impact. 

I knew that... geez, what was I thinking?

Now I simply say, “I have good news and bad news from the world of medical science.  The good news is that they have developed a single pill that cures hay fever for a whole summer.”  The bad news is…”

…and at this point I pull out the large pill and hold it up to be seen.  I pause just long enough for the audience to fill in the blank in their own minds with the obvious observation that the bad news is the size of the pill.  There is usually a laugh at this point.  After a  pause for that laughter I  finish with the topper, “…it’s a suppository!”

        If you have some sharp people in the audience they may beat you to the topper!  That’s what happened when I did it at SECA last year.  The audience still laughed! 



#5


Source material: Old... and I do mean OLD... jokes


“Doctor, doctor…it hurts when I do that!”

“Well, don’t do that!

 

      Talk about jokes older than anybody or anything on this planet…this has got to be one of them.  You would think that everybody has heard it to the point of knee-jerk response to the intro.  You’d think wrong.

      I do variations of this joke a lot during my hospital visits.  Both Duke Hospital and UNC Hospitals are teaching hospitals and I often come across a senior doctor leading student-doctors on rounds.  If the senior doctor seems receptive at all, and I’m sure I am not disrupting or interfering, I’ll ask the senior doctor if his students are, “ready for their pop quiz?” 

      The looks on the student-doctor faces are precious.   They don’t know what to expect.  They look back and forth from the senior doctor to me.  I think they are looking for permission to play with me.  They are so serious.

       I give the opening line, “Class, it hurts when I do that.”  Sometimes somebody recognizes the joke and gives the  proper response.  “Fine job, give her an A!  Carry on Doc.”  If they all miss it, and it happens, it’s a sorry shake of the head to the senior doctor, “Ohhhh my!  You really have your work cut out for you.  Should I tell them the answer?  OK, write this down and underline it, “Well…don’t…do…that!  Repeat after me, well…don’t…do…that.”

      When I am in a patient’s room with a doctor present, I may introduce the joke by asking the patient, “Have you checked her diploma?  Are you sure she actually graduated?  Here, I’ll check her out for you.  Hey Doc, it hurts when I do that.”  If the “Doc” gets it right, “Good job, Doc.  A full and complete education you have there.”  If they miss it, “NOT!  The proper answer is ‘don’t do that!’”  And then to the patient in a stage whisper, “I’d ask to see a diploma if I were you.” 

        In 18 years I’ve never had a doctor take offense (that I know of) .  Even since Norman Cousin’s 1979 book, Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing and Regeneration, members of the medical profession are normally quite receptive to participating in fun.  They know the positive physiological effects of humor.  They also know that, among other things, it serves to humanize them in the eyes of patients, especially pediatric patients.

        I might do this joke in hospital elevators when a doctor gets on…that is, of course,  if I’m not leading the other elevator riders in a rousing chorus of

“99 bags of I.V. on the pole,

99 bags of I.V.,

Take one down,

Pass it around,

98 bags of I.V. on the pole.”


   Remember the gaggle of student doctors following the senior doctor on rounds?  I’ve been known, with the permission of the senior doctor of course, to organize the student doctors into a choir and have them sing the above song for a couple of verses…or any other song that comes to my fevered little mind.  I remember once having a group do the old song “Personality”

    Once again, it lightens up the day for all those around and humanizes the whole group of doctors in the eyes of the kids watching.  They are no longer the intimidating, imposing group of serious people in white coats they might appear to be.  They are fodder for clown fun, just like everybody else.

     There are countless numbers of “Doctor, Doctor” jokes that are all very old and still very funny, but they have gone underutilized since the demise of Vaudeville.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a venue in which to resurrect them and highlight them again?

“Hmmmmm….” (you should know by now, that is the sound of me noodling.)

I've got it!  Parades!  Parades?  Sure!  Envision this…

     …down the street comes an alley of clowns.  Working on each side of the street is a “Doctor” clown and a “Nurse” clown.  It traditional vaudevillian fashion, the nurses are the biggest ugliest male clown in the alleys. (In burlesque it would be cast quite differently!  The nurse would be va-va-va-Voom!)

      In between the two doctors,in the middle of the road, are all the alley clowns.  Each clown in the alley has a different joke.  As the parade moves along its route the clowns goes from one side of the road to the other, from doctor to doctor with their joke.  The two doctors, on opposite sides of the road, would be the only ones who would have to know all the jokes.

      By the very nature of parade work, each time the joke is told, it is to a new audience.

 

“Doctor, Doctor! “

“Yes, what can I do for you?”

“Have you got my results back yet?”

“Yes, and I’m sorry to say you don’t have much time left.”

“Oh no!  How much timed do I have left Doc?”

“10!”

“10? 10 what? 10 years? 10 months?”

“9!”

“9? Didn’t you just say I had 10?”

“8!”

“8? What are you talking about?”

(looking at watch)” 7!”

“Arrrgggggghhhhhh!!!!!!”

 

      The screaming clown runs off and waits his turn to do the same routine on the other side of the road with the other clown doctor.  It repeats, back and forth, again and again throughout the parade.

        It would be a great way to involve an entire alley in comic entertainment.  It can incorporate widely varying levels of talent.

        There are entire alleys that focused entirely on hospital and health care clowning.  This would be a great way to incorporate their alley theme in a venue outside of the hospital.  One of the things I like about it is that it stresses personal entertainment over sight gags and effectively uses lots of people.

“So Doc, Whaddaya think?”

“I think you are an idiot.”

“Hey, I want a second opinion.”


“OK, I think you’re ugly too.”



#6



Common questions…funny answers!

Idea stimulus: The television show Cheers.

Woody: “How’s the world treating you Mr. Peterson?”

Norm: “Like a baby treats a diaper Woody.”

 

      One of the things I teach in routine development is to pay very close attention to what the audience is expecting and to what the most common audience reactions are every step along the way.  If you can predict with a certain degree of accuracy what the audience will expect or will say at any time during your performance, you can develop material to insert into those occasions.  That topper material will have the added strength of a perceived ad-lib, which audiences reward greatly in terms of response and esteem!

     Opportunities for this kind of humor abound, even when you are not actually performing.  People say predictable things to you all the time.  As a clown maybe its time for you to recognize that even on these occasions you can clown around by having funny, unexpected answers.

      Lets start with the most common, “How ya doin?”  People expect you to say “fine.”  Everybody normally says “fine” or some common synonym.  I get smiles and sometimes laughs by responding, “Groovy!!!  100% Grace Slick  groovy!” 

     I get smiles and sometimes laughs when I respond  James Brown style,

    “Oww!, I feel good da-da-da-da-da-da-da,

You knew that I would da-da-da-da-da-da-da,

 Uhh!  I feel nice  da-da-da-da-da-da-da,

Like sugar and spice da-da-da-da-da-da-da...”

     Wouldn’t you smile at a 275 pound clown doing James Brown in the middle of a walkway, especially knowing it was your innocent question that started it?

     I get smiles and sometimes laughs when I respond in a worn-down fashion, “You know how it is.  Work, work, work!  Get up, go to work, go home, go to bed. It’s a vicious cycle...”   And if I have time for a topper, “…I’m sure glad I don’t do it.  I tried work once and found it to be highly overrated.  How about you?”

     That is a whole lot more than they bargained for when they innocently asked “How ya doin?”  They gave me what I was expecting, I gave them back something they definitely weren’t expecting.

       Kevin James, of King of Queens fame, has a very funny bit in his standup act that I have incorporated into my funny responses to common questions.  He talks about phone number cadence and how people expect you to give them phone numbers in a specific cadence using single digits.  That cadence is three numbers, pause, three more numbers, pause, two numbers pause, and finally two more numbers.   He points out in his comedy routine how much it screws up people’s minds when you mess with that expected format.

    When I heard that comedy bit not only did I laugh, an alarm went off in my head.  I am constantly asked for my phone number!!!

      Now my answer is “Ninety one, ninety six, eighty two, thirty two, eighty eight.”

      What’s great about that is that I am not only giving my phone number out, I am at the same time showing that I am a 100% clown!

     Need any more proof?  Go ahead, ask me a question!



#7


Original idea source:  N. C. State Fair

 

      I’m getting ready to make my annual trip to the N.C. State Fair.  I don’t do rides, and I’m not too fond of the agriculture barn, but it is the only place I know where I can get deep fat fried Three Musketeer bars…Mmmmmmmm!    

      The most ubiquitous stand at the N.C. State Fair (as well as every other state, county and local fair I’ve ever been to) is the Guess Your Age/Weight/ Birth Month booth.

       As a child I longed to fool these intriguing hucksters with their smart patter.  I wanted to beat them, to laugh at their error, and collect my prize.  If I fooled one of them on one side of the fair ground, I’d try to fool another on the other side of the fair ground. 

      As an adult I looked at the potential prizes and didn’t want any of those gaudy, garish things even if I was guaranteed to win. 

       Now, as a knowledgeable shopper from the Oriental Trading Co. catalog and the Rhode Island Toy catalog I know wholesale prices of these “prizes.” I can only assume that bought in great bulk that the fair booths get these items even cheaper.   As an admirer of P.T. Barnum, I now chuckle heartily at all the people taking a chance at these booths, trying to win stuff they probably wouldn’t buy for half the price they were paying to play the game.

        It’s a thing of beauty.  The operators really can’t lose.  The prize items cost a lot less than it costs to play the game!  They win as long as you play.  When they lose by making a poor guess, that just increases the chances of someone else stepping up and throwing down more money for their chance to fleece the stupid carney.  The more it looks like they are trying to win the more you savor the victory.  “This way to the egress!”

       Long time readers know I store everything in the back of my mind for potential use.  Why should this be any different.

       A while back I was asked to put together a fund raiser booth for a multi-parish church carnival.  I assembled a bunch of 25 to 50 cent items I got from the toy catalogs.  I grabbed my bathroom scale.  I made myself a sign.

Guessing Game

Only $1

Your age, your weight

your birth month, your shoe size,

your hat size, your brand of toothpaste…

whatever you want me to guess, I’ll guess.

 

     It was a lot of fun!   People picked brand of toothpaste a lot.  I’d make them smile.  I’d have them exhale so I could smell their breath.  I’d pull a name of toothpaste name out of the air and write it down.  They’d tell me their brand.  I’d show them my guess.  “Pick any prize!”  Ka-ching… I win no matter what (or should I say the charity won.)

    Unbelievably, sometimes I actually won, more often than I would have guessed.  One person came up and declared I definitely wouldn’t guess her toothpaste.  I wrote down “Efferdent” as a joke.  I asked, “What is your toothpaste?”  When she replied, “Efferdent”, I almost fell down laughing.

     This is an idea I’d heartily recommend for alleys who want to raise some money for their chosen causes and want to do something fun besides face painting or balloon sculpting.   It is a perfect place for inexperienced clowns to work on their comic verbal skills.  Don’t just guess and give!   The fun is in the verbal give and take.  Make it more about clowning around and less about making good guesses.  Listen to what the audiences say.  Try to pick up on comic openings.  You can’t lose unless you miss all the golden opportunities to clown around.       

 

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Beauty Break...
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..now back to neat stuff!

Almost 20 years ago I created a funny booklet for clowns to read to children ...
OK... I admit it..., and grown ups!
I have no intention of reprinting the booklets so here are the ones that I think will still work today!

Mother Goofs
Slightly Fractured Nursery Rhymes


  Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep, and doesn't know where they've gotten
She might look in Kroger in Aisle 27, they're having a big sale on mutton
 


Heigh diddle diddle, the cat's in the fiddle
'Cause that's what fiddle strings are made of!



Georgie Porgie pudding and pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
A jury ruled the other day
A hundred thousand he must pay!



Simple Simon met a pie man going to the fair
Said Simple Simon to the pie man, "Let me taste your ware."
Said the pie man to Simple Simon, "Get a job you vagrant!"
Then Simple Simon said to the pie man something that wasn't very fragrant.



Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn't keep her
He put her in a pumpkin shell
Next on The View*
Pumpkin eaters and the women who love them.

(* OK, I updated the reference...20 years ago it was Sally Jesse Raphael)




(This one requires props, specifically (1) a small canned ham, (2) a can of deviled ham, (3) a can of SPAM,
 and (4) a bag of fried pork skins.  It will be obvious when to use them)

This little piggy went to market
This little piggly got canned (1)
This little piggy got deviled (2)
And this little piggy got SPAMMED (3)
And this little piggy stayed out in the sun too long
Got burned and peeled all the way home (4)





(This one was the biggest hit with audiences.  In the second line say the word "obviously" in a bit of a slow, snarky way.)

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe
She had so many children she didn't know what to do...obviously... 
So she dyed her hair purple, made it stand up all spikey
And got an endorsement contract from Nike
She was perfect for Nike and everyone knew it
With a shoe for a house and the slogan, "Just Do It!"




Mary had a little lamb whose fleas were white as snow
And everywhere that Mary went, those fleas were sure to go.
They followed her to the school dance where couples were mixing and matchin'
And everyone who danced with Mary ended up squirmin' and scratchin'




Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumped over a candlestick
Jack should have jumped a little bit higher, because now Jack's pants are on fire.




Jack Spratt could eat no fat, His wife could eat no lean
Jack weighed 125 pounds, his wife weighed three sixteen




Old mother Hubbard went to the cubbard to get her poor doggie a bone
She checked out the label, it was chock full of calcium, and as for fat grams it had none
So she looked at her own food and what it contained, and put her food back on the shelf
She had high cholesterol and osteoperosis, so she ate the dog bone herself!




There was a little girl who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead
When she was good she was very very good
But when she was bad she was a lot more popular!



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This column was originally printed in The New Calliope, Volume 17, Number 1.  After that I was contacted by the editor of Quarter Note the newsletter for  the American Musicians Union Inc., asking permission to reprint the article.  It was reprinted in the March 2000 issue of Quarter Note.  Not bad for a guy who can’t read music!



Utility Tune

 

     Whenever I need a specialty song in a hurry, I have a utility tune I turn to that almost never fails me.  It’s an old song, but then again I’m an old clown!  The song is “Baby Face”.  In spite of its age, I can’t imagine you’ve never heard it.

One of the things that make it so accessible for parody is its repetition of the title line.  The title words are used 5 times in the short song.  I’ve numbered the lines for instructional purposes.

1) Baby Face

2) You’ve got the cutest little Baby Face

3) None other in the world can take your place

4) Baby Face

5) My poor heart is jumpin’

6) You sure have started somethin’

7) Baby Face

8) I’m up in heaven when I’m in your fond embrace.

9) I didn’t need a shove

10) ‘Cause I just fell in love

11) With your pretty Baby Face.


 The song also needs two rhymes to the title words in lines 3 and 8.  Other than that, the parody only needs two independent rhymes (lines 5 and 6, and lines 9 and 10).  I have found the structure of this particular song one of the easiest to work for parody or specialty song purposes.

Here is an example of specialty lyrics I wrote up for a pharmaceutical company sponsored picnic for doctors to talk about the cholesterol-lowering drug Pravachol.


1) Pravachol

2) I’m here to tell you about Pravachol

3) If you’ve got really high cholesterol

4) Try Pravachol

5) ‘Cause that stuff you’re eating

6) It could stop your heart from beating

7) After all

8) You may need help to make your blood fat level fall

9) Oh it will help, you’ll see

10) Clean out those arteries

11) Make your next call Pravachol!


The sales representative who hired me told me that the sales pitch for the drug was “Make your next call Pravachol.”  As you can see that became the final line.  In line seven I didn’t repeat the title line (although I could have) but used another rhyme.

Here is another one I made up to commemorate Karen “Spunky” Jackson’s birthday.  For her birthday, she arranged a Sunday morning gourmet breakfast with family and close friends and hired me to entertain.  If you don’t know Karen, then surely you have heard of her sister, the infamous “Mayor Clancey ” Janis Roberts.  Oh, by the way, Karen approved of my relating this song to you even though it reveals certain personal information about her, namely her age.  In all actuality, she doesn’t look even close to 50….oops!


1) Fifty Years

2) I can’t believe you made it FiftyYears

3) Why that’s enough to drive a clown to tears

4) Fifty Years

5) But you’re still a cutie

6) And you’ve got an awesome bootie!

7) Here’s three cheers

8) To Karen Jackson who has made it Fifty Years

9) The one thing I don’t see

 10) Is why she hired me

11) To sing about her Fifty Years


          In lines 7 and 8, I inverted the title line and the rhyme to suit my purposes but it worked well.  Maybe you could use it with a little editing of your own.

I have also used “Baby Face” as the structure of a kids comedy bit where I sing about someone close to the child like a grandpa, or a grandma, or a friend, first in one called “Onion Breath”, and then in one called “Stinky Feet” and finally in an abbreviated one called “Underwear.”

Here is the one called Onion Breath.


1)      Onion Breath

2)      My dear old Grandpa he’s got Onion Breath

3)      Don’t get too close or you could choke to death

4)      On his Onion Breath

5)      What’s the diagnosis

6)      Doctors call it halitosis

7)      Onion Breath

8)      He’s tried a lot of things but all without success

9)      ‘Cause Listerine and Scope

10)  Aren’t strong enough to cope

11)  With my Grandpa’s Onion Breath


 I’ve used the “Baby Face” structure on other occasions but didn’t bother saving the new words because they were so unique to the situation (and I didn’t know I’d be writing about it someday.)

As with all clown songs, who cares if it’s appropriately accompanied by music or sung accapella or done sweetly or even if it slides off-key.  Do it loud, do it proud and above all, do it funny!



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    That was the end of the article because the article was not about the song Onion Breath.  It was about the use of a common structure to more easily create your own individually crafted parodies.  Well... people really wanted the whole song and, being the mensch I am, I let them have it.  My primary use of the song was in pediatric hospital rooms when there were adults around to make fun of... grandma, grandpa, mom, dad, doctors, nurses... any adult that the child had a relationship with.  It was one of the most guaranteed laugh getters in my hospital repertoire.

     Lets pretend it’s being sung about  Aunt Nancy and Uncle George.


Stinky Feet

You know Aunt Nancy she’s got stinky feet.

There’s not another smell that can compete

With her stinky feet

When she takes her shoes off

Lordy, it could blow the roof off

Stinky feet

And by comparison a dead skunk sure smells sweet

If you can see her toes

Reach up and hold your nose

From Aunt Nancy’s stinky feet



Underwear

Somebody’s wearing day old underwear

Uncle George is standing over there

With day old underwear

Don’t you think that you should change them

Or at least could re-arrange them

Underwear

To make it easy you should buy you seven pairs

And change them once a day

Or even more, I say

About your dirty underwear.



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This is an article I wrote for the magazine Funny Paper.

What Your Audience Wants



In my household we go to a lot of live performances of all levels.  We usually discuss…ok, we dissect the performances.  We do this so regularly that we use short cut codes in these discussions to get our points across quickly.   One of these codes is to say that someone on stage "gets it!"  

What we mean when we say that someone “gets it” is that through their performance they showed that they understand the very nature of entertainment and performance.  They understand that ultimately it is not about them.  They understand that ultimately it is not about the script, the song, the notes or the lyrics.  All these things are important elements of performance but “getting it” means that the performer understands that ultimately it is all about the audience and doing what it takes to entertain the audience.

A few years ago we went to a production of the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ that featured Martha Reeves of the 60s girls group “Martha and the Vandellas”.  She looked way too old for the part.  Then she sung.  Her Motown rock and roll voice was now the quintessential grandma-in-back-of-church-vibrato-out-of-control-voice.  I steeled myself for a long agonizing evening.  I was wrong.  I was wrong because Martha “gets it.” 

In spite of these problems out of her control, she took the stage like the diva she is, with total energy.  She projected absolute confidence, showed no hesitation, worked smoothly with the other characters, let us know in no uncertain terms that she loved us and our being there, and in the end completely won over the audience to the tune of a cheering, loving, standing ovation.  Oh yeah, ol’ Martha “gets it!”

It’s all about entertainment and therefore it is all

about the audience.  I am very nearly a professional audience member.  Let me tell you about us.

  We go to a performance hoping to love it.  We really want the show to succeed.  We want to be able to talk about it for years.  We want to be moved, to laugh, to cry.  We are investing our time and money in that hope.   We want to reward you with resounding accolades, we really do!

In order to cash in on all that we want to give to you, you have to help us.  All we really ask is that you include us in what you are doing.

  You have to include us by speaking loudly enough and clearly enough for us to understand you.  You have to include us by making things visually stimulating to watch.  You have to include us by helping us see what we are supposed to see through your on stage positioning, and blocking, and on stage focus.  You have to include us in on the story by not interfering with our focus through non-story related movement or self-indulgences like inside jokes.

Let me stop here for a second because it is a real problem in clowning, laughing on stage at inside jokes.  Usually when I point this out people bring up the names Harvey Korman and Red Skelton.  They laugh on stage don’t they? 

Absolutely, but the big difference is that the audience knows exactly what Harvey and Red are laughing at and therefore it isn’t an inside joke that excludes the audience.  The audience is laughing just as hard.  It even gives the appearance of an inside joke, which makes the audience even more appreciative that they too are included in on the “inside” joke.  Audiences love that!

Sometimes Skelton would laugh before a joke ended, and tell the audience, “I’m laughing because I know the punchline.”  Brilliant!  He skillfully includes the audience, gets a laugh, builds anticipation for the punchline, and then cashes in on another laugh upon its delivery.

Back to the inclusion litany.  You have to include us by pacing the entertainment at our optimum speed, slow enough to clearly understand but quick enough to avoid boredom.  That speed is a whole lot quicker than most of you think it is.  You have to include us in on the real meaning of the words through vocal and facial expression and overall body language.  Words make up only 10-20 % of effective communication.

You have to include us by planning for us and having an open space for us.  What I mean by this is that whenever you are rehearsing comedy material you will never have the full cast to rehearse with.  One important cast member is always missing from rehearsal.  That cast member has a very important line and is allowed to say any time it wants and as often as it wants and is never ever wrong whenever they say their line.  The cast member who misses all the rehearsals is the audience and the line they are allowed to say any time they want is,“ha-ha-ha!”  And if you are very very lucky they say, “HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!!”  You have to include us by allowing us time to say our lines.  It seems obvious, but now that I’ve brought it to your attention you’ll be shocked at the number of people who try to deprive the audience of our time to laugh by just talking right through it.

And finally, you have to include us as welcome guests by projecting comfort and ease, even if you are uncomfortable and ill at ease.  If you look uncertain and struggling we will become uncomfortable being with you.  We will be worrying about you.  If you look at ease and act as if you are enjoying us and are really glad we are there to share the time with you, we will sit back and enjoy you and reward you with laughter, appreciation and applause.

            It’s all very simple.  If you are smart enough to include us, you “get it!”  And if you “get it” you will most certainly get it. 

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Watch this space
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Watch this space
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Wow, you watch a lot of space!