Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Play in One Act Never to Be Performed Ever

Steve: A frequent contributor to a popular Internet humor site. 30s-ish.
Sid Caesar: Star and creative force behind Your Show of Shows, whose writing staff included Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Larry Gelbart, and Woody Allen.

The scene takes place in Sid Caesar’s NBC office. He is dressed in a tweed suit. Steve is wearing a no one is ugly after six beers T-shirt, but only ironically.

Sid: Thanks for coming, Steve. We need to talk.

Steve:      Sure, Sid.

Sid: It’s about this last sketch of yours.

Steve:      The one about Vice-President Nixon?

Sid: No. We’ll get to that. The fly-in-the-soup skit that Neil started. We asked you to punch up the lines a bit.

Steve: Yeah?

Sid: Yeah, well. Y’know the deal. Fancy restaurant. Fly in the soup. Patron calls the stuffy waiter over to complain. Now, I see you took out the line where the waiter says, “I’m sorry, sir. Did you want the fly well done?”

Steve: Right.

Sid: And replaced it with, “I’m sorry, sir. Certainly we apologize for this occurrence. I’ll bring you a new bowl and of course there’ll be no charge.”

Steve giggles.

Sid: What’s so funny?

Steve:      Exactly! It’s an “anti-joke.” Get it?

Sid: Get it? There’s no joke.

Steve: Right. Everyone’s expecting some “ha, ha” old-hat vaudeville line.

Sid: And no joke is funnier?

Steve shrugs.

Sid: I’m putting Woody on this. It still needs an ending. I’m not getting your final line where the patron gets new soup and says, “Yum. This soup is much more enjoyable now that it doesn’t have flies in it.”

Steve:      (Giggles again.) Hey, it’s your show … of shows.

Sid: And what is with the V.P. Nixon sketch? What’s this line about Checkers breaking into another politician’s dog house? I don’t get it.

Steve: Oh, well I guess that’s harder to explain. It’s just this Nixon guy. He’s sneaky so I thought it would be funny to make his dog sneaky too. Y’know, so if there’s ever a Nixon scandal one day, people will look back on this show like it was somehow psychic and be amazed.

Sid: So this is an inside joke. I mean, really inside.

Steve: I guess.

Sid: Let me get this straight. You’re O.K. with writing a joke that is so referential and inside that it might be funny only to people twenty years from now—and then only if Nixon is ever involved in a scandal and the future people watch an old tape of this show?

Steve: Wouldn’t that rule?

Sid: And what I should tell our sponsors now? I don’t think they’ll find it funny that they’re paying the paycheck of the anti-joke guy.

Steve: Right. Sorry. I’m not used to getting paid for writing.

Sid: All right, kid. I like you so I’m going to give you one more chance. Let’s play a little game. I need a joke. We have a competition around here for who can come up with the best line. Finish this phrase: “I know a man who can see so well that …”

Steve is visibly confused and starts daydreaming about a Kids in the Hall skit from 1992.

Sid: Hey! Go! Here, I’ll start you out. Larry said, “I know a man who sees so well that he saves a nickel each day by reading the paper of the guy three seats ahead of him on the bus.” Mel said, “I know a man who sees so well, he can’t sleep; every time he closes his eyes, he still sees through his lids and stares up at the ceiling.” And you? What do you say? I know a man who can see so well that …

Steve:      He uses his telescope as a tie rack?

Sid: (Laughs.) Now that’s funny!

Lights flicker and space-age sound effects go off with bells and whistles. Steve is suddenly back in his own time at his home computer. He instantly composes a comic list: “Things This Guy Who Sid Caesar Knows Can Do Because He Can See Really Well,” which is summarily rejected for publication within two hours.

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