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Tuesday, May 01, 2007
The Humor Institute of El Paso - Death
This is kind of a wierd one. It started out from seeing Stranger than Fiction staring Emma Thompson and Will Ferrel. It was a fun enjoyable movie, that if you stop to think about forces you to consider death. That thing we are all going to do later on. So I started writing this, in response. I hit upon using the Humor Institute of El Paso (previously used to mock Ann Coulter, here, here, here and here. And the sketch largely wrote itself, being very old timey. I particularly enjoy the Joan of Arc sketch, which I find oddly comforting in a way. Gracie, referenced several times in the sketch, is intended to be Gracie Allen, partner to George Burns back in the day. I love the idea of Gracie Allen and Joan of Arc being friends. Also the first bit where she says "Yeah what was I thinking, was a reference to their lunch menu, not to her death. Finally the final line is the last words of a famous hollywood actor - any guesses who?

Narrator: (standing outside of institute, some sort of stripmall, preferably) "Good evening, I'm (insert name here) and I am speaking from the Humor Institute of El Paso. I am pleased to present another in a continuing series of films that attempts to answer the question; what is humor? What is funny? Tonight's subject? Death."

Man on the street: (film cuts to people asking the question) "What's so funny about Death?"

Other Man on the Street: "Why does death show up so often in comedies?"

Woman on the street: "Are comedians just morbid?"

Narrator: (Walking through cemetery) "Tonight we hope to answer these questions. But what is death after all? Is it a skeleton in a black robe, carrying a scythe?" (Shot of skeleton in a black robe, carrying a scythe, who waves expectantly at the camera) "Yes, this is one view of death. But death the personification has always struggled at comedy. He had his best venue in radio days, where his deeply timbered voice was perfect for a certain kind of dignified insanity. (still of Death in front of a microphone) "The onset of television, however, killed his comedic aspirations. He had a brief talk show in the 50s, but was cancelled very quickly. To this date it is considered the second worst talk show in television history, right after The Chevy Chase show."
(Clip from Death's Talk Show, black and white, minimalist set)

Death: (Walks out to applause) "Good evening lady and gentleman. Boy have we got a killer show tonight" (pauses for laughter, no laughter) "So earlier today I'm at the dentist. Doing my job, when this guy who's soul I'm there to collect starts foaming at the mouth. Literally foaming at the mouth. And I, like a dope, have to get involved. I lean in and all of a sudden I have foam all down my black robe. And it's the good black robe, you know. Not the nicest looking but the comfy one. So I says to the guy, I says "look pal. I wanted the news, not the weather." (Pauses for laughter, no laughter).

Narrator: "The show was a consistent failure, and his walk-on roles in several cheap comedies failed to win him any kind of audience." (More stills here, preferably one where he's photoshopped in behind Abbot and Costello). "Roles got harder and harder for this morbid comedian. He hit rock bottom in the 1960s, when he tried out for the part of Death in Woody Allen's Death Knocks." (Still of Death in a black turtleneck and grey suit) " Woody Allen described his performance as shticky, and the noted director went with a younger and more nimble comedian. Death hung up his cloak for good. Well, his comedic cloak; Death continues to perform his duty as a harvester of souls. "

Death: (Camera finds him sitting on a couch) "Do I miss the old days? Yeah, sure I do. I loved performing. But you have to accept that times change. Tastes change. I'm not going to do what I see so many other comedians doing and blame the audience for my failure to connect. The sad truth is that Careers die, just like anything else."

Narrator: "So the personification of Death, is, on the whole, not funny. But what about the experience of death?"

(Scene changes to be outside a haunted style house)

Narrator: "This is Glouscter Manor. Built in 1823 it has been haunted since 1824 when the architect, Mr. Neville Olster, was killed and buried in the basement."

Ghost: (dressed in old timey clothes) "It's really embarrassing actually. In my old business you had to be careful about how much gouging the customer is willing to handle. I misjudged the Earl of Bloodhoven, and he gutted me. Oh well, live and learn."

Narrator: "So what is it like being dead."

Ghost: "Oh it's bullocks - cooped up in this house all the time. And of course get a constant stream of looky-loos wandering through. And not proper ladies like yourself, but nasty sorts. Kids and mods and punks and what not. I try to keep up on the modern ideas, but it's very hard cooped up in this house."

Narrator: "Is it painful being dead?"

Ghost: "No more so than being alive I guess. That bit about being able to walk through walls is bullocks though. Nobody can walk through walls."

Narrator: "You can't walk through walls?"

Ghost: "You have to teleport to the other side. It's very tiring." (Thinks) "Oh and you can't drink when your dead. I miss drinking."

Narrator: "Do you see a lot of comedic possibilities in being a ghost?"

Ghost: "Oh yeah - great for practical jokers. You can do anything and not get caught. Terry over in the old Chricton place is great at that. Weeping tapestries and flying books and what not. I'm more into puns. Puns are just as good dead as they are alive."

Narrator: (voice over with Camera still on Olster) "Mr. Olster is correct of course, Puns are not funny, dead or alive." (in a green field with a blue sky) "Of course there are a variety of death experiences. We were also able to obtain an interview with Joan of Arc, who ascended to heaven in the year 1431."

Joan of Arc: (laughing, in a field - very green grass and blue skies very pretty looking, like a microsoft desktop) "Yeah what was I thinking? Oh - you want me to talk about heaven? Heaven's not bad. I mean the weather is great, and there's plenty of grass to run around in. Oh and it's clothing optional."

Narrator: "That can't be right."

Joan of Arc: "Oh yes, we are all in a state of innocense you see. Clothing means nothing to me. I rarely wear any - but they said this was going to be shown on national television so I had better put some on. I was going to borrow a tee from Gracie, but they said this peasant garb would be better? Where'd you get this anyway, a renaissance festival?"

Narrator: "Are you really Joan of Arc?"

Joan of Arc: "Yeah, kind of a disappointment I know. Look, I've been dead for 540 years. Did you really think I'd be exactly the same as when I died?" (Laughs) "Your lucky you didn't get Mary. She's what Gracie calls a firecracker, these days."

Narrator: "So do you enjoy heaven?"

Joan of Arc: "Yeah Heaven's pretty great. I mean this is kind of the sticks, but even this is great, isn't it? You get into the heavenly city and it's amazing." (Laughs) "It's heaven you know. What do you think it's like?"

Narrator: "But is being dead funny?"

Joan of Arc: (thinks) "I don't know - I suppose you think when you die that change is over. But even up here in heaven people grow and change. Since being in heaven I've learned to laugh. I never really laughed while alive." (Thinks) "But others become far more serious. Cleopatra, for example, is practically a nun these days. Sweet girl though." (Thinks some more) "Given enough time everything becomes possible. Even comedy. And we got all the time in the world up here."

Narrator: (Switching back to the set) "And images of Death? Most are the opposite of funny, although a few deaths are funny in an ironic way. And of course there are occasional cases of slapstick deaths, particularly in the films, that can be quite funny. But what of the reality of Death?"

Narrator: (camera pushes in to the face) "The reality of Death is this. Most people die before they are ready. Most people die when they still have things they want to do. Many people die alone, others die knowing those they love will suffer for their lose. Most death involves great pain, and after death we do not know what comes next. And it's going to happen to each one of us. I will die someday and so will you and there's no way to avoid it. You'd better believe that the reality of Death is funny."

Narrator: "Because each laugh is a way of cheating death. It's a way of telling the universe "Yeah I'm going to be dead for a hell of a lot longer than I am alive, but right here and right now I am alive. And I am alive enough to laugh in the face of Death. Laughing is a bit like being insane and a lot like being alive. And every laugh as a bit of light and joy in a dark and uncaring universe."

Narrator: (Camera switches to his or her other side as he or she turns) "And that's it for this week. From the Humor Institute of El Paso, I'm (insert name here), saying "I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis."
posted by Bryant @ 3:13 PM  

This website does three things

1. I will on a weekly or bi-weekly basis present comedic sketches I have written. Your mileage may vary.

2. I will also be cooking and reporting on recipes I make from the many cookbooks I have. I will be starting with a book of appetizer recipes and moving up from that. I will be reporting here rather than cooking.

3. I also think I will write the occasional feature on comedy or on things I find funny.

If I can I will also provide a weekend radio station of sorts. We'll have to see how that goes.

The title of this blog comes from a song by Simple Minds called "70 Cities as Love Brings the Fall." It is off of an album called Sons and Fascination. Ironically Sons and Fascination was doubled packed with an album called Sister Feelings Call, and I thought, making this site, that the song was from that album. I was, as it turns out, mistaken. The color scheme for this website is taken from Sister Feelings Call, though, and since I think it's a better scheme I don't plan on changing it.

About Me

Name: Bryant
Home: Nowhereville, Denial, United States
About Me: Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies. Well that's not strictly true.
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