If it’s Saturday, it’s sketch writing class time over at ImprovBoston. This week, I set aside Wednesday to tackle the sketch. Which I did. I hammered out four pages of silliness, saved it, and emailed it to myself to have a look at revising and cleaning up before class time.
Yes, I was very proud of myself. In a gold star, smiley sticker kind of way.
Time passed, and it was this morning — about an hour before class — before I thought about the sketch again. Still, that was plenty of time to make a few edits, tweak a few zingers, and generally wonder what the hell I was thinking about when I barfed this train wreck onto paper in the first place. So I hopped over to my email, downloaded the file, pulled it up in my sketch/script editing software, and this is what I saw:
Nothing else. No zingers. No ha-has. No barfed-down Amtrak disasters. Just ‘ACT I / Scene 1‘ Somehow, I’d managed to hork up the file, and emailed myself a blank script template. Which is not especially helpful as a sketch. Sure, you could ham it up, Shakespeare-style: ‘AAAACT ONE!‘
” It’s short. There are no punchlines. The pacing is all wrong, and the stage directions are for shit.”
But you’ve still got problems. It’s short. There are no punchlines. The pacing is all wrong, and the stage directions are for shit. You can’t even follow the ‘Rule of Three’, because you don’t have three fricking things to work with. No good.
I scrambled frantically through my computer, hoping I’d just attached the wrong file or saved into some temp folder accidentally. But no. What I saw was what I had. Bupkis. And with forty-five minutes left till class.
(Also, I was a little unsteady and bleary-eyed from the events of the night before, which I’ll talk about tomorrow.
Just as a hint, I’ll tell you this: it was the Mug of Woe book release party.
Not pictured: me. Though it’s quite possible I was lying on the floor under some of those shots. More news on that at eleven. By which I mean, ‘tomorrow’.)
Tick tick tick tick tick…
So I did what I had to do. I rewrote the sketch, as best I could from a shaky four-day-old memory, saved it — for realz, this time — and ran to class with copies hot off the printer. I got there late, but I figured that was better than coming in empty-handed.
Or, god forbid, trying to explain what the sketch is about, without having it written down. You have a look, and see whether you think that would’ve been a picnic. My guess is no. No picnic would it be.
Anyway, here it is — twice-written, never shy. Enjoy.
THE VENDOR’S APPRENTICE
[Joey stands center stage. He’s wearing a ballpark vendor uniform — black shoes and shorts and bright yellow shirt, with a baseball cap askew on his head — and has a tray of neatly ordered bottled water strapped around his neck. Hanging on the strap is a sign reading:
His shoulders slumped, he looks bored and annoyed. Joey clearly doesn’t want to be here.
An older man, Hank, also in vendor clothes, approaches Joey, full of ‘motivational energy’.]
HANK: Hey, kid, you’re here. On time, too. I like that. You’re gonna be dynamite out there, I can already tell. You got any jitters, kid? Butterflies? Knots in the old pucker-upper?
[Joey shoots Hank a look that says, ‘Really?’]
HANK: Attaboy, nerves of steel, eh? Outstanding. You remind me of a young me, kid. But taller, and with better cheekbones. You’re gonna be a star, sport. A bona fide star. Now let’s go over the basics. You tell people you have water. They tell you they want water. You give ’em water, they give you cash, lather, rinse, repeat, we all go to Disneyland and live happily ever after. Any questions?
JOEY: I wanna sell hot dogs.
HANK: Hot dogs? Kid, you’re ambitious; I’ll give you that. You’re like Dale Carnegie, without the hairpiece. But I can’t send you out there with hot dogs on your first day. Hot dogs would eat you alive, kid. You see that guy over there? That’s Steve. Steve’s a hot doggin’ man. Look at those legs on him. He cracks walnuts with the backs of his knees. Not for eating, just for fun. Then he puts ’em back in the bag, as an example to the others. That’s a hot dogger, kid. Drink him in. Drink him in deep.
[Joey glances in Steve’s direction, and makes a ‘Pffft’ sound.]
HANK: Anyway, kid, you’ve got the top job right here. Water’s number one with a bullet. It’s hot out there. Humid, too. You got ice cream puddles and shirtless fat guys as far as the eye can see. Who’s gonna bring those people some tiny speck of relief in their miserable, sweaty lives? I’ll give you two hints — you, and you. You’ll be a hero, kid. Like Superman without the sideburns, or a skinny midget Godzilla. Water’s where it’s at, kid.
JOEY: Can I throw?
JOEY: The water. Can I throw it?
HANK: Ah, I get you. You’re an entertainer, eh? Give the folks a little show with their H-two-O. I like it. It’s like Joe Namath and Bette Midler had a love child, and that kid grew up to be me, standing here talking to Mr. Razzle Dazzle himself. Well, okay, sport, show me what you got. [Hank backs up a few feet.] Put ‘er in there. Gimme the heater.
[Joey pulls a bottle from the tray, makes an awkward throwing motion, and slams the bottle straight down on the floor.]
JOEY: It slipped.
HANK: Gee, kid, I don’t–
HANK: Well, all right, then. We’ll give you another shot. This is the land of second chances, right? Here and Albania. You give it the old college try, now. Pop it right in the mitt, tiger.
[Joey pulls another bottle, flails again and manages to throw it backwards over his shoulder.]
HANK: Tell you what, champ. How about we keep that cannon in the holster for now, eh? We’ll work you up to throwing — maybe play some marbles, rock a little bocce ball out back. But in the meantime, let’s work on ‘handing’. Not so much throwing. Just the handing. Always with the handing. Okay — any more questions?
JOEY: I’m thirsty. Can I take a water?
HANK: Well, geez, kid, that’s not really part of the model. You’re thinking outside the box, and I like that. You got that free spirit wild horses soar like an eagle thing going, and that’s great. You’re gonna make some barefoot hairy-legged chick named Starfruit very happy some day. But right now, I’ve got to put the kibosh on you. No waters while you’re on duty. I hate to be all Mean Joe Greene about it, but that’s how it’s gotta be.
Now — are you ready to get out there and move some agua? This is your big moment, kid. Deep breath. Big smile. Jazz hands. And go, go go!
[Joey shuffles listlessly offstage.]
HANK: That kid’s gonna make it big. He’s got a gleam in his step and a bounce in his pocket. He reminds me of a bald Filipino Jessica Alba–
[Joey returns. His tray is empty, save for two empty bottles and assorted trash. His hat is gone, and the WATER sign is tucked into his pants.]
HANK: Kid, you sold out in record time. Nobody moves product like that. Not even Steve and his iron calves of steel. You’re an animal, kid. An ocelot, maybe, or an antelope. Something with lots of fur that starts with a vowel. Anyway, you’re the tops. How much did you make?
[Joey produces a few coins and hands them to Hank. He takes a swig from an open bottle of water with his other hand.]
HANK: Seventeen *cents*. I see. Well, that’s a tough day, kid. But you’ll get ’em tomorrow, I can feel it. You’re like Rocky, you’ll come out swinging next round. Only Rocky the Raccoon, not the fighter. You got no calves for boxing, kid. You’d fold like an accordian. Now whaddaya say we hit the showers and get out of here before the game starts, eh?Permalink | 1 Comment