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I have a new assignment this week in the sketch comedy writing class I’m taking over at ImprovBoston. This session, we’re focusing on ‘character sketches’.
(As opposed to sketches without characters, I guess. Which would be an empty stage. So that’s unfortunate, because those seem a lot easier to write. Though the punchlines are probably a bit more subtle. Still.)
“I may not go out with a ‘bang’, but they’ll have to pry the snarky motorboating keyboard from my cold, dead hands.”
Our ‘real’ assignment was to conjure up some new character and write a description of him — either in first- or third-person format.
(Second-person always gets the shaft in these things. ‘You’ is probably pretty pissed by now.)
In what comedic scientists call a ‘sneak preview’, the teacher told us that this would lead up to writing an actual, honest-to-goodness sketch including that character in the week following. If we were ready for it by then, and didn’t feel too dizzy or winded from the effort. If we were feeling really extra super-human — or were maybe unemployed, with a lot of free time on our hands — we could go ahead and work on the sketch. So long as we were careful. Nobody wants to be found dead of exhaustion, hunched over a Word document titled “Jack Tate, Amnesic Detective” or some such nonsense.
Me, I threw caution to the wind. I may not go out with a ‘bang’, but they’ll have to pry the snarky motorboating keyboard from my cold, dead hands. So if you’re inclined, please read on below for a third-person (sorry, ‘I’) description of the character I concocted. And if that whets something curious in you, tune in again on Saturday for the sketch involving him, entitled:
Jack Tate, Amnesic Detective
Like I said. Cold. Dead. Hands.
The Distinguished (Nearly Extinguished) Detective
We’re here today to honor one of our finest men in blue, Jack Tate. Detective Tate has served our fair city for twenty-four years in uniform, working his way up from parking enforcement to beat cop to full detective. His dedication, integrity and commitment to protecting our citizens and property is second to none.
I’ve known Jack for many years on the force, and I can personally attest to his dogged pursuit of justice. This is a man forged in the mold of the old-school detectives, relying on his gut and his guile to get results. Jack was never a fan of newfangled gizmos or state-of-the-art doodads. It’s that simple, old-fashioned approach that kept him out of harm’s way in the line of duty for more than two decades.
Right up until this spring, when he tragically mistook his taser for his ringing cell phone. Double-tapped himself right in the temple. Got ’em in there good, too — we had to get needle-nosed pliers to yank those things out. Jack always was a good shot.
The doctors told Jack he was finished on the job, that his short-term memory was fried.
Then they’d tell him again, because he’d forget all about it. Every ten minutes, Jack’d say, “Doc — when can I get back to work?” And they’d go through it all over again. They finally wrote him a little booklet called “Jack Tate Doesn’t Work Here Any More”, just to hush him up for a while.
But I’ll be damned if that tough old S.O.B. wasn’t back in the precinct the very next week. Sure, it was the *wrong* precinct. And he went out checking parking meters in his old uniform, which is _several_ sizes too small now. That was… uncomfortable. To put it mildly.
But we got Jack straightened out. Tattooed his rank on the back of his hand. Taped a map to the station on his steering wheel. Gave his old uniform the proper wake it deserved. And just like that, Jack was back on the job.
Now, you might wonder if he was the same man. Could he still get the job done? Maybe after the accident, his arrest records went down?
No chance. If anything, they’ve gone _up_. Jack has some challenges, sure — but in the interrogation room, he’s a wizard. A regular artist with the perps. We’ve brought guys in on misdemeanors — petty theft, disturbing the peace, impersonating a soccer referee — and after ten minutes in the box with Jack, they’re confessing to murders, bank jobs, treason, you name it. Stuff you’d never dream they were into. But somehow Jack nails ’em.
Of course, we occasionally have him talk to a known mobster or felon, and they wind up walking out with a jaywalking ticket or something. But still, that’s *something*. And those citations _stick_, dammit.
Unless Jack forgets to show up for the hearing. Which is most of the time.
Still, Jack Tate is one of the most valued members of our force, and I’m damned proud to present him with this award for Excellence in the Line of Duty.
Or I would be, if Jack were here with us tonight. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to make it. He’s probably stuck in his apartment building’s revolving door again, because he can’t remember whether he’s going in or out. That hard-nosed bastard will stay in there all night sometimes, till he gets the spins and passes out. That’s just the kind of cop Jack Tate is. Like a bulldog. A less hairy, really forgetful bulldog. Congratulations, Jack, wherever you are!Permalink | 1 Comment
truly funny, the bad short memory reminds me someone, but i can’t remember who….
i couldn’t resist, anyway reminds me about….you know the new boss that wants to implement gnatt, what’s his name?