Phenomenal Film Handler
From: Mobile, AL USA
Registered: Jun 99
posted 08-23-2004 03:52 AM
This is a burlesque show sketch, so you have to read it visualizing it on a stage in order for the mechanism of being outside to work. Hopefully everyone knows already, but in the technical talk of comic constructions, the Straight Man feeds lines, & the Comic has funny reactions like comments, funny expressions (a.k.a 'takes'), etc. The Straight is sharp-dressed, very articulate & socially accomplished: an authority figure (who we always know has something going on, or there'd be no reason for him to be there in the scene). The Comic is baggy pants, rumpled, bizarre distasteful clothing choices, awkward, etc.: a geep off the street.
Burlesque show sketches always were adult, but not specifically sexual. They were always about social situations found in adult life that were familiar, & had very sharply-drawn specific characters with specific strengths & weaknesses moving with a particular purpose. Unlike the variety of sketches & gags in the aggregate for musical comedies, revues, monologues, movies, etc., there's something very particular about them in that they're always social & for high personal stakes which makes them weirdly similar in playout to chunks taken from Shakesperean plays. Although they were never highbrow, just baggy pants cutting up.
There's also a problem some people have reading burlesque sketches in that they are often dissatisfied with what is perceived as frequently weak punch lines at the end. the problem is that it usually deals with an arc of one person attempting to gain an advantage, the person who loses advantage has to be the clown, not the straight, & that the satisfaction in performance is watching the completeness of the reduction of the clown in status: financial, sexual, social, whatever. So you can't give the punchline to the straight, & a strong punchline would negate the satisfaction of the diminution of the clown. A sort of weak punchline works because it reinforces not really the character of the comic, but the perfection of the progression. The blackout, bless it's brilliant heart, punctuates it.
This one's sort of typical in usage of exploitation of logical fallacies, manipulation of the comic to disregard things he's told are inconsequential, etc. Much of the humor comes from watching the comic as you know that HE knows that something is wrong, but he can't figure out WHAT's wrong, & thus what to do about it.
Abbot & Costello made a career of re-engineering old burlesque scenes & de-caricaturing the straight & comic to work outside of burlesque, but you really never get to see real burlesque show humor anymore because the "package" is often distasteful to modern season ticket holders & won't put butts in the seats like straight musicals. If you ever get a chance to though, catch a revival of "Sugar Babies", which is a reconstruction of a burlesque show.
"Ask an engineer what time it is, he'll tell you how they built the watch."
(STRAIGHT MAN, COMIC, A large blackboard, an easel, chalk and some stage money.)
COMIC: Look, I been working for you a long time now, and I've decided to quit. Gimme my money.
STRAIGHT: What do you mean, quit? Why?
COMIC: Cause you ain't paid me, that's why.
STRAIGHT: You mean I forgot to pay you?
COMIC: I mean you ain't paid me nothing yet.
STRAIGHT: Just how long have you been working for me?
COMIC: A whole year -- 365 days. That's how long.
STRAIGHT: And how much was I paying you?
COMIC: Five dollars a day, and you owe me $1825. So come on, fork over. Let's have it, and I'll be on my way.
STRAIGHT: How do you know I owe you that much?
COMIC: Because I stayed up all night, and I figured it out. That's how I know, and I used up three sides of my room doing it.
STRAIGHT: Well, I'm not going to take your word for it. I'll figure it out for myself! (ignoring him, goes to blackboard which is set up facing audience) Now let me see. There are 365 days in a year. (puts down "365")
COMIC: Now, just multiply that by five.
STRAIGHT: Just a minute. I'm not gonna pay you for something that you didn't do. How many hours a night did you sleep?
COMIC: Eight hours.
STRAIGHT: Eight hours, eh? You don't expect me to pay you while you're sleeping, do you?
COMIC: Well, I thought maybe you would.
STRAIGHT: Well, I'm not. Now, let me see. Eight hours a night for 365 nights, that makes 122 days you didn't work, so I'll just deduct 122 from 365 (writing as HE talks) and that leaves 243. Now- ---
COMIC: Now, let's multiply.
STRAIGHT: Oh, no, not yet. Now you work eight hours, and you sleep eight hours. What do you do with the other eight hours? (COMIC goes through business of acting very shyly as if hiding something.) Well, come on, what do you do? You don't do anything for me.
COMIC: (very shyly) W-e-l-l...sometimes I think about you.
STRAIGHT: Well, you don't work, that's for sure so I'm not gonna pay, am I? That means there's another 122 days, so I'll just deduct that ...122 from 243 (doing so), and that leaves 121. Now we're getting some place!
COMIC: Gee, I never lost money so fast in my whole life.
COMIC: Let's multiply.
STRAIGHT: Just a minute. How much time do I give you for lunch every day?
COMIC: An hour.
STRAIGHT: An hour. Well...you don't expect me to pay you when you're eating?
COMIC: N -o-o-ooo!
STRAIGHT: An hour a day for a year is fifteen days.
COMIC: Do I eat that much a year?
STRAIGHT: Yes sir, and I don't intend paying you for it.
COMIC: Let's multiply for a change.
STRAIGHT: Not yet.
COMIC: Look, I'll settle for a quarter.
STRAIGHT: (ignoring him as HE writes) Now deduct 15 from 121 ...that leaves 106...Now!
COMIC: It ain't gonna be long now...
STRAIGHT: You never worked for me on Sundays, did you?
COMIC: (wearily) No.
STRAIGHT: Well, you don't expect me to pay you for a day you didn't work, do you?
COMIC: Absolutely not!
STRAIGHT: Okay, then. Now there are 52 Sundays in a year, so I'll just deduct 52 from 106 (writing), and that leaves 54...Now...
COMIC: Yeah, NOW...now, I can see already I ain't gonna have enough money to get out of town.
STRAIGHT: Now we come to Saturday.
COMIC: What detained you?
STRAIGHT: According to the union, you can't work but half a day on Saturday, so that leaves another 26 days that I'm not gonna pay you for, am I? S-o-o, I'll just deduct 26 from 54 (writing) which leaves 28...Now...
COMIC: (getting on his knees in prayer-like attitude) Look, on my bend-ed knees, I ask you to do somethin' for me.
STRAIGHT: What is it?
COMIC: (pleadingly) M-u-I-t-i-p-I-y.
STRAIGHT: (ignoring him) Every year you take a two-week vacation on your own, that right? (COMIC nods meekly in assent.) Well, I'm not gonna pay you while you're on a vacation, am I? No! (As HE says "No!" the COMIC is about to answer, but gets beaten to the answer, gets caught with his mouth open in a "take.') So, that's another fourteen days I don't pay you for. Now 14 from 28 (writing) leaves 14, so I'll just deduct that...Now...
COMIC: It's too bad there ain't more days in a year!
STRAIGHT: Now, there are 13 legal holidays each year that you don't work on, such as New Year's, Abraham Lincoln's birthday, George Washington's birthday, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Election Day, Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Christmas Day (or any other holidays like Garbage Day, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Latrine Day, etc.) Well, anyway, there are 13 of them in all, and I'm not paying you for them!
COMIC: And to think I used to wait for them days to come around.
STRAIGHT: (writing) So 13 from 14 leaves one day. That's what I owe you for, one day. Never let it be said that I don't pay my debts. One times five is five, that's what I owe you. Five dollars, and here you are. (paying him)
COMIC: (taking it and looking at it) I ain't crowding you, am I?
STRAIGHT: Not at all. Keep it.
COMIC: Look, I don't wanna beat you. Here, you take it.
STRAIGHT: Why, what's the matter?
COMIC: You forgot Chinese New Year!
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