Tuesday, April 22, 2008

22 Punchlines In Search Of A Playwright

Characters, In Order Of Appearance

DJ Big Mick
Kevin Smith
Daryl E.
David McMahon


Time: Never
Place: Nowhere

(All 12 characters stand on stage, for no apparent reason.)

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum off the street and chew it!

SULDOG: Hi. My name is Suldog. (points to Connie) That was my mother. (pause) Well, actually she still is my mother. You might be wondering why she said what she did. (turns to Connie) Mom, just in case these fine people didn’t quite catch what you said the first time, would you please say it again?

CONNIE: What? The opening line of the play?

SULDOG: Yes, please. One more time.

CONNIE: All right.

(Clears throat in an exaggerated fashion, then says line in a very stilted way.)

CONNIE: I… did NOT… pick up a piece… of gum… off… the street… and… chew it!


CONNIE: Was that all right, dear?

SULDOG: Magnificent, Mom. Thanks.

CONNIE: You’re welcome.

SULDOG: The reason she said what she did is because I have a major failing in life, and that major failing is this - I often overestimate my ability to extricate myself from ridiculous situations that I’ve put myself into. For instance, I…

MUSHY: Now the memory stalked his mind looking for a tender spot, but there were few such places left in his brain.

SULDOG: That was my friend, Mushy. You see, what I did here was…

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

SULDOG: Thank you, Buck. That was Buck. You see, I told these people that…

CONNIE: You’re not going to use my line to advance the action, or for any real purpose like exposition. You just had me come out here and say it – twice – so that you could spout off a whole bunch of nonsense. What a gyp!

SULDOG: Mom, it’s not because I didn’t want to make it part of an actual real play that people could enjoy, it’s just that I was stuck with all of these…

DJ BIG MICK: So I hit him with the bucket of mashed potatoes!

(cymbal crash, like the punctuation of a bad comedian’s joke in a nightclub)

SULDOG: Oh, man, this is already getting way out of hand. Look, could we maybe just start over and try…

CONNIE: Do you want me to say my line again, dear? I did NOT pick up a piece of gum…

SULDOG: No, Mom, not…

MUSHY: If we’re starting over, do we all get to say our lines again? That would be the fair thing to do.


MUSHY: Now the memory stalked his mind looking for a tender spot, but there were few such places left in his brain.

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

LIME: Turn your head and cough, please.

SULDOG: Wait a minute! That wasn’t even your cue!

LIME: Oh! Sorry! What is my cue?

(Suldog looks at script in his hand.)

SULDOG: You say your line after Rooster says, “Who knew their hooves were so sharp?”

LIME: And then I say, “Turn your head and cough, please?” That doesn’t make any sense at all.

SULDOG: I know, I know. You see, I asked all these people to give me…

ROOSTER: Who knew their hooves were so sharp?

LIME: Turn your head and cough, please.

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

KEVIN SMITH: The keys to any great date are three kumquats, a bottle of tequila, and two pairs of gravity boots.

MUSHY: He stood in full battle gear; helmet, chinstrap swaying on one side, backpack rising above his shoulder, and rifle, perfectly balanced resting confidently across his right shoulder.

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum off the street and…


ALL OTHERS: (general mumbling, until Mushy turns towards Kevin Smith, and says…)

MUSHY: What are the kumquats for?

KEVIN SMITH: Are you asking me for a date?

MUSHY: Hell, NO!

KEVIN SMITH: In that case, you don’t get to know what the kumquats are for.

SULDOG: Nobody cares what the kumquats are for!

LIME: You wouldn’t say that if you’d ever been on a date with him.

(All laugh.)

SULDOG: Ugh. This isn’t anything like I wanted it to be. I wanted to write a nice little play - a few laughs, maybe, and possibly a bit of a tearjerker ending to the first act; bouncy musical number to open the second act; show-stopping dance number near the finale - but this is just absurd, and not a Harold Pinter good kind of absurd, this is just silly and makes no sense at all. I haven’t developed anybody's character or given anyone a reason to care about anyone else or set the scene or done anything at all to justify anyone's actions - not that there have BEEN any actions - and everybody is just saying disconnected lines that mean nothing out of context, except that the whole damn thing is out of context.

CATMOVES: Bitch, bitch, bitch.

LIME: Damnit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer!

KEVIN SMITH: You wouldn’t say that if you’d ever been on a date with me.

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum…

SULDOG: Yeah, Mom, you did NOT pick up a piece of gum! Turn your head and cough! There he stood, soft spots all over his brain! The Horror, the horror! Buckets full of mashed potatoes! Gravity boots and kumquats!

KEVIN: You forgot the bottle of tequila.

SULDOG: No, I tried to forget the bottle of tequila, but none of you clowns would let me forget it. Look, would you all please keep quiet for a minute – just ONE minute – so I can tell these fine people (points to audience) who paid good money to see this ridiculous excuse for a show just what in hell is going on here and why none of this makes any damned sense at all?

ALL: Sure, yeah, I guess so, OK, yeah.

CONNIE: You go right ahead, dear.

SULDOG: Thank you.

(pauses; looks around to make sure nobody else is going to say anything.)

SULDOG: OK, here’s the thing. I write this blog. It’s called “Suldog.” And usually it’s just me talking about some stuff I like, maybe the Celtics or the Red Sox or old comedy teams. Sometimes it’s me telling a story about my family, or maybe a funny tale about some job I’ve held in the past. Every so often, I try my hand at satire, although that’s usually a disaster. But, this time, I made a truly major mistake. I went way beyond my abilities. I asked my readers to give me two lines of dialogue, see? And I said that I’d write a play, incorporating those two lines of dialogue into it, and I’d make every person who gave me two lines of dialogue a character in the play. For some damn reason, I thought I had the talent to pull off such a thing.

CONNIE: You’re very talented, dear.


CONNIE: Sorry, honey, you go right ahead.

SULDOG: Thank you. As I was saying, I thought, when I made such a ridiculous offer, that I really could do it. I figured I could work my way out of it gracefully, with it seeming like a real honest-to-goodness play with a plot and a climax and everything else a real play has, but my readers gave me such wildly disparate lines…

HILARY: We’ll always have parrots!

SULDOG: See? It’s not that they’re bad lines. I could make any two of them work; maybe even four or five of them. But I’ve got 22 lines that, when taken in relation to one another, make no damn sense at all! I mean, sure, I could say this: (turns to Buck) Buck, why is your sister flapping her arms and making cackling noises?

BUCK: She thinks she’s a chicken.

SULDOG: She thinks she’s a chicken? You should have her committed!

BUCK: Oh, I can’t do that!

SULDOG: Why not?

BUCK: We need the eggs!

SULDOG: …but that’s one of the easy ones. Unless my play is about bestiality, what in the HELL am I supposed to do with THIS?

ROOSTER: Who knew their hooves were so sharp?

LIME: Turn your head and cough, please.


LIME: Well, that was my cue!

SULDOG: You’re right. Sorry! Anyway, I don’t think Neil Simon, Edward Albee and William Shaespeare, combined, on their best days, could have made a coherent whole of what I was given to work with.

HILARY: Google is my Bible!

SULDOG: See? That was Hilary, by the way. The line she said earlier…

HILARY: We’ll always have parrots!

SULDOG: … was pretty good. I certainly could have made up some sort of shaggy dog story about birds, and then turned it into a small Casablanca parody, and then the line…

HILARY: We’ll always have parrots.

SULDOG: … would have been a damned funny pun. However, I couldn’t possibly tie it together with…

CONNIE: I did NOT pick up a piece of gum off the street and chew it!

BUCK: The Horror… The Horror!

MUSHY: Now the memory stalked his mind looking for a tender spot, but there were few such places left in his brain.

DJ BIG MICK: So I hit him with the bucket of mashed potatoes!

(cymbal crash)

KEVIN: It was a strange thing, knowing the dark side of the crocheting world.

CATMOVES: Would you like hamburgers for dinner tonight?

CONNIE: And it was under the bed the whole time?

ROOSTER: I might have done it if somebody saw me.

DJ BIG MICK: So that’s how those footprints got on the ceiling!

(cymbal crash)

DARYL E: Some odd man is asking for dialogue.

SULDOG: Yes. Yes, that was true. Some odd man was asking for dialogue. Me. I was the odd man. I am the odd man. And I did ask for dialogue. Yup. My own entire fault. Nobody to blame but me. I did it. Nobody else. I shackled myself with these chains of idiocy.

DAVID McMAHON: Honey, this is just a stage we’re going through.

SULDOG: Again, good line! Maybe actually useful in the hands of somebody competent. However, it’s me we’re talking about, so… well, David, you may as well say your other line. It will pretty much be wasted here, but we’re running out of time.

DAVID McMAHON: Are you sure, mate? It’s such a good follow-up to the first line. You know, Jim, if you had even the slightest bit of talent, this could have been a killer.

SULDOG: Yes, David, I know. But I have no talent whatsoever. I’m a hack.

DAVID McMAHON: Hmmmmm. I suppose you’re right about that. OK, here goes. (clears throat) Really? Well hurry up and get me a stagecoach! (pauses) That truly makes no sense out of context, mate.

SULDOG: Yes, David, I know, and I apologize. As a matter of fact, I not only apologize to you, I apologize to everybody in this play. You’re perfectly fine characters, I’m sure, but I have neither the talent nor the inclination to develop you into anything worthwhile.

ALL: That’s OK. No Problem. Don’t worry. It’s all right.

CONNIE: You suck!


CONNIE: Well, it’s true. These people are all very nice to tell you that it’s OK for you to have disappointed them, but you’re my son and I have to teach you a lesson. Now, you go backstage, think about what you’ve done, and when you’re ready to write a real play for these people, that’s when you can come back.

SULDOG: Aw, geez, Mom…

CONNIE: Now, now, no whining. Go!


CONNIE: And no swearing, either.

SULDOG: Shoot.

CONNIE: That’s better. Now go.

(Suldog exits, stage left.)

CONNIE: He'll never be back. There's no way he can actually write an honest-to-goodness play with all of these lines in it, at least not before 2026.

(CONNIE looks into wings. When she’s sure he’s gone, and not coming back, she turns to Kevin Smith and says…)

CONNIE: Now that he’s gone, what are the kumquats for?



Stu said...

Beckett would be proud. A wonderful exercise - you should sincerely consider writing a full-length play.

Rooster said...

Pure genius! Simply genius!

lime said...

bwahahahahaha. it was burns and allen, meets abbot and costello and they all do acid and go into outerspcae on a stagecoach.

in other words, i quite enjoyed it. and i thought you captured my character quite well. ;)

Mushy said...

I only have one compliant...I didn't deliver my lines with enough emotion. Could have been the kumquat I had for breakfast...I don't know.

That's suck a dirty sounding fruit...don't you think?

Hilary said...

Too funny. You did really well for so many unrelated lines. When's the sequel? ;)

I enjoyed it muchly. :) Please pass the kumquats...

Buck said...

Despite your protestations, you DO have talent, Mr. Sullivan. A whole frickin' boatload of talent!

Well done!

Daryl E said...

SO, like any other PAID actor, I feel I must say: How come Connie got so many lines and you only used one of mine .. even David had more lines than me. I'm calling my agent.

These playwrights think every word is a pearl til they get a strand and then he up using only the earrings.

Kevin Smith said...

I am glad I was able to provide so much pleasure with a fruit.

Um...that didn't come out right,

Suldog said...

Daryl E - Oops! My apologies! You do, indeed, only have one line. And your second line was actually quite good, too. ("Whose What?") I can only plead ignorance, which is a very believable defense, don't you think?

Catmoves said...

dvontwzbPAID? We're getting paid? Whoopie. (And not in kumquats, I hope.) No more bitchin' then. Funny play Sul. Even if it is extraterrestial.

david mcmahon said...

Brilliant. Creative. Hilarious.

So many familiar faces, and lines so true to character.

Can't top that, mate ....

I bow to you.

John-Michael said...

No one but You ... yes, absolutely ONLY You ... without question You are the songle person on the face of this green-going- brown orb that I would have EVER followed that to its still-smile-evoking end with. You , Dear SulDog Friend, are a wonder!

I love You, (You lunatic!)

Janet said...

This is absolutely brilliant. I am so annoyed that I couldn't come up with anything to contribute. But frankly, who can top the kumquats?

Janet said...

Oh yeah, you should probably read the contribution Albee made to the Vagina Monologues this time. He surpassed even himself. Makes "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" sound like a fairy tale. I don't know if it's on the internet - probably not, but I can scan it and email it as a picture. (My scanner doesn't do word recognition.)

unkawill said...

For what it's worth, You just got me in trouble with my hooch mates, for laughing so hard. I just came over from Buck's to see what all the Hoopla was about.

connie/mom said...

To all of you - a secret revealed - my line about the gum was a verbatum line said by my precious son one day, out of the blue, when he came in from playing outside. He was about 5 at the time.

Sorry Jim. I just had to tell them.

Suldog said...


Jeni said...

There are times when I do wonder a bit that perhaps you might just be "certifiable." Funny as all get out, but certifiable nonetheless.

Chris Stone said...

that was fun! when's the sequel?

Shrinky said...

Fantabulous! So funny,and as ever completely fresh and original. You have a wonderfully warped and twisted turn of thought my friend, love it