I find this annoying - I didn't actually think we would have to do anything other then watch movies and crack jokes. Occasionally I might pontificate about my latest crazy theory, like Rene Zellweger as the gold standard of celebrity death - one Zellweger dying is worth the death of 1000 Americans in terms of media coverage.
But actually act, perform comedy? Bah!
Turns out that the students want to perform skits, and they want to do it in the next 5 days. The visual and performing arts academy is putting on a variety show for parents, and the director wants us to come up with 5 one minute skits to give time to the dancers to change.
We've got nothing, but the kids look at me with big hopeful eyes. I can no more tell them no then drown a puppy. We get to work.
First we brainstorm ideas, then we come up with five possible skits. I write three, the kids write two: Fight, Auction, Pink Slips, Geico and Singular.
The next day we do a read through.
On Monday I call them in to practice. I have to teach them the basics - don't block the main characters, always face the audience, and above all speak LOUDLY. If I can barely hear you neither will the audience. Don't rush your lines, savor them. Don't be afraid to overact, it's comedy.
After an hour and a half, everyone is exhausted.
On Tuesday the faculty has a meeting (see previous post) and we aren't able to practice.
On Wednesday we run through it again briefly. One of the students can't attend because he has other routines he's in during the show.
I shake my head, this is going to blow.
An hour later I spot the kid who couldn't practice - he's outside playing soccer with his friends.
Ticked, I call him out, but he just shrugs a half apology. "I just got here!" he shouts.
This is going to really blow.
I go over the schedule, try to get the kids ready. We recruit a dozen extras for the fight skit. I tell them to walk on stage and start shouting "Fight, fight, fight!" when they see the two main actors going at it.
Many of them are confused. "What do we do again mister? Where do we go?"
"Just walk on stage and when you see the two main characters start arguing, stop and turn. When they start pushing on each other, start shouting "Fight, fight, fight!" Got it?"
"But when do we turn?"
"When do we start shouting fight, fight, fight?"
I shut my eyes. Don't scream, Leiken. Don't scream.
The theatre teacher asks if I name for my troop.
"The Pirate Gang. The No Size Fits All Irregulars."
The theatre teacher walks out on stage to announce our first skit to the crowd.
The curtains close and my two comedy troupers go out on stage, ignoring one another. I do a five count and send out the rest of the students. As they cross by the main characters the two of them go at it."What you looking at esse?"
"You're face esse!"
"Do you even know how to spell essay?"
"Sure I do, complete with topic sentence."
"Maybe I need to concrete detail your ass."
"Well maybe you'd like some of my personal commentary."
The two of them begin to push on one another - the extras take their cue and start shouting "fight, fight, fight!"
I run out on stage and break the two of them up. "That's the third time this week. I better not see the two of you fighting again or it's straight to the Dean's! Got it!"
As everyone exits the two of them turn to one another.
"Same time next week?"
As they shake hands the crowd laughs.
It's the first and best skit of the night.
The second skit involves me pretending that I'm an auctioneer selling off a piece of graffiti for thousands of dollars. Entitled the pancake, or as the Latinos refer to it, the Pan-cay-ka, I ask the audience for bids. I have my comedy soldiers sprinkled throughout the audience to help fill in on the joke.
Little did I know that regular kids will start calling out their own bids.
"Bidding starts at $5000. Do I have any takers?" I ask the crowd.
"Sure Leiken!" Someone shouts towards the back of the auditorium. "I'll buy it for ten!"
Think fast Leiken. "I'm sorry, only those with established credit may bid. Do I hear $2500?"
"Six thousand pennies!"
"Established bidders only please!" I call out, ignoring them. I can't believe I'm being heckled. Son of a bitch.
I keep lowering the bid until it reaches the absurd - I offer the "art" for a McDonald's Happy Meal, a half package of skittles, a life saver, and finally sell for a pencil sans eraser. The hecklers keep shouting out their own competing bids.
I tell the "winner" that he can pick up his art after the auction, that and the dean wants to talk to him.
It gets a chuckle.
It's a small mercy when the skit is over.
The third skit is right before intermission. It involves a doctor, the grieving mother, and a burn victim with a cloth over him. Unfortunately the actor playing the doctor is still busy changing and can't make it in time for the skit, so I go out and play the part for him.
My own theatre teacher had to do this back at Mclean High School.
I've turned into Mr. Duncan.
Son of a bitch.
In this skit I inform the mother (who bawls the entire time) that her son has lost 80% of his skin, part of an eye, and his jaw has to be rewired. There is a silver lining however.
"I saved 15% on my auto insurance with Geico." I proclaim, turning to the audience with a big thumb's up and toothy grin, the "body" gives a thumbs up as well.
This gets a huge laugh.
Not my skit, but then the kids know the audience better then I do.
During intermission the comedy troupe has a complaint.
"Mr. Leiken, why are we called the pirate gang?"
"Because I am your captain, Arrgh!"
"We're ninja's Mr. Leiken, and you know that ninja's and pirates are natural enemies."
"My troupe, my name. You're a pirate and you'll love it! That's an order."
"You know ninja's are tougher Leiken. They can do cool ninjitsu shit like slip through cracks and walk on air."
"That may be true," I growl, "but pirates have more fun. Looting, pillaging, wenching, sailing the ocean - pirates! Praying in a shao lin temple under a waterfall to find inner peace, ninjas. Which would you rather be."
One kid won't let it go. "Oh yeah, you know why you've never seen a ninja pillaging?" I stare at him. "Because you don't see ninjas."
Before the fourth skit, two of my comedy troupers disappear. One second I'm talking to them, the next second, they vanish. I'm trying not to get angry as I channel Geoffery Rush in "Shakespeare in Love," and his unshakable faith that somehow it will all work out.
The kids do eventually show up. This one involves extras as well, and they have to be coached through every minutia. The Pink Slip skit starts with an administrator coming out to tell people they are being laid off - my part in this skit is mercifully brief. First she fires the janitors, teachers will be mopping the floors from now on. Then she explains the coaches will be fired, and the counselors, and all teachers with less then 5 years experience, without a dual special ed credential, pan cultural degree, and who haven't been shot at.
"I've been stabbed?" one of the teacher's asks. "Does that count?"
"I was involved in a cross fire?"
Finally she reads to the end of the memo and ends up firing herself. The last senior teacher cackles - "Rules are rules!" then she falls over trying to pick up a pink slip.
This skits gets a big laugh.
The last skit of the night is a two person skit with a father complaining about his kids and how the only way he can communicate is through his phone. He can't even remember how many he has - finally his friends asks him about his cell phone plan.
"You must have Verizon, AT&T, no Singular!"
"Why do you say that?"
"Because with that many kids you must really be raising the bar!"
Surprisingly, this gets a huge laugh.
God knows why.