Back in high school I competed in Humorous Duo. It was really important to me, but I’ve always had a hard time explaining the experience to people. It was…weird. I just found my old script, so instead of packing for my upcoming move I’m going to tell you about some horrible jokes I wrote in high school.
I mentioned my participation of Speech and Debate in A Story About “Sarah”. I started in Extemporaneous Speaking, and event for smart politically-minded people. I thought I was those things, but I really wasn’t. Eventually I realized that I needed to be creative to be happy. I learned this lesson about life in college when I tried to be a physics major, but at least I learned this lesson about Speech and Debate in high school. I found the Drama section.
It turns out there were actually a lot of drama events in addition to the “Speech and Debate” part. I had no idea if I’d be any good at it, but I liked the idea of being funny instead of informative. The only experience I had was a play I did in like 8th grade. It went…ok. I considered myself funny, but I was in the middle of coming out of my awkward phase and had very little confidence. A big part of joining meant that I got to hang out with my cool new friends – especially the girls. Going to a meet was this awesome weekend event with bus rides, food, hotels, bonding, making fun of kids from other schools. It was great.
My first attempt to enter Drama was to do the Humorous Solo event. I memorized Weird Al’s Albuquerque, which I pretty much already knew, and somebody told me it was a good piece anyway. I was ready to go, but unfortunately there were not spots open for that event in our school. (It was popular.) I kept getting stuck in Extemporaneous Speaking hell, and I was miserable.
Luckily there was an open spot in Humorous Duo, so my friend Kevin Love and I joined together. We didn’t really know what we were doing, so we grabbed a piece fairly at random from Ken Bradbury – Open to Interpretation. To get a good idea of what this event is like, here are two people doing that piece better than us. We didn’t have a female Gretel, but I think we got points for me wearing a dress. Some friends tried to put a bra on me for added comedy, but it was way too physically uncomfortable.
We may not have been good, but this got us in the door. For the rest of the year we traveled to meets and performed. We got to hang out with the team and bond. We also got to practice performing, which was really key. Looking back, the piece was actually really good for teaching. Essentially, it tells the story of Hansel and Gretel while switching through a variety of styles. Film noire, vaudeville, shakespeare, that kind of thing. It also showed us what we were good at – a lot of the styles we didn’t understand, so we were unsurprisingly bad at them.
The other really important part of that year was watching. You spend so much more time watching other pieces than actually performing. Each meet had maybe 5 rounds. Each round they would post your room, where you sat and waited with about 4 other teams, each taking turns to perform. Over the course of a meet you would see the same performances from other teams 3-5 times. Over the course of a season, especially in our small Montana district, you could see the same pieces from the same people 20 or more times. We could even see pieces transform over the season as the actors improved and tweaked the piece to their skills. The competitors also spend a lot of time between rounds hanging out and getting to know each other.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back this was incredibly important. I bet this repetition really shaped my acting and sense of humor. They also really shaped what we would do next year.
I remember the Romeo and Juliet piece – probably the best in our division. Their energy and volume was incredible. Our own school had two hilarious seniors that performed a bit making fun of TV. They had Steve Erwin, Creed, and a laid-back acting style that really worked well with the humor. The best ever were these two girls we only saw at State. They were dressed all in black, no props, and they delivered this incredible spy piece. Their body movements and inflections were so good at conveying their different characters. And they wrote it themselves! They were the ones that really motivated me for the next year.
That season ended unspectacularly, but I had the fire.
Unfortunately, this was my senior year. Oh how I wish I had found this competition sooner! Kevin and I knew we were going to write a piece together, and as the season approached we finally put pen to paper.
Our first script was actually pretty bad. It had some good elements in it, but it had no cohesion. Here’s the opening…
Announcer 1: From all the reality TV shows around the world comes the greatest reality TV show since the development of reality TV. We present to you: Willy Wonka’s – The Apprentice.
Announcer 2: This year we decided to abduct the most outrageous contestants, from the most outrageous reality TV shows, and insert them into one chocolate factory the size of the national debt.
Oompa Loompa: Oompa Loompa doompadee doo, we got a story to tell you. It’s about four guests in a factory, who have all been snatched from reality TV.
Those four guests were Sea Captain, “from Celebrity Date Your Mom: Little John”, Hansel, and “from Desperate Housewives: Gold-digger Edition comes Anita Yaumoney.”
We loosely tied a bunch of gags together with oompa loompa rhymes and commercial breaks, but the “show” itself had no plot. We even cut off who the winner was in true “tune in next time” reality TV show fashion, but even that would have helped. I didn’t see it at the time, but you can’t introduce a plot like this and have it go nowhere. Even in a ridiculous skit, you still want something to pull the audience through and pay them off in the end. One judge said it best:
“This script is confusing. You did it well, but I’m not sure what you did.”
This is a literal quote from a judge form. I collected our feedback forms at the end, and I found them today while I was packing. I’ll share more quotes later.
We weren’t married to the script, so we changed it up after one or two meets. We really liked some of the elements, but needed a solid structure. We know what we had to do – structure it around TV channels – but we were avoiding it because that’s what our school’s best team did the year before. Eventually we sucked it up, did what was right for the piece, and slept at night knowing that our version was very different in content and delivery.
One of my biggest regrets about high school is not having a third year to write another piece from scratch. It would have been killer!
Anyway, we had our solid piece for the rest of the season. We would take the audience through 15 over-the top TV channels. I found our original script, so I’m going to walk you through that piece now, for better or for worse. We tweaked some things over time, but most of the jokes stayed intact.
Now, I’m going to break it all down for you.
Picture a high school classroom. The desks have been shifted back a bit, to leave room at the front of the classroom as the stage. The judge, an adult from the community that’s volunteering their time, is sitting in the front and center. (Final rounds had three judges.) Each team sits and waits at the desks until the judge calls them up.
Kevin and I wore alternating black and white suits. I was black pants with a white jacket and a black tie. We realized halfway through the season that my thrift store jacket was actually a woman’s jacket, but that only added to the humor. Kevin had the white pants, black jacket, and white tie. I knew I wanted us to dress nice and simple and let our acting take us over the top, and our contrasting hair colors (me blond, him black) gave me the idea for the alternating suits.
When our team was called up, we would walk to the front of the room with our prop bag. Kevin had an old leather doctor bag that was perfect. We situated our two chairs (customary with any stage) and set our props in just the right places. Our props were minimal – just enough to accent the channel we were on. A stethoscope, a package of diapers, a beanie – more of character accents than physical gags.
I would sit slumped in a chair, Kevin would set the timer to 12 minutes, look at the judge, get the nod, then hit start…
Kevin: Hey dude, wake up!
Jon: NOOO! Ohh man, I just had he most horrible nightmare!
Kevin: Ohh yeah? What of?
Jon: I dreamt that I went to a speech and debate meet, NAKED…and my judge was that, Dell guy.
Kevin: Dell guy?
Jon: You know the guy that used to always be like: Dude, you’re getting a Dell. Instead he was all like, Dude, you’re going to…heck. Ohh it was horrible.
Kevin: I’m sorry. Hey, I know what will cheer you up!
Jon: Yeah, what?
Kevin: Let’s watch some TV.
Jon: At four in the morning?
Kevin: Yeah, I have fifteen channels, there is bound to be something on…
I screamed that “NOOO!” loudly. I wanted to grab the judge’s attention right off the bat and set the tone for the rest of the piece. It was also important to establish the premise – two dudes watching horrible TV – and set expectations that we could meet and play with – 15 channels.
At the start of each channel the two of us would step to the front of the stage, look forward, snap in unison with our hands in the air, and say “channel ###”. This made the transitions super clear, and let us add a nice abrupt cutting edge to whatever the last joke was. It also reinforced which channel number we were on, continuing to build expectations towards 15 channels and keep the pace moving. I felt like this was super important to the pacing.
*SNAP* Channel One
We started with a bunch of news jokes we got from SNL Weekend Update.
Kevin: Welcome to the four O’clock news. [As I did a “dut-dut-dut-dut” sound in the background.]
Jon: South Africa’s Hendrik Ramaala won Sunday’s New York City Marathon in 2 hours, 9 minutes, and 28 seconds. Ramaala credited his fast time to the fact that he was being chased by 30,000 white people.
Kevin: Donald Trump and producer Mark Burnett are reportedly considering creating a Broadway musical based on The Apprentice. The pair came up with the idea when neither one of them could find a match to set fire to a pile of money.
Jon: The next edition of The Real World will be shot in Detroit. As will several cast members.
Kevin: Officials in China said Monday that a con man took advantage of his resemblance to a famous historical figure to dupe patriotic old pople out of their money. Thus proving that even to Chinese people, Chinese people look alike.
Jon: A state trooper in Oklahoma, who had pulled over a delivery truck, found 600 ponuds of marijuana hidden in four coffins. Or so starts the math section of Snoop Dogg’s new SAT prep book.
Kevin: A man who had a heart attack while he was alone in his house was saved when his dog brought him the phone so he could call for help. However, it should be noted that for every one of these heartwarming stories there’s a million where the dog just sits there like a moron and watches you die.
Jon: Radio Flyer, Inc, the maker of Little Red Wagon, is closing their Chicago plant and outsourcing their production to China. On the plus side, the wagons will be made for kids, by kids.
Kevin: On Thursday, more than 7,000 sites took place across the country in National Depression Screening Day, which screens the public for depression related illnesses. A spokesman for the group said, “I don’t know…uh…turnout was OK, I mean I guess…just wasn’t as great as I thought…but, you know…it was a stupid idea anyway…so…I guess I’m just gonna go back to bed…”
Jon: Direct TV has filed suit against O.J. Simpson in accusing him of pirating its satellite television signal. In an unrelated story, DirecTV has been stabbed to death.
Kevin: Despite the fact that Martha Stewart has disgraced herself too much to hold an official position at Omnimedia, the company may still use her name and images to sell their products. You know, sort of like Clinton and the Democrats.
Jon: Polaroid is warning customers not to listen to the part of the Outkast song, “Hey Ya, ” that tells people to “shake it lie a Polaroid picture,” because that could actually ruin the picture. In a related story, Bacardi is warning shorties to be responsible, and not “sip Bacardi like it’s de birthday.” [Old judges loved this joke.]
Kevin: Michael McGuire, a prisoner in Nebraska, escaped from a hospital by using a fake gun he had made out of toilet paper. The plan turned tragic, however, when he used a real gun to wipe himself.
Jon: This week, Georgia’s board of education approved the plan that allows teachers to keep using the word ‘Evolution’ when teaching biology. Though, as a compromise, dinosaurs are now called ‘Jesus Horses.”
As I write this, I realized that we should have switched from me to Kevin for the “unrelated story” punchline to the OJ Simpson joke. That would have been much funnier. Good pacing with the quick switch-back.
As one of us was talking, the other one had their head down. This eliminated distraction for the judge, and also provided a nice cut to the next joke as we swapped.
This bit was probably a little too long, but I wanted to give the judges some time to settle in and laugh. I didn’t feel bad taking established jokes from SNL, especially since a lot of our competition was doing written and proven pieces. Given another year, though, I wouldn’t have used so much. I think it helped to start out really solid, though. It established us as credible sources of the funny, and let us get away with the really wacky stuff to come.
*SNAP* Channel Two
After the relatively tame new section, we kicked the overacting into high gear for this soap opera parody.
Kevin: Doctor, how is he? How is he doing?
Jon: How is what doing? The fact that I’m in love with you?
Kevin: No, my husband. For the love of god man, pull yourself together! [He fake stage slaps me.]
Jon: I…I…I killed your husband.
Kevin: You what!?!?
Jon: I killed him…but I do have some good news for you. I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to Geico.
*Snap* Channel Three
The judge was probably feeling comfortable by now. Time to really turn up the heat! I said this section really fast while Kevin acted out the side effects, effectually keeling over.
Kevin: So try out our new product, Aumnitrol.
Jon: Only available for a limited time. May cause drowsiness, headache, constipation, kidney stones, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea, memory loss, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, lepracy, alcoholism, death, Athens, and chronic smoking. Offer not valid in Texas, the Mississippi River, or Saskatchewan. Do not use around heavy machinery or an electric can opener. May cause temporary blindness in the left eye. In a few isolated cases loss of feet or temporal lobe have been experienced. Do not use around children under the age of twelve. Any attempt to burn may result in sudden death by electrocution. Aumnitrol should not be used as a flotation device.
*SNAP* Channel Four
Time for a solid joke…
Kevin: Welcome back to…THE BIGGEST BOOZER! Let’s go down on the floor to see how the Sea Captain is doing…
Jon: Ahoy! Bartender, give me another lager.
Kevin: Sure…but sir, I have to ask. Why do you have a steering wheel in your pants?
Jon: Ahhrrrr, it drives me nuts! [Big toothy smile at the judge.]
This was probably the most controversial joke with judges, but we kept getting away with it.
*SNAP* Channel Five
“MTV Rap” is all my first version script tells me, but I can’t remember exactly what we did. I liked having something lyrical in here, but I think we struggled with exactly what it should be for a while. We tried a Wizard of the Hood thing, but we flubbed it up enough that I think we switched to something else. I can’t remember where we settled.
*SNAP* Channel Six
Time for more loud ridiculous. I put on the beanie and pulled it over my eyes.
Kevin: And now you too can enjoy your favorite Christmas Carols with famous rapper, Lil’ John! Here is that old holiday favorite, Jingle Bells
Jon: What crunk yeah, What crunk yeah, What crunk yeah what crunk!
Kevin: Silent Night!
Jon: Whaaaat crunk yeah…whaaat crunk yeah…OK what crunk, OK crunk what…
Kevin: Rudolf the Red Nosed Raindeer!
Jon: What crunk yeah what crunk yeah what. Krunk ok yeah what crunk yeah!
Kevin: The twelve days of Christmas!
I really like the hard cutaway right here, because that would be a truly long and ridiculous and pointless song, there’s no need to go into it.
Now that I look back, I think this section was influenced by Whose Line Is It Anyway? and the CD compilation skit they would do. This is probably my favorite Whose Line moment. I watched that show a lot, even the reruns, and I bet it has a big hand in shaping my comedy.
*SNAP* Channel Seven
All right, the halfway mark. Probably over halfway in time. We just did some ridiculous yelling, so now we’re going to bring it back down with a ridiculous premise but a relatively straight delivery. We’re also setting up the big punchline for the end.
Jon: [Walking like a crickety old man, wavery voice.] Oh…so old…barely walking…
Kevin: [On his knees, kid voice.] Grandpa, grandpa! Come out and play with me!
Jon: Ohh, I’m sorry Kaylub, but I can’t go outside to play with you. Sometimes I have to get to he bathroom quick.
Kevin: But grandpa, why can’t you just wear diapers like me?
Jon: Well you see Kaylub, they don’t make diapers fro guys my age…
Kevin: Ok…[stand up, grabs diapers, switch to excited adult character] – Well That Depends! Try these! New adult diaper, by depends! [hands me diapers]
Jon: [Not an old man anymore.] You can depend on depends for those times when old faithful just isn’t that faithful.
Now we start doing these little one-liners. Kevin says the line, then we do some action associated with it while saying “HUH-HUH…YEAH!” It’s hard to explain.
Kevin: You can depend on depends for…Pep Rallies [fist pump] HUH-HUH…YEAH!
Kevin: You can depend on depends for…Roller Coaster Rides [hands up] HUH-HUH…YEAH!
Kevin: You can depend on depends for…Sporting Events [the wave] HUH-HUH…YEAH!
Kevin: You can depend on depends for…Dance Parties [disco move] HUH-HUH…YEAH!
Kevin: You can depend on depends for…Long Funerals [sobbing] HUH-HUH…YEAH!
Jon: Ok Kaylub, I’m ready to play now, and you can depend on it!
It’s worth noting that the “Kaylub” name was not random – it was an inside joke for a lot of the repeat performers. Early in the season we were in an elementary school, waiting in a room for a judge to show up. Somebody noticed this Kaylub kid’s handwriting on the wall and made a joke. Then we started working the name into each of our skits. One of the downsides of performing with the same people over and over again is that they stop laughing. Anything you could do to get the room to laugh was good, and a good Kaylub reference usually did that.
*SNAP* Channel Eight
We’ve really gone into the absurd now. We’re going to stay absurd, but anchor it with some current events humor. And I mean really current. Remember the winner of Surviror one, Richard Hatch? And how he was naked? And how he was later arrested for tax evasion? We did! Here, Kevin held a “for dummies” book over his crotch.
Kevin: Hi, I’m Richard Hatch. You may remember me as the naked, and Amazing winner of Survivor one, who was recenty suspected of tax fraud. IN my book, Richard Hatch’s Tax Evasion for Dummies, you will learn two easy steps on how to successfully avoid the authorities when trying to commit tax evasion. In step one, you will learn to become famous by either A: Getting on TV. B: Becoming a Nudist. Or C: Becoming a Nudist, on TV. In step two, you will learn the effective ways on buying my book on how to understand step one.
[I think we added a line for me here later.]
Kevin: [Satisfied customer.] Thanks to Richard Hatch’s book, and due to the fact that I no longer buy clothes, I have saved thousands of dollars!
Jon: Thanks to Richard Hatch, [aside] and Geico [end aside], I have saved 2,000 dollars, and became very well known around my block, if you know what I mean.
Kevin: Also check out, Martha Stewart’s Insider Trading, the right way. Montana Powers’ Business destruction in 80 days. Judy Martz’s How to throw a party – out the window, and George Bush’s How to speak good. And for a limited time offer you can receive nothing delivered to your door, for 8 dollars and 23 cents.
Montana Power was a big catastrophe of a company that crippled a lot of communities. Judy Martz was governor or something. Timely!
*SNAP* Channel Nine
This was a condensed version of something from our original Willie Wonka script, and the Hansel reference is a callback to our old piece, mostly for the veterans in the room. We just delivered a fairly wordy and newsy bit, so now we’re swinging the pendulum back to an acting-heavy bit:
Jon: And now back to Law and Order: Fairy Tale Victims Unit
Kevin: [As Hansel.] Ohh, but how did you know I did it?
Jon: WELL, when I found the trail of bread crumbs leading to the house of candy I immediately remembered the overweight french gardener I met in the Bronx who put a curse on the magical apple that gave mother goose a wooden leg that grew when she lied about her grandmother’s porridge. THEN, when Mr. Plumb, with the wrench, in the conservatory contacted Mr. Yamagashi with the shoe phone at approximately three O’clock AM a message was delivered by sparrow in a coconut, over the BEARING STRAIGHT!!! I WANT THE TRUTH!!!
Kevin: [Still in ridiculous Hansel voice.] You can’t handle the truth!
I would have made some different choices now with the ridiculous crime solving rant, but it worked well enough. Mostly it was about me fast-talking and building up to screaming at Kevin.
*SNAP* Channel Ten
Speech and Debate ran through winter, so this was an incredibly timely bit. We had a really warm winter with notoriously bad skiing weather. Or so Kevin told me.
Kevin: Big Mountain Ski Pass…
Jon: 36 dollars.
Kevin: Brand new snow gear…
Jon: 380 dollars.
Kevin: New skis
Jon: 550 dollars
Kevin: Foo, water, gas, and cough drops.
Jon: 80 dollars.
Kevin: Taking the day off work to watch the snow melt in December.
*SNAP* Channel Eleven
It’s just a bunch of pickup lines. I was never super happy with this one because of how lazy it was. It didn’t really fit the TV premise and wasn’t very original, but it stuck around for the whole season because it kept working. We always delivered them right at the judges, for maximum uncomfortable laughter.
Jon: Did it hurt? When you fell from heaven.
Kevin: I lost my phone number, can I have yours?
Jon: Are you tired? Cause you’ve been running through my mind all day.
Kevin: Have you bought tickets yet? To the gun show. [Flexing his real muscles.]
Jon: If I were to rearrange the alphabet, I would put U and I together.
Kevin: Which way is the gym? Is it this way, or this way? [Again, flexing his real muscles while pointing.] Well I guess it really doesn’t matter, because the world is round! [Brings his still-flexing muscles around in a muscle-man pose.]
Jon: Do you know Karate? Because your body is kick’n!
Kevin: The power company has been looking for you, because your body is electric!
Jon: IF I told you that you had a nice body, would you hold it against me?
Kevin: Your body is like a parking ticket. It says Fine Fine Fine all over it.
*SNAP* Channel Twelve
At this point, we’re pretty late into our time. If the judge is paying that close attention, they’ll be wondering how we’re going to fit all 15 channels, which we set up in the beginning, into 12 minutes. Each of our channels have been fairly substantial so far. I really wanted to play off of their expectations and hit them with a hard 1-two punch. I consider channel 12 and 13 our most successful channels. They always got a good reaction and really drove the piece home.
As we snap and say “Twelve”, I’m on me knees with my head down. The judge is like “wtf is he doing?” Then…
Kevin: Welcome to Survivor: Neverland Ranch!
I would put my hands on my cheeks and just scream at the top of my lungs in that high pitched girl scream. Just hit them right in the gut while they’re thinking “oh god they went there.” Then…
*SNAP* Channel Thirteen
Jon: and welcome back to the Life channel, and today’s special: That time of the month…
Kevin: AHHHHHHHHH! [A manly, yet horrified, scream.]
Boom! One-two punch! At this point we’ve usually managed to keep them interested throughout the piece, and we’ve gotten their heart racing again towards the end.
*SNAP* Channel Fourteen
I really can’t remember this channel. My original script just says “Dating Service”. Honestly, I think we may have cut this one for time and gone down to only fourteen channels by the end. I also think the pacing works better carrying over the excitement into…
*SNAP* Channel Fifteen
Jon: You’ve seen trading spaces. You’ve seen trading houses. You’ve even seen trading spouses. Now watch, trading couches…[We each sit in our chairs.]
Kevin: Ok dude, you ready to trade?
Jon: Ok dude, let’s do it!
Kevin: OK! [We get up and switch sides.]
Jon: [I sit in Kevin’s chair.] Ohh dude, this is a niiice couch!
Kevin: Ohh yeah, you like it? Alright, here I go[Kevin sits in my chair]…Ahhhhhhh…[comfort turns to discomfort]…awwwww! Why is yours all wet?
Jon: It depends!
Together: HUH HUH YEAH!
At this moment, Kevin dives to the timer and hits end, then shows the remaining time to the judge. We were always cutting it close, down to 20 seconds or less usually. We also tended to glance at the clock as we headed into the last channel, because we could speed up the couch bit if we really needed to. Being close on time made us looked practiced, which we were.
At this point, the judges jot down some notes, then call up the next team. Some of them take time later to write more elaborate notes. The judges rank the teams in the room from best to worst and turn in the sheets to be scored for the placement at the end of the meet. Then there’s the awards ceremony, where everybody has changed into their normal clothes and gotten comfortable in the auditorium. Kevin and I usually left our ties on. Then, hopefully, the comment sheets made their way to our coach and we could read them on the bus ride back.
I still have some of those comment sheets, and they’re great to read now. Very uplifting, and I think telling of things to come. A lot of this process reminds me of the Limited Resources signoff. I’ve picked some comments to share with you, most of which are only inflating my ego. Here you go:
“Too funny. It was awesome. Very creative. Very timely.”
“Maybe not appropriate at all times?? Seriously good timing – good interaction. How do you speak so fast yet clear? So impressive. Some of your comments were mean! It’s not necessary to bash people to be funny!”
“Worked well together especially during ‘depends’ commercial.”
“Very good inflection and facial expression. Excellent control of your voice.”
“Could see you in a comedy night club…some of your material was crude and that hurt you…way to go on your lines! Good speed and use of timing.”
“Blond young man – speaks very clearly – super enunciation + diction. I especially enjoyed the Richard Hatch disclaimers + warnings.”
“Guy in black is a bit like Seinfeld. Guy in white has a great sound, rich voice, and has great rhythm – good delivery…very entertaining – left me wanting more!”
“They were very quick on the take and never missed a beat that I could see.”
“Very very good! Fast paced piece with lots of humor. Timing & overall expression excellent. Keep up the good work.”
“The duo plays too much to the judge/audience.”
“You two have done this before haven’t you? Bravo, well done! I truly enjoyed the material delivery and uniqueness.”
“Kept me laughing. Great team. Everything was clear & precise and it just kept going. Great facial expressions, clarity, movement, and flow. Truly a humorous duo.”
“I liked how it was big, bold, and loud at times to really drive home the ridiculousness of some of the things on TV.”
“Funny! These guys were great! Took me on a wild ride…On to greater things.”
“Blond guy hilarious!! Great TV voices!”
There were also a lot of comments about how well Kevin and I played off each other. It really was a great partnership, and the piece wouldn’t have been the same at all without him. I think I did most of the actual writing, but a lot of the characters and premises came from Kevin’s repertoire. We were really able to find our own strengths and play to them, and I think it showed.
States & The Pants Incident
We practice and performed this piece for a long time. We won our division handily, which only had three teams. (Montana, not a lot of people, and we competed out of our division for most of the season.) Then we went to State, where there were around 32 teams.
One of the rounds at State is called the Power Round. This is where they take first and second place from each division and place them in a room together for that round. (Usually you’re randomly spread out among the rooms.) Some of these pieces we had only heard whispers of from friends, having never competed against them before. We were nervous, having come from a small division, but remained confident. How you do in the power round is a good indication of how you’ll do in the finals.
Our team was called. Earlier in the day my pants button had broken, but the zipper was holding so I hadn’t thought much of it. As I stood up, at this moment, in the power round, my zipper snapped. Oh god. I didn’t even have a belt. I held my pants up, acted like nothing happened, and followed Kevin to the front of the room. I whispered to him, my back to the judge, while we set up our props.
Jon: “My pants broke. Look.”
Kevin: “What do you want me to do?”
Jon: “Help me!”
Kevin: “Just fix it!”
Jon: “They’re going to fall. Help meeeeeeee!”
Kevin: “Fix it!”
Clearly, Kevin was no help. I sheepishly turned to the audience. “Umm, my pants seem to have broke.” Laughter. “Yeah, really. Um…anybody have a belt I can borrow?” More laughter. A boy from another team, a boy I had never met before, walked up and handed me a belt. “Thank you,” I whispered as I put the belt on.
Luckily, my pants were now going to stay up on their own. Unfortunately, the fly was completely busted and wide open. To this day I thank god that I was wearing a sturdy pair of boxers. Not all boxers are sturdy! Some are liable to let slip the dog of war, or at least a peek now and then. These boxers were sturdy, yes, but bright blue. Just a bright beacon of blue underwear shining from my crotch.
It was hilarious, and I think we handled it well. This actually helped us, I think. It gave us sympathy from the judge, and set a funny tone. It also gave Kevin and I renewed energy. I remember moments during the performance when we would normally be making eye contact. I could see Kevin’s eyes darting down to my boxers, then back up to me as he strained to hold back his laughter. I trusted my boxers, but there’s a limit to that kind of trust. It was terrifying and hilarious.
After the Power Round were more rounds, and eventually a cut to top 8 – which we made! We performed our piece, did it well, and ended up placing 5th at State. Of course I hoped for better, but I honestly didn’t expect or goofy little piece to win the whole thing. I was super proud of both of us for writing our own piece and taking it this far. If I had another year, I would have shot right for 1st place and settled for nothing less. But that year? I’m very proud of 5th.
After the meet, we were on the bus and driving back home. Our coach was handing out the comment sheets, and luckily we got ours. Kevin and I are looking through the sheets when we realize something amazing. We shouted it to the bus. WE WON THE POWER ROUND WHERE JON’S PANTS WERE BROKEN! Oh how we cheered.
There’s some moral here about embracing when things don’t go completely as planned, or something.
Thanks for giving me a chance to get really nostalgic. I’ve really enjoyed this opportunity to look back on my past creative self, both fondly and with a critical eye. I can see a lot of myself in this piece, and it’s really interesting to put myself in the old-me mindset. What was I thinking when I made these choices? What would I do differently? How has this experience shaped me?
One thing’s for sure, I love having this kind of creative outlet. Limited Resources was a big help for this, especially with the signoff. I hope to be able to find my way back to something like that before too long.
Lastly, I’d like to thank our coach, English teacher, and my newspaper lead, Mrs. Woodhouse. She’s an amazing lady who sat through a lot of horrible jokes and bad performances, and put up with our shenanigans. She really cared about us, and invigorated the team with her energy and spirit. It wouldn’t have been the same without her. She also had a really great laugh – my favorite laugh to get.
Thanks for reading,