27 November 2014

The First Thanksgiving (An Ancient Comedy Sketch)


The following sketch was written in the fall of 1989, when things were oh so different, for the Comedy Company at the University of Michigan.  It is presented here primarily for reasons of personal nostalgia, with the excuse that it is after all Thanksgiving (dammit).


THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
By Jeff Jones and Dan Swanson

Characters: WINTHROP, MILES, PILGRIMS 1 AND 2; ROY, NANCY AND SCOOTER; INTELLECTUAL

[PILGRIMS AROUND A TABLE BOUNTIFUL WITH GOODS, FRUIT BASKETS, ETC. WINTHROP BECKONS FOR THEIR ATTENTION]

WINTHROP
Friends, companions, fellow pilgrims: a few words before our guests arrive. When we first set foot on the teeming shores of this great New World, we were faced with an extraordinary challenge: survival. But we were willing to pay that price, because that was the price of freedom.  We have survived many long, hard winters; and now, at last, our plates are full, and a season of plenty is truly upon us.  To give thanks for our good fortune, on this, the third Thursday of November, we have invited some of our neighbors to the first annual Thanksgiving Feast.

MILES AND PILGRIMS
[RAISING GLASSES]  Here, here!

MILES
Did I hear you right, Governor?  Are you planning to make this an official holiday?

WINTHROP
On this day every year, our descendants will gather with their extended families to a meal of turkey with stuffing and mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce.

MILES
Cranberry sauce?!? I hate cranberry sauce.

WINTHROP
Well I happen to love it, and so it will be on the official Thanksgiving menu. I am Governor John Winthrop, ruler of this colony, and I have spoken.

MILES
[TURNS TO PILGRIM1]  Do you like cranberry sauce? Because I sure don't.

PILGRIM2
Here they come!

PILGRIM1
And look! They are bearing gifts!

PILGRIM2
I hope we put out enough chips.

[ENTER AN AVERAGE AMERICAN SUBURBAN COUPLE WITH ONE SON. MOM BEARS A CASSEROLE. DAD IS CARRYING A CANOE PADDLE.]

WINTHROP
Welcome, neighbors. I'm Governor John Winthrop. Of course you know Miles Standoffish, and these are some of the other pilgrims. We're glad you could come over and join us for the First Thanksgiving.

ROY
Well thank you for having us. I'm Roy McDermott, this is my wife Nancy, and our son, Scooter.  We come in peace.

NANCY
I brought a casserole. [HOLDS IT OUT]

WINTHROP
[TAKES CASSEROLE, PLACES ON TABLE]  Oh, that was very thoughtful.

ROY
I hope we're not late, Governor.  I couldn't get the canoe started.

WINTHROP
Nonsense, you're right on time.  What are you drinking, Roy?

ROY
Firewater and tonic, if you got it.

WINTHROP
Coming right up. And call me John, please. Now, let's get to all this good food before it gets cold.
[ALL TAKE THEIR SEATS]
Before we eat, my friends, I think it's appropriate that we all bow our heads and give thanks for this beautiful feast.

ALL
[BOW THEIR HEADS SOLEMNLY, PAUSE, THEN, IN UNISON:]  Thanks.

MILES
[PROCLAIMING:] And now, let the feast begin!  [TO PILGRIM2] Please pass the mashed potatoes.

[ALL BEGIN TO EAT, TAKING STUFF AND PASSING PLATES, ETC. THROUGHOUT THE FOLLOWING]

WINTHROP
[CARVING TURKEY] What can I get you Nancy, white meat or dark?

NANCY
Either one's fine.

PILGRIM2
Can I get the jello salad down here?  [TURNS TO NANCY]  So, where are you folks from, exactly?

NANCY
We live in the great mountains, many days journey to the west.  Scooter, take some cranberry sauce and pass it along.

SCOOTER
Cranberry sauce?  Blecch!

WINTHROP
You eat your cranberry sauce, son, and someday you'll grow up to be Governor of Massachusetts, too.

PILGRIM1
Are you done with the gravy?  [GRAVY BOAT IS PASSED] So, Roy, what do you do for a living?

ROY
I'm in hunting.

PILGRIM1
Hunting?

ROY
Yes, I hunt and my wife gathers.  We live off the land, at one with Nature and the Universe.

MILES
And you're able to make a living?

NANCY
Oh, you'd be surprised.  Our hunting and gathering lifestyle leaves us plenty of free time for our other interests.  Roy coaches a little league team, and I belong to the PTA and several other community enrichment groups.

WINTHROP
[GRANDFATHERLY, TO SCOOTER]  How you doin there, little guy?

SCOOTER
Fine, sir. Could I have some more sweet potatoes?

WINTHROP
Sure, sure!  Hey, get the boy some more sweet potatoes!

NANCY
Careful Scooter, don't eat so much you get sick.

WINTHROP
Ah, nonsense.  It's the First Thanksgiving!  Let the boy eat.  Here, boy, would you like some popcorn?

SCOOTER
Popcorn?

WINTHROP
Yes, popcorn.  What you call popmaize.

[LIGHTS DOWN THIS SIDE, LIGHTS UP OTHER SIDE ON INTELLECTUAL]

INTELLECTUAL
[SEATED IN NICE CHAIR, READING FROM LARGE TOME]  And so it went at the First Thanksgiving; perhaps the most famous party in American history started out a rather dull affair, as the Pilgrims and their guests exchanged pleasantries and ate their fill from baskets of roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and, yes: cranberry sauce.  Eventually the new neighbors got better acquainted, and the many gallons of wine and mixed drinks began to have their fabled effects.  By the time everyone had finished eating ...

[LIGHTS DOWN, BACK UP ON FEASTERS, MOSTLY DRUNK AND IN GOOD HUMOR]

WINTHROP
Fascinating! Sometime Roy, you'll have to tell me more stories of your adventures hunting caribou.

ROY
Oh, I've got a million of 'em, John.

[OTHERS GATHER AROUND NANCY AS SHE CHUGS FROM ONE OF THE PILGRIM'S HATS]
ALL CHANTING
Go, go, go, go, go, go, go .... Hooray!

07 November 2014

Another Fake Interview: Satyricon Krausfyre


"Spartacus Chetwynd's art is rumbustious, bonkers, daft and discombobulating.  It is like being hit over the head with a pig's bladder."
–Adrian Searle, who presumably keeps a pig's bladder on hand for purposes of comparison, in The Guardian


When I arrive at the earnest mansion currently being inhabited by the renowned artist Satyricon Krausfyre I am greeted in the drive by a cocker spaniel in bold modernist tradition and then taken by the hand by a fervent houseboy in lime-green pantaloons and guided into the foyer of what must be the most eclectic garage slash salon this side of Jasper Johns's.  As I enter, two catastrophic insurance salesmen done in masterly brushstrokes take my hat and coat and offer me a martini in a bread bowl.  Parrots perch high in the trees, huddled around a small television playing an old game show I am unable to identify but that's not Angie Dickinson is it?  Ha!  Such is the world of Satyricon Krausfyre.

Do you keep to any particular schedule Mr. Krausfyre?
I start each day by separating two eggs and beating the whites to stiff peak stage.  When they are nice and frothy, I know I'm ready to be brilliant.  I'll spend a few minutes staring into space and back again, doing some breathing exercises or excecuting a brief skip-to-m'lou 'round the ol' mulberry bush.  I like cinnamon rolls but I don't like the glaze they put on them so I request no glaze, or if it comes with glaze I scrape most of it off, a little bit is okay.  I don't eat one every day at 9:45 a.m., I'm not that rigid although I'm sure there are many who'd prefer to believe I am. 

And then let me guess: you work through the morning, take a brief lunch around 12:30, a reasonably sized sandwich with a salad including fruit and a cookie, some iced tea, then maybe go through bills or administrivia or take a walk if you feel like it, or catnap ... work again for a few hours until the sun is low, then drink yourself into oblivion in preparation for doing it all over the next day?
My goodness me, aren't we the sassy scribe? Aren't we the little miss daisy pixie who knows aaall the answers before she asks the questions? 

[Blushing scarlet.] Do you start with an idea and work towards its realization or do you just throw a bunch of shit down and then work backwards from what it comes out looking like to pretending you intended it that way … or is there some other way of doing art?
For me it's more a question of starting about two thirds of the way in and working outwards but sideways in sort of a spiral shape.  I'm fractal like a pterodactyl.  I think of every piece of art I create in the form of a radial with spokes, and my job after I locate the approximate center is merely to link up all the spokes and round off the rims so as to reinvent the proverbial wheel. 

How can people who want to be more like you be more like you?
Imitation is a good start. But it must begin by imitating my thought processes, getting inside my skull and wrapping one's inner synapses round mine.  Or they can buy my book, like I did.

We hear you have something interesting cooking in Belgium?
Yes, we are going to fill Zeebrugge Harbor with miniature balloons filled with tiny tortellinis, then release a flood of thousands of baby seals into the mess and kinda see what happens. As we withdraw we'll leave a trail of breadcrumbs all the way from Zeebrugge to Brugge, and any children foolish enough to follow this trail will be roasted alive in a devastating satire of witchcraft. 

Any truth to the rumor that you'll be doing the voice of Denis O'Leary in an upcoming animated feature about the life and times of Boney McJoyless?
No truth pal.

What's next for Satyricon Krausfyre?
Huh?  Whuzzat?  Oh muffins I suppose.  Or something with jam.  Art-wise, I want to cover the Louvre in bright brown shaving cream and then sprinkle it with sea salt, so as to express, in the form of an existential meditation, my innermost longing for immortality, and pretzels. 

Covering another building in yet another viscous substance … more macrame sculptures of cooking show hosts … doesn't it all seem a bit contrived?
Contrived?  Of course it's contrived: I made it all up!  What matters ultimately is how it's contrived, who contrived it and why, and what were the tax advantages of contriving it here as opposed to somewhere outside the greater metropolitan area.