Monday, January 28, 2013

Ignorance Is Bliss

Way back in the day when I was a junior in high school, I was taking AP English/Lit my fall semester. We were just wrapping up The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when a fellow student in my class mentioned a one man play that he was part of that revolved around Huck Finn. He asked if he could perform part of the soliloquy for the class. My teacher agreed. So we all hunkered down and anticipated a good performance.
We were NOT disappointed.
"All my life revolved around the stage, and my dream, nay, my destiny was to see my name on Broadway's marquis under the title of Huckleberry Finn. Auditions were coming up in a month, and I rehearsed every day knowing my good work would be rewarded. I would burst out of the tub, saying, "HI! I'm HUCKLEBERRY FINN!" Whenever I would get home from school, I wouldn't just walk through the door, but I would make an entrance, 'HI! I'm HUCKLEBERRY FINN!' But one day I had a huge break. My parents were having a Broadway producer over for supper that night. This was my big chance. I dressed up in filthy coveralls, painted freckles on my face, and I waited until he came in and yelled at the top of my voice and lungs, 'HI! I'm HUCKLEBERRY FINN!' But I knew that success wasn't built on rote memorization of lines, but also improv and dancing! So I began to do a soft shoe number as the producer looked on with a blank face. I began doing a tarantella, and then whirling like a dervish, screaming, 'I'M HUCKLEBERRY FINN! I'M HUCKLEBERRY FINN!' I collapsed, out of breath, drained of emotion poured into that performance, and the producer looked at me and then at my parents and said, 'Gee, I didn't know your son was special.'"
At this point the student paused and looked around at the captive audience in the classroom. No one was laughing. I remember thinking to myself, "Boy, that punchline stinks!" With no response he continued.

"SO! You don't want to laugh. DON'T YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THAT THAT'S WHAT YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER SOMEONE TELLING A VERY GOOD JOKE! YOU KNOW WHAT, I CAME UP HERE AND POURED MY HEART OUT FOR YOU BASTARDS AND THE LEAST YOU CAN DO IS JUST TO APPLAUD OR PERHAPS EVEN SMILE ON YOUR !$#%!@ FACES! I'M HUCKLEBERRY FINN! AND THAT DOESN'T EVEN GET A LAUGH! WELL, YOU KNOW WHAT?! I'M GOING PLACES! WHEN YOU MORONS ARE AT YOUR MISERABLE, SOUL-SUCKING, 9 TO 5 JOBS AND WONDER WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN, YOU'LL OPEN UP THE DAMN PAPERS AND SEE MY FACE UNDER THE WORDS 'BIG STAR.' NOW LAUGH!"
At this point he went around the room and pointed at people, screaming "LAUGH! LAUGH! LAAAAAAUGH!" I was completely enthralled. This was great!
After about 5 more minutes of this, his face went from a puce color to its normal hue, and he ended with his arms wrapped around his chest and stared at the floor, and mumbled to the teacher, "Well, that's about it."
I stood up and applauded along with rest of the class's stuttering clapping. As we shuffled out of the classroom, one of the girls in the class turned to me and whispered, "Oh my god! I can't believe that just happened!" I turned back to her and said, "I know! What an act! That guy is going straight to Broadway!"

It wasn't until much later that I realized he'd figuratively flipped his lid. But during that performance, I was utterly spellbound, utterly ignorant, and utterly happy.
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