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all I wanted to hear was HONK, HONK, HONK - EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD!

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November 5th, 2009


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11:34 am - all I wanted to hear was HONK, HONK, HONK
One of the Byfar Hour scenes I had the most fun writing was the scene in which the cast takes the host Frank Cyrano to task for overpromising and underdelivering. Frank always promises big name stars on the show but there's always some horribly contrived reason why the celebrity in question couldn't show up: Clark Gable's train, for instance, was apparently ambushed in New Haven by a girl gang of autograph bandits. There's also this exchange:
LEX CONCORD: And what about the time you said we were going to have one of the Marx Brothers on the program?

FRANK CYRANO: (DEFENSIVELY) But we did! Harpo was a very funny guest.
I enjoyed that bit, as well as the third excuse (Charlie McCarthy backed out at the last minute because he had termites) but what most people don't know is that we almost did have Harpo on the show Saturday night, but that opportunity petered out in a fashion appropriate to the program.

It's inevitable that people show up to a Halloween night show in costume (I ran the World's Most Ad Hoc Costume Contest during the first Saturday intermission because A. I noticed a whole lot of people out in costume, B. we typically ran costume contests during one Tomes show each run, and C. the show wasn't running long enough anyway.) We had people show up every night in costume, including some wonderful friends of the radio who came in full 30s garb and everything, but Halloween was the biggest night.

At about 10 minutes before we opened the house and began the on-stage atmospherics, someone ran backstage and told me that there was a Harpo Marx in the lobby in full-on trenchcoat and horn getup and everything. I was thrilled, mostly because a Harpo costume is an automatic winner no matter what (even without a mask, it gives you artistic license to do a lot of crazy things you may not do in your civvies) but also because it meant I could pull something really groovy and possibly get back at the unknown prankster who ordered a pizza to be delivered onstage at Friday night's show.

(Yes, the pizza stunt really happened and no, I still have no idea who was fully behind it. The recipient of the pizza was the band's drummer and all he had to say about it was "Well, I was hungry..." Meanwhile, I stood at the mic trying to come up with a useful adlib but was too busy wondering if pizza existed in '38. I'll save the rest of this story for the bit I'm writing about our improvisational goof-offery.)

"Oh my god," I said, hurrying out into the house. "Run out to the lobby. Go get Harpo. Bring him into the house. I want him in the show. We'll have him chase a cigarette girl across the stage and back." I was prepared to comp him -- out of my own pocket, even -- if he was willing to play along. Someone from the staff went out to the lobby to find him while I started thinking: Harpo had a fondness for blondes... which is the blondest cigarette girl we've got? Failing that, who can shriek the best? And where will we cue him? Off the Harpo line in the scene? Before that? After? Should I cop one of Groucho's cracks when it happens ("Looks like the 8:17 is right on time. You can always set your watch by the Lehigh Valley") or ad-lib something different?

Then the staffer came back in and said Harpo was gone. He hadn't come by to see the show; he apparently was on his way to other Halloween shenanigans and had stopped by the Somerville lobby to show off for a bit. Probably stopped at other places around Davis, too, and hopefully got a few free drinks for his troubles. Sounded like he had the best darn Harpo costume around, too.

Ah, well. The Saturday show went wonderfully without a Marx interruption, which is probably for the best. I know at least two people who would have gone apopleptic if I let Byfar run any longer, but I also know one person in the back who would have fallen out of his chair in laughter and that's the reaction I wanted.

But boy, that would've added to the numerous stories and legends that have come out of this production.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:November 5th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
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(Charlie McCarthy backed out at the last minute because he had termites)

I loved that line.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 6th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
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I'm pretty sure W.C. Fields would've enjoyed it as well.


(and thank you again for your very very kind words about the show!)
[User Picture]
From:sovay
Date:November 6th, 2009 07:09 pm (UTC)
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(and thank you again for your very very kind words about the show!)

I meant them!

(The pizza delivery actually provoked a discussion among the people I saw the show with as to whether the history of Italian food was such that this was an in-character pizza, or an actual prank.)
[User Picture]
From:gee_tar
Date:November 5th, 2009 05:18 pm (UTC)
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If wikipedia is to be believed, "Pizza first made its appearance in the United States with the arrival of Italian immigrants in the late 19th century." Just for future reference should you be caught adlibbing in a 1938 setting again.
[User Picture]
From:ckd
Date:November 5th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if pizza delivery become widespread early enough for that part of the gag to work, though.

(I didn't see it, since I went to the matinee.)

A few words for derspatchel and company: DAMN FINE SHOW, Y'ALL.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 5th, 2009 07:55 pm (UTC)
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I shoulda knowed pizza existed, since Pizzeria Regina claims to be Boston's first pizzeria and opened in 1925 or 1926 or some four-digit date that begins with 192. (Ah, 1926. Thanks, gargle.) But at the time, I just went right up on that.

Thanks fer diggin into Wikipedia so I didn't hafta. :)
[User Picture]
From:ron_newman
Date:November 6th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
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I was about to post a link here to Regina's page, but that's no longer necessary. I went to Friday's show and didn't realize that the pizza delivery was not in the script.
[User Picture]
From:mmcirvin
Date:November 5th, 2009 06:21 pm (UTC)

I say everything twice! I SAY EVERYTHING TWICE!!

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The pizza wasn't in the script? THE PIZZA WASN'T IN THE SCRIPT??
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:November 5th, 2009 07:56 pm (UTC)

Re: I say everything twice! I SAY EVERYTHING TWICE!!

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I had no idea it was happening. I had no idea it was happening!

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