A guaranteed story in the five years I spent teaching university theatre classes was a bit of a tall tale. And I call it a tall tale because the moment most likely never lasted as long as I think it did.

I played the sleazy insurance salesman, Scruggs, in ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’. I had an awesome sleazy mustache. It was even more sleazy when Spring Break spilt the two week run of the show in two and I had to walk around Orlando living my life like that for a week*.

(*note: I had gone from a beard, to a mustache and mutton chops, to a mustache during the tech of the show… Mutton chops would have been worse.)

The Sheriff of Gilbert, Texas, where the infamous Chicken Ranch’s twenty fans turned has a great line in the second act which is actually a fairly common phrase:

“I got myself a purty good b—s—detector, boys, and I can damn sure tell when somebody’s pissin’ on my boots and tellin’ me it’s a rainstorm.”

Now, the actor delivering this line had already landed scores of laughs throughout the show – so this was another notch on his comedy belt. However, the ‘boys’ mentioned in the line of dialogue, myself and the actor playing The Mayor, wanted to play.

So, we jumped on the laugh… By the third and fourth performance we played confusion – as if we didn’t know what the Sheriff’s idiom meant (it has the same prefix as idiotic for a reason). We worked our confused faces but good – ACTING! – and got a bit of a rolling laugh on top of the initial one.

By the fifth and sixth performance, the three of us started using each other to lengthen the laugh.

I was confused.

I looked to the Mayor.

He looked confused.

He looked to me.

I looked out to the audience, confused.

I looked to the Sheriff, silently hoping for clarification.

I looked back out to the audience, confused.

By the end of the run, my hand to God, we repeated and rinsed that sequence, stretching out the laugh to 90 seconds…

90 seconds of laughter based on looks and takes.

And that’s where the tall tale portion of the story lies… In those 90 seconds. Maybe it was only 30. Maybe it was only 15.

But I’m pretty sure we stretched it out to 90 seconds at least one time!

That line of dialogue, “pissin’ on my boots and tellin’ me its a rainstorm” is one that stayed with me for a long time. The meaning of the phrase – being told one thing when something far more harsh is happening – was only recently more clearly defined for me. I always took it to mean the more general, ‘you’re telling me you’re doing one thing, when in fact you’re choosing to do something else entirely.’

I guess Scruggs was really confused in that moment.

Categorized as LIFE

By The Improviser's Guide

The Improviser's Guide Network was created by Frank Cardillo, a Queens, NY based Creator & Producer. Frank has appeared throughout New York City performing improvisation and standup comedy, including performances at Super Bowl XLVIII, Turning Stone Casino, Gotham Comedy Club, Universal Studios, Walt Disney World, and for 15 years off the shores of Lake Ontario at the Sterling Renaissance Festival as their emcee, Lenny Burrows. Most recently, Frank was part of the cast for the New York City premiere of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit, Overheard at Joe's (formerly Joe's NYC Bar). Since 2009, Frank has been the Founder and Producing Director of the 'Raft of Comic Knockouts' known as [By The Mummers]. Known for their 'unpredictable, coming out-of-nowhere humor' (Backstage), their musical 'BLOOD' was a Next Link Selection of the New York Musical Theatre Festival and was named 'Best of the Fest' by Davenport Theatricals. [By The Mummers] are the reigning, defending Champions of the Down Under Improv Festival. Besides serving as a member of the writing team for several original [By The Mummers] events, Frank has had public stagings of two original modern Commedia dell'Arte performances and has devised several structured scenarios for productions in New York City and across the state. In September 2015, [By The Mummers] held a public staged reading of Frank's historical, satirical, farce, 'The Double Play' at Foley's, Home to the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame. In June 2016, Frank debuted 'The Improviser's Guide to Being a Better Birth Partner' onstage Off Off Broadway. He has performed this one man piece in New York City on multiple occasions with a book in the works. Following years as an adjunct faculty member at Stony Brook University, Frank has applied his improvisation experience in training employees at Macy's Herald Square, Carnegie Hall, & the Sterling Renaissance Festival. Frank has been the recipient of the Impresario Award for supporting New Play Development, as well as a Rollie Award winner for his service to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 2008, he received the Spirit of Christmas Award.

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