Posts Tagged ‘humor’

Attack of the Killer Coon

October 14, 2008

Sounds like a Steven King novel, but what I am about to describe is a collection of true stories about a raccoon puppet, an unbelieveably lifelike raccoon spring puppet.  A spring puppet is different from other puppets in that you do not put your hand in it or have any sticks or strings to control it.  It has a coil spring inside which enables the user to move it by simply holding it as if it were alive.  “Rocky Raccoon” is a commercially available puppet I have used and sold since 1980.  In that time I have gotten good, real good.  In fact, many fellow magicians who travel to national magic conventions tell me I am the best they have ever seen.  Lord knows I have written a lot of material for the character.  To this day there are folks around the country doing routines I wrote in the 80s.  So much for intellectual property rights.

Be that as it may, I have entertained tens of thousands of people, and scared half that many nearly to death with this thing.  I learned very early that the key to realism with a spring puppet is to move it slowly.  Real animals don’t jerk around, they have purpose to their movements.  So for the first several months I spent a LOT of time watching how my dog and cats reacted to the world.  I then simply put that learning into practice as I honed my puppet skills.  It eats, it looks and it runs but, most importantly, it jumps!  And always when you least expect it. 

In the many years of performing with Rocky, I have had someone pull a knife on us more than once.  The sudden appearance of the blade is not nearly as funny as the accompanying “I’LL CUT THAT THING!”  Once in Atlanta, I actually had someone whip a gun out from under his coat.  Fortunately Rocky was on the floor by that time and not in my hands. 

The key to remember is this, it isn’t real.  But when it is coming at you, most people react rather than think and the result is great comedy and the occasional panic attack.  I have never caused a heart attack, but I have come close.  And I have avoided causing a premature birth by having the sense to size up my victim before I let it fly.  And there is a whole other skill I have developed, picking the right target.  You can see it in their eyes when they are not quite sure whether it is real or not. 

I did a show for a high school football team one spring at a camp.  There was a HUGE defensive tackle in the front row that I could just tell was the one.  “Let me put him away,” I said as I turned to the right.  Little did he know I was lining  up my target.  BOOM! I let it go and hit him square in the chest. “WOWWWWWW!” He yelled as he went backwards in his chair and landed in his quarterback’s lap to the delighted laughter of his teammates.

Then there was the lady in a shopping mall where I was doing strolling entertainment.  The raccoon is key there since it draws a crowd for me.  They come to see what it is and, after I make it play dead, I segue into magic.  But this particular day a lady approached me with an armful of packages and a 32 oz. Coke.  I ran it up my arm and, after looking closely, she said, “That’s not real.”  “That’s right, ma’am,” I replied.  “I have a dead animal in my show, don’t tell the kids.”  He ate a little something out of my hand as she leaned in to look closer.  “That’s not real!”  she said again.  “I already told you that,” I said as I beat him on my hand to show he was not real.  “Let me put him away,” as I turned to my right.  BOOM!  She screamed bloody murder, packages went everywhere, she dropped her Coke, then slipped and came down right in the middle of the puddle, elbows hitting tile, and wound up with Rocky laying next to her head.  She looked at it one more time and said, “That’s not real!”

My good friend Bill G was in town a few years ago and went with me to a mall performance.  “I’ve seen you before,” he said, “Now I want to watch how the crowd reacts.”  So he watched as, once again, I nailed a lady with her family, with her screams and all that.  As I walked off in one direction, they headed in the other, with Bill close enough behind to hear their ensuing conversation.  A few minutes later he came back to where I was, laughing out loud.  “What? I asked.  “I was listening to that family, and to what one lady said to the one you threw the raccoon on.”  “What?” I asked.  “That thang liked to latch on to you!” he said.  We both laughed over that one for quite a while.

These are only a couple of tales.  There is another entire chapter dealing with celebrity encounters you don’t want to miss.  Keep a look out for “Attack of the Killer Coon – Part Deux” coming soon.  And, if you are so intrigued you must have a Rocky Raccoon for yourself, you are so lucky because I SELL THEM!  For information on how to order your very own Rocky Raccoon, complete with training manual, follow this link: www.jimchester.com/magic_comedy/rockyraccoon.html.  Click on the “Add to Cart” link and you will be able to order your very own.  Payment is through PayPal.  With a little practice, you too can soon be flirting with potential bodily harm and lawsuits.  See you soon for Part Deux.

Classical Music is NOT Easy Listening Music

September 17, 2008

Okay, I am a different kind of guy, especially compared to most of my friends.  My friends are normal people; an associate pastor, a construction superintendent, an alarm system installer.  I, on the other hand, am a magician/comedian/evangelist.  That in and of itself is enough to keep normal people from even associating with me.   I know now why Jerry Seinfeld hung out with George, he was glad to have company of any kind.

I like classic rock, but I have heard it for years and there are only so many times you can listen to a station “get the Led out.”  I listen to quite a bit of jazz.  I especially like older jazz, big band swing music.  Maybe I was born 30 years too late, but the tightness and quality arrangements of big band music is fantastic!  I actually sat and watched “The Glenn Miller Story” the other day for at least the 9th time.  Truth is, it never comes on that I don’t sit and watch it.  I own Glenn Miller CDs, as well as Bennie Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Harry James and many more.  I also like fusion, which is a cross between rock and jazz in both instrumentation and style.  It has a lyrical quality that is easier to follow than the manic wanderings of Charlie Parker, although Charlie was a legend.  My favorite jazz fusion artist is Billy Cobham, one of the best drummers of all time, but he also wrote and arranged.  Of his library of work, two albums stand far above all else, “Total Eclipse” and “A Funky Thide of Sings,” both produced in the 70s.

I have been a musician since the age of four and have picked up and played about a dozen different instruments, if only to learn one song.  I prefer instrumental music because it doesn’t have to lay low in the background while the singer tells some story.  Let the singer go perform at a poetry reading and let the band play!

If you were to catch me in my car any given day I can almost guarantee you I will be listening to classical music.  My love of classical goes back to college when I took a class in music appreciation.  Not because I wanted to expand my horizons, but because it got me out of taking another written humanities class.  I, like many others, did not like classical music at the time because it was slow and boring.  But at that time I had never heard Igor Stravinsky.  Stravinsky has literally changed my life.  This is NOT easy listening music, in fact my wife refers to it as hard listening music.  It is so complex with atonality and varying rhythms, many people uneducated in music just don’t get it.  If you just got lost in the previous sentence, you know what I mean.

Classical music is not meant to fill the void in the background while you drive or eat or read.  It is best enjoyed in a very quiet, dimly lit room with no distractions and your eyes closed.  To really enjoy it you have to let the music consume you, become one with it.  I taught music appreciation for one year in a private school and, as an experiment, had the class move all the desks to the edge of the room and lie down on the floor with all of the lights off.  I then played Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”  You should have seen their faces when it was over and the lights went back on.  “I didn’t know there was music like that!”  Exactly.  We had a party at the end of the year and they asked me, “Are you going to play any more of that Russian psycho music?”

All of this is to say, don’t disdain a friend or aquaintance because you happen to catch him listening to “Petrushka.”  Ask to borrow his CD, go off to a quiet place and give it a try.  Because you might, just might, find that classical music is worth the effort.

Sudoku: Puzzle from Hell

September 3, 2008

sudokuI have been playing Sudoku for about 6 months now and all I know for sure is this, it is from the devil himself!  If you are not familiar with the beast, look at the example on the right.  A sudoku puzzle consists of a 9×9 grid, divided into 9 grids which are each 3×3.  A few numbers are provided to get you started.  The object is to fill in the blanks so that each 3×3 grid will contain numbers 1-9 with no repeats.  But additionally each row and each column of 9 boxes will also contain numbers 1-9 with no repeats.

Sudoku has several levels of play from beginner to pure evil.  I was on the beginner level for months, having finally moved up to the simple level.  I cannot even fathom moving further to the easy level.  The absolute worst part of this game is, it is highly addictive.  If it were a pill it would be a controlled substance.

I am not sure what part of the human psyche is responsible for this urge toward self-abuse.  Why is it that humans not only have the ability to solve problems, apparently they have a deep-rooted need to do so?  I prefer problems that have more satisfying conclusions like how to open the double seal on a bag full of brownies, how to stretch the salsa with ketchup without being too obvious, or how to buy a $398 Easton high-tech composite softball bat without my wife catching me.

Puzzles have been around as long as man has walked the planet.  Early puzzles were fundamental; things like, “How do I stick my spear into the heart of this gigantic lizard before he turns me into a prehistoric hors d’oeuvre?”  As time went on, puzzles became increasingly complex.  “How can I catapult this flaming ball of pitch over the castle wall without it breaking up and raining death on my Imperial Guard?”  But now that man has solved every single mystery in the universe, the need to solve problems has moved on to senseless, mind-numbing games.

Riddles are an early form of problem solving games.  I like riddles, for the most part.  Here are a couple of examples of typical riddles.  (Answers will appear at the bottom of the page.)

  • 1.  How far can a horse run into the woods?
  • 2.  Is it legal in North Carolina for a man to marry his widow’s sister?
  • 3.  If a man and a half can dig a hole and a half in a day and a half, how long does it take a monkey with a wooden leg to kick all the seeds out of a medium size dill pickle?

Crossword puzzles have been around a long time, and they are the puzzle of choice for my wife and her father.  The problem is, crosswords require a long-term investment to get good since clues tend to be repetitive.  However, doing crosswords is great for developing vocabulary, which is one reason I have trouble understanding my wife.

  • “Jimbeaux, I bought a firkin of ghee last night.  Have you seen it?
  • “Huh?”
  • “The firkin of ghee I bought.  What did you do with it?”
  • “I throwed it in the truck.”

Obviously I lack the vocabulary to attempt crossword puzzles.  But Soduku, according to the author of “Sudoku for Dummies,” is a puzzle anyone can do; anyone with months of time on their hands and a propensity toward masochism.  So, if you have more spare time than sense, give it a try.  All you have to lose is several hours a day of otherwise productive time and your sanity.

Riddle Answers:

  • 1.  Halfway, after that the horse is running OUT of the woods.
  • 2.  No.  If the woman is a widow, then the man is dead.
  • 3.  I don’t know.  My dad told me that one and I have yet to figure it out.

Vocabulary:

  • firkin: a small cask for butter equal to a fourth of a barrel or, in the case of butter, 56 lbs.
  • ghee: clarified semifluid butter made from water buffalo’s milk.
  • throwed: past tense of throw

Old Hair in New Places and Other Signs of Aging

August 22, 2008

It occurred to me the other day that I have been around for a long time.  I realized this when someone was talking about remembering where they were when the planes hit the twin towers.  These types of events help define generations.  My generation is best defined by remembering where we were when John Kennedy was shot.  I was walking the halls of my elementary school in Jacksonville, FL as the news came that would change our world.  Those were stressful times anyway.  I remember 1962 and my dad driving us out to Jacksonville Beach where we saw a line of warships from horizon to horizon headed south to Cuba.  Later that night I saw a sky full of planes headed in the same direction.  On top of this there was a weekly exercise we were doing in school called, “Duck, and cover.”

    “If you see a bright flash, duck under your desk and cover your head; there has been a nuclear explosion.”  As if a 40 year old wooden desk which was half-rotted from three generations of gum stuck to its underside would protect you from the bully in the next row, much less a nuclear blast.

So one day recently, as I was trimming the hair growing out of my nose, I suddenly realized that I am now approaching old!  It wasn’t so much the memories of the 60s as it was trimming the hair.  Why is it that at some point around age 40, when hair begins getting sparse on your head, it suddenly seems to re-surge in many other less complimentary parts of the body?  For the first 40 years of life, I don’t remember ever having to trim nose hairs.  Now I can’t go a week without trimming them, lest my wife see me and demand that the trimming commence.  And it’s not just the nose, I have hair growing out of my ears, too.  And what is the deal with eyebrows?  Again, 40 years of wake up, leave, come home and sleep has suddenly turned into, “What in the world is that caterpillar doing on my brow?”

Something else I have noticed.  A friend told me I would know I was getting old when I started going “Ughhh” when I get up out of my recliner.  Shoot, I have been saying, “Ughhh” for years now when I sit DOWN in my recliner.  And yet I continue to sign up for the church softball team every spring.  Each year I tell myself, “Just one more year.”  Then I go out and play with guys half my age, turning double plays and hitting .600 and somehow, between administering massive doses of Advil and Ben-Gay, I complete another year.  What a sense of pride as I limp into the house to tell my wife, “I went three for four tonight…UGHHHHHH,” as I fall into my recliner. 

Older people have a tendency to sit around with their peers and talk about their ailments.  I learned this years ago when my wife and I sent our daughter to stay with my parents for a week.  About the middle of the week we called to see how things were going.  “Dad, please don’t ever send me here again.  All Papa and Gramma do is sit around with other old people and talk about what hurts and what doctor they went to this week.  I wanna come home!”

My wife and I are trying to avoid this scenario by hanging out with a circle of friends 20 to 30 years younger than ourselves.  They simply do not tolerate such talk.  Our conversations go more like this:

  • Friend: “Elijah is a little cranky today, he is cutting a new tooth.”
  • Me: “Yeah, I’m a little cranky myself, I just lost a tooth.  Hit it with the scissors while I was trimming nose hairs.  Where is Ryan today?”
  • Friend: “He and David are out hunting bugs.  And, by the way, what’s up with that caterpillar on your forehead?”

Iranians May Have Withheld Information about Nuclear Activities

August 14, 2008

I like to keep up on world events so, when I picked up the paper the other day, I was amazed to read this headline, “Iranians May Have Withheld Information about Nuclear Activities.”  You can imagine the shock I felt!  How can those darn Iranians be so rude?  Especially after the Taliban was so forthcoming about flying planes into the twin towers?  What I want to know is this, when did America become so naive as to think everybody in the world is going to tell us everything we want to know in advance? 

I realize America seems to think we have cornered the market on good sportsmanship and fair play.  We never cheat…except for occasional sports doping, water boarding and regime toppling.  Otherwise we are model global citizens.  Seriously, why do we think leaders of adversary nations would even consider being forthright with us?  What would history be like if we did that?

“Hello, Adolph?  Dwight Eisenhower here.  Yeah, it’s been awhile.  Say I just wanted to give you a quick update on a little something we’ve been putting together over here, Operation Overlord…O-ver-lord.  Let’s just call it D-Day.  Look, we’ve noticed you have been massing a large force at Pas de Calais on the French Coast.  You’re way off.  No, not even close.  We will be landing a massive invasion force in Normandy…Nor-man-dy.  Yes, I know we’ve been bombing Pas de Calais pretty hard, we were just messing with you.  Now write this down.  June 6 we will begin an all-out assault on Normandy.  No, I’m serious.  And those first 1,000 paratroopers you will see landing behind your lines, ignore them.  They’re rubber dummies.  No, seriously, they’re dummies.  And get this, they are rigged with firecrackers so your troops will think they are being shot at.  Yeah, that’s a good one all right.  Anyway, be ready because we are sending about 5,000 ships over the morning of June 6.  No, not 500, 5,000.  And we are going to land about 340,000 troops that morning.  So, did you get all of that?  Because we would really hate to make you mad by arriving unannounced.”

That is absurd you say.  Well, it could have happened, especially after the courtesy call we received in December of 1941.  “Is this Mr. Roosevelt?  General Yamamoto here.  Look, I just wanted to let you know we have a large group of folks headed your way.”

Grow up, America.  We are in a WAR on terrorism.  This is not a game and we can’t expect the other guys to play fair.  Do the homework, interrogate the suspects, look closely at the satellite imagery.  But don’t sit by the phone and wait for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to call the White House.  “George, Mahmoud here.  Hey, about those nukes…”