Thursday, October 30, 2008

ACTING CLASS, Part 4 by Gregg Gethard

Things just seem to happen to Gregg Gethard. After telling a few stories at comedy shows in New York City, he created his own monthly show in Philly, BEDTIME STORIES, to tell a few more. Over the past year and a half the show has grown in audience and features some of the best comics in the city.

Here, Gregg continues his eight-part series on an acting class he took in Montclair, New Jersey. [Read Part I, II and III]

By the way, Gregg will be performing at our Comic Vs. Audience Comedy Show on Monday, November 3rd at the Shubin Theatre and his show, Bedtime Stories, is on Wednesday, November 5th.


I walked into class during the middle of the first sketch being performed, as Class Junkie was in front of the class, doing something with a coffee filter. I could not figure what was going on, since his back faced everyone. It looked like he may have been pretending to stuff a coffee filter down the throat of a sick loved one.

"That was really fantastic," said Bob. "Really, a great job. But can you do it again for us? This time, face us as you do it."

Class Junkie proceeded to do his sketch again, this time it was a little clearer as to what he actually performed – simply preparing the morning coffee.

"I can tell from your facial expressions when you were doing this that you do this a lot," Bob said.

"Yep. Every morning. At 4:30 a.m.," Class Junkie said, who sighed existentially.

But all is not bad in Class Junkie's life. Bob asked him how he felt performing in front of everyone. "I'm really content with what I did," the white-haired gentleman said. "The last time I acted, I was Tiny Tim!"

Up next was Voice Box Girl. "He only had one prop. I have a whole bunch? Is that okay, or am I going to get in trouble," she pathetically asked. Bob assured her that this was okay.

Voice Box Girl's sketch involved her putting on makeup, getting ready for a night out on the town-- no doubt to the local TGIFriday's. She began by combing her hair-- which made a loud noise as the brush ripped through her many, many teased roots. She continued to put on her makeup throughout the sketch. Afterwards, Bob told her to pantomime putting on her makeup this time, forsaking the props.

"I don't know how good it will be," Voice Box Girl said. But again, Bob used his soothing carnival-barker voice to coach her through it.

"That was awesome," responded the Overly Competitive Hindu-- with a trace of jealousy in his voice.

"I never want to hear that word out of your mouth again. I never want you to tell me that you cannot mime ever again," exclaimed Bob.

Up next came one of the Interchangeable Housewives. I couldn't tell them apart, and curiously, I don't think I ever saw them in the same place at the same time. So maybe they were the same person? But I don't think they were. I could have sworn there were two Interchangeable Steel Magnolia Fans, but I counted three since the first week.

The Interchangeable Housewife's performance was surprisingly not anonymous and instead was really, really frightening. She had a one-sided phone conversation with a colleague by the name of "Kim"-- apparently, she's a therapist of some sort. Her piece was a bizarre combination about someone suffering from the dual affects of colon cancer and child molestation, with someone having to call DYFUS – New Jersey’s child protective service -- and a mental health professional.

Bob took a break after her performance ("I've been drinking water ALL day. I gotta go GO GO!") which gave the class a chance to talk about the last piece. Voice Box Girl asked what DYFUS was.

"It's the Department of Youth and Family Services," she explained. "That's who gets called in case someone gets abused at home."

"Oh. So that's who you call if someone is abused at home?"

The Cute Girl (again wearing her swank red Kool Moe Dee sneakers) then informed us that she used to be a teacher. "It's really hard to get DYFUS involved with cases, I found. It's tough, especially with statute of limitation laws."

Voice Box Girl was trying to follow. "What does that mean, Statue of Libertation?"

Sagging Breasts then chimed in with some commentary about special education. "My sister-in-law teaches special education. They were talking to all of the students about being abused and telling them about how to say no and what to do if they were being abused at home. The next day, all the kids said that they were abused and were crying. It was really funny."

After our break, The Hemaphroditic German set up for her piece. Apparently, babies play a large role in her life. A baby formula box stood prominently on a stool, with a crying baby face and center. She began by shaking out baby diapers and folding them, fidgeting with the formula box, then inexplicably went towards the back of the performing space where she needlessly ran in space. Then, she returned to the front of the stage and picked up a phone-- a high concept "two-in-one" of both pantomime and a phone conversation.

"Hello? Hello? I am not sure I understand," she said in her accented English to a made-up person. " I am very busy caring for my Godchild. Is that the word I am looking for? Godchild? Wait-- did you say I can get four free tickets to Hawaii? No, I don't want to go to Atlanta to pick them up. I do not want to pick up the tickets with my child. He is almost one. I do not understand, how can you give away tickets worth $3,000 dollars? Plus a free place to stay? There must be some strings. I WILL NOT MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH YOU. Please leave me alone. I beg you. Please leave me off this phone."

Bob then asked The Hemaphroditic German if she was confused on the phone with telemarketers. She was. "They talk so fast. It confuses me."

Bob, omnipotent far beyond acting, advised us on how to handle telemarketing phone calls. "Here's a hint. Say to the telemarketer that you would like them to be placed on their no call list. If they call again, you say to them 'You're breaking the law' and then they usually hang up."

We had one more performance left, and I edged out The Latino Bohunk and The Overly Competitive Hindu to go last.

Earlier in the day, I had gotten props for my skit-- two bottles of ketchup purchased from Foodtown and a blue fanny pack borrowed from my mom.

I arranged a very elaborate set-up compared to everyone else, arranging chairs and a bench next to each other. I then placed my ketchup bottles (one generic brand, one Heinz) on the bench and grabbed other props-- the baby formula, pieces of garbage laying around, other stuff laying around, simulating supermarket shelves.

I then pantomimed walking down the aisles of a supermarket in a bad mood, angrily purchasing my food, throwing bushels of food into a cart.

"Very good," Bob said. "But I want you to try this again."

Then he said the words that would change my acting career forever.

"This time... pretend you have diabetes."

So I did. I prepared for this new dramatic role by repeating the word "diabetes" several times as I walked through the performance area. "I now have diabetes," became my mantra, as I repeated them out loud. I went through the aisles, analyzing make-believe cans of food for their sugar content. I did not put the ketchup bottles in the shopping cart. Bob asked why when I was done.

"High fructose corn syrup. You have to watch out for that when you're a diabetic like me."

Then, I started to clean up my performance area as Bob told the class about what I did differently-- how I reached for the shelves with a more direct focus. I'm certain everyone now thinks that I have some issues regarding a compulsion to clean.

After class, The Cute Girl and The Voice Box Girl started talking about where they were from-- Glen Ridge and Caldwell, respectively.

They exchanged numbers and decided to get together for lunch this week.

I sensed an opportunity. I approached Cute Girl and asked her if she went to Glen Ridge High School. She said that she did. I asked her if she knew Nick Moore, a colleague of mine I barely knew from work. She did. I then said, meekly, "I know him also." And then I walked away and left.

On my way to the parking lot, I managed to get in a walking group with Class Junkie and The Overly Competitive Hindu who did not have a chance to perform due to time constraints. I asked The OCH what he would perform the next week.

"I'm not sure yet," he said. "I'm thinking about doing something where I get out of a shower."

NEXT WEEK: One of Gregg's classmates gets naked!


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Megatron said...

This is SO damn funny.

I'm actually laughing out loud as I read this stuff.

"...that would change my life forever......diabetes." hahahahaha