This week’s post is a ten-minute play on the challenge of aging gracefully. Which is ironic, since it didn’t have a chance to age—only ran for one performance. Let me know what you think of it in the comments below.

CHARACTERS:

HAP ANDERSON, 80, retired standup comic.

VINNIE POLUMBO, 82, retired barber.

VIVIAN: Gray haired, sprightly woman.

SETTING: HAP and VINNIE sit on a bench in Florida. Both pause as VIVIAN walks by in front of them.

VINNIE

Now, see, that’s what I’m talking about—a woman old enough to appreciate a vintage gentleman. Yeah. I’m thinkin’ I might try getting married again. Only this time she’s gonna have to be

(Taps a finger on his temple.)

and

(Rubs thumbs to finger tips.)

and

(Cups hands in front of his chest.)

HAP

I get that you want a woman that’s smart and has some money, but why does she need arthritic hands?

VINNIE

Bodda boom. See, you still got the timing.

HAP

(sarcastically)

Got ‘em falling out of their wheelchairs over that one.

VINNIE

You still doing nursing home gigs?

 

HAP

Not for long.  I got something else cookin’.

 

VINNIE

Yeah? What’s that?

HAP

Murray just called. I gotta call him back.

VINNIE

Murray? He still sucking ten percent from you?

HAP

Yeah, Murray. (Shrugs.) Know anyone else wants to handle a has been like me?

VINNIE

So, what’s he got for you…another Bar Mitzvah?

HAP

They want me on Dancin’ with the Stars.

VINNIE

Dancin’ with the Stars? You gotta be kiddin’, right?

HAP

(Indignant.)

Yeah, Dancing with the Stars. What’s wrong with that?

VINNIE

You’re a comedian. Not Fred Astaire.

HAP

Hey, I am whatever I say I am. Okay? Besides, everybody in the business thinks he’s got a little song and dance in him (Different voice, mocking.) just give me a good partner—some costumes—choreography…

VINNIE

So, now you’re Marlon Brando? (Mocking impression.) ‘I coudda been a contender.’ Ha!

HAP

I could learn a couple steps.

VINNIE

Face it, Hap, the last time you danced was at your wedding (Beat.) the first one.

HAP

(Turns away, turns back)

You see a long line of people pounding on my door?

VINNIE

Don’t do it.

HAP

They want me to get back to them. Tommy Smothers backed out and they need to know (Beat.) like now.

VINNIE

The great Hap Anderson’s got to go on television like some kind of dancin’ bear and …

HAP

Hey, I’m dyin’ here. You don’t know what it’s like doing ninetieth birthday parties. For what? So I can afford to stand in line with fifty other old geezers for the Kentucky Fried Chicken early bird special? I want to eat supper at night instead of four o’clock in the afternoon, okay?

VINNIE

(conciliatory)

Okay. But…

HAP

And I miss the juice. You know? Being out there, working the crowd.

VINNIE

I can believe it. Your stuff is so good. So original. Man, I used to memorize your albums and knock ‘em dead with it back in my shop.

HAP

So that’s why you give me free haircuts?

VINNIE

Professional courtesy.

HAP

Plus you like it when the ladies come by our table asking for my autograph—picking up stray crumbs around the edges.

VINNIE

(Patting his belly)

Hey, I don’t look good naked anymore. What can I say?

HAP

Yeah well, an autograph and two bucks gets you a cup of coffee these days. I don’t need applause, I need money.

VINNIE

Can’t you do something else? Something closer to what you’re famous for?

HAP

You mean like be a greeter at a casino instead of being the headliner onstage?

VINNIE

Okay, I get ya. Awright. How about this? Maybe you write a book about your life.

HAP

I can write? If I could write I’d be sending all my material over the internet.

VINNIE

Ha! Like all those amateurs with their email jokes.

HAP

Everyone thinks he’s a comedian. (Mocking.) ‘Hey look at me. I never can remember a joke but now I can be funny too.’

VINNIE

Wait. Wait. I know. How about this? You get some producer to do Joking With the Stars. And you get these geeks to stand up and see if they really got some comedy chops instead of copying and pasting from behind their computers. (HAP chuckles.) They’re jock sniffers. Wannabe comedians. Make me sick. The other day, I says to this guy, ‘Stop me if you heard this’. I get two words out and he goes. ‘Hey, I just read that one on my e-mail.’ READ IT! You don’t read jokes. You tell jokes…like me, in my barbershop.

HAP

Exactly. But I never did do the ‘Take my wife…please’ kind of shtick.

VINNIE

That’s why you’re so good. Not just stale jokes. You do real life stuff.

HAP

Did…not do.

VINNIE

Aw, c’mon. Your stuff is classic, man. What about, ‘See this watch? My uncle sold it to me on his death bed. Pause. Asked for a receipt.’ (Laughs) Killer stuff.

HAP

That was Woody Allen.

VINNIE

Well, you know what I mean.

HAP

Yeah, I know what you mean. I came up with a fresh approach but so did a bunch of other guys.

VINNIE

Nothin’ new. Comedians always steal from one another, right? But you gotta stay in front of the wave. I had to lay off all my guys when folks stopped getting haircuts. Then we had to slide into all that salon stylin’ crap. And now guys get haircuts in beauty parlors. You adapt.

HAP

Adapt? Reinvent myself? For cryin’ out loud. How can you compete with comics that turn out boffo stuff at night based on stuff that happened that morning? It’s too fast. The Marx brothers would take a show on the road for months to polish every line before they ever made a movie. Now it’s slam-bam out there and gone and you better come up with something new…now. (Restless, agitated.) And I got Murray waiting on my answer.

VINNIE

Don’t do anything hasty, here. (Earnestly.) Hap, don’t make people laugh at you. Not you.

HAP

You sayin’ I can’t dance? I used to do some routines with my folks. Had a couple steps.

(Does a tap dance step.)

VINNIE

(Shakes his head.)

And Michael Jordan used to play baseball when he was a kid. But he couldn’t hit a curve ball in the minor leagues. You gotta stick to what you’re good at.

HAP

I also gotta eat.

VINNIE

You got enough to eat. I’ve known you a long time—what, since your first wife? This is about more than food. It’s more than that.

HAP

(Forlorn.)

You’re right. I miss it. The juice. The buzz.

VINNIE

The roar of the greasepaint. The smell of the crowd. Yeah. Yeah. Tell me about it.

HAP

(Heatedly)

Have you ever had a full house waiting for your next line, where you could say anything and they’d roar? That’s a tremendous feeling. The power. The control. I miss it.

VINNIE

But they were laughing with you, man.

HAP

Like you know, (Beat.) know what it’s like.

VINNIE

I know what it’s like to be good at what you do. Gimme anything sharp, even a chunk of glass, and I’ll style the hell out of a head of hair. But maybe (Pause.) You know those people movers at the airport?

HAP

(Sarcastically.)

Yeah, I’ve seen a couple…in just about every airport I’ve ever been in. What about ‘em?

VINNIE

You’re moving faster than the folks on foot, right?

HAP

Yeah.

VINNIE

But, at some point you have to get off and fall in step with the rest of us.

HAP

(Head down. Nods.)

But, I’m bored, Vin. This gig sounds like fun, you know.

VINNIE

It sounds like they need a token old fart to balance the basketball player and the handicapped person and the fat girl so they get as many people watchin’ as possible. That’s what it sounds like.

HAP

But that’s what it’s about. Putting yourself out there. Every time. Every time you go onstage you take a chance you’re gonna die—your material’s gonna bomb. You think big league pitchers have their best stuff every time they get the ball? Hey, they can get shelled the next outing after a no-hitter. That’s the drama. That’s why guys watch sports. It’s about performance anxiety. And it’s been a long time since I had to perform.

VINNIE

Don’t I know it. (HAP chuckles.) I just don’t want to see you, you know, like (Beat.) who was that basketball star? The one with all the metal stuck in his face (Beat.) looked like his tackle box exploded?

HAP

(Rolls his hand, thinking.)

Yeah. Yeah. I know who you mean but I can’t think of his name either. Yeah, him. What about him?

VINNIE

Well, that guy. He gets out of basketball and gets into professional wrestling. Talk about comics. He was the joke. (HAP stares at his buddy.) Look, I’ll see if I can get you a gig at our club banquet. How’s that? And it won’t be just $50 either.

HAP

(Paces nervously)

Thanks for listening Vin. I still can’t make up my mind and I’m supposed to call back. What do I tell Murray? (VIVIAN walks by a grocery bag in her arms.) Excuse me. Could I ask you to do me a favor?

VIVIAN

The last guy that asked me to do him a favor gave me a beautiful marriage and two great children.

HAP

I’m not asking for all that.

VIVIAN

And I ain’t offering all that. So, yeah, what do you need?

HAP

You know, how sometimes when you can’t make up your mind it helps to ask a perfect stranger for another opinion? That’s what I need.

VIVIAN

About what?

HAP

All right. Here’s the deal. I’ve got a chance to go on Dancing with the Stars (Beat.) the television show.

VIVIAN

The show, I know. But, you? You’re a star?

VINNIE

This is Hap Anderson (Beat.) the comedian.

VIVIAN

Me and jokes. (negative gesture)  But dancing—that I know. The waltz. It’s the waltz that kills them every time on Dancing with the Stars. So, you want to know if you should go on?

HAP

That’s it.

VIVIAN

(Puts down her bag. Holds out her arms)

Let’s see your waltz (hums a waltz melody as they dance). Not bad. You’ll do. (They separate.) So, what’s your problem?

VINNIE

He’s a comedian, they’ll cream him on the Quick Step and Tango. He’ll be a laughing stock.

VIVIAN
They paying you enough?

HAP

More than I make telling jokes these days.

VIVIAN

Then do it. You can’t live on pride. And besides, I didn’t recognize you, did I? On the other hand, let me ask. Are you comfortable?

HAP

(waggles his hand)

Yeah, I get by.

VIVIAN

Then keep your dignity. That’s all we got left at our age.

(Lights down.)

END

 

One thought on “Dancing with the Bears

  1. I love it Joe. I can hear from the Jewish haccents too, and there’s got to be lots of Jewish shrugs and other gesticulations. If these movements look Italian, that’s close enough. I would be such an enthusiastic member of the audience for this shtick.

    Like

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