Paul McKittrick: ‘Type in ‘Crispin’ at this site and the ad agency’s creative team emerges from behind the sofa.’

Mike Groenendaal: ‘If you command the chicken to ‘Boycott Burger King,’ it gives you the thumbs up.’

☞ Oops. That should be enough to get the creative team back behind the couch.

(Actually, I’m guessing anything with the words Burger King in it gets the thumbs up. Which leads to some even funnier possibilities . . . and raises the question – though does not BEG the question, which is what an answer does when it weasels out of addressing a question – when, exactly, did chickens get thumbs?)


Gray Chang: ‘So what happened when you handed the Flying Karamazov Brothers the tin of fine powder?’

☞ It was an interesting afternoon. A few weeks earlier, I had gone to their opening night – a packed Broadway theater – expecting nothing of these Americans pretending to be Russians who could juggle.

They brought the house down. People were laughing so hard they were crinkled. Yes, some of them had money in the show (opening-night audiences do tend to be enthusiastic), but it wasn’t that. It was juggling genius.

Finally! A cultural level on which this Slavic Languages and Literatures major could relate.

(When I finish my story, you can click the link above and see the Flying Karamazov Brothers and read their history.)

So I called one of the show’s producers to try to get tickets to an upcoming matinee for me and two 11-year-olds (who have since graduated from Yale). I assumed it would be really hard to get good seats on short notice, so I would call in a favor. Though he sounded a bit perplexed, my friend said sure.

Whereupon, I set about trying to think what to bring for the part of the show when the Brothers ask the audience to bring things up to the stage for them to juggle. (I had not known about this on opening night but I knew it now.)

Indeed – unbeknownst to them – I had developed such a tight intellectual bond with these five Russian brothers (well, Americans pretending to be brothers), that I had spent considerable time trying to imagine what would pose a really new challenge for them – what would get them to notice me, and realize I appreciated their genius.

Knives, roses, balloons, kittens – all old hat. (Old hats? Them, too.) And who has kittens to bring to be juggled, anyway? I wanted to bring something that could not be juggled.

As luck would have it, I had just opened a cardboard canister of some kind of nutritional powder someone had given me to add to milkshakes or something . . . hated it, yet didn’t want to waste it . . . and realized I had just found its perfect use.

I brought the kids and the canister of powder to the theater and, when the time came to approach the stage, I removed the top and stepped forward.

Now, I need to tell you that – to my complete astonishment – the theater was barely a third full. This show had apparently become a monster hit in my mind only. And it was the most remarkable thing: It was the exact same show with the exact same cast . . . yet the energy in the theater was entirely different. The matinee audience was in a show-me mood, sleepy after lunch. The Flying Karamazov Brothers, embarrassed by the size of the crowd and dejected that the intellectual sparks they were shooting out to the crowd were not catching fire, lost their insouciance. They began going through the motions, their minds, elsewhere . . . even dropping things on occasion.

And then one of them saw the powder.

It sat there on stage with a frying pan and a bowling ball and a butcher knife (when did an audience ever not bring a bowling ball or a butcher knife?) . . . and I could see Dmitry (or was it Ivan? Igor? Fyodor?) go off auto-pilot, the juices returning to his brain, the smile returning to his face, the adrenalin pumping to his glands, and I want to tell you that I was a very happy boy. I knew that they knew that somebody in the audience had majored in Slavic Languages and Literatures . . . that somebody in the audience recognized them for the comedic juggling gods they were.

And, yes, after considerable clowning around to forestall the inevitable, they finally attempted to add the open canister of finely ground powder to the bowling ball, frying pan, butcher knife rotation . . . proving that of which I had been all but certain: even a god cannot successfully juggle an open container of Ultra SlimFast.

It was a fine mess, and there was even some coughing. Thank you for asking. Go see their show.

Monday: Woodward, Albright, Berger – Oy! (Read it now at no extra charge.)


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