From The Archives: The Brown Bell Sketch

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April 18, 2014 by T. Gregory Argall

I had planned on presenting a detailed and in-depth study of all of the various consideration and challenges related to creating a new artificial language, as linguistic hobbyists are wont to do, but since coming up with that plan just last night I have come to realise that, holy crap, that’s a lot.
I don’t have that kind of time.

Maybe next week.

Instead, this week, I will share with you the opening scene from my play “The Secret Lives of Sketch Artists.” The scene itself is a short sketch before the the story of the sketch writers really gets rolling in Scene Two.
Take it for what it’s worth; it makes me giggle.


Lights go up on left‑centre stage. Two men, let‘s call them Man‑1 and Man‑2, are sitting on a sofa.  Man‑1 has a TV remote control in his hand and occasionally points it at the audience and changes the channel. They each have a bottle of beer. 

MAN‑1                                 (click, click, click) There‘s never anything good on.

MAN‑2                                 Wait, wait. Go back.

Staring at the “television,” with quizzical looks on their faces, both of them slowly turn their heads to the side, then back again, as if trying to figure out what they’re looking at. Then they shake their heads dismissively.

MAN‑2                                 Aw, news. Nevermind.

MAN‑1                                 This is boring.

MAN‑2                                 (perks up) Oh, hey.  I heard a joke today.

MAN‑1                                 Oh, geez, not again.

MAN‑2                                 Tell me if you‘ve heard this one. How many psychiatrists does‑

MAN‑1                                 (interrupting) Heard it.

MAN‑2                                 What do you mean, you‘ve heard it? I didn‘t even finish the question. How do you know you‘ve heard it?

MAN‑1                                 How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.

MAN‑2                                 (dejected) OK. So you‘ve heard it.

MAN‑1                                 I‘ve already heard every joke you know.

MAN‑2                                 What‘s green and‑

MAN‑1                                 (interrupting) Kermit‘s finger.

MAN‑2                                 Alright. Knock, knock.

MAN‑1                                 (sideways glance) Dwayne the tub. I‘m dwowning.

MAN‑2                                 How did you…?

MAN‑1                                 You only know one knock‑knock joke.

MAN‑2                                 Why did the chicken‑

MAN‑1                                 To get to the other side.

MAN‑2                                 What‘s black and white and‑

MAN‑1                                 A newspaper, a sunburned zebra or a penguin in a blender. Don‘t you know any new jokes?

MAN‑2                                 This guy walks into a bar‑

MAN‑1                                 Heard it.

MAN‑2                                 No way.

MAN‑1                                 Yup. I‘ve heard it.

MAN‑2                                 I don‘t believe you.

MAN‑1                                 (rapidly) A guy walks into a bar and after a couple of drinks asks the guy beside him if he wants to see an amazing show. The other guy says, “Sure,” and the first guy reaches into his pocket and takes out a frog and a tiny little piano. He sets the piano on the bar in front of the frog and snaps his fingers. The frog plays the most beautiful piece of music ever written. Plays for five whole minutes. The other guy is just staring in amazement. The first guy says, “Wanna see something even better?” And the other guy says, “Yeah.” The first guy reaches into another pocket and takes out a mouse in a tuxedo and places him on the bar. He snaps his fingers and the frog starts to play the piano. Then the mouse starts singing the most moving, heart‑rending melody the guy has ever heard. After five minutes the other guy is moved to tears, the song is so beautiful. He tells the first guy that he‘s a Broadway producer and offers to buy the frog and the mouse for fifty thousand dollars. The guy says that he raised the frog from a tadpole and has a great emotional attachment to him.  He couldn‘t possibly sell the frog.  The other guy says, “Alright. I‘ll give you thirty thousands dollars for just the mouse.” The first guy says, “Sure.” So the other guy runs off to the bank and comes back ten minutes later with a cashier‘s cheque for thirty thousand dollars, gives it to the first guy and leaves with the mouse. The bartender looks at the first guy and says, “How could you sell that mouse? You had a million‑dollar act with the frog and the mouse and you just split them up for thirty thousand bucks. I don‘t understand.” The guy looks at the bartender and says, (pause for a deep breath) “Don‘t worry. The frog‘s a ventriloquist.”

MAN‑2                                 Fine.

Man‑1 changes channels while Man‑2 sits and glowers. Finally Man‑2 speaks, again.

MAN‑2                                 (quietly) What‘s brown and sounds like a bell?

MAN‑1                                 (slowly, turning to Man‑2) What?

MAN‑2                                 What‘s brown and sounds like a bell?

MAN‑1                                 Well, what do you know? You have a joke I‘ve never heard before. I give up. What‘s brown and sounds like a bell?

MAN‑2                                 Really? You don‘t know this one?

MAN‑1                                 No, I don‘t. What‘s the answer? What‘s brown and sounds like a bell?

MAN‑2                                 I‘m not going to tell you.

MAN‑1                                 Fine.

Man‑1 points remote at audience, click. BLACKOUT


**And for the sake of this shameless recycling of material actually having a purpose, here is a link you can use to buy your own copy of “The Secret Lives of Sketch Artists” so you can read the script and make plans to produce performances of it.
Alternatively, you could just read the script and quietly wish that someone would produce it so that you could sit in the audience and laugh heartily at all of the brilliant comedy as it plays out before you.
I do.

As always, try to be nice to each other.


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