Followers of Don’t Feed the Pixies will have probably read by now his account of the panto-related shenannigans last Saturday night at a certain village hall near us (You can catch up on it here if you need to).
He spoke eloquently there of the pantomimes staged by our Toastmasters club and another one from some distance away, so I won’t go over all that again. I’ll just add that, not being pretty enough to actually be in the panto (it wasn’t Cinderella, so no ugly sisters needed), I was drafted in at the last minute to do the incredibly difficult and complex job of Lighting Technician. OK, I just had to turn off the stage lights at the proper time and turn them back on again… and then off again…. and then on again. OK, enough of that. That was my one contribution to the panto, big whoop.
No, I was there to form a kind of musical comedy double-act with DFTP. That’s how it ended up anyway. We originally volunteered our miscal services ages ago, but only found out relatively recently how much time we would be allotted. We were, we were told, to be the “middle bit” between the pantos, and needed to come up with 10-15 minutes of material.
What to do, what to do?
We did consider performing a few of our own songs but hadn’t got enough funny to last that long and this was definitely not the occasion for songs about drowning ourselves or feeling p$ssed off at work. We needed funny and we needed it fast - we only had a couple of chances to get together and rehearse before the Big Day.
The we came upon the idea of presenting a series of snippets of famous songs with lyrics re-written to poke gentle fun at Toastmasters and public-speaking – a subject familiar and dear to the hearts of our audience. The theme would be that we had discovered in the Toastmasters’ archive (the bins round the back of the village hall) the lost lyrics of some famous musicians who had once partaken of the Toasties experience. Having got our theme sorted out, our pencils began to scribble furiously and we managed to get something together .
When we came onstage, the running order had been changed. so we were at the end of the two pantos, not the middle. Mind you, this was good as the audience was well warmed up by this time and determined to have a good time.
It was just as well they were!
When we started our skit on Paul Simon’s Sounds of Silence, (Hello, lecturn my old friend/I’ve come to stand up here again…) I managed to somehow mess up one of the chord changes and basically ruined the whole thing so we started over, to much merriment. Sounds of Silence is a b$gger to sing, by the way, with a wide pitch range. My voice was quite tired from practising like a looney earlier in the day in a desparate last-ditch effort to learn the pieces by heart (my sight’s not good enough to read from a cue sheet like lucky old DFTP). Anyway we got though without much further mishap and no vocal collapses, and the audience was having such fun with/at us – even laughing in the right places at the jokes – that we both began to relax a bit.
Then came the lost Cat Stevens song, The First Speech is the Hardest (I had it perfectly planned from the start/But when I stood up it all fell apart…) which we got through without undue boo-boos (or if there were any, my aging brain has blotted them out behind the pink fluffy clouds of pre-senile dementia).
Then it was on to Sting with Every Speech You make (Every speech you make/Every role you take…). According to DFTP, Sting was actually thrown out of Toastmasters for Tantric Speaking – just going on and on and never reaching a climax (bah-dum, ching!). This was one of the few jokes we actually remembered to do on the night. We had roughed out a kind of script and had put (what we thought were) funny little interludes between the songs, but on the night, the applause was very generous and in all the excitement, we forgot most of it. *Sigh* Comedy Gold, lost forever.
Then came the Great Capo Incident of 2010. For those of you who have never used them, Capos are a ingenious device for making your guitar go completely out of tune. Apparently, the inventors originally intended them to just raise the pitch of all the strings, allowing musicians and singers of relatively indifferent accomplishment (like me) to change the key of a song without all that messy business of knowing loads of more complicated and hard-to-play chords. Anyway, I took about 4 goes to get mine fitted properly and DFTP swears his made his guitar sound wonky (although I didn’t notice it). We then went for Bob Marley’s I Joined Toastmasters (to the tune of I Shot the Sherrif) which DFTP, being a much better guitarist than me accompanied really well with a nice reggae beat while I sort of fiddled around a bit, trying to keep up (practeeeeeeesss!!).
Next up was Green Day and Wake Me Up When the Speeches End (the track that never quite made it to their American Idiot album). Again DFTP came up with the goods on the guitar, reproducing quite neatly, the riff that GD play – singing all the while too. Impressive.
Our final hurrah was a song to the tune of I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (the old Coca Cola advert from years ago). This was the longest one and had the least funny in it, but was probably one of the best received for all that. We even got the audience waving their hands in the air at the end, which was terrific!.
This was my first public performance since 1990 and I had been a bit anxious about messing up and forgetting the words. In the end though, it was not too bad and the audience, being so determined to have fun, really made it a lot easier than it might have been. Sadly, no record remains of this performance and perhaps that’s just as well.
DFTP and I are now looking to do some less “safe” venues, like open mic nights or the like. Also available for Weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs….
PS: Watercats have nothing to fear from us!