Playing the part of a Whoopee cushion is not something you wake up one day and just decide to do. It takes years of hard work, conditioning and discipline before you are ready to make that kind of commitment. OK, you might do it impulsively for a Halloween party or in a bar on a drunken dare, but never for a church event, on stage, right?
It all started when I decided to become a competitor in an annual night of humiliation, chutzpah and all-out craziness called Fall Untalent Night, put on by my church. In my first Untalent Night performance, more than 20 years ago, I played a ventriloquist. My 7-year-old daughter was my dummy — decked out in a fluffy dress, face made up with large freckles and a square wooden jaw. She sat on my knee and flapped her jaw when I squeezed the back of her neck with my hand. What came out of her mouth was, of course, my voice. It was the perfect setup to make jokes about the church bigwigs. Visually, I wasn’t the one doing the skewering. It was my 7-year-old dummy-daughter. But she got the last laugh by producing a pie tin filled with whipping cream and smashing it in my face.
On another Untalent Night, I parodied the then-current stage sensation, Riverdance. Since the winner of the Untalent Night contest is always the act with the least talent, my dance troupe consisted of teenage girls with barely passable dance skills wearing clunky, oversized rubber boots. “Rubberdance” didn’t win that year — we were just a wee bit too talented. Perhaps because I donned an Irish green bathing cap and sat on stage in my wheelchair with the clomping girls and pounded out the typical Irish stepping beat on my head with loud slapping sounds. Sadly, I never missed a beat, so we lost by a hair.
There were other Untalent Nights, like the time I disappeared inside a giant chicken costume, wheeled on stage and sang “Some Enchanted Evening” in my most ludicrous chicken voice. No trophy that time, either. Or the time I conned the pastor and associate pastor into joining me in a send-up of the iconic singing group, The Supremes. Dressed in drag and lip-synching badly, we were “Diana Gross and the Testosterones.” Again, no trophy, but the brave pastor got plenty of flack.
As strange as these gigs were, they were just a warm-up to my Whoopee cushion performance. The target of my skewering this time was the fall election campaign media onslaught with its seemingly neverending negative ads, empty promises, and bombast. I rolled on stage in my Whoopee cushion costume and in my most serious voice proclaimed that I was there to comment on the current election. After a dramatic pause, I took a deep breath, then very loudly (and amazingly on-key) began mouth-farting the grandiose finale of “Stars and Stripes Forever.”
I finally went home that night with the grand prize: a gold-painted, 3-foot-long zucchini.