Set: Bob Newhart
Introducing Tobacco to Civilization
First performed in Cranbrook, BC 07/10
Rating: G [family-friendly; contains optional PG content]
Performed: July 6, 2010
This was the very first "tribute" set I ever created, and one of my favorite still to perform. Once I committed to making a serious go of comedy, I realized I had several obstacles to overcome, not the least of which were the fact that I'm an unknown quantity (a reputation of any kind is responsible for half the laughter in a live setting) and that living in a remote area, I'm not going to have as many opportunities as I'd like to do the material I want to do. (Actually none, as it turns out...-CL 07/11)
The solution to the problem came from my experience as a touring rock musician: if you can't get away with your own stuff, do what you know the audience will like. So I developed a series of tribute sets to cover the kinds of situations I felt I'd encounter: a Gene Tracy/Redd Foxx set for tavern crowds eager for the "dirty stuff", a Rodney Dangerfield set as an all-purpose crowd pleaser (and a hell of a good workout for comedy technique!), a George Carlin set for the liberal crowd, and this set for older audiences, family events and situations where even "dammit" might be considered risky speech.
This piece verges very close to sketch comedy, which is a strength of mine, and it's "loose" enough (i.e. you don't get a gut-busting punchline every five seconds) to make updating and augmenting very easy...and augmentation is pretty much a must. After all...the second I perform this professionally, I'm on the hook for performance royalties, and by throwing my own material on top of it, I get a chance to get a genuine audience reaction to my own writing.
At the time this was posted, I had only performed this once for a private luncheon, but it went over gangbusters, and I was particularly gratified that my jokes got as many laughs - and louder ones in places - than Newhart's. Granted, the material is fifty years old, but it's still pretty good in comparison to most modern sketch comedy.
There was no opportunity to record the performance, so regrettably all I can provide here is the working script. I'm not going to explain my special notation, but I have delineated my material from Newhart's by formatting it in blue instead of black.
(text in black Copyright ©1960 Bob Newhart...please don't sue me!)
We all know Bob Newhart from the sitcoms he created...but he was also one of America's top stand-up comics in the sixties, and one of the very few who became a household name without ever using a four-letter word.
He really made his mark doing a sort-of solo sketch comedy in which he'd pretend to be playing off of other characters and he was one of the very *best* at it. A lot of his setpieces are still considered classics today, and one of my favorites comes from his 1960 album, The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, incidentally one of the best-selling comedy albums of all time when it was released.
This is called Introducing Tobacco to Civilization. And a different time and a somewhat different storyteller require a somewhat different story, so I've added some of my own material. I hope you like what I've done with the place.
Introducing Tobacco to Civilization
Milestones are never really *recognized* right away, it takes 50-60 years before people realize what an achievement it is. Take for instance the discovery of tobacco. It was discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh, who sent it over to England from the Colonies, it seems to me that the uses of tobacco aren't always obvious right off the bat.
I imagine a phone conversation between Sir Walter Raleigh and the head of the East India Company in London explaining about this shipment of tobacco that he had just sent over...
And here are those immortal words you've heard so often from so many comics...this was a signature line of Bob Newhart's: I think it would go...something like this.
"Yeah who...who is it Mary."
--- .---vvvv ---vvv
"Sir Walter Raleigh from the Colonies.
Uh, ya...ya put him on, willya?
eh, hey Harry? Ya wanna pick up the ex<giggle>tension? It's Nutty Wal' again <gg>
<Ahhanh>...Hi! Hi, Walt, baby? How *are* ya, guy?....How's...uh-how's everything goin'.
Uh, things...things are fine here walt?
Did we get the what? Ahhh the boatload of turkeys. Yah. uh they arrived fine, Walt? uh huh? ahb...as a matter of fact, they're still here, walt? They're wandering all over *Lon*don, as a matter of fact. See, that's an...that's an *Amer*ican holiday, Walt?
<wait or 3 se4c> b
wha...i[s]...i...^what is it this -v-time Walt, you got another ^*win*ner for us, d-do ya? <ah heh>
To -^-*bac--- - o... <breathy hah>
What's toBACco, Walt?
It...it's a ^kinda leaf.
And you bought *80 tons* of it.
<2 or wait>
bNow...let me get this straight now Walt, you bought *80 tons* of *leaves*?
<2 or wait>
-^-This...umm...-^-This may come as kind of a *surprise* to you Walt, but ah...ah *come fall* in *Eng*land here -^-we're kind of up to our uh...
It...it -^-isn't *that* kind of leaf. uhhuh?
wa--^-what is it, a...a special *food* of some kind is it, walt?
Not exac...it has a *lot* of different uses.
Like...like ^what are some of the <gg>us-v-es walt?
-v-ar---are you saying *snuff*, walt? <1> What...^What's *snuff*.
Y...y'take a <gg>^pinch of tobac-v-co?
<throaty laugh...then another, then while laughing but trying not to>
And you -^-shove it up your *nose*. <laugh x4 to x8>
And it -^-makes you *sneeze*, huh? ahenh<stoplaugh> I im-^-magine it ~would, walt?, ~yeah.
Hey ah...-^-GOLdenrod seems to do it pretty well over *here*, Walt?
<still laughing quietly>
It...it -^-has some other uses though.
-v-you...you <laf>can ---*chew* it? Tastes pretty bad, huh?
Then why do you *eat* it, Walt?
Oh CHEW it...just for a while, then spit it out?
No I probably *wouldn't* want to be close to *that* kind of spit.
But what IS it, Walt. What are its *ben*efits!
Dizzy and out-of-breath? Uh-huh? Oh *I* see...it's a form of *punishment* is it Walt? No?
You know, Walt, I get the same effect just sitting through *board* meetings...you don't think...
Really!? Their last farthing...I find that hard to believe
but if they're *that* starved for enter*tain*ment over there,
we've got a couple of really annoying playwrights in the advertising department
we'd be *more* than glad to ship them over to the colonies...
No, *no*body's getting work since that Shakespeare guy came to town...< >
And people actually *buy* this stuff?
Did I hear you right...they'd *kill* each other for a *chunk* of it.
<look at Harry: do the "crazy" motion>
or...or you can *shred it ~up?
And -^-put it on a piece of ~paper? and hh-^-roll it ~up? ahahahahadon't...-^-don't ~tell me Walt? Don't ~tell me?
Ya...ya -^stick it in yer *rear*, right Walt?
Oh...oh be*tween* your lips. Well that's...
Then...-^-*then* -v-what do you do with it ~Walt?
<loudest laugh...go 2 tones up>
You *set FIre* to it Walt ~ah?
<more laughing, border of control>
Then...*then* what do you do with it, Walt?
You in*hale* the smoke. Uh huh?
You know, *Walt*, it seems *offhand* like you could stand in front of your *fire*place and have the *same thing*<less laff> going for ya, y'know?
ahheh See Walt, uh -^-We've been a little *worried* a-v-bout you, y'know? E-ever since y-you put y-y-your *cape* down over that *mud*, ~y'know?
See Walt, I-I *think* you're going to have kindofa *tough time* uh-uh-selling people on-on sticking *burning leaves* in their mouth.
Y....it's going -^-*very big* -v-over there is it..<1-1/2>wh.....---what's the matter -v- walt...
You -^-*spilt* ---your -^-WHAT?
What? w-What's? -^-COF---fee walt...
iheh..it's a -^-*drink* you make out of ~BEANS,~huh? <laff>
<while laughing> ---That's going over very big there ~too -v-is -^-it?
lot...lotta people have their coffee right...<laff> right after their first ---*cig*-v-arette. ---In the -^-mor-v-ning eh?
-v-is ---*that* what you call the burning leaves, Walt, cigarettes?
<chortling>I'll tell you what, Walt? Why don't you send us a boatload of those *beans*, too.
If *you* can talk *pe*ople into putting those burning *leaves* in their mouths, they've -^-got---ta go for those *beans*, walt.
And *listen* Walt, while I've got you on the line there's a couple of things I should go over with you.
"No, it's not about the Spanish. Murray's taking care of that.
That's right, Walt, don't worry about the piracy thing, we've got the press in our pockets here.
W...we're telling them it was just a misunderstanding. You thought it was a *gift*. That's right...and you THOUGHT they said "Why don't you just go take a big *ship*.
Heh...are you kidding? Of *course* they'll believe it. Uh huh...uh huh...No, Mario has that account. That's right... the Rome office. Well he got the Vatican to okay our PR campaign on witchburning. You'll love his tagline: "If you think clean, renewable energy is witchcraft, you're only half right." Isn't that great?
Now, the other thing is a bit more serious. We've been hearing rumors, Walt, and frankly, the board's a little concerned.
Well here's the problem. You know when Queen E*liz*abeth invited you to go *rid*ing with her last weekend, and you swore to us there were no papparazi?
Well, it kind of turns out that someone took an etching, Walt. That's right, Walt, someone took an etching of you with the queen and sold it to the papers here.
Ya, ya, no I understand it's your *private* life Walt. No I'm not trying to tell you who you can and can't *date*, but for heaven's *sake*, Walt, the *queen*?
No, you looked just *fine* walt...ya, ya *I know* a woodcut always adds twenty pounds but you looked just fine.
Now I want to *remind* you of a couple of things Walt...firstly, that retirement home of yours.
Yeah, that...yeah...yeah. in The New World. Virginia. Remember why you chose that *name*, Walt...and I quote, "in honor of the Queen's virtue".
Well, we kind of need to know before the new maps go to the printers...
We're not going to have a problem with that *name*, are we?
So we can still call it Virginia...you're *sure* of that.
Well, what about *you*?
*Yeah*. We're *worried* about you. Well...I'm just *say*ing that with the throwing your cape in the mud...and the sucking on burning *leaves*...well...we're kind of worried that you might have been uh...drinking too many *beans* for *breakfast* if you know what I mean...we're just asking you to be *careful*.
Well you *know* her family isn't exactly big on long *court*ships...you remember her *dad*...don't ya, Walt?
<just a second, Walt...>
Hey Harry, the king's wives...that was *your* slogan, wasn't it? How'd that *go* again?...
Riiiight...right..."Six is heaven for the eighth"?
Ya *Walt*, just try to remember that this family isn't exactly big on long happy marriages...
For crying out *loud*, Walter, Elizabeth's *father* was a man who wrote Dear Jane letters with an axe!
Yabbut Why can't you go riding by *yourself* more often...
find a *nice* girl in the shires...a sturdy *English* gal with a name like *Jane* or *Joan* or *Darlene*
Mary?...Ok, sure, Mary's a nice solid English name?...
Uh...say that again Walt?
"Eh...Walt...I don't quite know how to break it to you, but that's the Queen's half-*sister*. And they *don't* borrow each other's *clothes* if you know what I mean...
Yeah, yeah, I think a vacation would be an *excellent* idea, Walt...I've heard the Spanish Main is *lovely* this time of year. In fact, if you get there *soon* enough, you can still catch the tall ships Armada...I've heard it's *spectac*ular.
I'll book you in *tomorrow* Walt. Bye...Bye now.
Jeez, Harry, do you believe the *nerve* of that guy?
Nah...*trust* me, Harry, *I* can make this blow over...give me six months, and nobody will remember the name of Walter Raleigh.