By Samuel Patrick Smith
An extraterrestrial being comes to your show and demands the use of your telephone.
(1) Toy telephone, preferably with a cord. I like the old Phoney-Ring, which consists of a plastic telephone receiver and cord and a separate ringing device, set off by pressing and holding a button. You can sometimes find them on eBay.
(2) An outer space being (best to use a puppet). The one I use is similar to the punching puppets you may have seen in toy departments, sometimes made as clowns or other characters wearing boxing gloves. Inside the puppet are two levers which can be operated with your thumb. When you press either lever, it causes the puppet to fling one of its arms out and appear to be boxing. A strange toy, but good for laughs.
I came across one of these puppets at a flea market seven years ago—it had the head of a popular extraterrestrial character, whom I’ll call Extra-Celestial, or E.C. for short. (Thanks to Fetaque Sanders for this version of the name.) I've found them several times on eBay by using search words E.T., punching, puppet.
Put the telephone receiver inside your jacket, under your left arm. Tuck the end of the cord about an inch into your pants on the left hip side.
Place the phone ringer on the floor, just out of sight behind your table. You will be able to make it ring when you’re near the table by stepping on the buttom. A little practice will enable you to set it off without looking.
Placing the ringer on the floor behind your table will conceal it perfectly if you are using a nite club or suitcase table. But what if you have a tripod table? You can solve the problem by placing another prop (such as the ball vanisher from Strat-O-Spheres) on the floor in front of the ringer, and covering both of them with a silk. When it’s time to use the other prop, reach down, uncover it, and bring it up, leaving the silk on the floor, covering the ringer. It doesn’t matter whether you use the ringer before using the other prop or not.
E.C. should be out of sight, maybe in your suitcase.
“And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring out a special guest star for our show. Do you know who it is? He’s a famous movie star, direct from Hollywood, California. Let’s hear it for him . . . here he is . . . a big round of applause for our special guest star . . . .” Lead the applause, but when the “star” doesn’t come out, look a little embarrassed. Turn to your case (or wherever you’re hiding the being) and say, “Excuse me, we’re ready for you. Pardon? You’re what? Still putting on your make-up?” The children will laugh.
Looking toward E.C., quip, “Would you like a knife and putty?” Laugh hysterically—maybe the teachers will join you.
In my own shows, I prefer to use this as a curiosity-builder, so I say, “I guess we’ll have to come back to him in just a little while. Meantime, let me show you some magic.” Then I do an unrelated routine. Following that effect, we come back to our special guest star.
“Well, I wonder if our movie star is ready to come out yet. Let’s see. [Look into your suitcase.] Hello! Are you ready? You’re what? You’re not coming out? [Turn to the audience.] He says he doesn’t want to come out, because he’s afraid you’ll laugh at him.”
Pause, and you’ll find most of the children declaring fervently, “Oh, no, we won’t laugh.”
“Oh, yes you will. You’ll take one look at him and burst out in uncontrollable laughter.” This will make them even more vehement. “We will not laugh at him.”
“Are you sure? Well, okay. I’ll tell him.”
Look back to where E.C. is waiting. “Listen, this is a nice audience. They’ve promised me that they won’t laugh at you. Really. No one is going to laugh at your face.” As you’re talking to him, do a double-take, then burst out into hysterical laughter. Laugh for about five seconds, then realize what you’re doing, and stop short. Give yourself a quick slap on the face, as though trying to restore yourself to sanity. Resume a serious expression, and continue.
“Maybe it would help his feelings if we all clapped for him. Movie stars love that sort of thing.” Lead the applause.
[During applause.] “Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s true. Here he is in person, direct from Hollywood, California . . .” He still doesn’t appear.
“Okay, that does it. I’ll have to go get him. But do you promise not to laugh? Okay.”
Reach back to E.C.’s hideout, put him on your hand, and bring him into full view. “Here he is, your friend and mine, E.C.!” The kids will go into an advanced form of hysteria. When they’ve quit laughing, you can continue.
Holding the puppet up to your face level and to your right (if he’s on your right hand), say, “E.C., I want to apologize. I can’t believe they’ve been laughing at you. They seemed like such a nice audience.” Look out to the audience, but keep the puppet up to your face level, about eight to ten inches away.
“I certainly would never laugh at your face, E.C. I wouldn’t even . . .” At this point, allow the puppet to punch at you. Since you’re looking at the spectators, you don’t notice this. Continue making a profuse apology to the puppet, as he continues punching at you. Between punches, though, glance back at him, then turn to the audience to make another sentence of apology to E.C.
By this time, the kids should be dangling from the fluorescent lights, shouting that E.C. is punching you!
“Punch? No, there’ll be no punch served at this show today. What? Punching me? E.C. is punching me? Come on, now. You don’t expect me to believe that, do you? E.C. would never do anything like that.” Bring him up closer to your face and look at him tenderly.
“How could you accuse this poor little fellow? He wouldn’t hurt a flea. Look at those baby blue eyes, look at that . . . uh . . . face. E.C., you wouldn’t punch me would you?” You look directly at the puppet, and he lets you have it.
“Hey, stop that! No, no! E.C.! Get a hold of yourself! Hey, stop it!” As you jump around, trying to avoid his punches, work your way over to your table, so you can operate the telephone ringing device with your right foot. Don’t ring it yet, just get into position. E.C. finally quits punching.
“Exactly what is your problem?” Tilt your head down to hear what he says.
“You what? [Turning to the audience.] Do you know what he said?” Say this slowly and with disbelief.
“He said, ‘E.C. phone home!’” As you say that line, tilt the puppet back, so he is looking off into space, and let his left arm stretch all the way out. He should look as though he is pointing off into outer space. The children will laugh.
Push his hand back down. “E.C., you can’t phone home. We’re in the middle of a show. Besides, there’s not even a phone in this room.” As soon as you’ve said that, press down on the phone ringer button with your foot. Do a double-take as you hear the phone ring. Since you aren’t looking down at your feet, the spectators won’t know exactly where the ringing is coming from. Look around you in surprise, trying to find the phone. As you twist around, looking in back of you, allow the phone receiver to drop from under your arm, out the side of your jacket. It will be a funny sight, this phone dangling out from under your coat, bouncing up and down.
When you finally see the receiver, act startled, but pick it up and put it very cautiously to your ear. Wait for the audience to calm down before you speak. At this point, it’s crucial to re-establish control. If they haven’t calmed down after, say, 30 seconds, put the phone to your chest, as though trying to block out the noise, and say, “Please. I’m on the phone.” This almost guarantees quiet.
Start to speak into the phone, but pause, look at the audience, and say tersely, “This is weird!” Then speak into the receiver: “Hello? [Gasp.] You don’t say! [Pause.] You don’t say! [Pause.] You don’t say! [Turn to the audience.] Do you know who this is? [Pause.] She didn’t say! Just a moment please.
“Yes, may I ask who’s calling? [Put the phone to your chest again, and say your next line slowly and incredulously.] It’s E.C.’s mother!” After laughter, say, “We’ll let them talk. I’m sure it’s long-distance.” Hold the puppet to the phone and periodically move him around so that sometimes he appears to be listening, and sometimes he is in the talking position.
While E.C. and his mother are chatting, you can interject a joke: “I came home the other day, and guess who I found in my living room. E.C.! But he had fainted. The poor thing was just stretched out on the floor. You know what happened? He’d just opened his phone bill!”
After E.C. and his mother have talked for a few moments, the puppet turns to you. Hold him to your ear so as to hear.
Say, nervously, “Your mother wants to talk to me? Well, that’s very nice, but I really can’t . . . I . . . uh . . . I have to do a show here . . . [nervous laugh] . . . I think I hear my mother calling . . . [nervous laugh].” E.C. delivers a good punch to your head, and begins boxing you. Fend him off!
When E.C. quits punching at you, say, “Well, yes, of course, I’d love to talk to your mother. Hello? Yes, ma’am, this is Sammy Smith. Pardon me? Stop the show?!”
Take the phone from your ear, look at the children, and say, “She says to stop the show.” Then hold the telephone receiver out toward the audience, and the kids will tell her what they think of that! (If they say, “Well, OK”—you’re in trouble.) They should shout, “No!”
“Well, Mrs. E.C., as you can hear for yourself, we can’t stop the show. But tell me . . . how did you know we were having a magic show today? You’ve been what? You’ve been watching us!” Put the phone to your chest and turn to the audience with an expression that says, “Oh, no!” Look nervously around the room.
Put the phone to your ear again. “Well, Mrs. E.C., it has been a pleasure talking to you, but I have to go now. Pardon? You want me to send E.C. home now? Sure, I’d been glad to. Yes, ma’am, I’ll drop him in the mail this afternoon. Okay, well, thank you for calling. Yes, and you have an extra-terrestrial day, too. Thank you.”
Say to the audience, “Well, I guess we should unplug this phone before we get anymore telephone interruptions during the show. And besides, E.C.’s mother said to send him home. That’s such a long trip, I think he had better get some beauty rest first. You know he needs it.”
Address the puppet: “E.C., I want you to get your beauty rest, so when you wake up, at least you’ll be rested. ”
Then tilting the puppet so he is on his back, gently put him away, telling the audience, “Let’s say good-bye to E.C., and thank him for coming to the show today.”
Note: This routine originally appeared in Big Laughs for Little People by Samuel Patrick Smith.