In a recent episode of Live Wire, Courtenay asked guest scaremeister Baron Von Goolo which was more satisfying: making people laugh or making them scared. For his answer you’ll have to go back in time and listen in, or go to iTunes and download the show. In the mean time I will satisfy you, readers, with my answer, though nobody asked me. I found Courtenay’s question strikingly evocative. As a performer I find both acts very satisfying and strangely similar. I’m reminded of a story…
Years ago I made a sizable portion of my impoverished thespian’s income by dressing up in animal costumes and entertaining kids and adults at various events That’s a whole other blog, which I’ll get to soon enough, and hopefully before Jonpaul thinks to do the same because I know very well that he did his plushy/furry turn as well.
One gig that stands out as pertinent was called “A Walk on the Wild Side” and was a fundraiser for the zoo or walking or the wilderness or something. I was hired (along with Jonpaul, coincidentally, and his old girlfriend who won’t be mentioned again because she was evil, stupid and boring) to dress as an animal and entertain participants as they walked along a secluded trail in
They dropped me off along the trail somewhere with the instructions to hide in the bushes and pop out and ooga booga when wild-side-walkers passed by. That’s it. It was one of the greatest gigs of my life.
I remember sitting alone in the bushes on that sunny afternoon, birds singing and butterflies quietly fluttering by. I thought to myself, as I often did in that line of work, what the hell am I doing? How did I get here? What has become of my career? Then the first gaggle of walkers approached. I’m sure there was a good cross section of society involved, but all I recall are middle aged women. So, the first knot of middle aged women walked by, obliviously laughing and chatting as I suddenly leapt from hiding with a horrific human scream. This scream begat screams which begat more screams which begat my own deafening laughter inside that smelly rubber and fake fur head.
Women scattered up and down and off the trail. It was sick and cruel and beautiful. Had it been Halloween or even dark outside they might have been at least subconsciously prepared. But they had no clue. For all they knew I was a deranged hairy transient, rabid dog or Bigfoot. Regardless, I’d been given a license to terrorize and was just doing my job.
That same scene replayed itself again and again for hours as clueless victims wandered into my thicket of fear. Sometimes people would laugh or even stop to snap a photo. But mostly it was a lot of screams, fear and anger. It never got old and it was immensely satisfying. The peak of enjoyment came when by twist of fate my high school vice principal walked into my trap. She was as big a pants-wetting rube as the rest. I wanted so much to tell her it was me, and that now we were even for that whole Saturday school thing. But I didn’t. And I’m glad.
Time flew by and before I knew it the van had returned to take me away from my wooded parlour of panic.
It turned out my fellow manimals hadn’t had such a great time. Their plush and huggable outfits were more conducive to cute photo-ops with runny-nosed toddlers and some minor babysitting by the porta-potties.
Incidentally Jonpaul did get a little taste of my experience that day. A young child was inconsolably traumatized by the sight of Jonpaul’s face peeking out the lion’s mouth, as if the beast were in the act of swallowing him. That was pretty cool.
So, I’d rank them thusly: 1. Making them scream 2. Making them laugh.
Okay, I’ll tell you (but you still have to listen to the show). Baron Von Goolo said his favorite thing is to first make them laugh, then, when they are disarmed and vulnerable, make them soil themselves. That bastard is sicker than I am.