"LAUGHING IT UP"

                                                                                                   by Richard Nathan

 

A film has been made of "Laughing It Up."  The script here is not exactly the same as the script that was filmed; it is the script as revised by me. 

INT.  CLOSE UP OF A LARGE BIRTHDAY CAKE

A large birthday cake is covered with candles.  A young woman's elegant hand, holding a lit match, lights one of the candles.  As this hand pulls away, another woman's hand with another match lights another candle. More and more feminine hands light candles as the MAIN TITLES and OPENING CREDITS are superimposed on the screen.

EXT.  KARL PECKHAM'S HOUSE --  DAY

A sports car glides up the driveway to the house of KARL PECKHAM, retired comedian.  ERNEST MILLS< a young reporter from "Remember" Magazine parks his car and strides up to the front door.

Superimpose title on screen:  1992.

EXT.  PECKHAM'S FRONT DOOR --  DAY

Mills rings the doorbell.  There's no response.  The voice of Karl Peckham comes from an intercom unit next to the front door.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    Who's there?  If you're not young and female, go
                                    away!  I'm not dead yet!

Mills speaks into the intercom unit.

                                                            MILLS
                                    Mr. Peckham?  It's Earnest Mills from "Remember"
                                    Magazine.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    I don't want any subscriptions.

                                                            MILLS
                                    I'm not selling subscriptions? 

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    You wanna buy some?  I can get you "Time"
                                    for five years, or I can get you "Life."  Or if you
                                    leave me alone, I can get you probation.

                                                            MILLS
                                    You promised me an interview!

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    Okay.  Do you think a girl should have sex
                                    she gets married?  What if it makes her late for
                                    the ceremony?  What if she just skips the ceremony
                                    and goes straight to the divorce?  What do you
                                    think of foreign affairs, especially if your wife
                                    finds out?

                                                            MILLS
                                    I want to interview you!

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    Why?  I'm nothing but a feeble, tired...

                                                            MILLS
                                    You're one of the greatest comedians of all time!

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    ... hysterically funny old man.

                                                            MILLS
                                    I want to tell the world what you're thinking
                                    about on your ninety-second birthday.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    I'm thinking... about group sex with teenaged
                                    girls.

                                                            MILLS
                                    At your age?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    At my age thinking about it is all I've got left.

                                                            MILLS
                                    Want to think about it together?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (O.S.)
                                    Come on in.

There's a BUZZING and the door unlocks.  Mills opens the door and enter.

INT.  PECKHAM'S FRONT HALLWAY  --  DAY

PECKHAM is a ninety-two year old man.  He wears baggy pants and a sweatshirt that says in large letters "CRAPE DIEM" and in smaller letters "another crappy day."  Peckham totters into the hallway to greet Mills.

                                                            MILLS
                                    Happy Birthday, Mr. Peckham.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Where's my present?  When you say, "Happy
                                    Birthday," you're supposed to give a present.

                                                            MILLS
                                    What would you like?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    An erection.

                                                            MILLS
                                    I'm afraid I'm fresh out of erections.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    You too?  I didn't run out until I was seventy-eight. 
                                    On my seventy-eighth birthday, a friend sent me a
                                    prostitute.  She gave me a great big juicy kiss, and then
                                    she said, "It is hard?"  I said, "It isn't just hard, it's
                                    impossible."

                                                            MILLS
                                    That's an old joke.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    What do you want?  I'm an old man.  A ninety-two
                                    year old man.  My doctor says I have hypo-gonadism. 
                                    I think that means my gonads are only hypothetical.

Peckham leads Mills into his house.

INT.  PECKHAM'S DEN -- DAY

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Have a chair.  I'll have a chair too.  Chair and chair
                                    alike, I always say.

They both sit.

                                                            MILLS
                                    This is a nice house.  Did you build it?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Nah!  I just paid for it.

                                                            MILLS
                                    I mean, was it built for you?  Were you the
                                    first owner?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Yeah.  It cost me my entire salary for six
                                    pictures, six big comedies.

                                                            MILLS
                                    So you paid for this house with laughter?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    No, the builders wanted cash.

Mills takes out a portable tape recorder and turns it on.

                                                            MILLS
                                    Let's talk about comedy!

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    No, let's talk about sex.  It's my birthday.
                                    Let me choose the topic of conversation.

                                                            MILLS
                                    You seem obsessed with sex.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Can you think of anything better to be obsessed
                                    with?  Sex is what separates the men from the
                                    boys...

                                                            MILLS
                                    But...

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Unless you like boys.  Actually, sex is what separates
                                    the men from the old men.  Sex is what separates
                                    everyone from the old men.

                                                            MILLS
                                    All right.  When did you first become interested in sex?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    I was always interested, even as a kid.  Kids had toys,
                                    but grown-ups had sex.  I knew the grown-ups were
                                    going to keep the best stuff for themselves, so I knew
                                    sex had to be the greatest, the most precious, the most
                                    wonderful thing in the world.  You know, like the way your
                                    generation feels about money.

                                                            MILLS
                                    What was your first sexual experience?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    That was the lady who lived across the alley, when I
                                    was growing up in Brooklyn.  She was the sexiest looking
                                    woman I'd seen in my entire life.

                                                            MILLS
                                    Sounds exciting.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    My doctor says I'm not allowed to remember it.

There is a pause while Peckham thinks about the lady.

                                                            MILLS
                                    How old were you?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Ten and a half.  All I wanted in the world was
                                    just to look at her.

INT.  PECKHAM'S BOYHOOD APARTMENT  --  DAY

This is the first of many flashbacks.  Peckham is now a ten year old boy.  PECKHAM (CHILD) sits on the floor of a lower middle-class apartment, playing with a PUPPY.                          

A window in the apartment looks directly into the apartment across the alley.

Superimpose title on screen:  1910.

                                                            PECKHAM (CHILD)
                                    You're a good dog, Rex.  Good dog!

In the other apartment, seen through the window, a BEAUTIFUL WOMAN walks in.  The child Peckham notices her, and speaks to his dog.

                                                            PECKHAM (CHILD)
                                    Look, Rex!  It's her!

Unaware she has left the shades up, the woman starts to undress.  The boy can't believe what he is seeing.

                                                            PECKHAM (CHILD)
                                                    (whispering)
                                    Rex, if you bark, I'll kill you.  Please, please, please,
                                    God, don't let her stop!  Please.  You're God; you
                                    get to see naked people whenever you want!  But
                                    I've never...

At that moment, the woman (who is half-undressed) turns and notices the boy.  She is at first surprised, then amused.  The boy is horrified.  The woman stares at the boy.  He doesn't know what to do.  Finally he goes over to the window and speaks to her.

                                                            PECKHAM (CHILD)
                                    Hello.  My name is Karl.  We're neighbors.  It's
                                    nice to see you...  No!  I mean, it isn't!  ... I mean,
                                    it is nice, but I'm sorry about it. ... Maybe you'd
                                    like me to go away.

The woman smiles.

                                                            BEAUTIFUL WOMAN
                                    You're very funny.

She decides to give the boy a gift.  She finishes undressing.  It isn't coarse or vulgar, just natural and beautiful.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O. from the old man)
                                    And there, revealed to me for the first time, was
                                    woman's naked form in all of its terrible beauty, the
                                    most magnificent and powerful sight in all the world. 
                                    All my life, every time a woman has taken off her
                                    clothes for me, I've felt I was witnessing a miracle. 
                                    Each time, I want to cry. 

INT.  PECKHAM'S DEN  --  DAY

The flashback is over and we're back to the interview.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Unfortunately, crying usually makes them put
                                    their clothes back on.

                                                            MILLS
                                    Did your parents ever find out?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    No, and it was a good thing too.  They
                                    had very old-fashioned ideas about sex,
                                    especially my mother.  She believed sex
                                    angered the volcano gods.

                                                            MILLS
                                    But you grew up in Brooklyn.  There are no
                                    volcanoes in Brooklyn.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    There wasn't much sex either.  At least not in
                                    my neighborhood.  I remember one time my
                                    mother caught me playing with myself.  She made
                                    my dad have a long talk with me.

INT.  PECKHAM'S BOYHOOD APARTMENT --  NIGHT

Peckham's FATHER is lecturing straight into the camera.  He is a middle-aged man, dressed in lower middle class 19180 style clothes.

                                                            FATHER
                                    You'll go blind if you keep playing with yourself!
                                    You hear me?  You'll go blind!

                                                            PECKHAM (CHILD)
                                    I'm over here, Papa.

                                                            FATHER
                                    Huh?

The camera dollies back to show that the Father has been lecturing to an empty overcoat left on an otherwise empty chair.   The boy sits across the room.  His Father puts on a pair of very thick eyeglasses and turns to his son.

                                                            FATHER
                                    If you don't stop this terrible habit now, you'll
                                    never stop.  You won't ever want to do anything
                                    else.  You'd rather do it than eat!  You'd rather
                                    do it than sleep!  You'd even prefer it to working! 
                                    And what happens if you don't work?  You wind
                                    up a bum, playing with yourself in a gutter!  And
                                    even then you won't stop until you die of
                                    exhaustion!

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O. from the old man)
                                    It sounded like so much fun, I decided never to quit.

INT.  PECKHAM'S DEN  --  DAY

The flashback is over and we're back to the interview.

                                                            MILLS
                                    What about when you were older?  What was
                                    sex like in high school.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                    Like a fantasy!  Just like a fantasy!  Nothing
                                    real every happened.

EXT.  OUTSIDE A HIGH SCHOOL  -  DAY

It's 1917, right after school has gotten out.  Groups of STUDENTS exit the school, talking to each other.  Apart from them, KARL (Peckham as a seventeen year old), stands alone, gazing at an attractive girl names LAURA.  Then another GIRL in one of the groups notices Karl.

Superimpose title on screen:  1917.

                                                            GIRL
                                    Hey, Karl!  That was a funny gag you pulled in
                                    History!

                                                            KARL
                                    I just have trouble believing Nathan Hale's only
                                    regret was that he had but one life to give for
                                    his country.  Would he really have been that
                                    much happier if they could have hanged him
                                    twice?  No, I think his real regret was that he
                                    had only his own life to give for his country.  He
                                    was wishing he could have given his cousin
                                    Louie's life, or Aunt Bertha's, or Uncle Herman
                                    Hale.  That's what he really regretted.

A group of students laugh appreciatively.

                                                            GIRL
                                    That was great, Karl.

They all start to leave.

                                                            KARL
                                    Wait!  Stick around!  I've got more!

A BOY puts his are around the Girl who's been laughing so hard at Karl's jokes.

                                                            BOY
                                    No thanks.  We're all going to go over to
                                    Suzie's house, turn out the lights, and feel each
                                    other up.

                                                            GIRL
                                    Bye!

The crowd of students that was listening to Karl all go off, leaving him alone again.  He sighs sadly.  Then he notices that Laura is still around, talking to a group of girls.  Karl's friend HERBY walks up to him.

                                                            HERBY
                                    Go on, Karl!  Why don't you ask her out?

                                                            KARL
                                    What if she said, "no"?

                                                            HERBY
                                    Would you be any worse off then than you are
                                    now?

                                                            KARL
                                    Sure.  Now I just feel alone.  If she rejected me,
                                    I'd feel alone, ashamed, anguished, alienated, and that's
                                    just the "a"s.

Herby gives Karl a push.  Karl reluctantly goes over to talk to Laura.  He is terrified.  The other girls leave, and Karl speaks to Laura.

                                                            KARL
                                    Um... Hello, Laura.  I was thinking how nice
                                    it might be to spend some time with you sometime,
                                    but... uh, if I ever asked you out I'd probably
                                    say something awkward like, "Hi, Laura.  You
                                    wouldn't want to... No, of course you wouldn't. 
                                    I'm sorry.  You wouldn't.. would you... go 
                                    out with me?"  But then, maybe you might say,
                                    "Don't be so shy, Karl!"  And I'd say, You mean
                                    you will go out with me?"  And you'd say, "Why
                                    not?"  And then we could go out with each other
                                    and we might actually have a great time!"

Karl stops talking and looks at her.  She can't quite decide what to make of him.

                                                            KARL
                                    So?

                                                            LAURA
                                    So?

He decides he might as well give it a shot.

                                                            KARL
                                    Hi, Laura.  You wouldn't want to... No,
                                    of course you wouldn't.  I'm sorry.  You
                                    wouldn't.. would you... go out with me?

                                                            LAURA
                                    I'd sooner kiss a pig.  And I keep kosher!

She walks off.  Karl walks off with Herby in the opposite direction.

                                                            KARL
                                    Bleak.  Burdened.  Bruised.  Bitter.

                                                            MILLS
                                                    (V.O.)

                                    Did you ever fall in love?

EXT.  A CITY STREET  --  DAY

It's 1918.  Karl is running down the street to catch up with CAROL MARTINS, an extremely attractive young girl who is walking home from school.  To Karl, she is a goddess.

Karl has a load of books under his arm.  Carl doesn't carry any books.

Superimpose title on screen:  1918.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    I did.  My senior year in high school.  Her name
                                    was Carol, and she was a goddess.  But I never
                                    knew what to say to her.  What can you say to
                                    a goddess?

Karl catches up to Carol and speaks to her.

                                                            KARL
                                    Would you mind if I sacrificed a goat to you?

                                                            CAROL
                                    It wouldn't bother me, but I don't think the
                                    goat would like it.

                                                            KARL
                                    My name's Karl Peckham.  I'm in your theater
                                    arts class.

                                                            CAROL
                                    I know.  You're the one who did the speech from
                                    "Romeo and Juliet" with an Italian accent.

                                                            KARL
                                    So?  It takes place in Italy, doesn't it?

Karl breaks into a bad burlesque of an Italian accent, and Carol smiles at his performance.

                                                            KARL
                                    "But-a soft!  What's-a that light through yonder
                                    window she breaks?  It's-a the East, and Juliet,
                                    she's-a the sun!

Carol applauds.

                                                            KARL
                                    Would you like to hear "Hamlet" with a Swedish
                                    accent?

                                                            CAROL
                                    Hamlet wasn't a Swede.  He was a Dane.

                                                            KARL
                                    I can't do Danish.

                                                            CAROL
                                    What makes you think you can do Italian?  "And
                                    let hose that play your clowns speak no more
                                    than is set down for them."  That's from "Hamlet."

                                                            KARL
                                    That's wonderful you know all that.  I don't
                                    suppose, by any chance, you're not doing anything
                                    tonight?

                                                            CAROL
                                    Why do you ask?

                                                            KARL
                                    Oh, I don't know.  I thought maybe you might like
                                    to go for a walk, have dinner, get married.

                                                            CAROL
                                                    (smiling)
                                    I don't think so.

                                                            KARL
                                    Can I carry your books for you?

                                                            CAROL
                                    I haven't got any books.

                                                            KARL
                                    Take some of mine!

                                                            CAROL
                                    You really are relentless, aren't you?

                                                            KARL
                                    You want relent?  I can relent?  What kind of
                                    relenting do you want?

                                                            CAROL
                                    Don't be so serious!

                                                            KARL
                                    Who's serious?  I've been joking since this
                                    conversation started!

                                                            CAROL
                                    That's your way of being serious!  You think
                                    because you're joking, you can be as serious as
                                    want about anything?

                                                            KARL
                                    How about if I only tell jokes that aren't funny?

                                                            CAROL
                                    I thought that's what you were doing.  Anyway, I
                                    have to get to my acting class.

                                                            KARL
                                    Oh?

                                                            CAROL
                                    I'm going to be a serious dramatic actress some day.

                                                             KARL
                                    A serious actress?  Does that mean you'll tell jokes?

                                                            CAROL
                                                    (smiling)
                                    Maybe.

                                                            KARL
                                    Can I walk you to your class?

                                                            CAROL
                                    Karl, I'm sorry if I was critical just now.  You're funny
                                    and you can tell all the jokes you want.  But don't get
                                    serious about me.

                                                            KARL
                                    Why not?

                                                            CAROL
                                    Because I won't get serious about you.  I won't get
                                    serious about anything but become a great actress.

                                                            KARL
                                    Can we at least be friends?

                                                            CAROL
                                    I'm counting on it.  See you in school tomorrow.

They smile at each other, and she walks away.  As soon as she rounds a corner, Karl lets himself fully experience the rapture of true love.

                                                            KARL
                                    I'm in friendship!  I'm in friendship!

He jumps up onto a lamppost and swings around it, like Gene Kelly in "Singing In The Rain."  Unlike Kelly's lamppost, the glass at the top of this one comes loose.  It falls and smashes on Karl's head.

Karl falls off the lamppost and into a trash can, which tips over and goes rolling down the street.  It crashes into a wall where Herby is standing.

                                                            HERBY
                                    Some girl dump you in the trash again?

                                                            KARL
                                    No!  It's wonderful!  She wants to be my
                                    friend!

                                                            HERBY
                                    Karl, you're gonna get something better than
                                    friendship tonight.  I'm taking you to a place
                                    where you can't miss!  Madam Heller's!

Herby helps the dazed Karl out of the trash can.

EXT.  A STREET IN FRONT OF A WHOREHOUSE --  NIGHT

Karl and Herby are walking up to a house of prostitution.  Karl is very nervous.

                                                            KARL
                                    I'm not sure I'm ready for this.

                                                            HERBY
                                    What's the matter?  Don't you want to become
                                    a man?

                                                            KARL
                                    No!  Are you kidding?  If you're a man, they send
                                    you to Europe to be shot at.  I'm going to wait until
                                    the war's over to become a man!  Now, if you'll
                                    excuse me, I'm going home to play with my blocks.

Karl tries to leave, but Herby grabs him by the back of his shirt, and Karl nearly falls down as Herby yanks him back.

                                                            HERBY
                                    You're going to become a man tonight, so just
                                    relax!

They come to the door.  Herby knocks.  Madam Heller opens the door.  She is a formidable woman.

                                                            MADAM HELLER
                                    Hello, Herby.  Good to see you again.

                                                            HERBY
                                    Good evening, Madam Heller.  I'd like to purchase
                                    an interlude of erotic delight with one of your
                                    prettiest young courtesans.

                                                            MADAM HELLER
                                    That can be arranged.  What about your friend?

                                                            KARL
                                    I'd like to get laid.

Herby gives Karl a little push for being so uncool.

                                                            MADAM HELLER
                                    We're awful busy right now.  I've got a couple of girls
                                    available, but only one room.  You want to share a
                                    room, or would you rather wait?

                                                            KARL
                                    I'd be happy to...

                                                            HERBY
                                    We'll take the room.

                                                            MADAM HELLER
                                    Fine.  Follow me!

She exits into the whorehouse.  Herby is about to flow, but Karl wants to speak to him.

                                                            KARL
                                    Herby, I think I'd like a little privacy.

                                                            HERBY
                                    You want to do it with just the girl there?

                                                            KARL
                                    I want to do it with just me there.

Herby shoves Karl into the whorehouse.

INT.  THE WHOREHOUSE PARLOR --  NIGHT

Madam Heller introduces Karl and Herby to two prostitutes, MARTHA and ALICE.  Alice is in her early twenties and is prettier than Martha.  Martha is in her thirties, tough-looking, but very sexy.

                                                            MADAM HELLER
                                    Here you are, boys.  Take your pick.

                                                            HERBY
                                    Karl, since this is your first time, why don't
                                    you choose?

                                                            KARL
                                    Um... can I have the young one?

                                                            MARTHA
                                                    (offended)
                                    The what???

                                                            KARL
                                    Younger... the younger one.  Obviously you
                                    are both very young, attractive girls and I'd be
                                    happy to take either of you, because you're both
                                    such young, attractive girls!

                                                            HERBY
                                                    (pointing to Martha)
                                    Okay, Karl.  Why don't you take her, just to show
                                    there are no hard feelings.

                                                            MADAM HELLER
                                    Is that all right with you, Karl?

Martha gives Karl a nasty look.  He doesn't dare say no.

                                                            KARL
                                    That's just fine with me.  I certainly don't want
                                    hard feelings.

Karl tries to put his arm around Martha's shoulder in a friendly gesture.  She glares at him, and he quickly removes his arm.

INT.  A BEDROOM IN THE WHOREHOUSE  --  NIGHT

Madam Heller ushers Karl and Herby and Martha and Alice into the empty bedroom, which is furnished only with one narrow bed and a hat rack.

                                                                MADAM HELLER
                                    That will be four dollars each, in advance!

Karl and Herby pay her.

                                                                KARL
                                    I was going to go to college with that money.

                                                                MADAM HELLER
                                    You'll get a better education here.

She brays with laughter, slaps Karl roughly on the back, and leaves.  Herby kisses Alice and they begin to undress.  Karl turns to face Martha.

                                                            KARL
                                    Well, what do you say we introduce ourselves
                                    and get acquainted?

                                                            MARTHA
                                    Let's go, honey.

                                                            KARL
                                    How do you do?  My name is Karl.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    I'm Martha. Take your clothes off.

                                                            KARL
                                    You're a lovely girl, Martha.  Do you come
                                    here often?

                                                            MARTHA
                                    I work here!!!

                                                            KARL
                                    I know.  I was just trying to make conversation.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    You're strange.

                                                            KARL
                                    Sorry.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    It's all right.  I've had stranger than you.

                                                            KARL
                                    I could be stranger, if you'd like.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    No, you're strange enough.

She begins undressing.  Herby and Alice have already crawled under the covers of the bed and are grappling in heated passion.

                                                            KARL
                                    Couldn't we get to know each other
                                    first, a little?

                                                            MARTHA
                                    No.

She takes off the rest of her clothes and climbs into bed, next to Herby and Alice who are busy having sex.

                                                            KARL
                                    This isn't going to be very romantic, is it?

                                                            MARTHA
                                                    (getting very annoyed)
                                    You want me to get Madam Heller to come play
                                    the violin for us?

                                                            KARL
                                    I just wish we could be friends first.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    What about them?  You think they're friends?

She gestures to Herby and Alice, who are engaged in mindless, passionate sex.       

                                                            KARL
                                    They seem to be enjoying each other's company.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    So, are you going to enjoy mine, or not?

                                                            KARL
                                    I...  I don't think I want sex with someone who
                                    doesn't even like me.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    What's the matter with you, kid?  You come here
                                    to buy me, you make cracks about my age, and
                                    then you act heartbroken because I don't love you. 
                                    This is sex, not love.  And when it come to sex, I'm
                                    the best there is.

                                                            KARL
                                    I'm sorry.  I guess I'm not ready yet.

                                                            MARTHA
                                    There are no refunds.  It's your four buck you're
                                    throwing away.

Herby looks over.

                                                            HERBY
                                    Come on, you two!  Join the fun!

Herby pulls Martha over, and there's a tangle of bodies under the sheets.  Karl backs away.

                                                            HERBY
                                    What's the matter, Karl?  You afraid God doesn't
                                     like things like this?

                                                            KARL
                                    I don't think God even knows about things like this.

                                                            HERBY
                                    Okay, Karl.  It's your loss.

Karl watches the movement under the sheets, then sadly turns away and leaves.  The Interview resumes in voice-over.

EXT.  THE STREET IN FRONT OF THE WHOREHOUSE  --  NIGHT

All alone, Karl sadly walks away as the interview continues.

                                                            MILLS
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    So at that time in your life, lust wasn't enough.  You
                                    decided to wait for love.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    Yeah.  Then the next day I decided to give lust another
                                    shot.

EXT.  THE STREET IN FRONT OF THE WHOREHOUSE  --  DAY

Karl, carrying a bouquet of flowers, walks up to the door of the whorehouse.  To his disappointment, it's locked shot.  There's a sign on the door reading, "CLOSED BY ORDER OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT."

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    Unfortunately, the cops closed down Madam Heller's.

                                                            MILLS
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    Did everyone get arrested?

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    Martha got away.  Years later, she married my
                                    cousin, Rabbi Feldstein.  They were happily married
                                    for forty-seven years and raised three children:  a
                                    doctor, a lawyer, and a dominatrix.

                                                            MILLS
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    You must have felt very lonely.

EXT.  A PARK  --  DAY

Karl is walking through the park with Carol.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    No.  My senior year in high school was probably
                                    the happiest year of my life.  Because of my
                                    friend Carol.  She and I had a lot of laughs.

                                                            CAROL
                                    Do you ever dream about the future?

                                                            KARL
                                    Sure.  I always dream about the next time I'll
                                    walk through the park with you.

                                                            CAROL
                                    No!  I mean the future when we're all grown up. 
                                    When you're a famous comedian, and I'll be
                                    a great actress.  We'll make people laugh... and
                                    cry.. and we'll both be rich and famous.  What could
                                    be better than that?

                                                            KARL
                                    Walking through the park with you.

                                                            CAROL
                                    Karl!!!

                                                            KARL
                                    Why don't you ever let me help you with your
                                    homework?

                                                            CAROL
                                    Why?  Because my grades are better than
                                    yours in every class?

                                                            KARL
                                    Sure, but haven't you ever heard of learning from
                                    your mistakes?  How can you learn from your
                                    mistakes if you never make any?  Now the first
                                    mistake you should make is...

                                                            CAROL
                                    Listening to you.

                                                            KARL
                                    See?  You're learning already!  Where would we
                                    be without mistakes?  Nowhere, because Adam and
                                    Eve would still be alone in paradise.  Of  course,
                                    they'd be about ten thousand years old.

Karl starts doing an imitation of Adam as a toothless, ten thousand year old man.

                                                            KARL
                                    And Adam would be saying, "Gee whiz, sometimes I
                                    wish I'd listened to that snake and tasted the apple
                                    back when I still had my teeth.  Maybe I could come a
                                    piece if I pounded it first with a rock."

Karl mimes using a rock to pound an apple into apple sauce.  Then he mimes tasting the apple sauce.  He turns to Carol and looks at her, amazed.

                                                            KARL
                                    "Eve!  Eve, I just noticed!  You're naked!  You're
                                    naked, but you're ten thousand years old!  Oh, why
                                    didn't I eat that apple when we were younger?

Carol has been laughing the whole time.  She feels genuine affection and admiration for Karl - but that's it.  Karl stops imitating Adam.

                                                            KARL
                                    So you see how important it is to make mistakes
                                    when you're young?  Go out with me, and it'll be
                                    the biggest mistake of your life!

                                                            CAROL
                                                    (as gently as she can)
                                    I'm sorry.  I don't want to be serious.

Karl looks disappointed, until she smiles at him.  He can't help smiling back at her.  She walks away from him.  Karl spots a black janitor named SAM who is sweeping the sidewalk in front of a store.  Karl decides to ask him for advice.

EXT.  SIDEWALK IN FRONT OF SOME STORES  --  DAY

Karl walks up to SAM.

                                                            KARL
                                    Hi, Sam.

Sam acts meek and subservient, as black people were expected to act at the time. 

                                                            SAM
                                    Afternoon, Mr. Peckham.

                                                            KARL
                                    Sam, I don't know what to do.  I love this girl
                                    so much, but she just likes me like a friend.

                                                            SAM
                                    Now, Mr. Peckham, you don't want to be asking
                                    no advice from no colored folks, do you?

                                                            KARL
                                    Why not?  Your advice is as good as anyone's. 

                                                            SAM
                                    That's nice of you to say, Mr. Peckham, but most
                                    white folks think colored folks who give advice are
                                    uppity, and then they give us an awful bad time.

                                                            KARL
                                    I wouldn't think that, Sam.  I've known you for
                                    years.

                                                            SAM
                                    So you wouldn't think I was uppity?

                                                            KARL
                                    Of course not.

Suddenly Sam stops acting service and assumes a completely different personality.  He stands up straight and proud.

                                                            SAM
                                    All right then.  The principal thing a man must do to
                                    attract a member of the fair sex is to project assurance. 
                                    There's nothing a woman finds so appealing in a man
                                    as a firm but calm assurance of his own self-worth. 
                                    And above all, stop being such a whiny little schmuck.

                                                            KARL
                                    Thanks, Sam.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    Unfortunately, I was too much of a whiny little schmuck to
                                    take Sam's advice.

EXT.  FRONT STOOP OUTSIDE KARL'S APARTMENT  --  DAY

Karl is dragging a small suitcase out through the front door of the apartment building where he's been living with his parents.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    Finally, I graduated from high school and it was
                                    time to leave home.

Karl looks into the door and calls into the building.

                                                            KARL
                                    Look.  Maybe I've been a little hasty.  I want
                                    to grow up, but I still need your love and support
                                    and your food and your money.....

A large suitcase comes flying out the door, hitting Karl in the chest and knocking him down.

                                                            KARL
                                    Thanks, Mom.

He picks himself up.  Another suitcase is thrown down from a window upstairs, barely missing Karl.  He calls up:

                                                            KARL
                                    You too, Dad!

Carol, walking down the sidewalk, is surprised to find Karl with his luggage.

                                                            CAROL
                                    What happened to you?

                                                            KARL
                                    My Dad wants me to work in his dry goods store. 
                                    I told him I wanted to make people laugh.  He
                                    told me to mark up the gabardine.  That's his
                                    idea of a great joke.

                                                            CAROL
                                    So?

                                                            KARL
                                    So I told him I had to be a comedian.  And he
                                    was very understanding.  He understood I'd lost
                                    my mind and didn't belong in his house.  But it's okay. 
                                    I've got a booking next Tuesday in Kansas City. 
                                    It's only a crumby little theater, and the pay isn't
                                    much, but it will give me a chance to do what I've
                                    always wanted...  starve to death in a cheap hotel.

                                                            CAROL
                                    You're going to get somewhere!

Karl starts dragging his suitcases down the street.  Carol walks with him.

                                                            KARL
                                    I'll be lucky if I get to Kansas.

                                                            CAROL
                                    You're going to be a big success, and I think
                                    it's wonderful.

                                                            KARL
                                    The only thing I'm sorry about is that it's going
                                    to be a long time before I see you again.

                                                            CAROL
                                    We can write.

                                                            KARL
                                    You can write.  I'll have to draw pictures.  Did
                                    you see my grade in English.  My dog could have
                                    done better.  In fact, I showed my grade to my dog
                                    and he said it was ARFul.

                                                            CAROL
                                    You told me your dog died years ago.

                                                            KARL
                                    I brought him back for the joke.

                                                            CAROL
                                    For a joke like that, he was better off dead. 
                                    ARFul!!!

They look at each other for a moment.

                                                            CAROL
                                    I'll miss you.  It's been a good friendship.

                                                            KARL
                                    I'll miss you too....

She kisses him on the cheek, smiles and walks away.  When she's out of hearing distance, Karl finishes the sentence.

                                                            KARL
                                    ... like a drowning man misses oxygen.

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    And so I went into vaudeville.  After a year or so, I was
                                    good enough to almost be classified as putrid.

INT.  A VAUDEVILLE THEATER --  NIGHT

Superimpose title on screen:  1920.

It's 1920.  Karl is performing on a small stage in a second-rate vaudeville house.  There are a few laughs coming from the audience, but not many.

                                                            KARL
                                    Is there a laugher in the house?  I know you're 
                                    out there.  I can here you wincing.  If not for  
                                    me, laugh for your neighbor, if not for your 
                                    neighbor, laugh for your neighbor's wife.  It's
                                    your duty for America, for as George 
                                    Washington said to Abraham Lincoln, "I  
                                    cannot get a laugh."  Which reminds me of
                                    when John Alden said to Priscilla Mullins,
                                    "Miles Standish wants you to marry him."
                                    And she said, "Why don't you speak for
                                    yourself, John."  And John said, "But I
                                    don't want to marry him.  

INT.  KARL'S DRESSING ROOM --  NIGHT

A few minutes after the last scene, Karl is in a small, cramped dressing room, taking off his stage make-up.   KATHY, a comedy-groupie, rushes in and spots Karl.

                                                            KATHY
                                    You!  You're Karl Peckham!  You are!  Aren't
                                    you?

                                                            KARL
                                    No, I'm just using the name because it was already
                                    in the program.  I was going to call myself Myron
                                    Scrooge and His Trained Seals, but Karl Peckham
                                    had hire billing. 

                                                            KATHY
                                    You're funny.

                                                            KARL
                                    Yeah?  Well, maybe I'll give up balancing a
                                    ball on my nose and stick to comedy.

                                                            KATHY
                                    I like comedians.

                                                            KARL
                                    Good.

                                                            KATHY
                                    I like them too much.  Whenever I meet a
                                    comedian, I can't help...   I can't help...

                                                            KARL
                                    What?

                                                            KATHY
                                    I can't help letting them have their way with me.  I
                                    don't think I could help letting you...

                                                            KARL
                                    That's okay.  I wouldn't need help.

He practically leads into her arms.  They kiss and he starts tearing at both their clothes, trying to get them off, but he's in such a hurry he can't seem to manage it.

                                                            KATHY
                                    Comedy is so funny, isn't it?

                                                            KARL
                                    It should be.

                                                            KATHY
                                    Karl?  Please... please...

They kiss passionately.

                                                            KARL
                                    What?

                                                            KATHY
                                    Please don't ask me to have sexual intercourse
                                    with you.

He looks at her, barely able to speak.

                                                            KARL
                                    Huh?

                                                            KATHY
                                    Please don't ask me to have sexual intercourse 
                                    with you.

                                                            KARL
                                    How about if we do it without asking?

                                                            KATHY
                                    I couldn't say no right now.  Isn't that awful?

                                                            KARL
                                    Well, it depends on how you look at it.

                                                            KATHY
                                    I've slept with so many comedians, I'd feel
                                    disgraced if I slept with another.  You wouldn't
                                    want me to disgrace myself, would you?

Karl starts to nod yes, then changes it to a shaking of the head no.  He sadly pulls himself out of Kathy's arms.

                                                            KARL
                                    If that's the way you really feel..

Kathy can't believe he's serious.  She grabs him and pulls him down onto the floor with her.

                                                            KATHY
                                    You talked me into it!

Karl and Kathy remove enough clothes to begin having sex as Peckam remembers:

                                                            PECKHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    And that's how I finally lost my virginity.  I
                                    nearly fainted when her clothes cam off.  At last
                                    I was going to experience all the exquisite
                                    delights of a woman's body.  There she was
                                    soft and round, yielding, ready to welcome me
                                    in.  I felt so complete and we rocked together,
                                    and it was all...

Kathy starts crying out, interrupting Peckham's narration.

                                                            KATHY
                                    Joke me!  Joke me!

                                                            KARL
                                    What?

                                                            KATHY
                                    Tell me a joke!

                                                            KARL
                                    Now?????

                                                            KATHY
                                    Yes!  Tell me a joke or I can't enjoy it! 
                                    Come on!  I thought you were supposed to
                                    be funny!  

                                                            KARL
                                    I can't think of any jokes now.

                                                            KATHY
                                    Nice! All that big talk, but when the time
                                    comes, you can't perform.

                                                            KARL
                                    Uh, let's see.  Is there a laugher in the house? 
                                    I know you're there, I can hear you wincing...

                                                            KATHY
                                    Not your old routine!  I've had that!  Give me
                                    something new!

Karl is desperately trying to think of a joke.

                                                            KARL
                                    You want to do a routine.  You can be the
                                    straight man.

                                                            KATHY
                                    What do I have to do?

                                                            KARL
                                    Just respond.  You can respond, can't you?

                                                            KATHY
                                    Say something funny!  I'll respond!

                                                            KARL
                                    All right.  Say, "Who was that lady I saw you
                                    screwing in your dressing room?"

                                                            KATHY
                                    Who was that lady I saw you screwing in your
                                    dressing room?

                                                            KARL
                                    That was no lady.  That was a critic.

Karl climaxes; Kathy doesn't.  Karl falls away exhausted.  Kathy is totally unsatisfied.

                                                            KATHY
                                    Well, that was just what I needed!

                                                            KARL
                                    Really?

                                                            KATHY
                                    Absolutely.  Thanks to you, I'll never be tempted to
                                    sleep with a comedian again!

She grabs her clothes and exits.

                                                            PEKCHAM
                                                    (V.O.)
                                    I hoped after the first time it oudl be easier
                                    to get laid, but...

INT.  BACKSTAGE AT A VAUDEVILLE HOUSE  --  NIGHT

Karl has just asked a CHORUS GIRL for a date.

                                                            CHORUS GIRL
                                    I'm sorry, I never date comedians.

INT.  BACKSTAGE AT A VAUDEVILLE HOUSE  --  NIGHT

Karl has just asked a SECOND CHORUS GIRL for a date.

                                                            SECOND CHORUS GIRL
                                    I'm sorry, I never date Jewish men.

INT.  BACKSTAGE AT A VAUDEVILLE HOUSE  --  NIGHT

Karl has just asked a THIRD CHORUS GIRL for a date.

                                                            THIRD CHORUS GIRL
                                    I'm sorry, I never date men named Karl.

INT.  BACKSTAGE AT A VAUDEVILLE HOUSE  --  NIGHT

Karl has just asked a FOURTH CHORUS GIRL for a date.

                                                            FOURTH CHORUS GIRL
                                    I'm sorry, I never date Jewish comedians named
                                    Karl.

                                                            KARL
                                    That's okay.  I don't take it personally.

 

 


                                  

 

                                   
                                   

 

 

                                       
                               

                                                                                                                                            

 

 

               
                       

                                                                   

                                                               

   

 

 

                                               

 

                                               

 

 

 

 

                                                           

                                                           
       

 

 

                                       

 

 


 

 

 

THE END

 

 

 

by Richard Nathan.  All rights reserved

The author grants all internet uses to print these scripts for their own, personal, non-commercial use.  No other use may be made without the author's permission.  Without limiting the foregoing, the plays may not be staged without the author's express  permission.

Send e-mail to the author at Richard-Nathan@att.net.

 

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