Getting something on the air at Prairie Home Companion was tough. I knew Garrison Keillor liked repeatable bits. Frankly, the entire show was often repeatable bits. So I would try to do it as well. After the success of Bag o'Leaves, I attempted a follow-up. Didn't pass muster. In retrospect, it probably wasn't as goofy as "Leaves" because pumpkins are send by boxes and people do buy pumpkins. Oh, well.
Anyway, all in good fun and here to remind you to get a copy of Space Case...it's an autumn delight.
Hey, I bet you thought I couldn't get a second Ketchup Advisory Board Halloween sketch rejected by PHC, didn't you? Well I did! Once you caught the rhythms of this bits, they became fun to write, there was a undertow of absurdity to them that I really enjoyed. I mean, this characters were like THISCLOSE to losing it over little stuff. I often would recycle the intro monologue items from previously submitted skits if a piece didn't get used and mixed them in with a new line (It was also a good place to slip in the occassional pop culture reference). The line about the boy off seeking his birth parents was one odd thing I liked and kept pitching. And there's a couple of lines I lifted from my Halloweenies script and the meaning of Halloween. Oh, well.
So, to remind people that Halloween is coming and I have a Halloween book to sell, here is...
Ketchup Advisory Board: Halloween 2003
Well, here I wrote a sequel to the Halloween bit that didn't get used in 2002. It's people showing up to trick or treat in the middle of the show! Again! But this time I was doing some serious recycling. A lot of the dialogue is lifted from my Halloweenies script (which made its way into the book version, available now on Amazon). The song is one we sang as kids growing up. Plus, I was trying to give the bit a real "Lake Woebegon" feel to it, letting Keillor wax nostalgic at the end. It's very loosey-goosey structure-wise; dialogue triggers a scene; is it a flashback? Is it stream-of-consciousness? Is it a segue? Is it "This is Us?" It's radio! It's any of those things! Thanks, Marconi!
I'll note here the format of the sketches. They never gave me a template. I looked at the sketches they posted online and that was the format, a two letter character "name" and dialogue, with a list of the initials and what they stood for at the top. It got tricky coming up with 2 initial characters. Hey, maybe that's why they didn't get picked!
And don't forget, Halloweenies on sale at Amazon! Order your copy today!
Frankly, this is a quirky bit I'm really not surprised didn't make the cut. This was kind of the material that I was starting to generate as I started working on the script version of "Halloweenies" (now available at Amazon). Oddly, I don't have anything like this in the script or the book, misguided older trick-or-treaters. While I did hear GK delivering the lines, the things said weren't necessarily in character for him. But it was a standard PHC bit; Keillor meeting odd people only here, with a Halloween theme. It was radio. I never found myself painting "aural landscapes" with radio. I like to write dialogue, so it's just a series of funny exchanges. Wasn't the first time I'd fall into that trap. Wouldn't be the last.
Trick or Treat 2002
Here's a bit that had a real brief shelf life. It was the Halloween after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Then we had the anthrax scare, as envelopes tainted with anthrax were mailed to people and organizations around the country. Everyone in comedy was trying to figure it out, Prairie Home Companion included. I submitted a couple of things. One piece did get on air. One of my efforts that didn't make it to air was this piece, a horror parody about the various mailroom precautions that were being put in place. Re-reading it, I'm surprised that it actually plays out as a long, plotted parody piece, far longer than most of the stuff I submitted. Also, how quickly I was kinda blocking out the real horror and going all-in into the comedy. It's very much of its time, and yet, removed from it as well.
It Came From the Mailroom
Again, when trying to tie the Prairie Home Companion pieces into my desire to write Halloween-themed sketches, the Ketchup Advisory Board would seem to be a natural, right? Who doesn't think of ketchup blood for Halloween? Apparently, a lot of people, because PHC passed on this bit. Some of these things I didn't even bother to re-work and submit elsewhere. Granted, I had some success writing bits for their various Councils and Boards, but a lot missed. In my mind certain bits were so married to the style and pace of PHC, changing them would simply reduce them. Hey, I can think that; it's my mind. Anyway, that really qualifies them as "Skit Happens" subjects. This one is from October 2000...
Ketchup Advisory Board - Halloween
Continuing along yesterday's post, in 2000, I was trying to both use the various existing & long-running frame works that Prairie Home Companion had AND inject my own style of humor into them. Case in point; Duct Tape Costumes. The Duct Tape Association was a major bit, so doing a bit about duct tape costumes seemed like it should fly. But the bit was more a real sketch than a true promo. And in these type of things, I really clung to the idea of Keillor as the bemused straight man. It never struck me that Keillor was after the big laughs on the show for himself. But maybe that was just the way he was playing it. It's never like I ever got any feedback on this stuff. It always, I MEAN ALWAYS, comes down to me writing what I what and hoping for the best. Sure, you watch/listen to the show to get their rhythms and such but never once did I script get returned for a rewrite or a punch-up. It was used or wasn't. It was used in whole, or cut to bits. But that's a rant for another day.
And don't forget, Halloweenies is available at Amazon! Order your copy today!
American Duct Tape Council
Oct. 2005; one of the things I tried to do when I was submitting material to Prairie Home Companion was to mimic what they already were doing and mash it up with a holiday or current event. PHC had the Duct Tape people and they had the Ketchup people, so I would create something, like, say, The Candy Corn Council when Halloween approached. Granted it's got a slight more edge to it then the Buttermilk Biscuit promos, but I thought it worked. PHC disagreed. As did the proceeding radio companies I sent it to. Oh, well.
Anyway, all in good fun and here to remind you to get a copy of Halloweenies today!
Candy Corn Council
October 2004. This was a weird bit. It was a prose bit, the kind I was churning out for no particular reason-a "listicle" as they are called now. An amusing or punny title with a brief gag to follow. I'd done them for the Staten Island Advance, the NY Post, Cracked; come up with a parody theme (movies, TV shows, candy) and riff on them until I had 9-12 items to type up. Even my sketch "Abbott & Othello" begat a list of "Lesser-Known" Shakespeare plays. Anyway, I got it into my head to extract some and turn them into a radio bit for Prairie Home Companion. They passed, but the bit never died. Some titles went off to become actual sketches, some were just folded into other bits, just comic Flotsam and jetsam washing up on humor's shore.
Anyway, all in good fun and here to remind you to get a copy of Halloweenies today!
I always got a nice reception to this bit. Written for and produced by the Prairie Home Companion team in October 2002. Granted, it's more of an Autumn piece than a Halloween piece, but, hey, 'tis that season. I was very excited when they did this bit, it's the first time of a very few, that they did one of my scripts verbatim. Such a talented group.
[ETA 10/8/19] I pulled out my journal from this time and I did make a note about submitting it. I had written it the previous year, but too late for autumn. I sat on it for a year. As noted, I was always a fan of Halloween, so I was going to bury them in Halloween sketches. They rarely used them. Weirdly, I don't even mention about them using this. Towards the end of the month I note that a check is on the way. Another, at the time, desperately needed check. That was my measuring stick then. I missed a lot of the joy back then because of finances.
Freelance writer, still hacking away.