GK: I'm a guy who is not easily discouraged, I'm a guy who, when the furnace goes out and the car won't start and dogs get into the garbage, I don't get blue, I just
Look for the silver lining
Whene'er a cloud appears in the blue
Remember somewhere the sun is shining
And so the best thing to do is make it shine for you---
I feel that way even though recently our audience ratings have been pretty pitiful.
GK: Actually that's not bad, a fourteen share.
TR: That's not a rating, that's your total.
GK: Fourteen people? In the whole country?
TR: Fourteen. You want their names?
GK: No thanks. ---- (DEPRESSION CHORDS) Fourteen. So they were lying to me, my relatives who said they listen...
SS: Oh we just love your show. Both Bud and I. Yeah. We listen to it all the time. That band of yours. That saxophone band. Boy, they're something.
GK: The saxophone band was three years ago.
SS: And I loved that story you told the other day about the dog. You know. The one who caught the fish.
GK: I told that story in 1985.
SS: Boy, that was something.
GK: It makes you feel like such a back number sometimes, but I try not to let this get me down--- I try to
Look for some better ratings
And for our audience numbers to rise---
Because it's grim to be around a show that's going south. You notice little things backstage. The collection cup beside the coffee pot: the coffee used to be free. And after the show now, when fans come around, all three or four of them----
TK (TEEN): Mr. Kyler, would you mind autographing this picture of you?
GK: That's not a picture of me, that's a picture of the late Harlow Wilcox, son, but never mind ---- sure, I can sign it for you, but --- we have a new policy on autographs now. You see, the show is going through some hard times now, so we're having to charge for autographs.
TK (TEEN): Oh. How much?
GK: It's a dime.
TK (TEEN): A dime?
GK: That's right.
TK (TEEN): I see.
GK: I'm sorry about that.
TK (TEEN): Oh, that's okay. Are you the one who does the sound effects then? The horses' hooves and all of that?
GK: No, I'm not.
TK (TEEN): Oh, I see.
GK: You're thinking of Tom Keith.
TK (TEEN): Oh. Okay. Well, thanks anyway. Nice to talk to you. (MUSIC BRIDGE)
GK: When the ship is sinking, it seems as if there's a lot less personal respect for the star of the show....say?
TR: Yeah? What?
GK: Is that your dog in my dressing room?
TR: What dog?
GK: This big mangy dog in here. (A FEW FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN. DOG SNARL. DOOR CLOSE)
TR: Yeah, that's my dog.
GK: What is he doing in my dressing room?
TR: He's resting.
GK: Well, why can't he rest someplace else?
TR: He likes that room. It's not so far to walk.
GK: That's my dressing room.
TR: What do you need it for?
GK: I need to change in there.
TR: Oh. Well. All right. Let me see what I can do about it. (FOOTSTEPS) (OFF) (DUMB VOICE) "I need to change in there." Big deal.
GK: Just get him out of there, okay?
TR: (OFF) Sure. Whatever. "That's my dressing room."
GK: Thanks, I appreciate that. (DOOR OPEN. DOG BARK) And would you mind holding onto his collar? (DOG SNARLING IN PASSING) Thank you. ---- You go along feeling successful and people seem to look up to you, and they do things for you, like there used to be a stagehand who would come find me before the show and say....
TK: Five minutes, Mr. Kyler.
GK: Thank you. ---And now he comes around and says----
TK: Hey. You.
TK: Get your butt out there. (MUSIC)
GK: It's a little thing, but you notice these changes. I'm standing in the wings waiting to go on and....
TR (OFF): Watcher back! Watcher back! Coming through! (BIG KONK)
GK: Ouch! Owwwww. Man, that's sharp....
TR: Sorry. Didn't see ya there. (OFF) Watcher back---- GK: Last week, one of our stagehands, Chico, turned in his resignation. He's going to L.A. He's been offered his own TV show --- he's a singer, he used to move microphones on our show, and now he's a big deal, I don't get it.... AF: If ever I would leave you, It wouldn't be in autumn, How I'd leave in autumn, I never would know--- I've seen how you sparkle When fall nips the air I know you in autumn And I must be there. GK: This guy was a stagehand on our show, I used to give him my old clothes at Christmas as a favor, I used to go out of my way to be nice to him because, you know, he was just a stagehand, and now he's on television in a black tux and diamond cuff links. AF: I want to dedicate this next song to my old boss, Mr. Kyler. A beautiful guy and I love him. I really do. I don't care what people say about him being washed up. I don't see that. Other people, they look at him and they see the bad hair and the dandruff, I look at him and I see the artist. Because that's what he is. Other people look at him and they see the double chin, they see the big gut, they see the food stains on the jacket --- me, I look at him and I see a guy who cares. This song is for him. ----There were bells on the hill, but I never heard them singing, No I never heard them at all (CLICK)----
GK: That's enough of that. Boy, that makes me mad. I mean, I wish him all the success that he deserves, but he's getting the success that I deserve. One after another, they leave---- Tom Keith's twin brother Harry decided to leave the show to pursue a career as a trick-shot artist.... (SIX GUNSHOTS, SIX GLASS BREAKAGES) Harry was the only person on the show who could make the sound of a tugboat (BOAT ENGINE, HORN), and you'd be surprised how, when a guy like that leaves, you keep thinking of stories in which a tugboat is crucial, but never mind. He wanted to do his trick-shot act in the circus, so, off he went. (SIX GUNSHOTS, SIX DINGS). And then a couple weeks ago I got the message on my machine.
SS (ON MACHINE): Mr. Kyler, this is Page Turner, I'm the new vice-president for comedy programming here, so-- -- I don't know if your show comes under comedy programming or not, but if it doesn't, maybe it should, if you get my drift. How about we meet? Monday morning. My office. 7:30. That's a.m. Thanks.
GK: I hadn't attended a meeting in years. Had no idea what they were like. I soon found out.
SS: Let me get to the point. Your show is a disaster and nobody listens to it anymore, okay? So we're going to fix it. We hired a consultant. This is Rod.
TR: Hi. Pleased to meet you. I've heard a lot about you.
GK: I can imagine.
TR: We're going to build the show in three different areas: first, lots more animals; second, more explosives --- we're going to blow up things; and third, more children. Small children singing and dancing and telling cute stories. And we're going to cut out that long part where you talk for a long time --- you know which part I'm talking about? And we're going to put in a quiz feature there called The Ten Thousand Dollar Insight.
GK: I see.
TR: We produced a test segment last week and played it for focus groups and they went wild about it. Just wild. It's sort of a quiz except it's for liberals so there are no right answers, you get prizes for your sensitivity.
TR: Let me play you a little bit of it. Here.....(CLICK)
(QUIZ SHOW ORGAN)
TR: All right, Myra Bloomberg of Ann Arbor ---- for $10,000 ---- tell us about---- SUNSETS! (CLOCK-LIKE ORGAN)
SS: Uh.....it's, like, a spirit truth, it's the waning of the light, or a waning of faith....so it's the whole cycle thing, the circle of life, it's this embracing thing, a glow, a warmth, orange, red....and it's in the west, so it's, like, giving you guidance too.....sunset is the ending of life, it's the ending of the light, but in a sense the ending is the beginning of the beginning, so it's, like, affirmation too, it's a marking of the pilgrimage, the quest, it's a kind of symbiosis, it's a kind of.....(BIG BAND CHORD)
TR: Yes! Symbiosis! You've said the magical insight and so you receive not only ten-thousand dollars but our bonus gifts as well--- tell Myra about her other prizes, Johnny----
TR: All right, Bob ---- first of all, this vacuum cleaner! (SS OUTBURST, CROWD).....and this hand-woven macrame' wall hanging! ---- (SS OUTBURST, CROWD) (CLICK)
GK: All right, all right, all right.
SS: Don't forget: more animals, more violence, more children. Otherwise---- (SS MAKES THROAT-CUTTING SOUND)
GK: So things have changed a lot around here (MUFFLED BARK)....Say, there's still a dog in my dressing room...
TK: There are six dogs and an orangutan and an elk in your dressing room.
GK: An elk. And what's this --- (DOOR OPEN. MOO. CLOSE) ---- there's a cow in the men's room.
TK: It's the only stall we could find.
TR: (SHAKY GUY) Hi. Mr. Kyler? I'm Harv. Harv Bedell. I'm your explosives expert.
TR: I'm the guy who blows up things. I've got my explosives out in the car right now. Should I bring those in---- I'm going to need about sixteen sandbags, okay? I'll be right back. (FOOTSTEPS OFF)
GK: Who are you?
SS (CHILD): I'm Cynthia. I'm going to tap dance to "Tiptoe Through The Tulips". Are you Mr. Kyler?
GK: Yes, I am.
SS (CHILD): Oh. You're a lot older than I thought you'd be, Mr. Kyler.
GK: I suppose I am, Cynthia.
SS (CHILD): Where is the bathroom, Mr. Kyler?
GK: It's right there, but there's a cow in it.
SS (CHILD): Oh. I see.
(EXPLOSION. THEN ANOTHER EXPLOSION)
TR (SHAKY MAN): Don't mind me! Just testing!
SS: Would you like to know what color panties I'm wearing, Mr. Kyler?
GK: No, Cynthia.
SS: Well, let me see---- oh, they're blue. See?
GK: Excuse me, I'm going down the basement. (FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN) I need to be alone for a minute. I'm not good at change. (CLICKS OF SWITCH) Oh boy. Light bulb's out. Chico!!!! Oh. He's gone. (DESCENDS DOWN CREAKING STEPS) ----- Chico's in California. On television. My old stagehand. I used to let him borrow my car. Now he's got his own dressing room and here I am --- gosh, it's dark down here. (FOOTSTEPS STOP) Well. When your life is going to pieces, darkness can be sort of comforting, I guess.
(TK): That's right.
(TK): I heard that things aren't going so good for you right now.
GK: Everything's fine, Larry, it's a minor temporary setback. I'll be okay.
(TK): I suffered a minor setback thirty-five years ago and now look at me.
TK: I used to have my own show, you know. It was like your show. In fact, it was your show, except it was my show. You worked for me back then. Remember?
GK: I remember. Larry----
(TK): You were the guy who operated the spotlight.
GK: That was a long time ago, Larry.
(TK): I was on stage and I was singing "Danny Boy" and the crowd was on its feet. They were on their feet and I walked to the edge of the stage with my arms out, singing "From glen to glen, and down the mountainside" and suddenly the spotlight hit me right in the eyes.
(TK): And I fell. I fell into the pit. And here I am.
GK: Larry, you can't live in the past. It does no good to hold a grudge. You've got to move on, Larry. You've got to find closure.
TK: Closure. "You've got to find closure". I've got about as much closure as a person can stand. I'm living in a prison here.
GK: Larry, listen. You can't spend your life down here.
(TK): I live down here under the stage, I hear you walking back and forth up there, I hear the audience laughing....Except they don't laugh so much anymore, do they.
GK: I don't know what you're talking about, Larry.
(TK): I think you do.
GK: You can't live in the dark like this.
(TK): You know what I think would be a lot of fun on your show would be if you fell through a trap door.
GK: A trap door! What are you talking about?
(TK): There are all these trap doors --- right up there ---- and I hear you walking back and forth on the stage and it would be so easy to reach up and unlatch a trap door when you're standing on it and ---- boy ---- I think people might like that.
GK: Larry, we're going to have to get you into some kind of a program, okay?
(TK): I think people would like that a lot.
GK: Larry, I'm going upstairs now.
(TK): I know I would like that.
GK: Larry, how about we go out after the show, okay?
(TK): I'm going to put some oil on these trap door latches so they open real good.
GK: I'm going to come back in a minute with a very nice man who's going to take you to live someplace with some other people and I'm sure you're going to make a lot of friends there, Larry.
(TK): I'm going to get some oil right now.
GK: The show is going to bounce back, Larry. I don't have the slightest doubt about that.
You've got to look for that silver lining
Whene'er a cloud appears in the blue....
TR: That spotlight had a silver lining. And I looked at it and it was like somebody stuck a needle in my eye. Do you know what that feels like?
A heart filled with joy and gladness
Can always banish sadness and strife....
(TK): I've got a needle right here.
GK: So always look for the silver lining
And try to find the sunny side of life.
(BAND CHORD BUTTON)
© 1996 BY GARRISON KEILLOR