Garrison Keilor: ...after a message from Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie. (MUSIC)
GK: I'm a writer, a serious writer, I was once named Most Promising PostModernist Writer Under the Age of 40, but like most writers I had to take a job to support myself, and I got a job on a cruise ship (LINER HORN) as a comedian, and that's how I came to tell a joke about two penguins, a joke that I myself did not consider funny, but when I told it -- we were headed for Samoa and I did my Samoa joke -- why do rich people come on this cruise? Because they've got a lot of money but they'd like Samoa -- (GROANS) and it didn't go over, so I told the penguin joke -- and (MAN BEGINNING BIG CONVULSIVE LAUGH, BUILDING, WHEEZING) a man named Phelps went to pieces -- he couldn't stop laughing and he had to be airlifted (CHOPPER) And my boss, the cruise director, fired me. (SLAPS) And put me off the ship at the next port, the lower Rawalpindi archipelago. (LINER HORN) Where I waited to be picked up by a freighter -- (SURF, GULLS) I waited for three weeks, living among sheep farmers (SHEEP), and one night, I don't know why I did this, I told the penguin joke to the sheep, and they for some reason thought it was hilarious (SHEEP LAUGHTER) and one of them repeated the joke to a sheep dog (DOG HILARITY) who rolled over on its back, laughing, and he told it to a horse (HORSE LAUGHTER), and he told it to a cow who (COW LAUGHTER) laughed so hard that milk came out of its nose, and little did I know that one of the farmer's daughters had videotaped this -- I got aboard the freighter (BOAT HORN) and sailed away -- it was an Egyptian freighter (TR ARABIC) and it was hauling bat guano to Marseilles and it ran into a storm in the Indian ocean (HIGH WINDS) and I was thrown overboard (CRY, FALLING, SPLASH) and I was swallowed by a whale (WHALE) and lived for weeks in its stomach, eating plankton and small fish, and was regurgitated (WHALE PUKING) on the coast of Iran, which was what I did when they discovered me (SHOUTS IN ARABIC, GUNSHOTS), I ran (RUNNING) and I jumped a barbed wire fence (RUNNING, WITH SHOUTS OFF) and there was a jet fighter sitting there and I hopped in and (JET STARTING) I had never flown a plane in my life, but I took off (JET) and I flew the thing west toward the setting sun, and then pressed the wrong button (EXPLOSION, WHOOSH) and was ejected and my parachute opened (WIND) and I was floating down into a huge city (TRAFFIC) and my parachute caught on something (RIPPING) and it was the Eiffel Tower -- and I landed on the ground (FALL, OOFF) and the cops were after me (FRENCH SIREN) (RUNNING) and I dashed down the street (FRENCH SHOUTS) and got on a fast train to London (DOPPLER TRAIN WHISTLE, WHOOSH) and on a plane to America (JET LANDING) and came through customs --
Tim Russell: Passport--
GK: I lost it. In Iran. It's a long story.
TR: Hey-- I know you-- you're the penguin guy.
GK: I'm the who?
TR: The penguin guy-- it was on TV the other night. Hey, Joe-- look who I got here-- it's the penguin guy.
Fred Newman: Who? Oh. Right. The cow with the milk coming out her nose. (BRIDGE)
GK: They let me through and outside the door there were photographers-- hundreds of them--
(CLAMOR OF PHOTOGS: Over here! Hey Penguin Guy! To your right!! Up here!! This way!!! Look over here!!!)
GK: And I got in a cab (CAR PULLS AWAY) and the cabdriver looked me over in the rearview mirror --
TR (RUSSIAN): Hey, you somebody famous. Right? Who are you? I see you on the television. You a movie star?
GK: No, I'm not. (BRIDGE) I wanted to write a serious novel about living inside a whale and parachuting into Paris but my agent said--
Sue Scott: I got you a book deal but you gotta write the penguin book first.
GK: What penguin book? I'm working on a novel--
SS: Whales -- it's been done. Wake up.
GK: It's not a whale book. The whale is only part of it. There's an escape from Iran. I parachute over Paris. I land on the Eiffel Tower. I'm chased. There's nakedness.
SS: How can there be nakedness if you're chaste?
GK: So I went on TV talk shows and -- it was humiliating-- I went on public radio talk shows--
SS (FLEXNER): So let me ask you this-- when you went on a ship and began to do comedy about amphibious creatures-- was there, for you, I mean, a conscious sense of wanting to get away from America and to speak for creatures who are, in a sense, speechless?
GK: No, not really.
SS (FLEXNER): Oh. Okay. (STING)
GK: And so I agreed to do a penguin book. For the publisher Penguin Books.
TR (EDITOR): It's a two-book deal, Wyler. The second book is your novel, Edges of the Night. The first book is You Look Like You're Wearing A Tuxedo.
GK: The book of penguin pictures with funny captions.
TR (EDITOR): Exactly. The deadline is Tuesday and we're printing three million copies. (STING)
GK: I felt that to do penguins I ought to be with penguins, so I went to the zoo. (FOOTSTEPS)
FN (KEEPER): Right this way-- just fed em so they're pretty happy -- I'll lock the door behind you -- when you want to leave, just yell my name. Wally. I'll be right there. Here you go. (DOOR OPEN. PENGUIN CHATTER, THEN QUIET. FOOTSTEPS. DOOR CLOSE. LOCK)
GK: There were two penguins there.. (PENGUINS) They looked friendly and then one of them took a close look at me. (PENGUINS) And he pointed to his nose. And he mooed. (PENGUIN MOO) And then he told me a joke.
Knock knock. Okay. -- Who's there?
Fornication? Fornication who?
I don't get it.
Okay, you're pointing at yourself. I get that. What're you saying?
(PENGUIN) LAUGH AND CLAP THEIR WINGS)
I don't get it. Fornication like this you ought to be wearing a what--? --(PENGUIN) The penguin tried to spell out a word in the palm of my hand.
And then I stepped backward -- (SLIPPING) Whoa-- (BIG SPLASH) (FLOUNDERING) The water in the pool tasted of fish and then I saw a large shape coming toward me. It was white and furry. (BEAR GRUNT) Oh no, they're putting the Arctic animals in with the Antarctic-- The polar bear looked at me and it dove (SPLASH) -- and I thought (THEME) wouldn't this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie? Yes, Bebopareebop Rhubarb Pie-- nothing gets the taste of shame and humiliation out of your mouth quite like...