Our friend Mitchell Zucker is filling in while our Blogger in Chief is on a temporary sabbatical. This piece was created 9 years ago, It was read in a dramatic reading in 2010 at Saranam, Jeannie Doe’s wonderful dance studio in Mendoicno. It is a short black comedy designed to be cartoonish and slapstick. It provides an alternative approach to our recent Global Warming: Deniers, Doomers, Dreamerrs, Doers. Mitchell has several posts on Think in the Morning which you can search using the magnifying glass at the top.
Groucho and Harpo are running from the cops. Groucho’s run is really the familiar Groucho fast walk, rear end out, head up, bent over, moving with supreme confidence and purpose, chomping on a cigar. Every speech he makes has a wisecrack attached. He wears a wrinkled suit and white shirt, dress shoes that have seen better days, and a black bow tie.
Harpo lives in his own world. He does not speak, He reacts to things with his expression and with his outrageous behavior, often emphasized by honks on his taxi squeeze horn communicator. He is a loveable lunatic of the highest order. He wears a crushed hat with his hair spilling out around it like a plastic Christmas wreath that had melted into thousands of curls. He wears baggy pants that are too short, revealing his outrageously striped socks, with the rest of his costume as odd, to say the least.
A police whistle is heard and they turn into an alley and duck into a door with the sign:
Earth Survival Research Institute
Groucho : Quick, in here; nobody would ever think to look here. (Beside the door hang two white lab coats.) Aha, our calling awaits us. (Handing Harpo a coat) Dr. Livingston, I presume?
Harpo honks his horn and bows as though he is a world class surgeon putting on his gown. They bow repeatedly to each other until they bump heads, then head down a long hallway, passing a young woman in a miniskirt. Harpo honks his horn and the woman smiles and blows him a kiss as she passes. They turn a corner and Groucho runs into the arms of a portly matronly woman who is thrilled to see him.
Sara Belum: Oh Dr. Fleasebottom, you’ve arrived.
Groucho: (eyeing her necklace) I’m sorry I ever left.
Sara Belum: We were getting so worried. I am Sara Bellum, chairwoman of today’s event. We can’t wait to hear the results of your latest research. The finest minds on the planet await your predictions on human longevity.
Groucho: Until this minute I wouldn’t have given you a dime for our longevity. I’m honored, thrilled to meet you Ms Bellum.
Sara Belum: Oh, please call me Sara, Doctor….
As they talk, Harpo examines her necklace with a jeweler’s loupe and as he gets closer with his inspection he begins climbing on her.)
What!!! What are you… please, sir!!!
Groucho: Oh don’t mind him. He’s a climate researcher specializing in ice. You should be honored to have his evaluation.
Sara Belum: (regaining her decorum) I must tell you that I’ve admired you from afar for years, Doctor. Ever since I read your first book on climate change I’ve wanted to meet you and discuss global warming with you.
Groucho: And not just warming (rolling his eyes,). Why don’t we get together and talk about how it’s getting hotter.
Sara Bellum: Oh, you’re research sounds so thrilling, doctor.
Groucho: You should see my experiments.
Sara Belum: As a matter of fact I am throwing a quiet little dinner party after your talk and I was so hoping you and your assistant could come.
Groucho: My dear, to be near you is the foremost thought in my mind right now.
Sara Belum: Here we are Doctor, (sign over the door says Stage Door) Your audience awaits you, five hundred of the worlds leading climatologists, physicists, geologists, biologists, defense analysts, clergy men and women, reporters, doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs.
Groucho grins and flags his eyebrows at Harpo, who gives two squeezes of his horn. They bow to each other and assume the air of great dignity and authority as the door is opened. There is rousing applause and cheers as everyone stands to greet the honored guests. While Fleasebottom is being introduced, Harpo leaves the stage and stands at the side of the auditorium listening, with arms crossed, beside a harp, nodding in agreement in an exaggerated fully comprehending, overly respectful manner, at whomever has the audiences attention, no matter what they have to say. Groucho opens the stage door thinking to make a run for it, but hears a police whistle and returns to the stage very solemnly, professorially.
Sara Belum: “Ladies and gentleman our honored guest has arrived. I thank you so much for your patience, but I can assure you, you will be richly rewarded. As most of you know, Dr. Fleasebottom is a recluse and rarely leaves his laboratory in the Pocono mountains. He is the only man in the history of the Nobel Prize who has refused the award three times in three different categories because he was so busy with his research. However, because of the vital importance of his latest findings, he felt it was his duty to leave his hermitage and inform the world what is about to take place on Planet Earth unless we take instant remedial action. The theme of tonight’s talk is the Predictive Mathematical Matrix and Algorithmic Probability Modeling of Catastrophic Entropic Meltdown of the Planet Earth. Ladies and gentleman, without further ado, I present to you Dr. Heinrich Fleasebottom — the one man on the planet Earth who understands the nature of Nature.
As everyone stands and applauds, Fleasebottom begins pacing back and forth, chomping on his cigar, with his hands behind him, in deep concentration, trying to think of what to say, while Harpo plays a little interlude on the harp. The applause slowly dies away to silence. Every once in a while he pauses and gestures emphatically to the audience as though trying to express a very important point, accompanied by Harpo’s affirmative gestures, harping, and horn honking. Murmers begin to be heard in the audience.
— He’s showing us how it will be…
— shhhhh don’t disturb his meditation.
— Of course, he’s right; it’s in the silence between the storms that the answers lie…
A cop enters the back of the auditorium scanning with his flashlight as Fleasebottom immediately begins to lecture.
Groucho: So, as I was saying for the past hour, the problem with the climate is that there’s too much of it. Will the gentleman in the rear kindly leave. And shut the door behind you; you’re letting in too much heat. Thank you. (The cop leaves.)
And in conclusion, ladies and gentleman I just want to say that if you can show me a man who consumes too much alcohol, I’ll show you a man you can’t hold a match to. Now, if you have any questions,
More murmurs are heard drifting around the auditorium
— What a magnificent metaphor for excessive gas build up.
— The most succinct explication ever. I’m speechless.
— He’s talking entropic systems.
— He stands the second law of thermodynamics on its head.
— Modern physics reduced to a parable.
— E=mc2 is peanuts compared to the hermeneutics in “you can’t hold a match to.”
The murmurs grow and erupt in spontaneous applause and cheering.
Groucho: Thank you. Thank you. Glad you liked it. How’s this one: Show me a neurotic alligator and I’ll show you a ladies handbag.
Groucho leans on the podium enjoying his cigar as everyone ponders the parable, whispering to each other. Before the questioner can continue, a murmer is heard.
— Sit down Louie. You’re like a nervous alligator. Listen to what the good doctor has to say. We mustn’t design our systems without experiencing the consequences ourselves or we’ll become handbags filled with trash.
–(A reporter asks) Professor, would you please summarize your solution to global warming in a way that average people can understand?
Groucho: Ice cubes. Next!
–(A scientist jumps up and applauds.) Oh thank you doctor. I couldn’t agree with you more. For the past twenty years I’ve been arguing to operate nuclear reactors under water in the oceans where they are automatically cooled by the ocean water. The heat exchange functions of the planet would normalize. Poof! No more hurricanes. No more reactor cooling problems.
Groucho: Explosive theory, radiant solution, glowing with possibilities. Next.
— What about rising oceans and flooding?
Groucho: Remove the drain plugs and use plungers. Next!
— (to his neighbor) Remove the plug and use a plunger. We could drain the oceans of its heat before hurricanes form. I never thought of that before.
— (older scientist) It’s because he’s a Genius Max and we’re ordinary mortals.
— (army General to his neighbor) Think of the weaponry that could come of this. We can turn up the juice in any one reactor and flood the bad guys before they can react. Put the drain–plug in where we want it. Wait’ll the Pentagon hears about this.
— What about drinking water scarcity?
Groucho: Scotch. Bourbon. Rum.
–As I understand this metaphor, professor, you are proposing a shifting of specific gravity. But what effect might this have on desertification, Doctor?
Groucho: Guaranteed to end dryness.
— Doctor, in your latest book, The Theory of Persistant Diaclergic Microambiant Perturbations in the Ozone Layer, you discuss the effect of defractionalization on entropic homeo sorisis. Could you explain what you mean by recombatant entropy.
— And well he shouldn’t. You sound like a nervous alligator. Of course he’s right to say no.
The door in the back of the room bursts open and the real Doctor Fleasebottom enters escorted by two policemen.
Fleasebottom: This man is an impostor. I am the real Dr. Heinrich Fleasebottom.
— (Nobel laureate in the first row.) Impostor? After what he’s just taught us. You have to be kidding. If anything, you are the impostor!
– (shouting) Impostor! Impostor…!
Fleasebottom: Arrest that man.
The cops begin to approach the stage but are met by two burly physicists.
Burly Physicist: Oh no you don’t! We don’t need the thought police telling us who or what to believe. This man in only a matter of minutes has awakend the world with the simplest solution imaginable.
The audience cheers and prevents the police from getting to the stage, as Groucho and Harpo leave by the stage door, escorted by Sara Bellum.
Sara Bellum: This way, Doctor. My limousine is right outside. I’m so sorry you must be caught up in this professional squabbling. It’s so embarrassing. If there is anything I can do for you please don’t hesitate to ask.
Groucho: Don’t worry, I never hesitate. (Sara Bellum’s daughter appears.) Ah, Gloria. Come along dear. This is Dr. Fleasebottom and his assistant. (Harpo honks)
Gloria : (taking Harpo by the arm): Oh, we already know each other, Mother.
Sara Bellum: Dr. Fleasebottom You have done more to solve the ecological problems in the world than any one alive. You simply must have more funding. Would ten million be a good beginning for your latest research project.
Groucho: My dear, I’m speechless — but only for a moment. Where do I sign; and did I mention that you are the most ravishingly beautiful woman I have ever met.
Sara Bellum: Oh Heinrich.
Groucho: Call me Heinie.
Groucho holds the door for all to leave. He flags his eyebrows to the audience and exits with a burlesque kick, accompanied by a honk.