Flippin’ Dummy

Yes, that's me as a kid (the one on the right) When I was a kid, one of my weirder hobbies was ventriloquism.  I don’t remember why I got started, but I do remember that some people thought I was pretty good at it.  In the short time that I was a ventriloquist, I won several local talent shows, and one time I even got to appear on live TV.

The TV appearance started off badly.

The crew sat me and my dummy in a chair in front of the camera, and soon afterwards the cameraman made some sort of hand motion at me.  I had no idea what the hand motion meant, so I just sat there, assuming it was nothing I needed to be concerned about.

Then he did it again, and this time it was clear that I was supposed to do something.  But I didn’t know what to do, so I simply looked at the camera and said, “what?”  He did it one more time, this time more forcefully, and again I said, “what?”

The cameraman, obviously displeased that I didn’t grok his secret language, leaned forward and said, “YOU’RE ON!”

Oops.  I’d just screwed up on live TV.

I nervously launched into my routine, which began with a joke involving three pieces of candy.  I was supposed to hold up three fingers when I mentioned the candy, but I was so distressed with how things started that I forgot to hold up two of them.

The one finger I held up was the middle one.

In slow motion, my eyes moved to the upheld digit, and a look of sheer terror crossed my face when I realized that I’d flipped off everyone watching.  Doing that as an adult would’ve been bad enough, but it’s infinitely worse doing it as a kid.  The middle finger held a mystical quality back then, and raising it – even accidentally – was a very bad thing.  I was pretty sure that raising it on live TV would mean a lump of coal come Christmas morning, and possibly even eternal torment in the place with the guy with the horns.

To my surprise, nobody mentioned my one-fingered salute after the show, and I never got in trouble for it.  But somewhere deep down, in the same place I store my guilt over setting off those stink bombs in third grade, I just know I’ll eventually pay for flipping off my home town.

6 thoughts on “Flippin’ Dummy

  1. Maybe everyone assumed you were coolly flipping off the jerk-face cameraman who failed to prep you.

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  2. Nick,
    a) I believe that’s the first pic I’ve seen of you as a kid, IMO Isaac could’ve been your twin (sans the hair of course)
    b) Ventriloquism huh? Ever take any crap from your brothers about having your hand up some dummy’s butt? LOL…. sorry, couldn’t resist.

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  3. Mr. Spurr is right. You have *got* to have that tape somewhere. If you don’t have it, you must track it down. We have to see it at a demo day. We must!
    BTW, I was a teenaged magician, did a few hundred shows, some in theatres we rented. I can’t say I ever flipped out a town but I did once get a bunch of city lawyers on me for “racist” characters that I did (this was 35 years ago and we didn’t know any better); it was the first hint of multicultural consciousness-raising that I’m aware of. I cringe now at the thought but back then we thought it was funny (and I was good at them). I’m sure my lump of coal will be to weigh me down to that hot place you mentioned.
    My first TV humiliation was when I was about 6 on the Mayor Art show. He asked his guests if we had seen yesterday’s program. “Yes!,” I lied. He asked me if I remembered the guide dogs for the blind that were on that show. I figured “in for a penny, in for a pound” and lied again, “yes!” “Well,” said Mayor Art, “if you can tell me what is so special about guide dogs, you’ll win today’s toy bonanza!”
    Pause.
    Pause.
    Pause.
    Sweat forms on my youthful brow.
    “ummm…they have three legs?”
    The reason I tell you this story is so that you understand that I can feel your pain!

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