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Sketch Time Machine: Bus Wings

Because hey, why not, I thought I’d start posting some of my old/never performed/never to be performed again sketches online, with commentary about them. And I will call it, “Sketch Time Machine!” And it will be good. Hopefully.

Year Written: June, 2003

I often use this sketch as an example in classes. Not because it’s a good sketch; it was solid enough to be performed a few times, but I don’t think, in retrospect, it’s that funny. Not because the structure is superb, because it’s just a basic business meeting sketch. But because it was based on something that annoyed me.

Specifically, for some reason I got very pissed off at a very specific sign the MTA was using to get people to exit at the rear of buses. It went like this:

“How can we make the buses move faster?

Add wings?

Ban automobiles?

Convince customers to exit at the read?

Yes, that’s it!”

There were a couple of things that annoyed me about this, but the big ones were the dangling statement at the end, and the fact that they were advertising this in subways – not buses.

I will add, at this point, that these were stupid things to get annoyed about, but rather than just get pissy, I wrote a sketch about it. And that’s the reason I bring it up in classes: if you get pissed about something, figure out a way to turn it into sketch comedy. And hopefully, if you’ve done your job, the sketch should work regardless of whether the person watching knows the thing you are referencing, or not.

NOTES:

  • Stefan did a nice job making a dragon bus graphic, which, I think, is still up on Chris’ mantle.
  • I guess there was something effective about that ad, because I’m still thinking about it. The MTA continues to release frustratingly vague advertising most of the time, though. So my job is not yet done!

Here’s the sketch:

BUS WINGS 

A metro laugh-sit by Alexander Zalben

CHARACTERS: Boss, Parker, Witherspoon, Johnson, Danforth

                         Scene is a business meeting.

                         BOSS

All right boys, what’s the number one complaint we get here at the MTA?

                         PARKER

There’s a number of problems. Service outages, fare hikes, garbage removal—

                         JOHNSON

The bus is too slow.

                         WITHERSPOON

We need to speed up the bus.

                         BOSS

Exactly. The bus is too slow. But not as slow as Parker!

          (They all laugh.)

                         BOSS (Cont’d)

So. How can we make the bus move faster?

                         JOHNSON

Add wings?

                         WITHERSPOON

Ban automobiles?

                         PARKER

Convince customers to exit at the rear?

                         BOSS

Yes, that’s it! Add wings and ban automobiles! You boys are brilliant!

                         PARKER

But sir—

                         BOSS

Quiet Parker. Now, let’s approach this one problem at a time. Johnson?

                         JOHNSON

Thank you sir. I’ve been having R&D working on Bus Wings for a few months now. If you’ll look here on this chart, the wingspan of an average bus would need to be over two hundred feet, to get the necessary lift.

                         BOSS

Amazing.

                         JOHNSON

It certainly is sir. Now, if you’ll notice, there are three different types of wings we could use. Regular airplane style wings, bird, or angel wings, and my favorite, dragon wings.

                         BOSS

Oh, I like those.

                         JOHNSON

I thought you might. That’s why we built a prototype. If you’ll just look at the window.

     (They go to the window. Dragon sound and

flapping of wings.)

                         BOSS

That’s majestic. Seems like they’ll need a lot of room, Johnson.

                         JOHNSON

They will. That’s why we’re filling in the East River.

                         BOSS

Brilliant! Make it happen, Johnson!

                         PARKER

Listen, not to interrupt, but I think there’s an easier solution here.

                         BOSS

Quiet Parker. Witherspoon, you have anything to add here.

                         WITHERSPOON

Actually, Parker is right sir, there is an easier solution. Banning automobiles is much simpler than filling in the East River.

                         PARKER

Wait, that’s not what I was—

                         WITHERSPOON

If there are no cars, these winged buses would have free reign of every street from Broadway to Bowery, Fifth Avenue to Houston.  Our skies and streets would be filled with monstrosities large and small! It would be a new era of conveyance!

          (Dragon roar.)

                         BOSS

But how do you propose we ban automobiles?

                         WITHERSPOON

That’s the beauty sir. We don’t have to. The automobiles will ban themselves, once they see the dirt we’ve dug up on them.

          (WITHERSPOON hands over a file.)

                         BOSS

(Looking at file) Well. I think this is a very solid plan. Johnson, Witherspoon. Make it happen.

                         PARKER

Wait! There are thousands of easier ways to make buses go faster!

                         BOSS

Well, I don’t see you suggesting anything. Now Johnson, I’d prefer it if your buses breathed fire… Is that possible?

                         JOHNSON

Possible and already part of the plan. The buses will have two glands, one for nitro-glycerin, one for—

                         PARKER

Hey! I did suggest something! Customers should exit at the rear of the bus!

                         BOSS

But then that’ll take forever, all of the passengers exiting at the rear. Two glands, huh? So these buses are some sort of flesh-metal hybrid?

                         JOHNSON

The scientific term is cyborg.

                         PARKER

Listen to me! Some will exit at the rear, others at the front.

                         BOSS

Just a second, Johnson. And how, Parker, do you propose to do that.

                         PARKER

We… ask them. Through advertising. In the subways.

                         BOSS

Really?

                         PARKER

(Pause. Ashamed.) I’m sorry.

                         BOSS

It’s okay.

                         PARKER

How about rocket packs? To help people fly through the air and fight off the hoard of cyborg dragon buses.

                         BOSS

But why would people possibly want to fight these splendid beasts?

                         PARKER

I don’t know.

                         BOSS

I like it. Make it happen!

          (DANFORTH enters.)

                         DANFORTH

Hey fellas. Sorry I’m late, but some sort of monstrous bus has nested in the main concourse, and is eating anybody who passes by.

                         PARKER

Oh no.

                         WITHERSPOON

Less commuters, less crowds, faster buses!

               BOSS

The MTA wins again!

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