This week my son Sean marked a new Kaempfer family milestone. Despite being our youngest, Sean became the first Kaempfer boy to participate in a talent show. He and his buddies created a little skit about sports (set to music). It was pretty well received by his classmates.
Because this was the first time any of my boys had participated, it was also my first time in the audience of a talent show. And it was a bit of an eye-opener for me. On the one hand, I really enjoyed the experience. The boys and girls (mostly girls) were courageous and displayed some true talent. On the other hand, witnessing the talent show also made me confront my own talent show memories.
In my day, there was only one act per grade. First we had to win the talent show in our class, then win it for the entire grade, before we were put on the slate for the school-wide show.
When I was in 4th grade, my buddy Stu and I were big fans of the Carol Burnett show, so we created a parody of it. Unfortunately, we hadn’t exactly studied the art of comedy writing. In fact, we didn’t write our bit at all: we improvised the entire thing. Made it up on the spot.
We knew we had a few aces in the hole.
#1—Stu was dressed like a girl (He was Carol Burnett). That’s just funny.
#2—He could do a few of Carol’s big catch phrases and bits; specifically the ear tug and the Tarzan yell.
#3—Since I was able to play one song on the guitar (“Rubber Ducky”) and I had one really wild flowery shirt, I was David Cassidy, the musical guest star.
That was it. That was all we had.
We went up in front of our class, ad-libbed a bit, and somehow won the class contest. Then, we went up in front of our entire grade, and ad-libbed another version of the bit. It was totally different than the first one, but we won again. We were chosen by our classmates to represent 4th grade.
Now you’d think that we would have at least tried to nail down a few of the elements that had worked, so that we were at our best in front of the whole school, but that’s not how Stu & I rolled. No sir, we just got up there and made up an entirely new bit on the spot. If memory serves, we just danced around on stage together as Carol did a Tarzan yell. I remember hearing the laughter in the audience. It was a great feeling. We didn’t win the overall contest because the 6th graders had a brass band that could play “Sweet Georgia Brown”, but we were told we did a great job.
Now that I’ve watched another talent show 40 years later, I finally know the truth.
4th graders are incapable of improvising.
All I can say is, I’m thankful I lived in the days before video cameras.