strip nights

(this is a movie preview, so it has to move quickly. scenes blend into each other, etc. begin with lights down)

VOICE: (quickly) This preview has been rated 'R' and is not suitable for audiences under 17 years of age. Please step out of the theatre and return when it is over. If you do not, trained attack dogs will kill you to prevent the transmission of explicit material to minors. Thank you.

(music begins to play. it plays throughout the sketch except when indicated; lights come up two beats into the song to reveal a table upon which are several miscellaneous scientific items - lab beakers, etc - and two scientists, one male and one female, who have just finished having sex. the male, MIKEY, looks at the female and solemnly speaks)

MIKEY: Everyone's given one special thing, right? Everyone's blessed with one special thing.
GIRL: (gasping for air) Your hands...they're so steady...
MIKEY: I want you to know that I plan on being a star. A big, bright, shining star.

(other people appear briefly onstage: TIFFANY holds a medium-sized rock and gives an intense look to the audience, a man holding a camera, a teacher who holds a clicker in his or her hand and presses it when a 'boop' is heard, and so on. while this happens, MIKEY and the girl roll off the table, which is pushed back. MIKEY steps forward to be greeted by SEAN WHALEN)

SEAN: I saw the way you held that lab beaker steady in there. Your hands didn't shake, not one bit. Pretty impressive, kid.
MIKEY: Thanks.
SEAN: Can you hold your entire body that still? For a long time?
MIKEY: Sure can.
SEAN: Pat Zaudke from Sheboygan, right?
SEAN: (holds out his hand) Sean Whalen, filmmaker. (smiles) I make...ah, educational pictures.
VOICE: In 1958, a kid from nowhere...

(MAN in LABCOAT approaches MIKEY)

LABCOAT: Maybe think about your name.
MIKEY: My name?
LABCOAT: Something with a little...pizzazz.
VOICE: ...had a dream of getting somewhere.

(someone holds up a large, flashy sign with the equation "y = ab+x" and then another with "Mathemagic Mikey!" on it. MIKEY walks over to where a film crew and TIFFANY awaits. SEAN calls out "action"; music goes silent. MIKEY and TIFFANY sit at a table in a restaurant. they are both perfectly still. the NARRATOR, unseen, speaks)

NARRATOR: (in stilted style) The absolute value is the distance that a number is from zero on a number line. Mikey has been spending all of his money on racing cars and his rock and roll music. He is surprised to hear that the absolute value of his wallet is pretty high: five whole dollars, in fact!

(there is a "boop". in the next frame, MIKEY faces TIFFANY with a glum look and pulls the lining out of his pockets, which are empty)

NARRATOR: Don't get your hopes up, Mikey. In your case, an absolute value of five means five spaces in the negative direction from zero! That means you owe Old Mr. Peterson five dollars. There'll be no hug-dancing for these two tonight.

(music starts again. SEAN reclines in a chair, reading a magazine)

SEAN: (reading) Listen to this, it's from the latest Educator's Digest. "Director Sean Whalen has found something special in newcomer Mathemagic Mikey."
VOICE: It was a time when grade schools reigned supreme.

(MIKEY is in a store with DONNY)

DONNY: Wow, what a great ruler!
MIKEY: Yeah! These are imported!
DONNY: Are they vinyl?
MIKEY: No, they're metric!
VOICE: Casual sex was punishable by law.

(MIKEY and TIFFANY get up close to each other)

TIFFANY: Are some trinomials really the product of two binomial factors?
MIKEY: They sure are, baby.
TIFFANY: Let's fuck!
VOICE: Education was a business...

(back on the set. MIKEY is holding a lab beaker over another one)

NARRATOR: Uh oh, Mikey! You're about to have a big mess on your hands! Nitro and glycerin should not, under any circumstances, be mixed! Unless, of course, you are directed to do so by the United States government in case of a Communist spy in your neighborohood.

(there is a 'boop'. SEAN claps and walks forward)

SEAN: Cut! That's a wrap! Great job, folks!
VOICE: ...and business was booming.

(the TEACHER stands at a podium or at the table and speaks in a nasal tone)

TEACHER: The award for best performance in a film strip involving trigonometric functions goes to...Mathemagic Mikey!
MIKEY: (at the podium) Wow...let's just keep on calculating, man...
VOICE: Until it all went sour.
MIKEY: (angry, to SEAN) I want to announce my own stuff! I can do serious history work! I know all about history! General Custer lost at the Battle of Bull Run! Thomas Jefferson freed the slaves!
SEAN: (angry, to MIKEY) You're losing it, kid! You twitched during the shoot for the fire safety film!
LABCOAT: (to SEAN) Look, the industry is changing, and you need to change too. We're thinking of using motion.
SEAN: I'll never compromise with that crap! How's the narrator going to be able to speak if the actors are jumping around during the movie?
LABCOAT: They don't want art! They want education!
DONNY: (to MIKEY) What the hell, man? It used to be about the kids, teaching them something important. But now you're into all, and the beat poetry...and those weird pills that Professor Leary's giving out...
MIKEY: They can't fire me! I'm a superstar! Kids across the nation cheer my name whenever the teacher turns down the lights and plugs in the projector, right before they go to sleep because that's the real reason they love educational films anyway!
TIFFANY: (to MIKEY) When we're doing the strip about what to do in case of a nuclear attack, let's fuck underneath the desks!
MIKEY: I...can't...I just can't stay as perfectly still for the camera as I used to...

(music goes quiet suddenly)

DONNY: Hang on...I love this part!

(music starts again. as voice speaks, people dance)

VOICE: Potted Cinema proudly presents...a portrait of two decades in the life of a business...the days of an educator...and the nights inbetween. Strip Nights.

strip nights by marc heiden january 1998