Me ‘n Spot Make an Album | HumorOutcasts

Me ‘n Spot Make an Album

May 17, 2019

It’s been a long winter without much of a spring in New England, and I was beginning to get worried about the malaise that Spot–the dog puppet you may remember from commercials–had fallen into.  He’s usually a chipper little chap, but lately he’s been taciturn . . . phlegmatic . . . distrait; and those are just the most recent “Words of the Day” in my dog-eared copy of “30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary.”  The last thing I need as I stand on the event threshold of the black hole of my retirement account is for the index finger of my right hand to get involved in a faded TV star’s suicide.

Spot, back when he was a star.


I decided to engage him in conversation in the hope that a free, frank discussion would purge him of his gloomy mood, so I cleared my throat and asked “How they hangin’ little buddy?”

“You oughta know since you have your finger where my family jewels ought to be.”

No man, as they say, is a hero to his finger puppet.   “Touché,” I said.

“Don’t touché me down there,” he snapped, then turned his head and resumed his close examination of the nothingness in the middle distance.

“Okay, if not ‘touché,’ then TOUCHY!”

A soft word may turneth away wrath, as it says in the Book of Proverbs, but a brusque word can make a little cloth puppy realize that he’s been gratuitously rude.

“Sorry,” he said as he turned to face me.  “I’m just depressed about my lack of progress in show business.”

He was cute when he was just a pup.

As much as I like to comfort middle-aged puppets, it seemed to me what he needed was a little tough love.  “You know the old joke, don’t you?” I said.

“From hanging around you I know lots of them.”

“A man is walking down the street in New York and he stops an old man to ask directions.  ‘How do I get to Carnegie Hall,’ he says, and the old man goes ‘Practice–practice!’”

He took this in for a moment and then, revving up his customary charm offensive, snapped “What the hell has that got to do with me?”

I gave him a little look of disappointment.  “It means if you want to make it in show biz, you have to work at it.”

“No you have to work at it,” he shot back at me.

“Why me?”

“Because I’m just the puppet. You need to work on your ventriloquism.”

He was right about that. I’ve been fooling around with “throwing my voice” ever since Tommy Racunas used to take home a prize, year after year, in the Sacred Heart Grade School Spring Talent Show with his dummy “Charlie” back in the 60s. For weeks afterwards he’d have Carolyn Stretz, Trudy Espinosa and Candace Mitzel eating out of the palm of his hand. Then he’d run out of sunflower seeds, and things would return to normal.

Still, I wasn’t in the mood to take the fall.  I’m an old dog, and other than learning how to play “Besamé Mucho” on the harmonica, I’m not exactly breaking new artistic ground at the age of three score and a half dozen years.  “That may be true,” I said, “but the world of entertainment has changed.”

“Then why’d you tell me that stupid Carnegie Hall joke?”

“I mean there are other ways to hit it big as a ventriloquist’s dummy besides going on Major Bowes Amateur Hour.”

“Like what?”

“We could make an album,” I said, and–as they say on the World Wide Webs–I just left that there.

Gene Pitney

I’m old enough to remember the Gene Pitney song “A Town Without Pity,” but I’d never seen a puppet without pity–until then.  Spot laughed a mirthless little laugh and said “Isn’t that . . . cheating?”

It’s usually me who’s the stickler for ethics in our basement practice room, so I didn’t anticipate that Spot would get all self-righteous with me.  “How so?” I asked.

“The whole point of ventriloquism is the illusion,” he said, slamming his little paw down on a wooden end table.

“Ow!” I said.

“What are you complaining about?”

I’m the sentient being around here, not you.”

“You’re not answering the question.  What’s the point of listening to a ventriloquist if you can’t see whether he’s moving his lips?”

“Look,” I said, “I know what you’re saying, but there have been plenty of record albums made by ventriloquists and their dummies.”

“We prefer the term ‘assistants.’”

“Well ex-cuuuse me.”

“And nobody’s complained about the patent fraud involved in that?” he asked, incredulous.

“Not that I know of.”

“Hmm,” he hmmed.  “I guess I’ll have to downgrade my already pathetically low estimation of the intelligence of the great mass of you Homo sapiens.  Can you name one of these human-dummy scam artist teams?”

“One?  I can name several pairs who have gotten away with . . . I mean who have perfected the art of fooling people into thinking a dummy can talk while remaining out of sight.”

“Like who?”

“Well, there’s Bill Lyman and Uncle Cousin.”

“Never heard of them.”

“How about Gary Hunter and Rusty?”

“Doesn’t ring a bell.”

“Perhaps you’re more attuned to religious dummies.”

“The world is full of them.  Who did you have in mind?”

“Little Marcy Tigner?  Of ‘Sing-Along With Marcy’ fame?”

“She didn’t make my personal hit parade.”

“How about Kip and Kylan Laxson–surely you know their mega-monster LP ‘Big Sounds for Little Ears’?”

I don’t think he was expecting such a full-bore barrage of invisible ventriloquists, and he emitted a little exhale out of his plastic mouth.  “Okay, you win,” he said.  “So you’re saying we–you and me–should make an LP?”

“Absolutely.  For play on family high-fidelity cabinet stereos.”

“But–I thought everything was CDs or ‘streaming’ now.”

“Nope,” I said.  “Vinyl’s made a big comeback.”

He cocked his little head like the RCA Victor dog and said “I wonder why that is?”

“It’s because the format is both inconvenient and expensive.”

Con Chapman

I'm a Boston-area writer, author of The Year of the Gerbil, a history of the 1978 Red Sox-Yankees pennant race, and 50 books of humor including "Scooter & Skipper Blow Things Up!" by HumorOutcasts Press. My work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor and The Boston Globe among print outlets. "Rabbit's Blues," my biography of Johnny Hodges, Duke Ellington's long-time alto sax player, will be published by Oxford University Press in September.

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