Back in Studio Production class, when asked for final project ideas, I suggested a comedy skit, one akin to SNL’s Weekend Update. Upon receiving the go-ahead from my professor, I embarked on an epic journey that took me from a vague idea reflecting a worst case scenario future, to a written script, to a story board, then to a full-class video production of my little five-minute skit.
Main Lesson Learned: Five minutes on camera requires 60 hours of preparation.
While driving home in my car, a place where I really should install a dash cam, given that my best ideas always come to me while I’m driving, I recalled a line from one of my blogs:
Thank you, Framers, for the First Amendment, without which I would be Gitmo-bound.
I began to imagine a future where the First Amendment to the US Constitution, along with many others, had been repealed and POTUS Trump had issued an executive order banning comics from making fun of him. In this imagined future, I, Maddaniels, along with the likes of Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and Bill Maher, had been “bagged, tagged and shipped off to Gitmo” for various violations of Trump’s edict. While incarcerated there, we create our own network—sanctioned by the Detention Center Zone Commander—by which we broadcast our “Worst Case Scenario News.”
In the first version of the script, I, Mad Daniels, was alone, sitting at a make-shift news desk with some pictures on a table easel, a bottle of rum and a shot glass. After introducing myself and WCSN Gitmo, I begin telling the sad tale of how the Amendments got repealed and how Trump’s comedy ban turned all of us into criminals. Four segments follow:
- Stephen Colbert’s Crime and Capture with photo
- Seth Meyers Crime and Capture with photo
- Bill Meyers Crime and Capture with photo
- Mad Daniels Crime and Capture with self-portrait and photo of my “Crime.”
In the closing segment, I talk about how life in Gitmo “ain’t that bad,” citing the weather, the music, and the company as selling points. I thank the Zone Commander for the use of the exercise yard and sign off.
Simple, five-minute, one person, two-camera skit, right? Nothing to it, I thought. Oh, boy, was I wrong!
First, the script:
After writing the first draft, having researched each comic’s style, devising scenarios for their individual crimes and punishments, researching the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, garments worn by Hasidic Rabbis, and Cuban alcoholic beverages, I did a reading of the script for my partner, who laughed at absolutely nothing I had written.
Second Draft: I shortened the sentences, allowing time for a laughs between the joke lines, then edited out all extraneous words, even eliminating whole sentences and paragraphs. I then performed the script, alone, to iron out the kinks, made about ten-thousand changes and finally ended up with what I thought was a working script.
Next came prop and costume gathering. I devised a set of cue cards, printed them out, then printed a copy of the script for the director. I then printed photos of the three comics, my self-portrait and photos of Kelly Anne Conway and Punxsutawney Phil.
Next, I removed the label from a wine bottle—no easy feat—and replaced it with a Trocadero Rum label I found on line. I brewed tea to get a brown rum color and dug up an old shot glass from my glass cupboard. I then decided that an on-stage band might be a nice touch so I gathered up some percussion instruments I had laying around the house. I found my easel, a table cloth and a folding table and turned my attention to the costumes.
I knew I wanted the orange jumpsuit look so I raked through my closet, found nothing and headed for the Walmart. There I found a screaming orange pair of scrubs and shirt, made a dew rag headdress out of orange fabric and headed to the studio. Upon arrival, my Professor suggested that I draw a story board as a guide for the class production team.
Then, when the students began arriving, I briefed the director, the camera operators and the floor manager. We all began arranging the furniture, setting up a green screen backdrop, and readying the studio and the audio and video equipment for the shoot. Fortunately for me, all of my fellow students jumped right into the deep end and we were up and ready for a take in about half an hour. We really could not spare any students to act as band members so we drafted another Comm student to act as a one-woman band. Sharing the stage with another actor really lowered my anxiety level.
We ran through the script twice and were ready to go, but technical difficulties forced us to postpone until the following Tuesday. Over the weekend, I rewrote the script several hundred times, including a few bits for my one-woman band, found her an orange outfit and decided to add laugh tracks, intro and closing sequences, cut the easel and photos in favor of super imposed photos applied in post production, enlarged the cue cards and discovered a West Virginia accent for my character.
When Tuesday came, I loaded up the Subaru in the rain, parked illegally to unload my production paraphernalia, and began readying myself for that takes. My one-woman show arrived, donned her orange outfit and we briefly rehearsed her lines and activity. With no further technical snafus, we began the shoot. First take, was going well, until I got tongue-tangled and had to reset twice. But all in all the take went well. The Professor suggested a second take, which went even better–no stumbles on my part and much more relaxed. We were rapped about 30 minutes into the class—all that preparation for a half hour of production.
I must say, my theater training really paid off big time, as I was able to anticipate problems and solve them ahead of time. Without the enthusiasm and capabilities of my classmates, I would not have been able to pull off this magilla. My one-woman band turned out to be a great asset and the decision to use superimposed photos rather than real ones really improved my performance.
Is my comedy skit actually funny? My professor thought it was, so there’s that. But with the careful application of laugh tracks, even my partner squeezed out a few chuckles. I actually had fun, which is rare for me on stage. The main point of all of this: I got to live out one of my secret fantasies—being a late night comedian with my own talk show. I only regret not pursuing a career in television when I was in college the first time—What fabulous fun!
Now on to post-production editing!
Photos by Madison Daniels
WSCN NEWS BROADCASTING FROM GUANTANAMO BAY
With Madison Daniels
(Cuba Photos and Aerial Guantanamo Bay over Cuban Music)
(Wipe to Madison sitting in the Detention Camp exercise yard at a make shift news desk. She wears an orange jump suit with matching shoes, nails, and hat and chair dances to the Cuban music. Tess with bongos and maracas occupies the park bench, also in orange. Music fades to a bust shot of Madison.🤡
Good evening. I’m Madison Daniels, American Heretic, with WCSN Gitmo, Worst Case Scenario News.🤡 We’re broadcasting live this evening from the Detention Camp 5 exercise yard, overlooking the sunny shores of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. VIVA LA REVOLUCION!🤡🤡
On the bench tonight, my friend and cell mate Tess “The Train Wreck” Kilmowsky. Let’s give it up for my one-woman band!🤡🤡
As you know, six months ago today, the 115th Congress repealed the First, Fourth, Fifth, Six, 14th, 15th, 19th and 24th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. 👺👺 At that time, I was a freelance blogger living off my Social Security in West-By-God-Virginia. Everyday I exercised my First Amendment right to freedom of speech. I was able to vote, to own property and to maintain a vegetarian diet.🤡 Life was good in America back then –not great (as promised) 🤡—but really, pretty good. Short of slander, defamation and the promotion of kiddy porn🤡, we could pretty much say anything that came into our heads. 🤡 Through our internet blogs, we could broadcast our unsubstantiated opinions to the far corners of the World Wide Web with no fear of government retribution. Those were the days, my friends.
(Bubble with photo of Women’s March appears like one of Madison’s memories.) 🤡
Then, ironically, on July 4th, 2017, during that infamous midday press conference, President Donald J. Trump put forth executive order 19272👺 banning all late night comics from any mention of his name, his staff, his family, his tweets, his golf resorts, his tax returns, Russia, Healthcare and Ivanka’s fashion line. 🤡 That executive order turned the likes of Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Bill Maher, and myself, Madison Daniels, into instantaneous outlaws. 🤡
(Show picture of Colbert—close up on photo)🤡
Colbert was the first to go; during his monologue he joked about having received a urine-soaked video, post marked “From Russia with Love.” 🤡 Then during the Big Fury Hat sequence Rudy Giuliani’s Comedy Compliance Cohort burst into the Ed Sullivan theater and ripped Colbert right off the air, 🤡 leaving Jon Batiste and the fury hat to contemplate an empty stage. 👺
(Show photo of Seth Meyers—close-up on Photo)🤡
Next came Seth Meyers; The CCC tracked him down in Westchester. His crime: airing a photograph of a shirtless Donald Trump riding a horse side-saddle. 🤡 Meyers attempted a run for the Canadian border but his Chrysler Pacifica ran out of gas on the Taconic Parkway. 🤡 Within minutes he was bagged, tagged and shipped off to Gitmo.👺
(Show photo of Bill Maher—close up on Photo)🤡
Bill Maher was the last comic out-standing. During the final airing of Real Time, Bill hat-pinned an inflatable Donald Trump sex toy on live TV. 🤡 Then disguised as a Hasidic Rabbi, he slipped out the stage door. A few days later he reappeared on Hollywood Boulevard, doing his stand up act for the bus tour people. Sadly, Attorney General Jeff Session was on one of those bus tours 🤡 and Bill was stripped of his Shtreimel, and shipped off to Gitmo. 👺
That’s a Jewish big fury hat.
(Show drawing of Mad Daniels-close up on Drawing)
I, Madison Daniels, in one of my more caustic blogs–and under the influence of an undisclosed amount of Jack Daniels— made the mistake of comparing Kelly Anne Conway’s credibility to that of Punxsutawney Phil.🤡
(Cut to split screen of Kelly Anne Conway and Punxsutawney Phil)🤡🤡
That same night a team of CCC seals broke down my front door and dragged me into the back seat of a Hummer. Aside from the terror I felt at being bound and gagged, the way the Hummer guzzles gas is truly horrifying. 🤡
Don’t cry for me, West Virginia. 🤡 The truth is: It’s really not that bad here, especially with Stephen, Seth, Bill and Tess to keep me company. 🤡 Colonel Crankshoft, the Detention Center Zone Commander, lets us play Yahtzee every Tuesday 🤡 and we all get an hour show once a week on WCSN Gitmo.🤡 The weather’s great, the music—fantastico; my cell has a bay view and the guys keep me laughing 24/7. 🤡
This is Madison Daniels, with WCSN Gitmo, Worst Case Scenario News. 🤡 Special thanks to Zone Commander Colonel Carl “Kickass” Crankshoft for the use of the exercise yard. And don’t forget to check out my blog- maddaniels.wordpress.com. 🤡 Hasta la vista for now Baby and I will be back. 🤡 Viva La Revolucion!🤡🤡🤡
(Cuban music resumes as Madison drinks with Tess. Credits roll. Final Sunset shot. Fade to Black as music fades out)
Clowns=laughs; Red Devils=boos