Last week I had the pleasure of being one half of the performers of the classic Abbott and Costello sketch, “Who’s On First?”
I think it is the most perfect piece of comedy ever written—if your native language is English.
My colleague Adam Pisco and I performed it before an auditorium of our public international high school English Language Learner students, none who have English as their native language, and many who have come here with no English at all. They represent dozens of countries and languages.
So we were afraid we were taking a big risk, and we were afraid that the students might not be able to understand the sketch, and not be quite able to get the wordplay involved.
But I’m very happy to report, as you can see and hear by clicking on the video, that we were absolutely wrong.
A few days a week I work at a public high school for new immigrants here in New York City, and one of my students, Lamine, asked me to act with him in a scene from a play for the school’s Talent Show. So we worked up the following which you can see in the clip above.
It was a lot of fun to prepare and perform. The student audience last Thursday really appreciated the dynamics of the father-son story: the son has just moved out of his parents’ house to his older brother’s apartment, leaving only a letter behind to announce his decision. He thinks he’s on his way to a hot date–but when the doorbell rings, it’s his father.
Lots of magicians do the trick I’m doing in this video, but I really enjoy the presentation that I’ve worked out here with my colleague Jacob Lefco. I think it makes it a lot more fun and logical when you have a reason for tearing the newspaper up and making the magic happen.
This was performed yesterday at a high school talent show. The acoustics in the auditorium are less than stellar, but I think you can still get the idea fine, anyway. The students were a very enthusiastic crowd, as you can tell, and they are all new immigrants to the United States, so their English vocabulary for the most part is limited; that’s another reason why I tried to play it with a minimum of words on my part.