May 3, 2010

My Brush With Maim

A little more than a week ago, I was contacted by Chuckles The Klown, Rhode Island's resident evil clown, with an interesting proposal: He wanted me to play a part on his public access show, The Chuckles 'n Laughs Show. It sure sounded like a unique experience, so I agreed to come down and check it out. The program in question is a macabre talk show with skits, a place where Elvira would feel right at home. It is hosted by Chuckles The Klown, a deranged jester who marks every day on his calendar as Halloween, and also takes his act on the road and occasionally M.C.s at local clubs. The show's cast is comprised of his family and friends in various costumed and heavily makeupped roles.

I first met Chuckles and a pair of his co-stars at the USWF's 16th Anniversary Show on April 18th. For those that don't know, I'm the figurehead President of that promotion, and Chuckles is a longtime veteran who was making his grand return as a manager. I guess The Klown was impressed enough with my performance to consider me a potential new talent for his show. The role in question was that of the Director of the "Chuckles Asylum", the setting of the program. I would be taking over for Dr. Degraide (USWF Hall of Famer The Lariat) who was suspended from his duties due to "malpractice". I would essentially be the big boss of the hospital, coming in to rein in on Chuckles and friends' insanity.

April ends, I turn the calendar to May, and it was show time. I drive to the studio, which is filmed out of The Klown's two car garage. That meant it was a step above about 90% of public access sets which are usually recorded in living rooms with poor lighting. The interior was a sight to behold: a glimpse into the creative mind of a man who wields horror as his comedic weapon. PVC pipe prison bars enclosing the entrance. An orange crate designed to burst open for surprise entrances. Fog machines, strobe lights, and black lights. A table with several recently made papier-mâché skulls standing to dry. A dressing room full of enough costumes, props, and face paint to staff an entire hospital of psychotic patients and equally demented caretakers. Horror and sci-fi movie memorabilia, including a Jason-inspired hockey mask signed by the likes of Tom Savini, Derek Mears, and the true Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th: Part 2, Warrington Gilette Steve Dash. Other anemnities that are staples of garages used solely for housing hobbies are a microwave, mini-fridge, and TV. There was also an amazingly sophisticated lighting and sound system, but even more amazing was that the show was recorded on a tiny digital camera.

After getting suited up in my costume, consisting of gaudy, blood stained blue-green scrubs, a ratty medical coat, and a burn-marked tie, I met some new people and hung with some I was already familiar with. Aside from the regular cast was Tombstone Tony of Tony Jones & The Cretin 3, DJ Psycho Eddie, RWA wrestler The Irish Warrior, and also my USWF co-stars Maniac Mike and John Almeida. The aforementioned crew have regular parts on the show, although Tony was just there to watch on this day.

The first series of acts featured a man from Taunton, Massachusetts who was about to turn the loony bin on its ear. Known as "The Human Floor", he was one of those guys who wouldn't protest if you were to walk all over him. In fact, he encouraged being used as a welcome mat. He warmed the crowd up by doing something that seemed pedestrian to him, but would get many of us sent to a REAL hospital: He held a cinder block on his head and then had his lovely assistants smash it to pieces with a club hammer. He then had one broken over his OTHER head, if you catch my drift. Following that, he inserted a nail into each nostril with the business end of a regular hammer and then had an unwilling "volunteer" pry them out with the claw end. Next he had four ladies stand on top of his body, including his face, and sang happy birthday to one of them. A ball crushing also occurred, which I was quite certain wasn't a part of the act. Then he really ramped up the freak factor by bringing out two beds of nails (I checked, they were legit), sandwiching himself between them, and then having people stand, sit, and jump on top of him. When he peeled himself out of this horizontal iron maiden, his body was full of pockmarks, but not a single one produced blood. Determined not to leave without making the audience grind their teeth into a fine powder, he smashed a pair of beer bottles, dumped the shards into a bucket full of thousands more of them, spread them on the ground, and proceeded to walk over them with his bare feet. The sound of broken glass grinding beneath his soles nearly made Chuckles himself pass out. He even took a trip over them carrying an audience member in his arms for added pressure. At least the worst was over... until he brought out the darts. Darts I personally witnessed him sharpening into fine points. He had some of us hurl them towards a crudely drawn target on his stomach. In yet another malfunction involving the man's crotch, a dart nearly missed giving him a Prince Albert. Yes, they stuck inside his flesh, and yes, there was an oozing blood trail. And yes, we also gave this sick bastard an ovation. What does that say about us? I should note that after certain stunts, Chuckles would summon me, "the doctor", to center stage to check on the condition of The Human Floor to the best of my ad-libbed abilities. I would dust some cinder block residue off his brow or check his eyes for whatever reason, then head back to my seat to allow the show to progress. Some miscellaneous facts about The Human floor is that he's a former wrestler, and that other routines in his torturous arsenal are being buried alive and having hundreds of dollars in cash stapled to his face and body.

As the show progressed, I started to become increasingly concerned about the fact that I still had no inkling of what I would be doing when it was my time to appear on stage; just who my character was. Though I was aware that a script existed, usually in the possession of Chuckles in the form of a red composition notebook, its contents had yet to be seen by my eyes. When The Human Floor finished his set, I was finally summoned backstage for a pep talk by The Klown. It was finally my time to shine, or so I thought. The next segment would be an interview with The Human Floor, which would start out with me walking on stage, introducing myself as the medical director, and how the usual insanity that occurs on the show would be ending under my watch. Then I would be seated on a couch with The Human Floor where both Chuckles and I would take turns lobbing questions at him like the razor sharp darts that were used earlier. Problem was that there was no preparatory time before hand, and this segment was going to be taking place immediately. The whole week prior to this day, I thought I would be working off a script, but in actuality, I would have to be working off the cuff with on-the-spot improv. The only thing I do worse than acting is improvisational acting. While Chuckles assured me the role would be similar to my USWF Presidential gig, I would normally prepare for that role by coming up with and reciting speeches in my head for weeks in advance. I suddenly had flashbacks to my uncomfortable "deer in headlight" moments that plagued my early USWF career where I appeared on camera with a general idea of what I should say, and then freezing up as those I shared the scene with would scramble to come up with something to fill the dead air and save the scene from myself. The last thing I wanted to do now was derail Chuckles' show with my improvisational ineptitude, so I backed out. I suppose I could tackle the role if I know what to expect beforehand, but at the time I surely wasn't a doctor, nor have I played one on TV. In the United States Wrestling Federation, I play a character whose job is to direct the chaos of a group of maniacs who wish to cause harm to themselves and each other, and in The Chuckles 'n Laughs Show... my God. The Klown was right.

There was an Asian theme to this particular episode, where specters from the Orient were conjured up and began haunting the asylum. There was a ghost ninja who was unsure of his nationality and the demon leads from The Grudge and The Ring. There were also visits from Eddie as a psycho sumo, and the head nurse played by Chuckles' real life wife Lacey, who was quite impressively made up to look like a Geisha. The talk show segments played out with Chuckles exchanging banter with The Irish Warrior or Maniac Mike, when one of the aforementioned guests would show up and start harassing whoever The Klown's sidekick was. Irish Warrior played his paranoid part perfectly, and I think the unfortunate nurse got run through with a sword twice. Apparently her death is a running gag in the series. The ninja and the sumo squared off, with the shinobi spirit getting easily squashed. Then there was a recurring segment called "The Ted Bundys" that parodied Married With Children, featuring a hockey masked Ted Bundy getting frustrated with his disappointing family and running them through with a butcher knife.

This day had two shows scheduled to be taped, but I had to depart at the conclusion of the first. I didn't get to appear on TV again, except for a brief second to check on the fainted Irish Warrior after he was apparently given a heart attack by The Ring girl, and maybe that was for the best. As a spectator, I watched the recording while trying to think of how I would interact with the scene if I were up there myself as mental preparation. I bid my farewells, was told the date of the next show, and how I might give it another try. There was a beautiful white hearse parked in front of the studio for a future segment, and it tore my heart to leave before I could see it implemented. Leaving a horror show before a hearse can be utilized is like leaving a birthday party before the cake is served.

Further Viewing:

The Chuckles 'n Laughs Show

The Human Floor