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Life on the Mississippi

Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008, at 10:06 AM

I would like to invite anyone with an interest in such matters to attend a theatrical presentation Thursday, October 2nd. (Tomorrow, as I write, who knows when as you read.) If you are the kind of person who requires an engraved invitation, feel free to print this out and have it engraved on something. A squash, perhaps. You don't need to dress up formally to attend this event, but do wear a shirt of some kind. And I have to warn you that they will ask for money when they let you in. It's for a good cause (the Dyer County Historical Society) and, in any case, I have found that one tends to enjoy something better when one has paid money for it, if only to try to avoid the feeling of having wasted it.

The event is a presentation of the one-man show, "Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi." The program is a stage adaptation of that book by that author, and I am that one man. It should be funny. Mark Twain wrote it, after all.

Mark Twain was a very funny man. He was, in addition to being an author ---and in fact before he was well-known as an author--- America's first star stand-up comedian, though they called them "lecturers" in those days. An anecdote from the time illustrates just how funny Mark Twain was perceived to be:

Twain was engaged to speak at a meeting, but for some reason couldn't attend. The chairman got a telegram to that effect at the last minute, and got the only person he could grab on such short notice: a temperance lecturer. There had been no time to change the notices or anything, so the crowd showed up assuming they would be hearing Mark Twain, and the speaker showed up with no idea that he wasn't the expected attraction. The chairman introduced Mr. Hornet as the speaker, but the crowd had no idea what Mark Twain looked like, and they knew that Twain was a pen name, so they assumed that Mark Twain's real name must be Hornet.

Hornet started off by declaring, "Intemperance is the curse of this country!" The crowd burst into laughter. He went on with, "It breaks up happy homes!" This got a bigger laugh. "It carries young men down to death and Hell!" An even bigger laugh. Mr. Hornet became more and more agitated at this reponse, and the more agitated he got, the louder the crowd laughed. Finally, in horror, the chairman realized what was going on and interrupted, explaining to the crowd that this was Mr. Hornet the temperance lecturer, not Mark Twain.

Well, that pretty much killed the mood. The crowd shuffled their feet and glanced around at each other. Mr. Hornet declared that he had never visited any place so completely populated by asses and idiots, and then left.

So you see, Mark Twain is funny even when he isn't there. So the fact that he won't actually be there Thursday night doesn't rule out the possibility that he might get quite a few laughs..

The show is "Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi," and will take place at 7:30, Thursday, October 2nd in the Yates Auditorium (the old High School building, which is the opposite side of the YMCA building). Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students 18 and under. Proceeds

benefit the Dyer County Historical Society.

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When we were small children my mother bought Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn for me and my two brothers, which we avidly read. I've tricked many people into whitewashing my fence many times in my 64 years. When I was in freshman English at UT Martin, I wrote a research paper on Huck Finn, from a much more mature perspective than my childhood perusal. I've literally walked the bluffs above the Mississippi in Hannibal and Samuel Langhorne Clemens has probably affected my outlook on life more than anyone outside of my family. I agree with Hemingway. Sheriff Holt and Chief Ledbetter and all their men couldn't keep me away from the Yates Auditorium on Thursday nite.

-- Posted by Johnny Yuma on Wed, Oct 1, 2008, at 10:11 PM

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