Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
I’ve just finished writing my new hour-long comedy show. Now I have to memorize it.
This will be the fourth hour-long comedy show I’ve memorized. I’ve also memorized every word of dialogue from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” and National Lampoon’s “Vacation.” (“Here’s the leash, sir. I’m going back to get the rest of the carcass off the road.”)
I have exactly two weeks before I leave for Canada to debut this show, so that’s 14 days to commit around 9,000 words to memory. Scheduling such a task seems easy enough – divide 9,000 by 14 – about 650 words per day. That’s just a little bit less than the length of this column. Easy.
I’ve made a day-to-day schedule for this task and will try to stick with it, but based on my previous experience I know that it just doesn’t work this way. There’s always the ideal schedule and the actual schedule. I’ve decided to put the two side by side just so I’ll always know where I stand:
DAY 1 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 1 – ACTUAL – Pick up script. Read first sentence out loud. Put down script and attempt to say it from memory. Fail. Read out loud from page again. And again. Put page down and recite line from memory. Closer, but still not quite there. Read from page using, for no good reason, funny, high-pitched voice. Read again as if singing opera. While pacing. Successfully recite sentence from memory. And again. Got it! That’s 12 words out of 9,000! Boom! Off to a good start. Repeat procedure with second sentence until it is firmly in memory. Then third sentence. Attempt to “take it from the top,” as they say – to start reciting from the beginning without looking at the script. Draw complete blank. Read first sentence out loud from script. Nope, doesn’t ring a bell. Time for a short break.
DAY 2 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 2 – ACTUAL – Nothing.
DAY 3 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 3 – ACTUAL – Try to get over guilt at allowing a 20-minute break to turn into 48 hours. Must memorize 1,950 words today in order to get back on schedule. Pick up script and read first sentence. Doesn’t sound familiar. Thumb through pages of script, counting out how many 1,950 words is. What?! Impossible. Nobody can memorize THAT much in one day. What am I, a robot? By now it’s 10:30 a.m. Time for lunch. Or something.
DAY 4 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 4 – ACTUAL – Attempt to visualize standing on stage making the international sign of “I got nothing.” For an hour. This should induce some motivational panic. It does. I cry. And take a nap.
DAY 5 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 5 – ACTUAL – Finally, some progress. Two pages memorized. Out of 30. If I’d printed the script out in a smaller font it would only be 20 pages and I’d be a tenth of the way there. Damn. Too late now. Break time.
DAY 6 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 6 – ACTUAL – Just as I feared – in the middle of the reciting page 3 I found myself quoting part of “Life of Brian.” It was a particularly good part, but still … maybe I’m running out of room in my brain.
DAY 7 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 7 – ACTUAL – Maybe this memorizing thing isn’t the right direction to take. Maybe I should just get the gist of it and rely on my sharp improvisational skills. I’ll be able to ponder this more clearly after a nap.
DAY 8 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 8 – ACTUAL – OK, new plan. I now need to memorize 1,300 words per day and everything will be fine. This revised plan puts me back on schedule. Back on track. Gonna make this thing happen. Yep. It’s gonna work out. Pick up script and read first sentence. Hey … that seems vaguely familiar! That’s a small victory. No better way to celebrate a victory than with a nap.
DAY 9 – IDEAL – Memorize 650 words.
DAY 9 – ACTUAL – Etc. …
(Next Time – Days 10-14, then Canada, here I come.)
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