Archive of Fools: Sideline Sermon

Continuing our series of five-year-old Ship of Fools videos I found archived away, here’s a performance of Sideline Sermon:

Sideline Sermon – Two preachers are delivering Sunday’s sermon to the congregation. Problem is, they can’t quite remember what they’re supposed to be preaching about, so they wing it until a few helpful parishioners can discretely mime them some clues. Who will win? On the left: Jon Heffley sermonizes, aided by Scott Yost (mostly offscreen) and Wes Allen. On the right: Chandler Murch sermonizes, aided by Paul Kuliniewicz and Colin Reindl. Brazenly flouting congressionally-mandated conflict-of-interest regulations, Colin Reindl also emcees.

Sideline Sermon was one of my favorite games to do, but one we didn’t do often at shows. I’ve seen other groups mishandle it by letting it drag on and on indefinitely if for some reason the person just isn’t getting it. It doesn’t have Chain Murder Mystery’s escape valve of “I don’t know what you’re doing, but I’ll make something up and keep going anyway”; in fact, it’s arguably funnier when that happens. Sideline Sermon also requires the sermonizer to continue talking coherently — or at least reasonable grammatically — when dropping their guesses. Fail that, and you’ve just got charades, and nobody came to watch that.

Luckily, the above video contains neither of those problems.

Comments Off

Archive of Fools: Chain Murder Mystery

Here’s the next video from the set of clips from a April 2004 Ship of Fools performance at Tarkington Hall:

Chain Murder Mystery – A murder has taken place! Only Chuck Allen has witnessed the location of the murder (a desert), the occupation of the murderer (a stripper), and the murder weapon (a silent fart). He must convey these three things to Paul Kuliniewicz, using only mime and gibberish. Paul must then convey them to Colin Reindl, who must then in turn convey them to Jon Heffley. After watching this hybrid of Clue and Telephone, you will understand why real murder investigations don’t work like this. Scott Yost is the emcee.

Archive of Fools: Two Person Story

In the process of setting up my new backup hard drive, I came across a small cache of Ship of Fools videos dating back from April 2004. Here’s one of them; I’ll let the description I wrote for YouTube set it up:

Two Person Story – two performers tell a story based on suggestions from the audience. Like all good stories, it starts with “once upon a time” and ends with a moral. The catch: they can only speak one word at a time. Here, Scott Yost (left) and Paul Kuliniewicz (right) relate the timeless classic, “Charlotte’s Web of Fighting”. Colin Reindl is the emcee.

I think this was from a performance at Tarkington Hall, but I can’t tell from the background for sure which residence hall this was at.

There’s another four videos where this came from. Stay tuned.

Science confirms it: men trainwreck Continuous Story

No, seriously.

Prof. Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire conducted an experiment on his blog wherein commenters contributed to a story, one sentence at a time. The catch was that men and women contributed to separate stories, although both stories began with the same opening line.

The results:

The men’s story quickly veers into borderline incoherence as contributors keep throwing stuff in with little regard to the narrative thus far. The women’s story stays cohesive longer before losing control and resorting to the despicable all-just-a-dream-or-is-it ending. (Whereas the men introduced all-just-a-dream in the middle and kept going anyway, ultimate ending in a self-referential charlie foxtrot.)

Prof. Wiseman’s findings are independent replication of earlier experiments by Kuliniewicz et al, Purdue University, where repeated attempts at forming such collaborative narratives were made weekly. In those experiments, the results almost invariably fell within the “borderline incoherence” category, and the experimental population was overwhelming (90%+) male.

[Alas, the findings of Kuliniewicz et al remained unpublished, due to failure to follow proper experimental protocol with human subjects: subjects were led to believe they were attending a meeting of an organization called the “Purdue Improv Club”, but were not made aware of the deception and the true nature of the experiment afterwards. Also, there was a failure to establish a proper control group.]

Clearly, this is Prof. Wiseman’s most significant work in psychology since his infamous color-changing card trick:

Comments Off

Back in black

Last weekend I returned to Purdue for the big annual Ship of Fools / Andy Ober Orchestra show that Saturday.

Getting in to West Lafayette Saturday morning was mostly uneventful. The only thing worth noting is that apparently Indiana has diverted funds from road maintenance to violating the establishment clause on their license plates. Seriously, Indiana, World War I-era France called; they want their crater-pocked wastelands back.

Anyway, Ryan and Tripod graciously let me crash at their apartment as they did last time I had been town over a year prior. As it turned out, it was the very same apartment, a fact I somehow failed to realize until Ryan pointed out where I should park my rental car.

After unloading my bags, Ryan and Tripod set about seeing how many other Fools they could round up for lunch, during which I discovered that Tripod had become Ryan’s wacky sidekick, the Pinky to Ryan’s Brain. The efforts proved largely in vain, but we did manage to pick up Beard for lunch at the local Cracker Barrel.

After lunch, Ryan, Tripod, and I returned to their apartment and played video games for several hours with other roommate Alex and some other people. First up was Brawl, which plays a lot like Melee, especially if you’re using a Gamecube controller. Fun fact: with the exceptions of PK Flash and his physical weapons, none of Ness’s abilities are ones he actually has in EarthBound. Also, why Nintendo made Lucas a playable character when they clearly have no intention of releasing Mother 3 here, I have no idea. But at least Mr. Game & Watch’s Final Smash transformation into a giant octopus only had a characteristic two frames of animation, or things could’ve gotten ugly.

The apartment also had a MAME cabinet in the kitchen, so we started playing random games until starting a two-player game of Tetris, in which I utterly demolished all challengers. The key to victory is having grown up on an old DOS Tetris game that only had one rotate button, so I was unfazed by the arcade version’s inability to rotate in both directions. (Also, back in those days, I’d disable the piece preview, since the game would award more points for that. That’s hardcore.)

Having played video games for several hours, it was time to head on over to Matthews Hall and set up for the show. Apparently, some time after I graduated, the university decided to replace the audio controls for the room with some kind of telepathic interface, not realizing that telepathy is bunk. Or at least, that’s the only explanation I can come up with for the utter lack of any apparent non-fictional audio controls anywhere. Or maybe they took them out to make room for yet another redundant set of light switches.

Eventually it was time for the show to get under way. The Fools’ set went quite well, though the audience was kind of reluctant to volunteer to come up on stage. I ended up getting volunteered to be the audience participant in Chain Murder Mystery when nobody else did, which was fine by me. I mean, the only reason I didn’t volunteer in the first place was so as not to be an obvious ringer, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Whenever a YouTube-able form of the video becomes available, you’ll be the, let’s say, sixth to know. (Keep in mind how long I waited before putting this up, after all.)

The AOO’s subsequent performance was as good as I anticipated. The audience did continue to seem a bit lethargic, though. I wonder how much overlap these shows have in terms of audience from one year to the next, and if that has something to do with it. I’m not saying that All Of Their Music Sounds The Same, but I did notice that their new songs got a bigger reaction than anything else. (Also, I’m not sayin’ that Scorpion is the new bin Laden, I’m just sayin’.)

Also, for the record, I’m not bitter that AOO broke my old-as-dirt MP3 player, in that I tried to bootleg the performance with its record function, and at some point it locked up hard until the battery ran out, and won’t even recharge any more, let alone turn on. I was kind of looking for a new one anyway, and now I guess I’m all the more motivated to get on with it.

But I’ve still got to give it up to Andy Ober, without whose music I would never had been able to remember that π is about 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944. (Getting all the way to the Feynman point is a bit trickier.)

After the show, we formed a throng of people and crammed ourselves into Kyle’s apartment for the afterparty. Therein I learned two critical facts. First, Jamie, possibly the Fools’ biggest fan, is my willing lackey, the The Cheat to my Strong Bad. For those of you without lackeys, they are useful for tasks such as lending you their iPhone for deleting blog spam and explaining complex mathematics in terms of pie. However, they are not so good for remembering to tell you their blog’s new URL, hint hint.

Second, the powers that be have seriously dumbed down Uno by removing any traces of English from the cards, leaving even seasoned Uno players baffled as they try to interpret mysterious glyphs such as how “circle with a slash through it” is supposed to mean “skip”. It’s not as though Uno ever required deep linguistic skill, but is basic literacy really too high a bar to set? What next?

Finally, the Fools’ set at Relay for Life came, despite being delayed from 2 am to 3 am. This time I performed with them as a proper Fool, with adequate results despite not having done any improv since graduation. The show went ok considering the venue (which at least this time was indoors, so shivering was kept to a minimum), and the lack of good acoustics didn’t help much either. But the show is something of a tradition, and besides, it’s not like any of us like cancer. (And don’t think you’re getting off easy, capricorn; once we beat cancer, you’re next.)

By the time it was all over and we got back to Ryan’s and Tripod’s apartment, it was already approaching 4:30 am. Sleep == good.

In the, um, “morning”, John introduced me to Portal, a game which I would be all over right now if not for not having a platform to run it on. I managed to get up through the first (?) level where you face the adorable little gun turrets. In retrospect, my strategy of opening portals above them from which to drop weighted storage cubes was not necessarily the most efficient way to knock them over, but it was the most fun. I learned that dropping corncob pipes on them is not nearly as effective. Also, the little buggers are bulletproof. So much for my brilliant plan to position one between myself and another turret. The force of the gunfire didn’t even knock it over, since it was too close to a window (also bulletproof), keeping it propped up. Sigh.

Early in the afternoon a bunch of us headed en masse across town to the IHOP for lunch, whereat the service took entirely too long, especially given how the area we were seated in empied out shortly after we arrived. In hindsight, having driven over myself would’ve been a much better idea, since the highway was right there but I need to go back to the apartment afterwards to get the car, and time was getting to be a factor. Nevertheless, I did make it to the airport with a little time to spare, despite fate conspiring against me in the end (No paper in the receipt printer at the gas pump! Seeing the shuttle from the car rental to the airport pull away as I parked! Long security line!)

It’s a shame finances and geography prevent me from making the trip out there to see everyone again more frequently, but what little time I did have out there was great. It’s also wonderful to see the Fools still going strong long after all the first-generation members have left.


Comeback against cancer

I probably should have posted about this earlier, but I’m going to be up around Purdue this weekend for the big Ship of Fools / Andy Ober Orchestra show, and hanging around for the Ship of Fools‘ performance much later Saturday evening / Sunday morning for Relay for Life, to raise funds for against cancer.

Also, I’ll be performing a bit in that latter show.

Sorry, chess fans, but I probably won’t be doing much to advance the ongoing game while I’m there.