Setting: Four cubicles inhabited by Mark, Cindy, Sue and Elmo, a bald black male. There is a bank of elevators nearby.
Jim walks up to Mark sitting in his cubicle.
Jim: How do you get into this group?
Mark: You have to Fuck Maude.
Jim: Your manager? I could do that.
Mark: You might not like it. She comes really hard.
Sue: Now, I talk like thith.
Jim: Can I fuck Sue as well?
Mark: You don't have to.
Jim: But I could?
Mark: She pulls your hair, look at Maude.
Jim: Maude is losing hair on the top. How did she reach it?
Mark: It used to be long.
Jim: Is that what happened to Elmo?
Mark: They say he's really good.
Elmo: I don't fuck white women.
Cindy: Sue is mine.
Jim feigns shock:
Jim: I don't know how you women can do that, putting your tongues wherever, it is so unnatural.
Interlocutor enters and takes the center of the stage, the actors pantomime continuing their conversation:
Interlocutor: On behalf of the management, the cast, our financial support, we are giving you the opportunity to leave. You can wait in the lobby for this play to be over. We will notify you when it's safe to come back in. You were suckered, we took your money, we're sorry. This is not a date play. It is not a play that will edify or entertain. Just go. You have been warned. Anyone who remains does so at their own risk.
Several actors in the audience make a production of complaining, and leaving. (Special note: there could be a competition between the actors)
Mark breaks into tears, grabs his coat and leaves. He pushes a button and waits for the elevator.
Sheila comes off an elevator.
Sheila: Mark you're crying, what's wrong?
Mark: You'll just laugh.
Sheila proceeds to the four cubicles. Jim is sniffling off. Cindy is crying.
Cindy: Damn you, you stupid bitch.
Sue: I'm sorry.
Cindy: I'm leaving, you can come.
Elmo is sniffling in his cubicle.
Sheila: What's going on?
Elmo: It's just a stupid joke.
Sheila: What is it?
Elmo: You'll laugh.
Sheila: No, I won't.
Elmo: I'm not mad at you; you really don't want to hear this.
Sheila: Just tell me.
Elmo: Jim was talking to the girls, and then Mark says "only true love, only safe sex", then… (Fade out)
Setting: Bill and Yagonanda are sitting in a meeting room. Sheila enters.
Yagonanda: Sheila you don't look too good, are they laying off again?
Bill: This looks personal.
Sheila: Maude's group is so weird.
Bill: Are you saying we don't measure up?
Sheila: This was bad.
Estelle: I thought Mark was here today.
Sheila: They all went home.
Everyone just looks at her.
Sheila: It was a stupid joke.
Yagonanda: A prank?
Sheila: No a joke. Somebody says "only true love, only safe sex" and then…
They gather around her. Her voice is too quite for the audience to hear. Then one by one they start crying and walking off.
Setting: The meeting room, everyone present.
Butlebaum: Is everyone here? Where's the donuts? Wecan't have a meeting without donuts. I've never seeing people leaving early. Sheila, was that your group? What happened?
Sheila: You really don't want to hear about this, it's just stupid.
Larry: Actually Sheila we do. It was two groups and everyone noticed.
Sheila: Ask Maude, she'll explain.
Maude: Nobodies talking.
Sheila: They're right.
Larry: Has there been a change in company direction, some new policy that the rest of us are unaware of?
Sheila: Well, you know how Jim goes by Maude's group in the afternoon. He was picking on the lesbians.
Larry: Is that legal?
David: I think they can harass each other. There was a ruling.
Larry: Not since 1998.
David: That changed?
Larry: Sort of, I don't think homosexuals are protected, but men can't harass men.
Butlebaum: But this is a man harassing a woman.
David: It's a homosexual man annoying a homosexual woman for her homosexuality.
Lenore: Doesn't seem to fit within our tolerance statement.
David: Is that enforceable?
Larry: So we might be in trouble because we have a tolerance statement?
Butlebaum: Who writes those goofy things anyway?
Sheila suddenly breaks down: I've got to get out of here.
Ken: Oops, we might get in trouble just for having this discussion.
Larry: Not very tolerant.
Maude: Let's move on then.
David: The only safe sex, the only true love.
Yagonanda shifts. They look at him.
Larry: Do you know this story?
Yagonanda looks down. Maude gasps, giggles, and then cries. She leaves the room.
Lenore looks at Yagonanda: Which of them said it, Cindy or Sue?
Yagonanda: It was Sue.
Lenore: That idiot. I've got to go.
Yagonanda leaves. David starts crying. Larry is nauseous. Butlebaum is bewildered.
Butlebaum: What did she say?
Larry: Why do you think its true love?
They both look at the puzzled Butlebaum.
Larry: You are so lucky.
David: You've got it good.
Larry and David leave. Butlebaum looks around and walks off.
setting: A home, there's a door, a couch and a TV
Sue, his wife
Butlebaum enters: Am I glad to be home.
Sue: I'm glad you're here. How was work?
Butlebaum: It was really odd.
Sue sits down on the couch and clicks on the TV: More than usual?
Butlebaum lies on the couch and puts his head on her lap: We were having a meeting. Sheila is all mysterious about why her people were cracking up and going home early yesterday.
Sue: Cracking up?
Sue: Maybe they need more time off.
Butlebaum: It's because of a joke.
Sue: A joke?
Butlebaum: There's some lesbians and somebody says
-only true love, only safe sex.
Then a lesbian says:
-Why do you think it's true love?
Then everyone cries.
There's a long silence. Sue's face is impassive, then it slowly comes apart, she doesn't move her position, doesn't make a sound, her face is a mask of agony.
Butlebaum: I don't get it. Sue, what do you think? Sue?
A company lunch room.
Bill: Yo Richard, do you think homosexuals should marry?
Richard: Why should they get off?
Richard: No really, they can't marry, it's difficult for them to adopt children, and next they'll say they can't stick themselves in the eye with sharp objects. Of course, they should marry and we should assign them children.
--Here you look like a nice couple, take two they're small.
Bill: No man, it'll cheapen the institution.
Richard: There aint nothing cheap about it.
Bill: People won't take it seriously.
Richard: They'll learn.
Beth: You just want to push your problems on other people. Homosexuals didn't create those children.
Richard: Welcome to my world.
The lunchroom cracks up.
Allen: The only people who want to get married are priests, homosexuals and Mexican women.
Bill: You are so wrong; you don't understand: they don't marry women.
Richard: Some do. You figure they're getting over? You think they're actually nice to each other?
Lemuel looks up horror on his face: They're not?
Allen is furious: Oh man, look what you did.
Richard: I'm sorry.
Allen: You did the joke, motherfucker.
Richard: I didn't mean to.
The Late Night Improv, a television show.
Cast: Assorted comedians:
Rosie: Tonight is really big. We have all kinds of good stuff for you, and we are going to do THE JOKE. You know, where everyone cries. I haven't heard this yet, so it will be my first time. We've lost a few people on this, so don't say we don't give it our all. Comedy is serious business. We finally had to rehearse it in pieces, so no one in the skit knows the whole joke. Actually, I saw some of the rehearsals. I think I've figured it out. You guys in the audience might want to leave right now. It really stinks. The only reason the writer stuck with it is cause he's a crack head and the producer don't give him any until it's done. Honestly, you people at home should turn this off. In fact, leave your sets off for a few days. This is so bad it may make the news.
She starts yelling at the producer directly.
Rosie: Green, you are such an egomaniac. We should cancel this show right now. Oh, God I can't stand it. Get me out of here.
She falls apart. Bill, another comedian, steps up.
Bill: Wow, that was grim. Nice work. Really warmed them up for me. Don't worry folks, back up guest host; we were prepared for this eventuality. Have to wonder if that joke skit is really a good idea. Maybe we could move it back in the program. Way far back. Like next week. Oh, we are definitely doing the Joke skit. Green hasn't heard it yet. Well, maybe he should, like before the rest of us do.
An impromptu send-up of comedy skits followed by the Joke skit.
Bill, Sherry, and Polly are sitting around a table. There's a door leading to another set with a couch and TV.
Sherry:You wouldn't believe what happened in accounting. James from marketing was over there and you know how he's gay and he was talking to the lesbians about how they were so awful and...
She's reading ahead on the teleprompter, her face goes blank.
Bill looks behind him: What are you doing here?
Robin, another unannounced guest comedian, joins the skit: I'm your backup. They said this was rough.
Bill: Hey, I'm a professional, I can do this. I've never bailed on a skit.
Robin: I know you can kid; in fact, I'm counting on it.
Sherry falls apart: This is awful, awful.
Bill grabs her: Get a hold of yourself girl, don't give up now.
Sherry: Get away from me, this isn't funny, I'll hurt you.
She runs off. Bill starts reading the teleprompter: blah de blah blah, so the straight guy says only true love, only safe sex, blah blah. Maybe I should read this to myself. This is so dumb. Oh, shit. No. I'm sorry. I'm gone.
Robin turns to Polly: It's just you and me Polly.
Polly: Perhaps we should just quit.
Robin: I don't know about you, but I'm finishing this.
Polly: You're so brave.
Robin: How bad can this be?
Robin starts reading from the teleprompter: Blah blah. That's filler. Bill read that. The lesbian says how do you know its true love? The straight guy starts crying. Oh for heavens sake, that's it? That's the joke?
Polly tilts her head and looks puzzled. Robin reads further: We're supposed to segue into another room now. This must be the bit to take the edge off the bit.
They enter the adjoining set.
Polly: Kind of a cool down skit.
Robin: You're being very cool.
Polly: Look at my pupils.
Robin: Wow, they are totally dilated.
Polly: When all else fails, use drugs.
Robin: I knew that.
Polly: I think I'm done with the skit now.
Robin: Everybody else is gone. It's just you and me now. Honey I'm home.
Polly: That's a little retro isn't it?
Robin: Hey, stick to the script.
Polly: Oh, are you the only one allowed to ad lib?
Robin sits down on the couch: Alright, I'm sitting on the couch. The oddest thing happened at work.
Polly lies on the couch, reading the teleprompter: I'm supposed to put my head in your lap?
Robin: No face this way.
Polly: Cut it out. Hey, everybody is crying.
Robin: No, there's some who aren't.
Polly: I think they're leaving.
Robin: Yeah, let me up.
Robin kicks over some furniture: Hey everybody, this is stupid ok? We all get broken hearts. It happens. It's not that big a deal, OK? It heals, damn it, it heals.
Polly:Let's go Robin.
Robin: I'm out of here.
The production assistant is holding a mini-cam on Green. Green is flipping switches, checking the studio.
Green: That really stank the place out, I had no idea. The whole studio is empty. We've got to have feed. Put on a movie.
Production assistant: It's a Wonderful Life?
Green: No you idiot. Look there's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Put on that one. Cancel the commercials. We'll take the hit. They don't have to use it. But at least there's something going out, and get that stupid camera off me.
A late night talk show monologue:
Cast: show host
Skit begins with Ed warming up the audience, and then the show host comes out.
Show host: Was anyone watching The Late Night Improv? Guess not. If you had been, you probably wouldn't be coming out. A lot of our people called in depressed. I notice the audience isn't quite full. What a bomb.
You probably haven't heard about it. Which is fine. I don't know. I wasn't going to come in either. Ed, do you want to do the show tonight?
Show host: Yeah, I'd take my Zoloft, but what's the point. Maybe tomorrow.
He leaves. Ed looks around suspecting a trick.
Ed: Hey, I get to sit in the big chair.
He puts his feet up.
Ed: Ah, who am I kidding? You guys are hanging in pretty good.
He says to the musicians.
Band leader: Music helps.
Ed: So, what do you want to play?
Band Leader: Gloomy Sunday.
Another late night monologue:
Cast : Another show host
Another show host: When I was a kid, the other kids used to pull on my chin, do three stooges bits. I'd say "hey, that's my chin." My first girl was gorgeous; she was really nice to me. We were getting into it and she says "I really like a guy with an under bite". I still did her, but, you know. Stupid lesbian joke. Have you ever opened a vein? First, it gushes, then it spills a little, then it gushes again. Stop me if you've heard this. Don't tell me that, please don't tell me that.
A women's talk show:
The author of the play
Host: We have here the author, or should I say putative author, of the controversial play, which is now in production for a movie, The Joke.
Here's Daniel Meyer.
Author: Thank you for having me.
Host: You look fit.
Author: I'm in construction.
Host: Seems to be working. Now are you the author or aren't you?
Author: The original script specified a lot of improvisation. As it grew everyone involved contributed, perhaps we could say I'm the initiator.
Host: But you have the rights; that doesn't seem fair.
Author: At least so far. One could make the case that many works are really the product of collaboration. This show for instance. In any case, we may be squabbling over the rights to a bomb.
Host: You're saying the movie will flop?
Author: This is a good argument for not being faithful to the book.
Host: Have you seen the script?
Author: My only contribution has been to encourage them to deviate from the work as much as possible.
Host: The premise is a joke so terrible that everyone who hears it gets depressed.
Author: A really bad joke.
Host: And this made a good play?
Host: You're saying it's a terrible play.
Author: I think the success of the play has been that everyone involved is liberated from treating it respectfully. They could introduce whatever business or ideas they pleased.
Host: So where does this go from here?
Author: A musical
Host: Of course, so what is the joke?
Author: Oh no.
Host: You don't want to give it away.
Author: I don't want to spoil the show.
Host: I'm hearing it's a lesbian joke.
Author: You haven't heard it?
Host: Why would you make fun of lesbians? I suppose you could but…
Author: People believe that other people are breaking the union. That is giving a better deal. For instance, that Orientals are submissive or Italians are great lovers, or in this case, that lesbians are happy.
Author: In love. So when they find out, It can be a great shock and disappointment.
Host: That's disgusting.
Author: Yes. I'm sorry.
Host: Why did we have you on? Oh look, I've heard about this. It's not a lot, but some people are leaving.