Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What DID the Rake say to the Hoe??

Yesterday I experienced sort of a brain-chain, tangential thought pattern that led me to a childhood memory that I feel I must share.

When I was growing up in Central Iowa, we had a kids television show called "the Floppy Show". I think technically it was called Dwayne Elliot and Friends. Anyway, it was a cartoon/live action ventriloquist show that was a staple of the 11:30 to noon time slot on our NBC affiliate.

You better believe I had my ass parked on the carpet every day, PB & J sandwich firmly in-hand, glued to this 30 minutes of heaven. Mainly I was in it for the cartoons (usually 3 of them) and they were of the Bugs Bunny, Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry variety. But there was the added bonus of the live, all-children studio audience.

Each day, surrounding Dwayne and Floppy (Floppy of course being the crappy dog puppet in the box) was a sea of young children, probably ages 4 - 8 or so. These kids got to participate in the daily "One! Two! Three! WHERE'S FLOPPY!" chant as well as line up to tell Floppy jokes during the intermissions between cartoon segments.

It was a real coup if you could get your parents to take you and your friends to The Floppy Show. Really, it was. Birthdays were an especially popular time to visit the show. And everyone wanted to tell Floppy a damn joke- because then you got to be on camera. If you forgot your joke, you could sometimes beep Floppy's nose, which was very lame.

Every day was a new studio audience of children. A new influx of talent. But oddly enough, the jokes did not vary as much as one might think. I blame the fact that there is a real dirth of good jokes that a five year old can tell. That and the main staple of jokes was drilled into us Floppy Faithful over and over again on a daily basis. The top 5 jokes used (in order of popularity) were as follows:

1) Why did the man put the car in the oven? Because he wanted a hot rod.
2) Why did the man throw the clock out the window? Because he wanted to see time fly.
3) Why did the man throw the butter out the window? Because he wanted to see a butter fly.
4) How do you make a handkerchief dance? You put a little boogie in it.
5) Knock knock. Who's there? Boo. Boo who? Oh Floppy, don't cry...

And these five jokes were told every day, and not just once per day. Several TIMES a day. Sometimes children would tell the same joke back-to-back. My favorite times would be when a child would start off with one of the top 5, and then incorporate the punchline from another of the top five. Everyone knew which two jokes were being blended, but nobody cared. We got the joke anyway.

The most popular by far was #1 on the list. It far and away outstriped the others by a five to one margin. I think that particular gem was used 1,564,276 times during the run of the show. Sometimes it was the ONLY joke told on the show.

Dwayne was a patient man. I think the raging alcoholism helped a lot.

One of the special things that the Floppy show did yearly was go on-location at the Iowa State Fair. They would broadcast the show live every day during the entire run of the fair from the main stage. When I was five, my father took me to the State Fair expressly to be on the Floppy show. Evidently I had begged for this opportunity (what was I thinking??) and he indulged me. But not without a few stipulations.

My father was NOT about to let me tell a lame joke on local TV. A few days before F-day, he asked me about my joke.

Dad: CB, have you thought about what joke you might tell?

CB: Um, I was thinking... why did the man put the car in the oven?

Dad: No. You can't do that one. I have a BETTER joke for you.

CB: Ok.

My father's joke was indeed better than the run-of-the-mill crap spewed forth from the mouths of babes. His followed the same format, but was just enough different that it would stand out. My joke for the Floppy Show was going to be:

"What did the Rake say to the Hoe?"

I memorized this joke and practiced it with my father. It was going to be good. I was going to stand out from the other children and give Dwayne something he hadn't had in a long time. A different joke.

(So as to end the suspense, what the Rake said to the Hoe was "Hi Hoe!" But the Hi Hoe had to be delivered like Ed McMahon from Johnny Carson for full effect).

It wasn't until early adulthood that I realized just how twisted my father's plot had been. You see, this joke functions on multiple levels. First there's the kid's level. Two basic yard/garden implements talking. Innocent enough.

Then the Ed McMahon immitation level. Very topical and humerous given the fact that a 5 year old would be immitating a fat old guy on a very popular late night televison program.

THEN there was the raunchy level. Yes, if you use the old definition of a Rake (being a randy, licensious, dirly old man) and a Hoe (but the homonym version being the oft used 'ho) then the joke takes on an entirely different connotation.

The day finally arrived. I remember standing at the edge of the stage for the broadcast. I was very nervous and very shy. Suddenly I wanted very much to back out of this joke thing. The time came to tell Floppy jokes. When Dwayne asked if any children had a joke for Floppy, my father hoisted me up onto the stage.

I did my walk of shame to Dwayne and Floppy. I was so nervous I could barely breathe. When I got to center stage, it went something like this:

Dwayne: So, who was that man who lifted you up on stage?

CB: (whispering, barely audible) um, my dad.

Dwayne: And do you have a special joke for Floppy?

I nod my head. Dwayne thrusts the sweaty microphone toward me. I vividly recall the metal mesh surface of it. I think I could smell the alcohol on the mic as it hovered close to my mouth. I looked out at the camera. I remember seeing a man squatting at the edge of the stage with a big camera on his shoulder. The red light was ON, and I saw the big glass eye of the lens staring right at me. As well as all the people surrounding the stage...

I froze.

Dwayne: Cat got your tongue? Well, would you like to beep Floppy's nose instead?

NO! the nose beep was stricly for losers! Dammit, what was my joke? I had practiced it! I was fidgiting, trying desperately to remember. I look at my father and then...

CB: Why did the man put the car in the oven?

Dwayne: Why?

CB: Because he wanted a hot rod.

Oh, the hot burning shame of it all! My father's brilliant plan dashed to smithereens. I crept back to the edge of the stage and my father lifted me down. We didn't talk as we walked away from the stage and away from the NBC pavillion.

When we were outside, he asked me what happened? I could tell he was disappointed. I tried my best to explain to him that I just froze and this was the only joke I could remember.

I didn't watch Floppy as much after that. I just couldn't without recalling the utter embarassment of telling that damn hot rod joke. Thankfully the show was already waning in popularity. I think most kids stopped watching as video games and better cartoon shows and cable TV started to take over our minds. Dwayne and Floppy were eventually relegated to a crappy timeslot on Saturday or Sunday. And then pulled completely.

I forgot about Dwayne and Floppy until the day I learned that Dwayne had been jogging on the track at my middle school and suffered a massive heart attack. He died there and the voice of Floppy was silenced forever.

You can't help but wonder if some kid had jogged past Dwayne and startled him with something like "Where's Floppy?"

Or better yet, "Why did the man...."


At 11:02 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Aw. Good story. :-)

At 11:12 AM, Blogger 9W aka 9thWave aka Nthwave said...


At 1:30 PM, Blogger Six Shooter said...

Hi ho!

At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Ray said...


ho no you didn't...

At 1:58 AM, Blogger kevin said...

Wow, i like the idea of a brain-chain tangential thought. Sounds sexy!!

At 2:04 AM, Blogger shull o' fit said...

Are you still there? Who are you? I just was talking about the Floppy Show with my high school buddies from Ames High 30 years ago!..and when I Googled Floppy, your blog came up. If you're only in your 30's how can you remember Floppy? Anyway,we may know each other or our families or friends! My email is Nimmi


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