Tonight a friend of mine invited me to one of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s screenings of early-Muppets TV clips. The show is like the event I host each month, so it was a perfect fit. Before the screening, the host brought out some prizes and asked trivia questions. I don’t know about you but this stuff always makes me nervous. Irrational panic washes over me. Possibly because I take the trivia too seriously. I could care less about the prizes, I just want to be right. It’s a character flaw. I get that.
Thing is, these questions were easy. And the audience was made up of hardcore Muppet fans. (Maybe you know the type.)
Between questions I started rummaging through my brain, digging up the most obscure Muppet facts I could think of. The best I could come up with is Guy Smiley’s real name.
I became even more interested when a great prize came out: a lithograph of Super-Grover illustrated by comic-artist Alex Ross. I knew my kids would love this poster, so I decided I’d try to answer the question – whatever it was.
The Host asked “According to Sesame Street — who is everybody’s favorite game show host?”
My hand shot up. I was called on.
“Me?” I had to make sure.
“Yes,” the host replied.
“Bernie Liedekratz,” I answered with a huge, idiotic grin. A confused silence filled the air.
I added, “Also known by his stage name, Guy Smiley.”
The crowd (full of hardcore Muppet fans) was audibly impressed. But really, it was not like cool impressive. I probably came off as one of those people with way too much time on their hands. (note: When I was given the prize, the host said, “The poster goes to the guy with way too much time on his hands.”)
If you’re anything like me, you remember all kinds of odds and ends of dialogue, fun facts, punchlines, household hints, the Skipper’s real name**, etc. In my case, I once saw the sketch where The Count meets Guy Smiley and they have this exchange.
THE COUNT: They call me the Count — because I love to Count.
GUY SMILEY: And they call me Guy Smiley — because I changed my name from Bernie Leidekratz.
It’s a good bit. The gag stuck with me, because it’s a pretty subversive for a kids’ show.
But by going too far and showboating my warehouse of useless knowledge I looked like some Muppet maniac who should not be allowed 200 feet of Gordon. I mean, sure, I love the Muppets. But I’m into all kinds of stuff — 1950’s existential pulp crime novels, shark attack movies, 70’s L.A. punk music, carny culture, pre-Star Wars futuristic science-fiction from the 1970s, alcoholism, William Steig’s early work, the Industrial Workers of the World, the Phantasm quadrilogy, phenomenology, The Incredible Hulk, Viet Nam, boxing novels, Tex Avery cartoons, chicken & waffles, George Orwell, Billy Jack, list-making, dance marathons during the Depression, the art of Joe Coleman, live-teleplays of the 1950’s, cult musicals, the list goes on and on.
Honestly, how many of us can easily quote Bob Dylan lyrics, commercial slogans, the off-hand remarks of our 7th grade math teacher? Maybe years of not drinking has cursed me with too much of a memory, so I’m a hoarder of mental clutter. (If only I could free up some of that information to remember my Dad’s birthday.)
Well, I won a cool poster, which I’ll give to my kids of Christmas. And all it took was me coming off like a bigger loser than I actually am.
** Jonas Grumby.