"A Working Model"

[That's the title Paskman and Spaeth gave the "typical" minstrel show they included in their eulogistic study "Gentlemen, Be Seated!" They provided the model in 1928 to "those who may wish to try their hand at an amateur revival of this practical and still popular form of entertainment." The selection from it below tries to give you an idea of what the "entertainment" actually consisted of.]
        INTERLOCUTOR: Gentlemen, be seated. [Chord in G, accompanied by Tambourine.] Well, Mr. Bones, how are you feeling this evening?
        B
ONES: Very well, Mr. Interlocutor, and how are you -- how are all your folks?
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: We're all well, excepting my brother. You see, a team of horses ran away with him, and he's been laid up since.
        B
ONES: That's a very strange coincidence, same thing happened to my brother.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: You don't say.
        B
ONES: The only difference is, it was my brother who ran away with the team of horses; he's been laid up ever since, but they'll let him out next month.
. . .

[Cross-fire between Bones and Tambo.]
        B
ONES: Music makes me feel so happy!
        T
AMBO: Well, you ain't going to be happy no more. You're going to be a soldier and I'm going to train you. I'm a first-class soldier trainer, I is. I'm a regular lion trainer, I is.
        B
ONES: You is a lion trainer?
        T
AMBO: That's what I said. I'se a hard-boiled lioner trainer, I is.
        B
ONES: You're a lion son of a gun.
        T
AMBO: What's that you said -- what's that you said?
        B
ONES: I said I'd like to be trying that gun.
        T
AMBO: When I says you try that gun, you'll try it and not before. Remember, I'se de boss. Has you made up your mind to be a good soldier, boy? -- Cause, if you hasn't, I'se going to start right in to make it up for you.
        B
ONES: Of course I is, of course I is.
        T
AMBO: Now, soldier, if you was to see the enemy coming, would you run or would you follow me?
        B
ONES: I'd be doing both, because, if any enemy approaches, I'll be running right behind you.
        T
AMBO: Was your pappy a soldier?
        B
ONES: Yessir, he was at the battle of Bull Run. He was one of the ones that run. [All laugh.]

. . .

        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Our golden-voiced baritone will sing that touching ballad, Darling Nelly Gray.

          There's a low green valley on the old Kentucky shore,
          There I've whiled many happy hours away,
          A-sitting and a-singing by the little cottage door,
          Where lived my darling Nelly Gray.
     [CHORUS:]
       Oh! my poor Nelly Gray, they have taken you away,
       And I'll never see my darling any more,
       I'm sitting by the river and I'm weeping all the day,
       For you've gone from the old Kentucky shore.

          When the moon had climbed the mountain, and the stars were shining too,
               Then I'd take my darling Nelly Gray,
          And we'd float down the river in my little red canoe.
               While my banjo sweetly I would play.  [Chorus]

          One night I went to see her, but "She's gone!" the neighbors say,
               The white man bound her with his chain;
          They have taken her to Georgia for to wear her life away,
               As she toils in the cotton and the cane.  [Chorus]

          My canoe is under water, and my banjo is unstrung,
               I'm tired of living any more,
          My eyes shall look downward, and my song shall be unsung,
               While I stay on the old Kentucky shore.  [Chorus]

          My eyes are getting blinded, and I cannot see my way;
               Hark! there's somebody knocking at the door --
          Oh! I hear the angels calling, and I see my Nelly Gray,
               Farewell to the old Kentucky shore.

        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Now, Tambo, didn't that song touch you?
        T
AMBO: No, but the fellow that sang it did. He still owes me five.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Enough! Enough!
        T
AMBO: He sure has got enough from me, I'll say he has.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: I'm astonished at you, Why, the idea of a man of your mental calibre talking about such sordid matters, right after listening to such a beautiful song! Have you no sentiment left?
        T
AMBO: No, I haven't got a cent left.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: I didn't say cent, I said sentiment -- sentiment -- the tender thought that rules the world -- the language of the flowers -- the music of Mendelssohn -- all that arouses sweet feelings. Why, man, can't you feel?
        T
AMBO: I feel he ain't never going to pay me my five back. [All laugh.]
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: I'm afraid that music, the divine attribute of genius, does not appeal to you -- music, the subtle harmonies of which have led men to battle for their country, to die without a thought of the future.
        T
AMBO: When they die, how are they going to pay me my money back?
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: I'm not talking about money, but about music. Doesn't it soothe you? Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, and you have no love for music! Bones, do you love music?
        B
ONES: I should say I do. Why, whenever I hears music, my heart goes bumpity-bump.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: You're mistaken, your heart does nothing of the kind.
        B
ONES: I guess I ought to know what my heart is doing.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: I tell you that you are mistaken. Your heart has nothing to do with your emotion. Your heart has no feeling, it is dumb.
        B
ONES: My heart is bum?
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Not bum -- dumb!
        B
ONES: I got a bum heart?
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: No, you haven't a bum heart. What I mean is that it isn't in your heart that your feeling exists.
        B
ONES: It is.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: It isn't.
        B
ONES: Say, whose heart is this, anyhow? [All laugh]
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Tambo, I hear you were up before the judge the other day. What seemed to be the reason for your being summoned?
        T
AMBO: Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Interlocutor, I was summoned to appear befo' de judge fo' participatin' in rollin' out those African dominoes.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Oh, I see, you were playing dice.
        T
AMBO: Yessir, that's it.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Well, what did the judge say to you?
        T
AMBO: Why, he jest sed, "I'm going to fine you ten dollars," and I hurriedly put my hand in my pocket and I sed, "Judge, here's the ten dollars, I got it right here in mah pocket"; an' he looked at me and said, "All right, now -- all right, now."
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: All right, what did he say? "All right, now?"
        T
AMBO: He turned to me and sed, "All right, now, just look in your other pocket an' see if you got ten days." [All laugh.]
        T
AMBO: I got a poem I can recite.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Well, go ahead and recite it.
Mary had a little lamb.
With her it used to frolic.
It licked her cheek in play one day
And died of painters' colic. [All laugh.]
Bones bursting out:
Mary had a little lamb,
Her father killed it dead,
And now it goes to school with her
Between two hunks of bread. [All laugh.]
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: That scintillating comedian, our ebony-hued Mr. Tambo, will render a riot of risibility entitled Nancy Fat.

         O Nancy Fat she was a gal, Fair and tall and slender,
         The fairest gal I ever saw, In all the female gender,
         A lovely foot I know she had, Into a boot to thrust,
         Her ankles were made for use, To keep it from the dust.
     [CHORUS:]
            O Nancy Fat,
            What are you at,
            I love you as no other,
            O Nancy Fat,
            Get out of that,
            With sweetness me you'll smother.

         O Nancy Fat she had a mouth, I cannot now describe it,
         It opened like a safety valve, when she wished to divide it;
         And well I knows she had a nose, and everybody knows it,
         The end of it just looks as if the brandy bottle froze it. [Chorus]

         O Nancy Fat had two such eyes, like burnt holes in a blanket,
         The inspiration from her soul, I took it in and drank it;
         She says this darkey am so sweet, she loves me like molasses;
         Dat small machine she calls her heart, goes pit-pat as it passes. [Chorus]

         If Nancy Fat does marry me, how nice we'll live together,
         She and I and all the bairns, like ducks in rainy weather;
         And as we march unto de church, and hear de bells a-ringin',
         De joy will break dis nigger's heart, to hear de darkies singin'. [Chorus]

. . .

        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Tambo, do you know anything about astronomy?
        T
AMBO: I haven't met the lady in years.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: No, no. Astronomy is the study of the nebular hypothesis, the study of planets. For instance, do you know that the sun is so far away it would take two thousand years for a wireless message to reach there?
        T
AMBO: Maybe you better send a picture postcard.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Good heavens, man, don't you realize that the sun is often at a distance of ninety-three million miles?
        T
AMBO: Oh, that must be out near New Rochelle!
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: New Rochelle! Nothing of the kind. Don't you know that the sun gives us all our light?
        T
AMBO: Sun may give us our light, but I notice that the gas company makes us pay for it.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Scientists have estimated the sun travels toward the earth with great velocity.
        T
AMBO: I used to ride one.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: I don't believe you know what velocity is.
        T
AMBO: Sure I do; it's a bicycle with three legs.
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Do you know that the sun gives us life?
        T
AMBO: That's nothing. I know a judge who gives us the same thing! [All laugh.]
        I
NTERLOCUTOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, we will now close our minstrel show with the entire company singing Oh! Susanna.

          I came from Alabama, wid my banjo on my knee,
             I'm g'wan to Louisiana, my true love for to see,
          It rain'd all night the day I left, the weather it was dry,
             The sun so hot I froze to death; Susanna, don't you cry.

               Oh! Susannah, Oh don't you cry for me,
               I've come from Alabama, wid my banjo on my knee.

          I jumped aboard de telegraph, and travelled down de ribber,
             De 'lectric fluid magnified, and killed five hundred nigger.
          De bullgine bust, de horse runs off, I really thought I'd die;
             I shut my eyes to hold my breath: Susanna, don't you cry. [Chorus]

          I had a dream the odder night, when eb'ry thing was still;
             I thought I saw Susannah, a-coming down de hill.
          De buckwheat cake war in her mouth, de tear was in her eye,
             Says I, I'm coming from de South, Susanna, don't you cry. [Chorus]

          I soon will be in New Orleans, and den I'll look all round,
             And when I find Susannah, I'll fall upon the ground.
          But if I do not find her, dis darkie'll surely die;
             And when I'm dead and buried, Susanna, don't you cry. [Chorus]


SOURCE: "Gentlemen, Be Seated!", by Dailey Paskman and Sigmund Spaeth (Garden City: Doubleday, Doran & Company, 1928)
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