Anatomy of a Corpse on Stage

A Very Sketchy Christmas – December 2013 at The Guild

So, the line was supposed to be:

(to Brodie) ‘Sides, serves you right for breaking up with Destiny anyways. (to Dougie) Every year he breaks up with Destiny right before Chritsmas so he don’t have to get her a gift. Then, coincidence of coincidunces, he hops back on her, right after Balemtimes Day. Smart thinkin’, that one!

Trina, Tami & Brodie on the couch

I’d said it, more or less like that, every performance thus far, in the run.  This particular night was our last show, and maybe I was feeling a bit more loosey-goosey than normal. Maybe I wasn’t concentrating enough.  Or was concentrating too hard.  I don’t know. But I do know that it ended up being one of the bigger instances of on stage corpsing that I fell victim to.

“Corpsing”, for those who may not know, is a theater term for laughing on stage when one is not supposed to be laughing.  It comes from the notion that a person who is playing dead, a corpse, should not be laughing, and, thus, when does laugh, is corpsing.

I’ll attempt to take us through this particular event, as it happened, kind of as a play-by-play recap.  The words in bold are words I spoke out loud; the words in italics are thoughts I remember thinking as it was happening – my interior dialogue; and (parenthetical words) are my thoughts now, as I write this.

So, everything was going along quite well.  Nice big crowd, everyone enjoying the show so far.  This particular scene happens fairly early in the show, so everyone’s energy is pretty high.  I come to my line, totally not expecting what was to come:

‘Sides, serves you right for breaking up with Destiny anyway.
(there is a small pause here – a blip – where normally there is not. I assume it is imperceptible to perhaps everyone but me – the pause would be timed in nano-seconds, so small was it, then it hits me:)
Huh, it seems I’ve forgotten what I am supposed to say next.  That hasn’t happened to me in forever.  When was the last time that happened – never mind, that, let’s get back to the matter at hand.  …breaking up with Destiny… hmmm?  What’s next? Nope, nothing’s coming to me. I’ve truly and totally forgotten everything about these lines.  Well, this won’t do, it’s still my turn to speak.  I need to say something.
(this initial pool of thoughts probably lasted no more than one second, so everyone probably still assumed everything was as it should be)
Can’t believe I forgot my lines!  When does that happen?  More importantly, what do I say now? Destiny. Funny name, that. What do I say? Okay, breathe.  Think. You are totally in control right now. No, those lines are not going to come back to me, so I have to take other steps. I need to say something. Come on, improv training, kick in and get us back on track.  What shall I say?  Just start speaking, Rob, it’ll be great. That’s when you’re at your best.  At least it’ll be something. Just start a sound and see what follows it. Okay, I don’t know what this will be, coming out my mouth right now, but I need to speak right now, so here goes, let’s see what I’m coming up with.
…Aaaakki akki akki…
(I am experiencing the classic “time slows down” feeling at this point – everything seems to be moving in slow motion, except my thoughts, which are racing)
Akki akki akki? What the hell is that?  Akki akki akki.  Fuck, seriously!  Ha ha, that’s awesome!  Nobody could have predicted that!!  Akki akki akki!!!  I just said “Akki akki akki”!  People probably think I just lost my mind.  That’s really funny.  That makes NO sense. That makes me want to laugh.  Uh oh, I think I’m going to laugh.  When was the last time you laughed on stage like you’re about to, Rob?  Ed Rashed, goatee, third year of Annekenstein?  Yep, I’m definitely going to laugh.  And why not?  Akki akki akki is a totally ridiculous thing to have said.  If ever such nonsense deserved laughter, that is it.
(at this point I start to laugh, and it is probably only now that anyone else recognizes something unusual is happening – the following thoughts come to me through my laughter)
They all see me laughing.  Do they even know? Do people think “Akki akki akki” is part of the script?  I bet some do. That would be a crazy script, if it was. Who would ever write that into that script at that point in the dialogue?  Wow, I’m laughing pretty hard. It’s really horrible, and yet really fun.  Laughing is fun. May be, but don’t indulge yourself.  Gotta stop.  Did I just really say “Akki akki akki”?  Was it “Akki akki akki”? Look at Lennie.  He’s really close to me, leaning forward, waiting for me to finish my line.  He’s doing really well, not laughing.  Look at him, not laughing, while you are laughing uncontrollably.  I love how much I’m laughing.  I love even more, maybe, how much Lennie is not laughing.  How can he not laugh.  Good for him. Good for Lennie.  Can’t see Josh.  Wonder if he’s laughing.  Is Kelly laughing.  I’m letting Kelly down.  Okay, let’s get back to business here.  Stop laughing.  This scene won’t continue until you finish your lines.  Holy shit, this scene won’t continue until I finish my lines!  Balemtimes!!  Balemtimes is the last word I need to say.  Once I get to Balemtimes this wonderful nightmare will be over.  Do I want it to be over?  I’m really enjoying this moment. Alright, enough is enough.  Oh, I remember my lines!  Alright, let’s get them out.
…Every year he breaks…
Nope, can’t do it. Just noise through laughter.  Just gonna have to ride this out.  Just sit back and let it run its course, Rob. No, just plow through the fucking lines and get through it.
I am fucking gone! Helpless!!  Awesome!!  Bet Cameron is laughing.  This is a memorable moment I am having right now.  One to remember, for sure.  But, seriously, get through it.
… Coincidence…
I’m just blurting out words now.  It makes no sense.  Is this close to what insanity would feel like? Total lack of control.  I’m laughing really hard. Hard laughing is wonderful.  But stop it.
… hops on her…
I can picture it, him actually hopping on her… I’m pretty comfortable on this couch.  Leaning back so comfortable. I bet people are confused right now. Laughing.  Come on, stop it.
… hops on her…
Just say Balemtimes.  Just the one word and then it’ll be over.  Just say Balemtimes.
… Balemtimes Day…
Phew!  Made it. Still laughing.  What will happen now?  Is this over?  I think it’s over.

Anyway, that’s a little glimpse into my thought process as I
remember it.  Yes, the corpsing subsided soon after that, and the scene carried on, more or less as normal.


  1. Best moment of the season as far as I'm concerned.


  2. jweale says:

    I love that you've detailed these few moments, because I can completely relate to the way your mind works in those situations. But to your credit, you didn't show any panic. I had no idea at the time that you were actually looking for your line. I just assumed you were messing with Lennie, and that it came back to bite you in the ass. I really regret not acknowledging that moment somehow. I remember thinking I should say something and the only thing that came to my mind was “I think your mother's having a stroke”. Instead, I just smiled, shook my head and stared blankly at the broken TV for a bit until Lennie said his next line. Which seems cowardly in retrospect. I also regret not acknowledging Lennie's wig falling off in the Shepherd scene during the last weekend. I think anything would have been better than nothing. I'll try to do better next time.


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