Tentshow Pagliacci

Extract only.

For the complete stageplay, please visit: www.australianplays.org



by Tim Gooding

(c) October 1976


  • MOE
  • MAE                     
  • DORIS                   
  • PHYLLIS                 
  • STAN                    



The plot of the play replicates that of Leoncavallo's opera "I Pagliacci". Substituted for the opera's Commedia del'Arte characters are Australian versions of renowned 20th century comedians, who work identical comic styles to their models, but need not be precise impersonations.

Character:         Modelled on:               Opera role:

MOE.................The Three Stooges......CANIO 

LARRY.............The Three Stooges......CANIO

CURLY.............The Three Stooges......CANIO

MAE..................Mae West...................NEDDA

DORIS..............Doris Day....................NEDDA

PHYLLIS..........Phyllis Diller................NEDDA

ROBIN..............Robin Williams...........TONIO



CHARLIE.........Charlie Chaplin............SILVIO               

NEDDA - the original operatic character - also appears, as she was, a traditional Commedia del'Arte Colombina.       




The interior of a large tent pitched at The Entrance, NSW, a seaside resort town, during the Christmas holiday period.

NEDDA enters in costume and makeup of a Colombina, clutching a plucked chicken to her bosom: Madonna and fowl. She executes a lifeless curtsey.

The overture to "I Pagliacci" rises.


Welcome, sweet ladies and gentlemen

Welcome, dear friends, to the sleepy tent of fools.

Tonight, our story is true

The tears of the actors are real

Only the laughter is false

For the hilarity of fools cloaks broken hearts

Here in dusty shadows of the ring..

Ah, think then, sweet people

When you look on themIn motley clad

Full cherry nose and rubber grin

Their hearts, like yours, are human hearts

Pummelled by the punches of passion.

Ah, think then, dear friends, and smile sadly

These fools you see in sandy lots along the coast

Or camped beside the river for a week

Their lowly holiday pantomime

Outdrawn by ferris wheel

By waterslide and snow cones

They all are clowns like you.

The overture swells. Nedda exits.

Scene 1

(CHARLIE enters, unfolds a camp chair, and seats himself alongside the front row of the audience.

MOE, LARRY, and CURLY enter, in line, in a march/skip, with MOE leading. Each carries two large suitcases.

At the rear, Curly has difficulty in co-ordinating his suitcases while keeping in step.

Annoyed, he charges ahead. And bumps into Larry. Who bumps into Moe, so jolting him forward.

Moe turns, slow-burning, and swings his cases into Larry’s. Larry’s cases swing back into Curly’s. Curly’s cases swing backwards, then forwards again. Into Larry’s cases. Which swing forward into Moe’s. And topple Moe backwards, to the ground.)

MOE:        Oh, a smart Alec, eh?

CURLY:    Physics, Moe!

MOE:        Oh. Physics.

CURLY:    Mm! Newton's Third Law of Motion.

LARRY:    Action and reaction, Moe.

MOE:        Action and reaction, eh? What's this, boofhead?

(He holds out his left hand clenched in a fist, and points at it with the index finger of his right hand.)

CURLY:    That's a finger.

MOE:       (shaking the fist) No, this!

CURLY:    That?

MOE:       (shaking fist) This.

(Curly points a finger at Moe’s fist.)

CURLY:    Larry, what's this?

LARRY:    That's a finger.

(Curly clenches a left hand fist and shakes it.)

CURLY:    (shaking fist) No, this.

LARRY:    That?

CURLY:    (shaking fist) This.

(Larry points a finger at Curly’s fist.)

LARRY:    Hey, Moe. What's this?

MOE:       That's a finger.

(Larry clenches a left hand fist and shakes it.)

LARRY:    (shaking fist) No, this.

MOE:       That?

LARRY:    (shaking fist) This.

(Moe points a finger at Larry’s fist.)

MOE:       Hey, Curly. What's this?

CURLY:    Easy peasy, Moe. That's a fist. Hit it.

(Moe hits down on Larry’s fist with his own fist. Larry’s fist circles vertically, to come down on Curly’s fist. Curly’s fist circles, to come down on Moe’s head. Moe falls to the ground.)

MOE:        Oh, a smart alec, eh?

CURLY:    Physics, Moe! I couldn't help it. It's Newton's Law. Don't hit me. Think of your knuckles.

MOE:        Hit you? I'm not going to hit you. I'm laughing. Ha ha. Ho ho. Funny routine. Ha ha. What say we use it in the show tonight?

CURLY:    Old Isaac was a real clown. Last of the great stand up physicists.

LARRY:    Tire of Einstein. Never tire of Newton.

CURLY:     Relativity? Can’t see the joke. But gravity! Ha ha ha! Gravity brings tears to my eyes! Gravity!

(executes a pratfall)

CURLY:      Gravity causes pratfalls! Ha1 Pratfalls! Pratfalls break me up! Ha ha ha.

LARRY:     And forces! Don't forget Newt's "external forces"! Pushes and pulls! Ha ha.

(He and Curly push and pull each other about.)

CURLY:     What about..ha ha..what about..ha ha..what about..ha ha haaa..

(He cracks up with laughter.)

LARRY:    Say it! Say it!

CURLY:    Bodies in motion! Plucked chickens in motion! Custard pies in motion!

LARRY:    Anvils in motion!

CURLY:    Cannon balls in motion!

LARRY:    Motion followed by collision! Collision between a moving and a stationary object! Ha ha ha. Always get a laugh. Soda in the dial! Pies in the moosh! Always gets a laugh. Always!

CURLY:    Even bigger laugh: a collision, followed by a fall!

(He bumps into Larry and then falls.)

CURLY:    You can't top a collision followed by a fall.

LARRY:    Oh yes, you can. Oh yes you can. Newt's coop of grace: Inertia.

(Larry stands stock still. Deadpan.)

CURLY:    Inertia.

(Curly stands stock still. Deadpan.

Long pause.)

MOE:       (unamused) What's keeping the wives?

CURLY:    Can't be our salaries. Yuk yuk.

MOE:        You're a wonder, Curly. Laughing in the face of marital infidelity.

CURLY:    (double take) Ha ha. In the face of what?

LARRY:    Moe. Not now.

MOE:        Laughing on the outside, crying on the inside. You're a bigger clown than me, Gunga Din. I wouldn't be laughing if I was married to her.

CURLY:    What are you on about? What's he on about?

MOE:        Nothing. Ignorance is bliss, little brother. You and Phyllis still sleeping on separate Li-los? In her defence, he did ply her with Dim Sims and Passiona first.

CURLY:    Dim Sims and Passiona? Who did?

MOE:        No-one. Robin.

CURLY:    Robin?

MOE:        Probably a completely innocent tongue kiss.

LARRY:    Don't mess with his mind, Moe. Not his mind.

(Curly clutches his head in accelerating anguish.)

MOE:       She must reckon you're a dill or something. Boy is she right! You're a professional dill. For the show must go on! Offstage and on, twenty four/seven, the cuckolded clown keeps right on laughing! Ha ha ha! While his one and only girl plunges into the arms of her wisecracking lover - ha ha ha! While the knives of betrayal plunge into his back - ha ha ha! While the image of coupling burns his holes in his brain and the Green Eyed Monster chews holes in his heart, the professional fool just keeps on laughing. Ha ha ha! Ha ha ha!

(Curly drops to the ground and spins horizontally.)

CURLY:    Fool! Fool! Fool! I am a Fool!

(He suddenly stops spinning, goes rigid, eyes closed.)

LARRY:    Couldn't you just hit him?

MOE:        Not such a smart Alec now.

LARRY:    Is it true? Phyllis and Robin?

MOE:        Newton's First Law of Jealousy. Jealousy is directly proportional to imagination.

LARRY:    Curly? Good news. It's all in your imagination.

MOE:        Tell him to wake up: the stage and real life are completely different.

LARRY:    Wake up. The stage and real life are completely different.

MOE:        On the other hand, who'd be happy married to a dill like him? Mrs No-One. So Congress of the Weasel is bound to happen sometime. The milkman, the butcher, the postie, the fellow cast member. Temptation lurks everywhere for the cheese and kisses of a Fat Fool.

(Larry slaps Curly’s face, pokes him in the eyes, pulls his hair, bites his nose, in trying to revive him. Curly remains comatose.)

LARRY:    Can't raise him.

MOE:         Neither could his mother. Numbskull! What's he playing at? He’s thrown this same tired old fit in every seaside resort from Eden to Tweed Heads.

LARRY:    You rev him up in every seaside resort from Eden to Tweed Heads.

MOE:        He annoys me in every seaside resort from Eden to Tweed Heads. Newton's Second law of Jealousy. It's all his fault.

LARRY:    Sit him up before Phyllis gets back.

(They sit Curly up. He slumps forward.)

LARRY:    Curly. Enough's enough.

MOE:        Smart Alec.

LARRY:    Clever Dick.

MOE:        Twerp.

LARRY:    Poltroon.

MOE:        Pinhead.

LARRY:    Prawn.

MOE:        Flathead.

LARRY:    Mullet.

MOE:        Jellyfish.

LARRY:    Anchovy.

MOE:        Galah.

LARRY:    Galoot.

(The routine becomes musical, accompanied by a dance.)

MOE:        Dropkick.

LARRY:    Punt.

MOE:        Spiral torpedo.

LARRY:    Peabrain.

MOE:        Drongo.

LARRY:    Nongo.

MOE:        Dubbo.

LARRY:    Cobar.

MOE:        Bourke.

LARRY:    Wills.

MOE:        Pill.

LARRY:    Dill.

MOE:        Pickle.

LARRY:    Gherkin.

(The routine ends as they collide with each other.)

MOE:        Numbskull. What's this, boofhead?

LARRY:    That's a finger, Moe.

MOE:        And what's this?

LARRY:    That's another finger.

(MOE pokes Larry’s eyes.)

LARRY:    Thanks, Moe. I needed that.

MOE:        So did I. Leave the insults to me in future.

(MAE, DORIS, PHYLLIS, and ROBIN enter. Robin has his arms around the women, in would-be lascivious fashion.

Moe and Larry spread their arms, anticipating embrace.)

MOE:        Mae!

LARRY:    Doris!

PHYLLIS:  Curly!

(The women stop in their tracks at the sight of their husbands. Curly remains prone, apparently unconscious)

PHYLLIS:  Curly?

LARRY:      He's breathing. Or else his nose is leaking.

PHYLLS:   Moe? What did you do to him?

MOE:         Nothing. He threw another of his turns.

PHYLLIS:  He has powerful arms. It happens every time he pulls his belt off quickly.

(Phyllis moves to Curly.)

PHYLLIS:  Married life does not offer many such opportunities for a good lie down.

(She lies, flat out, beside him.)

ROBIN:     Good morning, The Entrance!

(mimics seagull squawk) Incoming! Incoming! (sings) "I feel good, na na na na na na na." Yes, it’s The Over The Hill Performing Group, coming to you from the sin city of the Central Coast Over 65s! Good morning, Tuggerah Lake! Live under canvas from yet another Twilight Village with ocean views and a nearby bowlo! I can't take it any more! The ties! The long socks! The hearing aids! Sardony: that's a form of humour.

(Phyllis sits up.)

PHYLLIS:  This is how Curly Pumps Up The Li-Lo. I put the nozzle in his mouth, my foot on his stomach, and Stompin’ At Maroubra on the  record player. Ah ha ha ha!

(She lies down again.)

ROBIN:    Good morning Swansea-Belmont! (seagull squawk) Incoming! Why am I here? Taxi! Follow that zimmer frame! Doctor! Doctor! Touring has become a blur. A turbid miasma of seniors card discounts, a plethora of outsized chemist shops, in a string of Last Resorts with ocean views and nearby bowlos stretching from Eden to Tweed Heads! Double my dose, doc! Two handfuls of anything stupefying!

(Phyllis sits up.)

PHYLLIS:  Did he hit his head? No. We would've heard it. Ah ha ha ha! They would have heard it in Darwin. Ah ha ha ha!

(She lies down again.)

ROBIN:      Good morning Port Macquarie! (seagull squawk) Incoming! Good morning Sussex Inlet! (seagull squawk) Incoming! Good morning Shoalhaven Heads! Great times! Great memories! Where else can retired couples play bingo and contract tinea at the same time? Two Fat Ladies with Athlete's Foot! Good morning Brunswick Heads! Where else can Third Agers play bingo, have a bad fall at Knights Bishop 5 on the giant outdoor chessboard, and forget their spouse's name at the same time? Sixty six clicketty clicks, madame your hip replacement is ready, watch out for rogue bishops in future, are you the Whipper Snipper man?

(Phyllis sits up.)

PHYLLIS:  Curly? I've been at the beach, baby. I had a lousy time. I lay on the sanbd and a man threw me in the water for his labrador to fetch. Ah ha ha ha..!

(She lies down again.)

ROBIN:     Good morning Forster Tuncurry! (seagull squawk) Incoming! Breaking news. Mature age feral bingo psychos have crossed out the numbers on every letterbox in town. Heads down! Top up your super! Charge your pacemakers! Purple Haze up in my brain! Blue rinse up in my hair! Warning! Pelicans at six o'clock. Why am I here? Taxi! Follow that mini bus with wheelchair access! 

MOE:        Darling!

LARRY:    Sweetheart!

(The women continue to resist embracing their husbands. Phyllis sits up.)

PHYLLIS:  Curly? I have this effect on him. The TseTse Fly of the boudoir. Ah ha ha.

ROBIN:      Self deprecation. That's a form of humour.

MAE:          Don't put yourself down so much, honey. That's men's work.

PHYLLIS:  I'm too humble. You know why I'm so humble? Mirrors! Ah ha ha! Curly?

(No response. Phyllis remains sitting up.)

ROBIN:      Newsflash. Beep beep. ABC theme. Something is happening here! After incalculable years something is happening here! For we are here at last! In all our faded glory! But wait! Where is everybody else of our dodgey ilk? Where be the shonky coastal sideshows of yesteryear? Where be the Shark Museum? Where be the Mirror Maze? Where be the flirty boys and slopey girls of dubious parentage who lure you to the outdoor flicks and do you behind the Crazy House? Where be Dirty Dolores and her hipsy wipsy woos? Where be Christmas Tent City and The Ten Thousand Low Income Undesirables Under Canvas? Where Mr Whippy's friendly, choc-topped, soft and slushy pedophile van, trolling for prey with Greensleeves? Where Playland Amusement Arcade And Marijuana Mart? Where has all the itinerant holiday sleaze gone, long time passing? Revitalised! Revitalised all! The entire east coast, revitalised on a maritime theme! With lawn, mulched low maintenance garden, paved Memorial Park, inflatable castle, face-painting and pelican feeding twice a day for the grandkids! And at night, what else but clubs, clubs, clubs! Go hog wild with bingo, keno, meat-o raffle-o, TAB-o, Texas Hold-Em-o, and a schnitzel and fish night-o. Troupers, my troupers! We are but thespian relics! We are fossils of a bygone era! We are silly old fruits rotting amid the compost of histrionic history! (sings) "We gotta get out of this place!" Taxi! Follow that hearse with the nice young driver!

MOE:         Cherry Blossom!

LARRY:     Lotus Petal!

PHYLLIS:  Curly?

(No response from Curly. While Mae and Doris relent, and reluctantly embrace their husbands.)

MAE:            (to Moe) Is that a jumbuck in your tuckerbag or are you just glad to see me?

ROBIN:    (to audience) Sexual innuendo. That's a form of humour.

(Mae leans over Moe’s shoulder and puts her fingers down her throat, covertly indicating distaste at the love games she must play with Moe.

Robin moves in, tries to covertly kiss Mae’s hand. She slaps him. Unseen by Moe.

As Doris sings, ruefully, over her shoulder.)

DORIS:     (sings) “Once I had a secret love, that lived inside the heart of me..”

(Robin moves in to kiss Doris behind Larry’s back.)

ROBIN:    They're bored, they're sexy, they're married to clowns. I'm a diabetic in a lolly shop!

(Doris dances away from Robin, ham-flirtatious.)

ROBIN:    "Ham." That's another form of humour.

(PHYLLIS gets to her feet, stretches, yawns.)

PHYLLIS:  Good morning! What’s for breakfast? Curly?

(She nudges him with her foot. And again.)

PHYLLIS:  Wakey wakey. Another day, another rich tapestry of mutual affection.

(She nudges him again. Hard. No response.

Robin puts a sleazy arm around Phyllis.)

ROBIN:    She's funky, she's spunky, she married a monkey. Now's our chance, baby. Let's slip away to the Gold Coast. I'll show you the Big Banana. The Big Pineapple? The Big Stump Jump Plough?

(Phyllis removes Robin’s arm with disdain.)

LARRY:      He thinks you two are running off together.

PHYLLIS:  Run off? Moi? With Robin? Ah ha ha ha!

DORIS:    (sings/dances)

“Now I shout it from the highest hills,

Even told the golden daffodils..”

LARRY:      He's a barrel of insecurities. He's convinced you'll run off with someone some day.

PHYLLIS:  But Robin? Ah ha ha ha.

DORIS:      (sings)

“At last, my heart's an open door,

My secret love's no secret any more..”

LARRY:      He takes the role of Pagliaccio to heart. He's a method cuckold.

PHYLLIS:  Robin? Ah ha ha ha.

MOE:          Newton's First Law of Insecurity: anything's possible. Poor bloke thinks you'll leave him just because he's a manic depressive knucklehead with no money or prospects, prone to violence, jealousy, fitting, bodily contortion and strange grunts and squeals.

PHYLLIS:  Baby, there's nothing between me and Robin. Robin? Ah ha ha ha. It’s laughable. Ah ha ha ha. Curly?

LARRY:     He's under a lot of pressure.

MOE:         Get him a lighter hat.

DORIS:      Light green would be nice.

MOE:         This tired old Green Eyed Monster routine is starting to wind me up. Everywhere we go! He stirs up more panic than a dead cat in the Mirror Maze. Last night, Paradise Park in Toukley. The night before, the Bali Hai in Budgewoi..

(Larry picks up the rhythm. The routine becomes a song, accompanied by a little dance.)

LARRY:    Shangri-La in Forster.

MOE:        Satori in Tuncurry.

LARRY:    Nirvana in Umina.

MOE:        Utopia in Ourimbah.

LARRY/MOE:       Oh, The Paradise Park in Toukley

The Bali-Hai in Budgewoi

Shangri-La in Forster

Satori in Tuncurry

Nirvana in Umina

Utopia in Ourimbah

(Ending as they collide with each other.)

MOE:        Peabrain.

(Moe pokes Larry in the eyes.)

ROBIN:    Mindless violence. That's a form of humour.

MAE:      Moe. Sugar me an ant. Make it a bulljoe.

(Moe exits.)

PHYLLIS: Tired of this game, Curly. Not playing any more. Curly? There is no-one else. There is no-one else!

(Moe enters, splashes a bucket of water over Curly. He comes to, and immediately points at Robin.)

CURLY:    You! You! You!

(Curly snorts and stamps his feet, bull-like, runs at Robin and stomach-butts him.)

CURLY:    Stay away from her, sleazebag!

(Moe douses Curly with another bucket of water.

As Robin exits.)

PHYLLIS:  Curly! It’s only a play!

LARRY:     The show doesn't start till seven.

PHYLLIS:  It's only a play. There is no-one else.

CURLY:     (calming) It's only a play. It’s only a play. Ha! It’s only a play.

(NEDDA'S Act I aria from “I Pagliacci” – the latter portion, from "stridono lassu" - rises.)

MOE:         Pub?

CURLY:     OK!

(Curly grins cheekily, waves at Phyllis, skips off with Moe and Larry.

Mae and Doris exit, opposite.

Phyllis lingers, in a single spot, downstage. Charlie, still seated in front row, becomes particularly attentive.

Seagulls cry, sporadically, as Phyllis speaks.)

PHYLLIS:  High aloft they fly

Launched in flight through heaven's blue ether

Arrows of light in the sky

Defying storm clouds, tempest, sunlight

Flying forever through boundless sky

Ever afar, up and onward forever

On! Never wearying, unchained wings unfolding

(Robin enters, unseen, and listens.)

PHYLLIS:  They have their visions, tender beautiful visions

Soaring forever through golden clouds

Though the wind howls and night is dark above

Spreading their wings by plant and star

No night dismays them, no storm delays them

Soaring forever over sea and scar

Far! Oh so Far! Flying on wings untiring

Seeking sweet regions they may never know

What can bar their dreams and desires?

Fate, fate leads them. Onward still! They go! Onward still! They go!

(Charlie stands, applauds, extravagantly,  as Phyllis exits.

Charlie exits, soon after.)