39Two Minute Comedy

"Give us Two Minutes... We'll Give You Too"

A Series of Two Minute Comedy Sketches for short attention span theatre

Flame Retardant
A Two Minute Comedy

Johnnie - inpatient
Jeff - inpatient
Janet - inpatient
Jack - inpatient
Jill - inpatient
Jaronda - inpatient
George - facilitator
Dr. Placard - supervisor
Dr. Bezel - observer

WARNING: Mature language.  From the dark stage we hear ragged applause.  LIGHTS UP on the patients and George seated in a circle.  George looks around at the group.

George: Alright.  Who wants to go next?  (pause) Johnnie?  Do you have something you can share today?

Johnnie: Nope.

George: Jeff?  You have anything?

Jeff:  (pause) I… I had a dream last night.

George: Would you like to share it with us Jeff?

Jeff:  I don’t know… It’s not that interesting.  It’s not very…Y’know.

George: Was it you in the dream Jeff?

Jeff: It’s my dream.  Who else would be in it?

George:  What happened?

Jeff:  (shrugs)  It was a three alarm.  Company Five, Eleven and Fourteen responded.   The near-in hydrants were dry so the pumper had to park two blocks down.  Meant three inch for two friggin blocks before they got near the roof.  (pause) There was like a gale wind blowin so sparks were coming off the fire and flyin down the street.  Like a hail storm of sparks flyin all around.  (growing intense) And you couldn’t hear anything cause of the sirens and blast horns, guys yellin and shouting and there was the flashing lights and smoke pouring out the windows.  It was a… A fuckin firestorm!  Smoke and thirty foot flames and all those guys yellin for more water and hose and like fifteen trucks, ladders, pumpers - it was a fuckin mess I’m telling ya!  A fuckin… beautiful mess!

Everyone stares at Jeff.    He hesitates, looks around.

Jeff: (quietly) So, ah that’s it.  That’s my…dream.

George:  Thanks Jeff.  Who else we got?  How ‘bout Jill?  Feel like sharing?

Jill:  (unemotional) Yeah… I’d like to know why it is that you all think shit that’s big is so great.  Like we sit here day after day and listen to big, big stories about three, four, five alarms, roof caves, asphyxiation, smoke poison, third degree burns… It don’t matter.   Not to me.  I took a propane torch to my kitchen curtains and you know what?  It felt just perfect.  I mean it.  Perfect.  Burned the ceiling, window frame, broke the glass… (shrugs) Not big.  See?  Don’t have to be.  My husband, the lousy fuck, know what he said?  After he stomps out the curtains, he says, “That’s the first time you cooked in a month.”  .

Group laughs. 

Jill: He was right.  That’s all I got.

George:  Thanks Jill.   Yeah Johnnie?  Got something now?

Johnny: Ah, let’s see… I could identify with Jill.  I never did curtains but I did like dumpsters.  Y’know the dumpsters that recycle paper?  Primary man.  Big ass paper fires are primary.  They go quick but you want to see excitement?  You want to get a crowd?  Flame two three dumpsters down a alley round lunch time and watch the action man.  Watch it.  Huh?  You guys know.  You get that sweet spot just before the first response units.  You got sirens coming and people gawking and calling 911 and the smoke is still white… (recalling) That real grey white that’s gonna go black but early, it’s white.  Like clouds.  White clouds…  White clouds.  (pause) That’s it.

George: Who is next?  Jaronda?  Do you have anything for us today?

Jaronda: (long pause) I been thinking’ that I really don’t got nothing like what we all is talking about here day in day out.  Y’know?  You all be mother fuckin fire bugs and flame throwers and shit and that’s not what I am… (pause) What I am is burning down the mother fuckin’ system that made me want to burn it down in the first place.  Understand?  If it wasn’t the system, wouldn’t be no fuckin’ reason to burn nothin’! 

The LIGHTS on the group dim.  LIGHTS on Placard and Bezel come up across stage.  They’ve been  observing the group.

Placard:  Well, gives you some idea of the population.

Bezel: It is remarkable.  They are all criminal pyros?

Placard: No.  Three are court referred “high risk” clients.  We group them according to psychosis not so much the referral source. 

Bezel: And what is the underlying modality here?  Why does a person want to start fires?

Placard: These patients all exhibit two diagnoses.  Pyromania - pleasure 
derived from setting fires and watching the reactions.  The second is,  Histrionic Personality Disorder.

Bezel: Which is what exactly?

Placard: Low self esteem and craving for attention.  It presents as  compulsion to exaggerate.  If you listen to their stories you get the sense they're more addicted to histrionics than to the physical fire setting.

Bezel:  How do they differ from a catastrophizer? 

Placard: They are catastrophizers who are unable to live non-catastrophic lives.  Without catastrophe they lapse into depression and or deeper psychosis.   And some have mild to severe inferiority complexes that fuel the pyromania.

Bezel: How so?

Placard: If any one of these personalities feels slighted or insulted - their anger reaction feeds depression.  The quick climb out of depression for a pyro is setting fires.  Once a fire is burning they become a fringe observer, standing in the crowd watching the trucks and firefighters and flames…  

Bezel: And that lifts their depression?

Placard: It does.  Remember, pyromaniacs thrive on catastrophe.  I have patients who rarely set a fire but chase fires on a daily basis.  They get as much pleasure from the action as they do to the actual lighting of a fire.

LIGHTS dim on the two doctors.  LIGHTS rise on the group.

Jack:  …so what I did was douse the fuckin tree with four gallons of unleaded.  I like to use unleaded cause you don’t get the toxic effects. 

Janet: (astonished) You burned down an oak tree?

Jack: Hell no.  When it was all over there was a stump.  Big ol, smokin’ black stump.  It was dark but beautiful.  It musta kept smoking for like two three days.  (pause) I tell ya, it got what it deserved.  Don’t no one tell me we can’t make nature behave.  Burn down a couple trees, a little stand of old growth, or a great big forest?  Word gets out.  Forest fires is nature’s way of makin’ nature pay attention.  It’s why I like em.  Forest fires are natural discipline.  Natural order.  It’s why I love nature.

Everyone stares at Jack.

George: (stunned) Okay… Well, that’s about it for today.  We’ll be back here tomorrow at two PM instead of  one PM so please make a note.  And thank you all for a good session.