I had to chuckle when I was contacted by Kimberly Suta of Bunny Hat Productions about helping to spread the word about San Antonio's upcoming Gong Shorts Film Competition on Oct. 19.
My uneasy, slightly painful deep-seated laughter had nothing to do with S.A.'s Gong Shorts Competition, where original short films (3-15 minutes long on DVD) are guaranteed a 3-minute play before audience members are allowed to call for the, uh, gong.
I have memories of another local, live gong show way back in the '70s, you see, where I -- quite by accident, I might add -- was ... uh ...
I was gonged by a chimpanzee. OK, there, I said it!
According to the first dictionary within reach, chimpanzees are defined as "a great ape with large ears, mainly black coloration, and lighter skin on the face, native to the forests of western and central Africa. Chimpanzees show advanced behavior such as the making and using of tools."
In this case, Deena the Chimp's tool of choice was a gong.
Picture this: a North Dallas nightspot that featured a live gong show where up-and-coming and/or down-and-going comedians gathered on Thursday nights to wow audiences with their wildly funny wit or get gonged and laughed out of the joint a la a cheap imitation of The Gong Show produced and hosted on TV in the afternoons by Chuck Barris in the mid and late-'70s.
The audience didn't get to vote at the Dallas gong show, though. A distinguished panel of judges, including, if memory serves correctly, the late, great Jerry Haines, the WFAA-TV personality also known as Mr. Peppermint, the show's organizer and the aforementioned Deena the Chimp.
Deena, you see, was not your run-of-the-mill primate. Deena was billed by owner and Rent-A-Chimp proprietor Mike Stower as "the world's only stripping chimp."
Obviously, it was a very high class operation. I had stopped performing comedy for free about then, having heard, "We'd love for you to come out and entertain, but of course we can't pay you anything" too many times.
I was holding steadfast to my rule, too. But -- to give you some idea of how lean things were about then -- if I wanted to buy lunch, it was very likely that I'd need to sell some blood to do it.
I only agreed to perform at the gong show because of two things: There was a $50 cash prize, and the organizer assured me that I would win and could breeze in, do five minutes of snappy comic patter and be out of there in a flash 50 bucks richer.
Words I'll never forget (although I'll keep trying): "I've seen the other comedians. It's a sure thing. You will be the winner!"
If I learned anything that night, it was not to underestimate (or perhaps overestimate) a chimpanzee that strips for her bananas.
At about the 3-minute mark, I was rolling pretty good. I could see the audience responding well to my hilarious material. I also saw Mr. Peppermint having a good time. Then my eyes -- about to fill with utter fear -- spotted Deena with the gong mallet in her paw/hands. (Come on people, don't you know not to give a chimp the mallet at an EXPLETIVE DELETED, EXPLETIVE DELETED, EXPLETIVE DELETED gong show?)
If that wasn't bad enough, Deena must have had a cold. I saw her fighting back a sneeze just as the audience was really laughing at my Class A Prime material.
Let's cut to the sad chase: The sneeze exploded. Deena's mallet hand/paw jerked in the direction of the gong and BLAM! I began thinking about where I might be selling blood for lunch the next day.
The San Antonio Gong Shorts Film Competition, to be held from 7-10 p.m. Oct. 19 at Alamo Street Eat Bar (609 South Alamo Street, S.A., 78205), sounds like real fun, however. Comedian Jade Esteban Estrada will emcee and, hopefully, see no chimps -- stripper or otherwise -- near the gong.
The deadline to submit a DVD for competition is Oct. 12. For more information, check out the event's website at www.eventbrite.com/e/6th-annual-gong-shorts-film-competition-in-san-antonio-tickets-18423662671
Oh, and one more thing:
Why Deena, why?