Noisemaker, noisemaker, you have no complaint.
You are what you are and you ain’t what you ain’t. –Dear Abby, by John Prine
It’s my own fault, I know. I have only myself to blame.
For Christmas I found some very nice things for Sweetie. Things he wanted. Things he could use. And then I had a moment of madness. I put in his stocking a little device. It’s a cheap red plastic box about the size of a calculator. It has sixteen little buttons on it. Each button, when pressed, produces a noise. Applause, laughter, breaking glass, a gun shot, a boing sound, a ta-da! And of course a burp and a fart. Guess what he’s enjoyed the most. He’s like the child who plays with the cardboard box, leaving the present tossed aside.
A few years ago my brother-in-law gave him a similar device – a fart machine. This one produced eight different fart noises and could be operated with a remote control. He didn’t even have to be in the same room to make it go. He drove us all crazy. He placed it under chairs, hid it in the sofa, even took it to work with him.
But here’s the thing. If you happened to be the one to gain control of the remote, all of a sudden it became hilarious! And – I confess – the noisemaker is no different. Why is it that smart, educated, articulate, thoughtful people can suddenly be so entertained by such silliness?
Sounds of course can be very evocative. They create pictures in the mind. This was clearly demonstrated for me about ten years ago. I was teaching broadcast journalism to a group of university students in eastern Europe. They spoke no English. I spoke neither Russian nor Ukrainian. We communicated through interpreters. Until I gave them a radio assignment.
Tell a story using only sound. A story with a beginning, middle and end. No voice, no script. I broke them into groups of four or five and gave each group a CD full of sound effects. They were free to use those or record their own. They had a day.
The following morning each group played its work. They were brilliant! They told stories that included a train disaster and the consequences of drinking and driving. They were simple of course but remarkably clear and powerful. The language barrier was broken, if only for a couple of hours.
Perhaps that’s why the nonsense of the noisemake is so entertaining. Each sound creates a picture, reminding us of a moment or a laugh. They can even further a story once it’s begun. Let me explain.
Sweetie and I spent a few hours in the car driving to see friends after Christmas. We came up with a game for the noisemaker. We think it has potential. And if it becomes a hit before we market it, I will know it was one of the 20 people who read this blog. So don’t even think about it.
Here’s how it works:
- Everyone has a noisemaker
- There is a batch of cards called, ‘Story Starters’
- One person takes a card which will say something like, “I was walking along the beach…” or, “I went to the grocery store….”
- That person has to begin making up a story that begins with the phrase of the card
- At the end of a sentence, the story teller randomly presses a button, creating a noise
- The story and the noisemake pass to the next person who has to continue based on what the noise indicates
There’s another option. The person who begins keeps going until she is stumped and can’t go further. (That will never be Sweetie – he always has something more to say.)
Sweetie and I recorded an example of how it might go (this is really silly):
(hard to believe this is the work of two (supposedly) mature adults!)
Or maybe he keeps going until he breaks up. There would be some sort of scoring system we haven’t figured out yet. Maybe pieces to move around a board. Or maybe the other players would judge the quality of your response. Ok, we haven’t worked out all the details yet.
We tested the idea on New Year’s Eve with three other couples after dinner (admittedly a dinner which included a lot of wine). We laughed ourselves silly. Especially at the impact of the burps and farts. We agreed it has potential. Now Sweetie and I just have to find someone who knows how to launch a game. Noises and nonsense anyone?
Signed, Dear Abby.
Incidentally, see where this sound takes you. Put me back into the old Riverboat coffee house in Yorkville in 1972.
N.B. This post was written more than a week ago but it’s taken that long to corral Sweetie long enough to record the audio above. Was it worth it?