‘Joke Night’

April 22, 2011

Some schools have a ‘Joke Night’ on closing night. I have at one time or another participated in joke night, (and Mozart did too, evidently, during the Magic Flute)

This from one of his letters:

“…when Papageno’s aria with the Glockenspiel came on, at that moment I went backstage because today I had a kind of urge to play the Glockenspiel myself. – So I played this joke: just when Shickaneder [playing Papageno] came to a pause, I played an arpeggio – he was startled – looked into the scenery and saw me – the 2nd time he came to that spot, I didn’t play – and this time he stopped as well and did not go on singing – I guessed what he was thinking and played another chord – at that he gave his Glockenspiel a slap and shouted “shut up” – everybody laughed. – I think through this joke many in the audience became aware for the first time that Papageno doesn’t play the Glockenspiel himself.”

But even so, I have to say that Joke Night goes against everything the theatre is about. When you fool around with the play, you destroy the experience for the audience, you cheapen the amount of work that has gone into the piece, and you go out with a whimper instead of a bang. There are a couple of ways to channel the impish energy of a cast that may dissipate some of that impulse:

1) At your closing night party, have your most creative people put together a parody of one of the songs, or send up the show in some way or another.

2) If your show runs for 2 weeks, have a brush up rehearsal the second weekend with no costumes or pit or audience, just running through the show as fast as possible. The goofiness will happen on its own.

Don’t spoil the integrity of your production for the sake of a few laughs. Finish strong!



  1. I couldn’t agree more. Put the cabash on a couple of “plans” my senior boys had…

    One slipped by me, and it was funny, and the audience never knew a thing. As the storm troopers yelled offstage to find the vonTrapps, one clever 13 yr old with a bass voice added, “Close the blast doors! What? I’m not going in there with two Jedi!” From the audience, it could have been German orders and threats.

  2. I would strongly advise against allowing a joke night (around here we call it “hack night”) even during the brush-up rehearsal. I was once in a show that was over an hour away from home (because I loved the show and the part so much). The brush-up was as you described: running through the dialogue as fast as possible, skipping most of the songs, and playing fast and loose with the author’s words. I don’t think it did anyone a bit of good in terms of refreshing their memory. For me it was an evening and a long drive wasted.

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