This is the transcript from a comedy routine about mushrooms that I gave at a dinner during the Yachats Mushroom Festival in 2007. Money raised from the dinner went to the local library. If you have an obscure topic that you want a comedy routine done on, let me know.
Theresa (T-) McCracken
890 North Bayview Loop
Waldport, OR 97394
Thank you for that introduction. It was a great meal ... for the most part. I must confess I was a bit disappointed that none of the dishes served at tonight's $30 a plate dinner contained Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup. In my household all recipes for dishes made from scratch start with--as we like to refer to it--CCOM soup.
Some aspiring humorists get a call from Letterman or Leno. I got a call from the Yachat's Mushroom Festival. They wanted to know if I'd be willing to do a comedy routine about mushrooms. Were Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres busy tonight?
Working your way up from the bottom is one thing. Working your way up from under ground covered in manure, is another.
But I said "yes" It's not as though I have a busy social life. I have standards. Not many, but I do have standards. For example, I don't want a man with obvious fungus on his body. I met a man at the laundromat the other day who had what looked like a dozen pairs of underwear. I was impressed since that seemed like a lot of underwear for a man. And then I got a closer look at them. They all had labels. January, February, March.
Not that I'm such a great catch. I do use mold and mildew remover as a skin care product. I figure I have a better chance of being consumed by a flesh eating mushroom--assuming such a thing exists-- than of finding a compatible man.
Or worse yet, I will find a compatible man--Oh sure, he'll have dentures. But at least he'll own them. They won't be on lay away at Wal mart -- With my luck he'll be the one consumed by the flesh eating mushroom.
I told the festival folks there was one slight problem. I didn't have any mushroom stories or jokes. There's only one mushroom joke on the whole internet. You've all heard it. About the only people who haven't heard it are an isolated tribe of in the Yukon. The joke? "What did the girl say to a mushroom in the bar? You're a fungi." You try doing a whole comedy routine around that.
We get 100 inches of rain a year here, so we get lots of mushrooms. The Native Americans had over 500 words to describe fungus--but only three for half-caff half de-caff skinny mocha latte with a dash of grated mushrooms on top.
So how can I not know about mushrooms? It's intentional. I didn't want to be tempted. If I'm going to destroy my liver, it's going to be with beer. There's only one sure way to know if a mushroom is poisonous--and you may not like the results of such a taste test. To me, the idea of picking wild mushrooms is right up there with cliff diving off of Cape Perpetua. It sounds great in theory, but I'm not about to take it up.
I once went morel picking with a friend. She said even I ought to be able to recognize a morel. She was wrong. I found a batch of false morel. Fortunately, she recognized it before I took it home to cook them. Good thing, too. It turns out one of the ingredients in this particular mushroom is monomethyl hydrazine, a component of rocket fuel. I'm not much of a cook. The way I know my dinner is done is that my smoke detector goes off. I can see it now. Had I cooked these particular mushrooms, the smoke detector would have gone off and seconds later I and my house would have been shot off into orbit. There I'd remain, another piece of space junk.
Since I didn't know much about mushrooms the festival folks lent me a couple of books last week, Mr. Bloomfield's Orchard by Nicholas P. Money and Magical Mushrooms, Mischievous Molds by George W. Hudler. I was a little worried at first because I didn't have much time and the books had lots of big words. Hey, I'm from Waldport. We're not like Yachatsians, the elite of Lincoln county, who regularly speak in something other than monosyllables. Ask someone in Waldport what a monosyllable is and chances are they'll say, "Some kind of mushroom."
One thing I've discovered as a naturalist: the smaller the organism, the longer the name.
Fortunately, the books also had a lot of pictures. I'm glad there were no young innocents around when I first flipped through them, though. On page two of one of them there was an illustration of a mushroom titled--and I'm not making this up--the "Erect fruiting body of Phallus impudicus." Even a kid from Waldport whose Latin doesn't extend beyond E Pluribis Unum can get a pretty good idea what this particular "fruiting body" looks like.
Its common name is stinkhorn because it smells like--how to put this delicately?--rotting road kill.
Walking through a forest filled with them is like walking through a cemetery where all of the graves are shallow and all of the corpses are having erections.
Charles Darwin's daughter burned them to "preserve the purity" of her female servants. What were these women? Necrophiliacs? They must have had an even worse crop of men to choose from than I do.
By the way, there is one fungus, the split gill fungus (Schizophyllum commune) that has over 28,000 different sexes! I'm a naturalist, and even I have a hard time grasping such a concept. It'd be so much easier if I lived in a red state. I'm sure this fungus isn't allowed there, and even the mere mention of them within 100 yards of a school is illegal.
The next several pictures were rather disturbing as they were about people infected by fungus. You know how medical students become hypochondriacs, how they think they have every disease they read about? That's what happened to me.
It was a hard week for me.
The hardest chapter to get through was Mycoses: Fungus Diseases of Humans. I had every last one.
Some fungi produce a mycosis
Like blasto- or histoplasmosis
But for musical sake
The one I will take
I can't take credit for the limerick. It was written by the deviant who discovered the disease.
When I read about Claviseps, an ergot fungus that caused people's feet to fall off in the 18th century, I couldn't feel my feet. "Damn, fungus," I thought as I stroked Sweet Pea, my fifty pound dog who'd been sleeping on my feet all evening.
When I read about Madurella mycetomatis, a fungus that makes your bones look moth eaten before it reaches your brain I thought, "Why am I bothering with calcium supplements?"
It's amazing I'm even standing here talking--albeit somewhat incoherently--because I have "Hole-in-the-Head" disease. I didn't need to read anything further than the name of the disease to know I had it. Who cares if up until now only horses got it? I have it!
An old Jewish curse is, "May doctors through out the land hear of your case." My medical history will be plot lines on the TV shows House and Grey's Anatomy. I will be the first person diagnosed with mad mushroom disease and my brain will turn into a large puff ball. A doctor will poke a Q-tip swab through the hole in my head to get a sample, and as he pokes the puff ball it will explode, spraying contaminated spores through out the hospital.
I think I even have Dutch Elm disease. How I got it, I don't know. Probably while doing a little unprotected tree hugging.
This has been a hard week for me.
"The good, the bad and the deadly." That's how fungus are categorized by some.
Fungus's big role in nature is to help things decompose. Were it not for fungus, we'd be buried under un-rotting corpses.
By the way, if a tree rotted out from fungus falls on a philosopher, I don't know if he makes a sound if he yells. What do you mean that's not funny? To para phrase Mel Brooks, "When I cut my finger--that's tragedy. When a tree falls over on a philosopher--that's comedy."
OK. I'm fine with the decomposing stuff. Everything has to have a role in nature. But couldn't the fungus be more selective? Why do they have to decompose my house?
What do I have to do to deter the fungus? Put a few dead bodies out in the yard. Sort of like putting sugar outside to lure ants away from the kitchen. I'm sorry. I'm not Tony Soprano. I don't have any spare bodies.
Apparently fungus can eat through practically anything. It can eat through Kevlar. Great, we're sending men and women into combat with body armor that may or may not be bullet proof, and may or may not have been rotted out by fungus. Let's hope Al Queda doesn't know about this.
Fungus can even eat through granite. This explains the fungus in my refrigerator. Some people keep their composts piles outside. I like mine where I can keep an eye on it.
I'm not much for cleaning. If I clean the fridge out today I've got to to clean it again in, oh two, three, four, maybe five years. Cleaning goes against nature, and being a naturalist, I wouldn't want to do anything against nature.
But not cleaning my fridge in recent memory has nothing to do with the fungus growing in it. That fungus started somewhere outside--way outside because fungus can grow big. Really big.
Some years ago headline writers had fun talking about the discovery of a Humongous Fungus in Michigan, a 37 acre honey mushroom (Armillaria bulbosa). The mushroom you see on the forest floor is just the tip of the ice berg, so to speak. It's the fruiting body--sometimes it's erect, sometimes it's limp. The bulk of the fungus, the mycelium--a vast network of interconnected cells--is underground.
Shortly after the Michigan find, Washington state said they had a bigger honey mushroom (A. ostoyae), a 2,000 acre one. And right after that, Oregon said they had an even bigger one, a 2,200 acre monster, in the Blue Mountains in Malheur National Forest. Twenty-two hundred acres!. That's almost 3.4 square miles. Even the mushrooms the United States are super sized.
Anyway, back to the fungus in my refrigerator. It didn't start in my fridge. No. It started growing some place far away. Maybe as far as Malheur National Forest. Maybe as far as Michigan. It worked it's way through the Rockies. It worked its way through the Cascades. It dodged cars on I-5. It worked its way through the Coast Range, and down the Alsea Bay until it finally reached my house where it ate through my floor boards and and then ate through the metal bottom of my refrigerator and finally took up residence in an old Campbell Cream of Mushroom Soup can.
I like to think of it as sort of like primordial soup . . . I know, I know, puns are the lowest form of humor next to dead baby jokes, but you try to come up with twenty minutes of mushroom humor. I think you're allowed three puns when doing a comedy show for charity.
Anyway, to throw the can out now would require filing an environmental impact statement.
I have lots of UFOs in my fridge--Unidentified Furry Objects.
I think one is a block of cheese left over from my millennium party. Yeah, it's moldy, but it may contain the cure for who knows what. Remember. Penicillin is a mold. They're hoping to find cures for everything from cancer to AIDs to computer viruses in fungus.
Long before the discovery of the usefulness of the penicillin mold, the French discovered that rubbing moldy cheese on infections cured them. I'm not sure if this was before or after they served it as an hors d'oeuvre.
Like I've always said, there's nothing a good gorgonzola can't cure. You don't know how long I've waited to use gorgonzola in a joke?
I'm seeing a new product for Bed, Bath and Beyond: Body Cheese. Naturally it would be sold in the Beyond section. You just wouldn't want to put your fungus riddled Body Cheese in the same bag as you anti-fungal soap
Head and Shoulders shampoo is designed to combat Malassezia, a fat addicted fungus that wallows in a grease bath on your head and holds together your dandruff flakes. As if that weren't a bad enough image, there's tinea capitis, a disease caused by a fungal infection in your scalp where fungus gets inside your hair shaft, excretes something described as "enzymatic vomit" and sprays spores all over your scalp.
Why are people bothering to shampoo? I say use Nair. Get rid of the hair all together. I'm sorry, but now when I see a man with a full head of hair, all I see is a man with a scalp of spore riddle hair follicles. Bald men with chrome domes are looking better to me now.
Magic mushrooms. I know. You were wondering when I was going to get to the good stuff. Imagine my surprise to learn that magic mushrooms are not large fungi wearing bunny filled top hats who go around sawing scantily clad women in two?
Did you know that not only can you get high from mushrooms, you can get high from drinking urine from someone who got high from mushrooms? The active ingredient in Amanita mushrooms, muscimole, and the active ingredients in many other drugs--legal and illegal--remain potent after as many as six passes through the human body. What's really great is that the hallucinogenic ingredient remains, but other toxins are filtered out.
Who was that first bemushroomed person to say, "I'm going to pee in a cup and then I'm going to drink it," the first person to "get pissed"--No, no. That's not one of my allotted three puns? They really think that's where the term "get pissed" came from.
That first person? A reindeer herder. Reindeer herders were often almost trampled by their reindeer going after their pee. The herder's pee, not their own. You'd have to be REALLY high to try and collect reindeer pee.
It gives new meaning to the song, Grandma Was Run Over By a Reindeer. This is what I imagine happened. Grandma is at the Village Mushroom Festival feasting on partially digested lichen from caribou stomachs brought by her cousin from the far north. Supposedly that was as close to eating vegetables as some northern people came to eating, partially digested lichen from caribou stomachs. Drinking a good vintage of pee with the meal probably helped.
Anyway, when there was a break in the festivities, she and every other woman in the room headed to the two holer. More kidneys have been ruined by modesty. Grandma couldn't wait. She always said that if she had had plastic surgery, it would have been to have her bladder enlarged. So she went out and found a bush. A big bush. She squatted with as much dignity as a Grandma of her age and agility could squat, and BAM, she was run over by a reindeer. Rudolph, his nose so bright.
Do reindeer take urine tests in the woods?
I'm wondering: what do they do with the urine from people who fail drug tests? Someone is called into the boss's office. "McCracken," he says, "The bad news is your drug test came back positive so we're going to have to let you go. The good news is that you already have five bids on eBay for your sample."
Heck, they sell everything else on eBay. Last year I even say an aircraft carrier for sale. I'm not making this up. An aircraft carrier! I'd have bid on it, but the shade of gray it was just wouldn't have matched the other objects de art I have rusting in my yard.
While it may be illegal to sell drugs, is illegal to sell urine? I can see it now. Mushroom laced urine that has been filtered once by the body could be sold as Virgin Urine. Stuff that had been filtered six times, Ultra Virgin Urine. You could add a little carbonation, bottle it in dark glass and sell it as Pee-Noir. Ok. That one was a pun
The brew would probably taste no worse than "cold filtered" Coors. I say this as a staunch supporter of our two local breweries, Rogue and Siletz.
Thank you. You've been Fun-Guys. It's time to go as I've used up my pun allotment.You can catch me next at the Slime Mold Carnival.
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Theresa (T-) McCracken
890 North Bayview Loop
Waldport, Oregon 97394
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