Thursday, August 27, 2015

Comedy Routine of the Day: "Ghost in a Pawnshop"


I found an old script for the classic "Ghost in a Pawnshop" routine in the Greg Rouleau Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society.  The routine includes three characters at work in a pawn shop - the proprietor, a first clerk, and a second clerk.  The proprietor suspects that the second clerk is using his key to the business to break into the shop at night and steal merchandise.  He gets the first clerk to hide with him in the shop after closing to catch the thief in the act.  When the second clerk appears, the proprietor gets into a struggle with him and hits him on the head with a club.  It soon becomes obvious that the second clerk is dead.  The proprietor decides that they must promptly hide the body, take inventory of the shop, and flee the country.  The first clerk is very frightened.  He is worried that he will be arrested for the murder, which makes him reluctantly agree to cooperate with the proprietor.  The proprietor calls out items from the stockroom while the clerk sits at a table and writes the items on a sheet of paper.  It is specified in the stage directions that the clerk is seated with his face towards the audience.  He has a lit candle on the table so that he can see what he's writing.  He repeatedly dips a pen into an inkwell as he writes out the items.  The ghost of the dead clerk suddenly appears behind him and touches his cheek.  The clerk becomes terrified.  He shouts out for his boss, but the ghost is gone before the boss returns to the room.  The boss tells the clerk that he is mistaken about feeling something touch his cheek.  He quickly returns to the stockroom and resumes calling out items.  The ghost reappears and removes the inkwell.  As the clerk goes to dip his pen in the inkwell, the ghost's hand is waiting for it and takes a firm grip of the pen.  The clerk shouts and the boss races back into the room.  It is pretty much the same business as before.  The proprietor doesn't see the ghost and tells the clerk that he is imagining things.  The two men are going over the inventory list when the ghost appears a third time.  Neither the proprietor nor the clerk see the ghost as it creeps up behind them and blows out the candle.  The proprietor says that it was simply a draft that blew out the candle and he lights it again.  The ghost blows out the candle a second time.  Eventually, both men see the ghost, which brings the routine to a lively finish.

Greg Rouleau, who preserved this script in his personal records, worked as a magician and stock performer in vaudeville during the late 1930s.  He accumulated many of his scripts while employed as a stock actor with the Winninger Players, a popular troupe which had been established by Frank Winninger and featured many members of the Winninger family.  The most famous member of the family was character actor Charles Winninger.

Charles Winninger
I thank archivist Mary Huelsbeck for her help in obtaining the "Ghost in a Pawnshop" script.

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