Last week, my local public radio station launched its latest pledge drive, and it reminded of a comedy sketch I wrote for my friends from the Madhouse Theater group a few years ago. The sketch was called (in case you haven’t guessed) “The Pledge Drive” and was about (predictably enough) a pledge drive. After that, I wrote two more sketches for (and with) Madhouse — one about the soup wars and the other about community theater. Since I’ll be spending the majority of this week grading papers, I thought I’d lighten things up a bit with some humor. So without further ado, I present…

THE PLEDGE DRIVE

Characters: Patrick and Ed

Setting: Pledge central, your local public TV station. Volunteers man a bank of phones in the background.

PATRICK: For those of you just joining us, you’re watching WHAT, viewer supported public television, and this is day 79 of our never-ending pledge drive.  I’m Patrick Cummings, and with me today, as always, is the inimitable Ed Stoner.

ED: As always, Patrick.  And as always, we’re coming to you live to, well, frankly, to beg for money.

PATRICK: But beg is such an ugly word, isn’t Ed?

ED: Absolutely.  That’s why I prefer the term “grovel,” because here at WHAT, you, the viewer, are our life support.

PATRICK: But you know what’s funny, Ed? I don’t hear any telephones ringing, and I think you know what that means.

ED: I certainly do, Patrick! It means our viewers are a bunch of good-for-nothing freeloaders.

PATRICK: Exactly, Ed. In fact, I have to admit that I’m very disappointed in our viewers right now.  Not angry, mind you.  Just disappointed.  But you, the viewer, can redeem yourself right now by phoning in your pledge of support to 1-800-365-WHAT.

ED: That’s right, Patrick.  Because the kind of quality programming you’ll find here on WHAT doesn’t come cheap, and it’s up to viewers like you to keep us on the air.

PATRICK: Viewers like me?

ED: Not you, specifically, Patrick.  No, I’m talking to all of our loyal viewers out there in TV-land who tune into our station regularly and never send us a lousy dime.  Shame on all of you.  And a pox on all of your families if you don’t call right now with your pledge of support!

PATRICK: True that, Ed. Sure, our viewers love to watch shows like Minnesota Bee Keepers, but do they want to pay for it? No-ho-ho!

ED: You’re right, Patrick. They must think these shows grow on trees! That we just go out to a yard sale and pick up a few episodes of Cheese Purveyors so we can put them on the air! WELL LET ME TELL YOU SOMETHING, PEOPLE… THESE SHOWS COST MONEY! LOTS AND LOTS OF MONEY!

PATRICK: Hey, Ed, who am I? Gee, I guess I’ll just watch the latest episode of The Knitting Tree and not pay for it!

ED: Hmm… You’re either a heartless sociopath or… Don’t tell me… Don’t tell me… You’re one of our viewers!

PATRICK: Right on both counts, Ed! But guess what… I still don’t hear any telephones ringing.

ED: Okay, people, I’ll say it slow so you understand: Stop jerking us around and send us your money. It’s that easy.

PATRICK: Seriously. Don’t make us come to your house, or you’re looking at a whole world of hurt.

ED: Word! And try this on for size, bee-yotches: If you don’t call with your pledge of support, we won’t return to the Butterfly Junction marathon.

PATRICK: That’s right, Ed. We can keep this up all night if we have to.

ED: All week!

PATRICK: Hell, we can do this all year, and you’ll never see another episode of Uncle Worm as long as you live.

ED: Just hours and hours of fundraising. Two-four-seven, three-six-five.

PATRICK: And how’s this for incentive? If you don’t call right now, I’ll strangle Ed on live television.

ED: That’s right! If you don’t call right now… Wait. What?

PATRICK: His blood will be on your hands, people. You have ten seconds.

ED: Actually, Patrick, that really isn’t funny.

PATRICK: Not meant to be funny, Ed. Five seconds.

ED: Folks, I think he’s serious. If you’re watching, for the love of God, please call.

PATRICK: Okay, Ed, looks like you’re out of time. And it looks like our audience has spoken!

ED: Mom, I know you’re listening! It’s me! Ed! Your son! Please!

(Patrick takes Ed in a choke hold and begins to strangle him.)

ED: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE CALL! Ack…chh…

PATRICK: You people make me sick. Look what you’re making me do! That number again, by the way is… Why don’t you tell them, Ed?

ED (Gasping): 1-800… 365… W… H…

PATRICK: A-T!

(Telephone rings. Patrick releases Ed, answers telephone. Ed is too tired to move.)

ED: Oh, thank God!

PATRICK: Hello? Oh, hello, Mrs. Stoner… You never liked him much anyway? This is your son we’re talking about… Really? That big of a disappointment? But he works in public television… Oh, I see. That’s why you’re so disappointed. I understand completely… So can we hit you up for a small donation? …No? Not even a few dollars to save your son’s life? Okay, well, thanks anyway.

ED: Oh, no.

(Patrick resumes strangling Ed. Ed struggles.)

PATRICK: Last chance, folks… Give me a call or Ed here takes one for the team… No takers? Sorry, Ed. Looks like the people have spoken.

(Ed goes limp.)

END

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