Saturday, June 16, 2012

Burping and acting

Watching on ESPN this morning, I was enchanted by a guy going for the record in the world burping championship.  I think he was trying to beat this guy.  My guess is, you had the same reaction to that clip that I had--"Man, Russell Crowe can burp." 

You may also be wondering, "there's a World Burping Championship?"  Indeed there is. In fact, I'm not sure what I find more enchanting; the existence of such a championship, or the fact that the winner's named after a Roman God.  But I personally find this all very reassuring.  In fact, I am an excellent burper; an amateur, to be sure, but a gifted one.  I take pride in that fact.  I am really very good at burping.

We all were good at it once.  When our kids were babies, we had to burp them, basically after every meal.  Generally, burping the kid was my responsibility.  For obvious reasons, Annette did most of the feeding, then she'd hand the kid over, and I'd lay him/her over a shoulder and pat gently.  You learned pretty early on to first lay on a burp cloth over the shoulder, in case the burp turned, uh, productive.  But when the kid finally did burp, it was glorious.  The kid would just beam, this huge beatific smile.  "I did that?" the smile suggested.  "I am so talented."  In fact, come to think of it, burping may be the first real skill kids develop.  Rolling over, crawling, walking; they all build on that first discovery, the power of the burp.

I am privileged in my life to be friends with a man I consider the finest actor working in Utah right now, the great Kirt Bateman.  Last year, I wrote a play, Borderlands, which I still think is the best thing I've ever written.  It was given a magnificent production at Plan B, played to packed houses, nearly got me fired, won awards, Plan B extended the run--just an incredible experience.  Kirt played Dave, a used car salesman, and was amazing--I'd still buy a car from him.  But at one point in the play, I wrote in a burp for Dave.  He's sitting in the used car sales office, drinks a soda, and burps.  And another actor responds to his burp, so he pretty much had to do it.

I still feel a little weird about that.  Kirt's a fantastic actor.  But it turned out, he just wasn't a consistently great burper.  Some nights he burped really well--he'd kind of relax and let it rip, and it was a beautiful thing to watch (and hear).  Other nights, it would sort of fizzle.  Instead of an awe-inspiring, chest pounding, proud-to-be-human BRAAAAAP, he'd sort of go Bluuup.  I felt so bad for him, those nights. 

I blame acting schools.  They spend all their time teaching 'playing objectives' and 'stage movement' and, you know, 'acting.'  Kids get almost no training in really useful acting skills.  Like spit takes. That's important stuff.  What if you, oh, I don't know, are on Jimmy Fallon's show?  It could come in handy, that particular skill.  Or, you know, doing a double take.  All sorts of useful skills that actors should have ready in case they're needed.  Like the eye poke. Or a goofy accent.  Or the stage slap.  Or slapstick generally.

I'm proud to say, I can still burp, at some length, on command.  I was never much of an actor, and my skills have, sad to say, deteriorated.  I can't really cry on command anymore, or, you know, get up from a chair.  But I still can burp. 


  1. Nearly got you fired? How did it nearly get you fired? And can I read it?

  2. BYU didn't care for it. Plan B published it--you can get a copy off their website. Also it was published in Sunstone--check their website too. Borderlands is the title.