The Gumby Plays

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The Gumby Plays refers to a series of con skits that were performed at media cons beginning in the mid-1970s and into the 1980s.

The first two "Gumbies" were written by Paula Block.

History

Paula Block, the creator of the skit series, explained in 1982:

BEING A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ART OF PERFORMING GUMBY PLAYS AT MEDIA CONS, or Who the Hell Are These Gumby People and What Do They Want from My Life, by a Well-Known Perpetrator

What is a gumby?
A what?
A gumby.
A what?
A GUMBY!!!
Oh...

If the above dialogue between two cretins whose lack of brain is hidden only by the thin layer of cloth capping their craniums sounds agonizingly familiar, you've probably been in attendance at one or more of the Michigan media cons held in the last seven or eight years. To the best of my knowledge, in-so-far as I'm fairly certain that I was the author of the first media-oriented gumby play, the first media-oriented gumby play was GUMBY TREK, and it was presented in a motel room during one of the Kwestcons in Kalamazoo. As I always get my Re's, Se's, and plain old Kwestercons jumbled together in my tiny brain, I won't attempt to pinpoint exactly which one it was. [1] Those in attendance for the performance will remember it fondly, those who weren't, probably don't care anyway. That memorable playlet was typed up and printed in Menagerie about a year later [2] (of course I don't remember the issue number either [3] --I told you my cranial capacity was meager), and a revival of the play was presented off-off-off-Broadway in Lansing at MediaWest Con I in 1981. Also presented at that convention was the now infamous GUMBY WARS--or The Gumby Strikes Back, which you will find typed up and printed and even illustrated over the next few pages (the play, not the convention). And as Eve begat Abel and Dallas begat Knots Landing, GUMBY WARS warped the mind of an otherwise entirely wholesome lad named Bernie Davenport and Bernie begat GUMBIES OF THE LOST ARK, which was performed at MediaWest Con Two in 1982....

As to the initial question, "What is a gumby?" I will be kinder than I normally am and not attempt to mislead you by explaining that Gumby was an animated clay character who showed up alot on television during the 50s along with his horse...uh... Pokey, I think the name was, but I wouldn't stake my life on it.

Anyway, that's who Gumby was, but it's not what a gumby, as popularized by the above plays, is. That Gumby originated on Monty Python's Flying Circus during the 70s. I'm not really certain why the folks who created him called him Mr. Gumby (educated guesses are always welcome, particularly if they increase the size of the loc column) but that was indeed his name. The hapless fellow was generally played by Michael Palin, although John Cleese played a gumby-like doctor in the original sketch and I think the other Pythons may have played other gumbies over the years. In any event, as typified by Palin's impersonation, a gumby probably has a brain the size of a rather small marble, appears to have either an extremely short memory span or incredibly bad hearing abilities (thus the need for frequent lepetition of simple statements), a posture which suggests some distant (or not so distant) ape-like ancestor and/or an advanced case of hemorrhoids, a peculiar (to say the least) method of ennunciation that precludes any tone below a hoarse shout, and always, no matter what the gender (if gumbies indeed are capable of possessing gender), have a tiny Adolph Hitler-type moustache. Wearing apparel always includes a knotted hankerchief to cover the addled brain and rolled up pants legs.

Fandom took an immediate fancy to the imbecilic Mr. Gumby and began incorporating his characteristics into various stories and illos, no matter how inappropriate. Artist Gordon Carleton once dressed the entire Mego crew of the Enterprise in gumby atire, which inspired the infamous final illo of my story "The Tinman" in INTERPHASE III.

[...]

[I] simply suggest that you cross your fingers and pray that next year's media con doesn't bring forth the logical successor to this ignoble tradition, G.T., The Gumby-Terrestrial in His Mis-Adventures in Hoboken... [4]

Performances

Probably 1979

"Gumby Trek" was presented at one of the T'Cons, most likely the second one in 1979.

1980

"Gumby Trek" was performed a second time at the first MediaWest*Con.

It was fusion with Star Trek and Monty Python and was written by Paula Block.

The transcript of this skit was printed in Menagerie #16.

As printed in "Menagerie":

Setting: The bridge, where else? Same ferschlugginer bridge set as that used of the last 79 episodes. On stage are Kirk, in his command chair; Spock, at the science station; and Uhura, at the communications post. Sulu and Chekov may be inserted appropriately if desired.

All characters are in Gumby attire, i.e., pants legs rolled up, knotted handkerchiefs upon noggins, etc. Spock's handkerchief has two little holes cut in it for his ears to poke thru. Number mannerisms and dialect should be manifested.

Spock is leaning over his little viewer screen. Suddenly, he straightens and puts his hands to his head. He cries out in pain...

1981

"The Gumby Strikes Back" (a Star Wars, Monty Python fusion) and "Gumby Trek" were both performed at the second MediaWest*Con.

Both plays were written by Paula Block.

1982

"The Gumby Strikes Again" (a Star Wars, Monty Python fusion) and "Gumbies of the Lost Ark" (Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Monty Python fusion) were both performed at MediaWest*Con. in 1982. They were written by Bernie Davenport.

A fan reports that: "The Gumby skit, an unholy blend of Monty Python and Raiders of the Lost Ark, with a touch of Muppet Movie thrown in for flavor, was scripted by a mutual friend named Bernie Davenport. Bernie was playing Indy; Martynn, Marion; Karen River, Belloq; Elyse Dickenson, Toht; Nancy Hillman, Dietrich; Paula Smith. The Supreme Being; Pat Gonzales, intelligent person (the only one -- Gumbies aren't very bright) and prompter; Sheryl Adsit, Myth (yeth?); and I was playing Sallah." [5]

"Raiders of the Lost Gumby" was performed at Starcon in 1982. It was apparently a flop. [6]The author of that play is unknown.

1987

"Gumby Shop of Horrors" was performed at MediaWest*Con in 1987. Its author is unknown.

References

  1. Block is referring to Kwest*Con, ReKWest*Con or SeKWester*Cons.
  2. Which would make it one of the T'Cons, probably the second one, as a Gumby skit was not reported to be one of the con skits in the first.
  3. It was issue #16.
  4. from "WHAT!?" in Syndizine #3, Fall 1982
  5. by Cathie Whitehead, from Antithesis #19 (July 1982)
  6. See KathE Donnelly's comments in her editorial for the 1986 Starcon.