Campfire skits and Adlibbing

on June 10, 2006 in campfire, summer camp

summercamp1990The Boy Scouts of Troop 68, of which I am the scoutmaster, have been entertaining Scouts and families with their campfire songs and skits for nearly 25 years. The boys, and myself, have had a lot of fun doing them. And I hope they have learned a few things along the way.

One of the skills I hope they learn is what I like to call adlibbing. Anyone who has been involved with a campfire program needs to know how to adlib. After all, something is bound to go wrong during the program and a person needs to know how to cover for the forgotten line or the mistake that was made.

Here is an example of Scouts not knowing how to adlib….

Troop 68 attended summer camp at Crow Wing Scout Camp during the 80’s and early 90’s. On Wednesday nights the camp would hold area campfires involving 4-5 troops. Each patrol was supposed to do a song or skit. One or two skits and/or songs would be chosen from these area campfires to be in the Friday night closing campfire program.

One year, two boys from another troop got up to do the “Ugliest Man in the World” skit. One boy would be the caller and the other boy would put a towel over his head and be the ugliest man in the world. I had seen this skit done so often that I had actually started to dislike it. But, it was an easy and popular skit for Scouts to perform, just like the “Lawnmower” skit.

Several boys from my troop turned to look at me and ask me if they could volunteer to be called up to look at the ugliest man in the world. I had my suspicions as to what they had in mind to do but I nodded my head and said to go for it. It happened that one of my Scouts, Tim, was called up to be the “last” person to look at the ugliest man in the world.

Now, if you know how the skit works, you know that the last person called up to look under the towel will not join the earlier volunteers who have “fainted” after looking at the ugly man. No, this time the ugly man falls to the ground and the other Scout of the skit will declare the last volunteer to be the new ugliest man in the world.

Needless to say, things did not go as planned for the two boys doing the skit. When Tim got up to the ugly man he looked under the towel and immediately dropped to the ground before the ugly man had a chance to fall to the ground himself. The two boys just stood there. They did not know what to do. Finally, when the boy who was not the ugly one said “That was not supposed to happen,” the audience roared with laughter. An old skit suddenly had a new and unplanned ending.

In one way, I felt sorry for the two boys who had done the skit. Tim’s little prank had messed up their rehearsed skit. But you know, the one boy only needed to call up one more volunteer to make things appear to be alright. An opportunity to adlib had been missed.

I have always told the Scouts of Troop 68 to keep going and work around any mistakes made during songs and skits. (I have even made several of my own over the years.) If you do not draw attention to the mistake most people will not catch on that a mistake has been made. Sometimes the adlib will even make the skit or song funnier. I know that has been the case several times during Troop 68 performances.

So next time you are doing a skit or song at a campfire and goof up, keep going, work around it, and have fun. After all, that is part of what Scouting is about… just having fun.

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