Here we present the long lost transcript of Slappy Shineman’s historic stand-up routine from the opening night of The Regular Tomato – the nation’s first comedy club, which occupied the building at 18th and Buchanan from 1926 to 1959. It changed hands frequently over the next thirty years, most recently serving as a Planet Hollywood (closed in 2009), and in a disregarded basement closet thought filled with rats and cholera, a treasure trove of dated comedy was discovered! Enjoy!
(October 8, 1926 – Full audience, opening night, full bar hidden on second floor, bulls not giving us any malarkey tonight. Sidney Jefferson Abraham MC)
Sid: Hello ladies and gingersnaps, welcome to opening night at the Regular Tomato!
Sid: I’m your host for the evening, Sidney Jefferson Abraham, but don’t hold that against me! So first off, welcome. Let me ask, is anybody here celebrating anything? Birthdays? Who has a birthday? Anyone?
Sid: Yes, sir, what’s your name?
Audience member: Richard.
Sid: Richard. Dick. Can I call you Dick? And how old are you, Dickie?
Audience member: 38.
Sid: 38, wow. Congratulations. Celebrating tonight? Who all is here with you?
Audience member: My brother.
Sid: Brought the whole crew, huh, Dickie? Jeez. Well welcome, anyway. Good for you. Anyone else celebrating anything? Anyone here from out of town?
Sid: You, sir, where are you from?
Audience member: Chicago.
Sid: Chicago! Oh, boy, you didn’t know Bobby Franks, did you?
Sid: What, too soon? They’re in jail, it’s okay! All right, coming to the stage, our first act here on our first night, you know him from his work in between boxing rounds at Shibe Park in Philly, and over at Boyle’s Thirty Acres in Jersey City. Next week’s he’s appearing at Minersville Park in Pottsville, doing five minutes at halftime of the Maroons game against the New York Giants.
Ladies and gentlemen, Slappy Shineman!
(applause, Slappy Shineman comes through the crowd, drink in hand, takes the stage. Sidney leaves)
Slappy: Thanks, Sidney. Keep it going for Sidney Jefferson Abraham, everybody! That is one funny member of the tribe right there! Like I’m one to talk, I’m from the sand originally too. First off, any prohis in the audience tonight?
(smattering of chuckles)
Slappy: If so, this is just tea, just some cold tea. And if you believe that, I’ve got the deed here to the Absecon Lighthouse I’d like to sell you. Let’s say, $50, or whatever you’ve got on you. Anyway. Great to see so many people coming out to the new club. How about this place, huh? It’s like the Polo Grounds bathroom got a fresh coat of paint. Yeeesh. What used to be in this building, does anyone know?
(murmuring, small discussion with crowd)
Slappy: It was a VFW hall, that’s right. Doesn’t really explain the Vote William Jennings Bryan poster there, does it? You’d think they’d update the decor a little bit. But I get it, gives the place a retro feel. Another nice idea would be a bar we didn’t have to climb to the roof to find, huh? You know, to retro the place up a bit. Give it that 1917 flavor. I’m kidding, I’m kidding, this Regular Tomato is aces in my book.
You, sir, what’s your story? Looking pretty natty with your Oxford bags, nice Homburg in your lap, nice. Veteran? Good man, where – where did you see action? France? Germany?
Audience member: Dalmatia.
Slappy: Dalmatia? You’re – are you serious? When the hell were we in – you mean where the dogs come from? Sir, did you serve your country invading a firehouse?
Slappy: You mean Italy, right? Something like Italy? Italy-ish? Sure, I get you. 1920 or so? 1919? Sure. Well we’re glad to have you here. Stand up for a second, be recognized.
Slappy: Holy crow, you’re like Jess Willard here! Jeepers. I’ll bet those Dalmatians were scared right out of their collars, huh? Thank you, sir. So as for me, I’m originally from Kenosha, Wisconsin.
Slappy: Really? Kenosha? Yeah! Go frostbite! I was a soda jerk for a couple years, now I’m just a regular jerk. Har har! After that I sold walking sticks door to door, which was convenient, then I worked for the Nash Motors Company for a year, building Ajaxes. Anyone here drive an Ajax?
(Pause – crickets)
Slappy: And that’s why I don’t work for Nash anymore. I was a headlight technician, even though they told me I wasn’t very bright. (pause) I said I wasn’t very – never mind. The car jokes always go flat. Get it? Like tires? You get flat – forget it. Let’s Ford ahead.
I’m married. Yes, congratulations to me. Got married last year to a pretty girl from down Waukegan way. Now I just call her that old bag from the kitchen! I’m telling you, one day she was this sweet little thing, rosy cheeks, delicate lovely little hands, and then I woke up to find Marie Dressler next to me, and with the complexion of Warren Harding! Holding hands with her is like meeting Mordecai Brown! But I love her, I really do. We have great conversations. She’s a mute.
Kidding, kidding. Her voice is like the tinkling of bells. Notre Dame! Clang clang, ca-clang clang!
These are the jokes, folks! Jeez, I thought I’d have you in stitches by now, would you prefer if I used my switchblade?
(Does some shadow boxing, audience isn’t buying it)
Jeez, tough room. I feel like Jack Dempsey out here to you all’s Gene Tunney. Oof. Did you see the picture of Jack’s face from that fight a few weeks ago? Man, his face made that Manhattan Madness movie look good!
So, coming in here tonight, I ran into this guy on the street, real Barney Google type, you know? And he says to me “Slappy! You telling jokes tonight?” I said “Yeah, you know, gotta eat.” He goes “My wife caught your set at the Club Madrid, put her off food entirely! She said she was upset to find that your act was in English!” I said “Well that’s too bad, I’ll try to entertain you out there tonight.” He said “I’m sure you will, I’m going home and missing the whole show!”
All right, you’re forcing me to pull out the big guns, folks. Get ready for the wallop! So I went and saw the last Harold Lloyd picture, he’s a millionaire and he ends up in shanty town. Remember? For Heaven’s Sake, right. Funny picture. But it got me thinking. What if a millionaire turned up on my street? There’s a woman down on the first floor of my building, seamstress, and she’s always out on the stoop, sewing and sewing. She’d give him a piece of her mind, I tell you what! So she says “You know what the Bible says – it’d be easier for a needle to pass through a camel than for a rich man to go to heaven!” And he knows this isn’t right, but he takes one of her needles, takes out his cigarettes, and jams one right in. “Now I won’t get the ashes on my trousers!”
No, wait, that’s not it. The rich man, he’s got his Camels, and they’re…they’re on the stoop, and…he takes the cigarette and crams it through the eye of the needle…I’m still working on that one! It’ll be funnier when I get it finished!
Oh, come on!
Buzz off, you turkeys!
(Boos – Sidney Jefferson Abraham takes over, Slappy leaves)
And so, the first stand up act at the first all comedy nightclub in the country ended, with the first man to get booed off stage. History was made! And you were there!