On And On And On

One of the most unlikely stars of the golden age of the variety theatre was the monologuist Zoltan Jiffy. His monologues, delivered in a booming, robotic monotone, were notorious for going on and on and on and on and on and on. And on. Audiences listened as if spellbound as he told anecdotes, devoid of interest or incident or rhythm or punchlines or anything remotely worth listening to, about topics such as drains and straw and windswept coastal headlands and emus and rutting deer and porches and crumpled paper and tin foil and capercaillies and Wells Fargo and dust and cruise ships and pin cushions and slime and tofu and mental aberrations and hopelessness and armoires and corporate sponsorship and the Great Dismal maroons and hens and albinos and grease and tongue twisters and woodland sprites and goats and hats and court jesters and plumpness and ostriches and vainglory and canned fruits and ampersands and driftwood and macadamia nuts and the Chosen One and balconies and thirst and gravel and designated smoking zones and vodka and shrimps and antimony and the naming of racehorses and the old rugged cross and the Munich air disaster and Rumpelstiltskin and shadows and grains and misanthropy and carrots and podcasts and squeegee merchants and domes and the lives of the saints and putting things in alphabetical order and disarranging them so they were no longer in alphabetical order and rearranging them into qwertyuiop order and disarranging them again and chucking them all out of the window one by one and watching as they plummeted to earth hundreds of feet below, some landing on the unprotected heads of pedestrians, causing injury and in some cases death and then hearing the sirens of both ambulances and police cars and the thumping of boots on the staircase and the urgent pounding at the door, before it was bashed in with main force by a SWAT team and gristle and pangs and knitting needles and sin and egg yolks and bolts of cloth and hendiadys and the river Nile and shabbiness and gumption and freaks and pictures of Jap girls in synthesis and you want to know what happened after the SWAT team bashed the door in, slovenliness and ink patterns and swamps and sewing circles and spelling bees and bees and caster sugar and swimming pools and candour and ullage and slaughter and being placed under arrest and dragged down to the police station and interrogated at length and donkeys and volcanoes and imps and frost and soup and brooms and figs and din and hedges and ergot poisoning and orchards and swollen rivers and cheque stubs and ornithology and vinegar and lapis lazuli and supermarkets and boll weevils and champions and moustaches and confessing to the whole kit and kaboodle and entering a plea of befuddled stupidity and sandalwood and concussion and drip dry laundry and goblins and chalk and power stations and opopanax and brutes and gas and genuflection and full stop, full stop, dammit, I said full stop!

Those in the audience who remained awake could sometimes discern, in Zoltan Jiffy’s interminable monologues, scattered snatches of autobiography. He would appear on stage, in his top hat and anorak and pantaloons and mountaineering boots, and begin to speak, or rather to drone, and he would go on and on and on and on and on and on and on about jugs and clipper ships and monkeys and nobility and the love that dare not speak its name and overcoats and palaeontology and scrimshaw and butter dishes and insignificance and border guards and waste chutes and palimpsests and sharks and litmus paper and hods and shelving units and the old woman who lived in a shoe and target practice and mothballs and sticky buns and enamel and detergent and clementines and Pope Joan and fanfaronades and distemper and jam roly poly and moistness and barbarism and carpets and despair and geese and plums and thunderbirds and axolotls, when he would all of a sudden say something about arranging large heavy objects into alphabetical order and then disarranging them and rearranging them into qwertyuiop order and disarranging them again and tossing them one by one out of a high window in a fit of befuddled stupidity, and the audience would prick up their ears, and listen more carefully, as a coherent story promised to emerge from the prattle, and Zoltan Jiffy would tantalise them by going on to relate the sound of boots stamping hurriedly up the staircase, and a pounding at the door, and then the door being bashed in, and being taken into custody and interrogated, and making a plea of befuddlement and stupidity, and then, just as the audience were desperate, no not desperate, let us say mildly intrigued, in a casual way, to find out what happened next he would revert to babbling inconsequentially about tax inspectors and pomposity and grime and card games and rhubarb and Frankish kings and cavemen and ballooning and mistletoe and the seven dwarves and cobalt and linctus and marmalade and foreigners and bedsteads and cornflakes and partridges and scooters and rabbits and operatic tenors and boarding passes and flailing and reprehensible behaviour and the smell of cordite and rafts and snowstorms and anchors and bosom chums and eglantine and wait for it, wait for it, time for a full stop.

It is thought that what kept the audiences flocking to Zoltan Jiffy’s shows was the hope that, sooner or later, they would tease from him something true and human, some exciting story of his attack of befuddled stupidity and the dropping on to the heads of passers-by large heavy objects, and his arrest and interrogation, and his plea, and then, they hoped, oh how hard they hoped, for the aftermath, to be told what happened next, but it is a small mercy that he never did tell them. Had he done so, they would have learned that, just like the monologuist, they too were incarcerated, forever, in a bleak grim home for the befuddled and stupid, and would remain there for the rest of their lives, to spend hour upon hour day in and day out listening to Zoltan Jiffy prating on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

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