The Life of Cyril St. John

Transcribed from: Comedy Central
Transcribed by: Andrew Bridgman
Cast: [Scene is a funeral service]

Narrator 1: On October 31st, 1976, an era came to an end. The great vaudeville entertainer, Cyril St. John, almost completely forgotten and entirely dead, was laid to rest.

[Scene goes to documentary-style interview with Dave as Cecille St. John, a feeble old woman, apparently with Parkinson's Disease.]

["Cecille St. John" appears at the bottom of the screen]

Dave: Daddy never liked Cyril. No, not in the least, no. In fact, when Cyril was only a baby, Daddy once took Cyril and put him in a paper bag and threw him in the river. I believe it was his intent to drown Cyril. But somehow or another Cyril managed to escape the bag and make it to shore and, uh, Daddy, quite to spite himself, was heard to remark, "That boy's really got something." He still never liked Cyril, but, uh, after that there was...respect.

[Black and white picture of Dave as Cyril St. John appears]

Narrator 1: The man once known to millions worldwide, simply as "The Escapist," began his career modestly in the early 30s.

[scene goes to black and white footage of a man playing the Maple Leaf Rag on piano]

Narrator 1: This early newsreel footage shows him performing his most celebrated piece, "The Escape from the Large, Wet Paper Bag."

[Scene changes to Dave's assistant climbing up a ladder with a bucket of water next to Dave in a large paper bag and then she pours it on the bag. Dave rips through the bag, walks to the front of the stage and bows, then the assistant puts his jacket on him.]

Narrator 1: But the thrill-hungry audiences of the 30s were not easily satisfied.

["Trans-Atlantic News" title appears over a clip of reporters at a press conference at City Hall]

Narrator 2: Trans-Atlantic News-The Escapist! Testing the limits of humanity!

[Scene goes to Scott as the mayor with a 30s suit and top hat behind a microphone and Dave, as Cyril, next to him in a straight jacket.]

Dave: Mr. Mayor? Would you please attest as to the authenticity of this straight jacket?

[Scott tugs on the straight jacket a little.]

Scott: Yes, to the best of knowledge, as mayor, I would have to say that this appears to be a completely authentic straight jacket, of the type used in our own, humanely run insane asylums. And, Mr. St. John, , may I say that you would have to BE insane to attempt this daring stunt.

[Both chuckle at the joke.]

Dave: We shall see, Your Honor. May I now, please, be raised [looks up] into the air?

[Reporters are shown again, then goes to Scott "reveling" at the stunt by looking into the air with his jaw dropped, then shows Dave slowly being raised into the air and then struggling.]

Narrator 2: The minutes passed [people watching Dave begin to leave]. They turned into hours. [One small boy is left watching as Dave continues struggling] The hours became days. [No one is left watching, but a few people walk by] The days stretched into weeks. Although Cyril struggled on gamely, it was all too apparent that "The Great Escapist" had, finally, met his match. [Dave gives up and is left hanging from City Hall.]

[A clip of battleships in water is shown.]

Narrator 1: 1941 found America racing to war, and[clip of shadows of jets on a field is shown] the public quickly lost interest in daredevils. [clip of troops running into battle shown] [Scene goes to troops running past enemy fire] Cyril, no longer in the spotlight, was quick to enlist to serve his country.

[Dave runs by, still in the straight jacket, with his gun hanging from his neck and being flung around as he stumbles across the screen. Dave stops, you hear a gunshot and he flops onto the ground]

Narrator 1: After being wounded a record 276 times, Cyril returned to America as an honored war hero. [shows a parade] He was given his own show in the new medium of television.

[Shows the title screen reading "Fit to be Tied" with cartoonish pictures of the cast on it.]

[Scene goes to a 50s living room set for "Fit to be Tied."] [Mark walks in with a clean-cut, 50s getup and the crowd cheers.]

Mark: Hey Dad!

Dave: [walks in] Yes Ronnie?

Mark: Think I could borrow the [points toward the door] car tonight?

Dave: I don't know, Ronnie.

Mark: Aww, c'mon! It's not like you'll be using it.

Dave: Why I oughta! [begins struggling to get out of the straight jacket]

Mark: Yeah, as if you could. [takes the car keys from its hook] See ya, Pops! [walks out as Dave continues struggling.]

[Scene changes to documentary-style interview with an old man.]

Man: The great thing about TV in the old days is that it was live. You got one shot at it and anything could happen: somebody'd forget a line, break a prop. Hell! He might even have gotten out of that damn thing! You never knew.

["An old guy who used to watch a lot of TV" appears at the bottom of the screen.]

[Shows a picture of the cast of "Fit to be Tied."]

Narrator 1: "Fit to be Tied" ran from 1950 to 1958, when, according to network executives, [shows a monkey wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette] despite the addition of a monkey to the cast, the premise just ran out of steam.

[Shows movie poster reading "Bound to Serve, starring Cyril St. John" with a picture of Dave, still in the straight jacket with a mountee hat on.]

Narrator 1: Several unsuccessful films followed. "Bound to Serve" was the tale [shows Dave next to a Native American] of a mountee bringing law and order to the Canadian northwest.

[Shows another movie poster for the same film, but it shows Dave about to be attacked by a cheesy-looking bear. "Taming the Untameable" is above the title.]

Narrator 1: Although considered to be his best film, it was also considered to be terrible. 20 minutes after its release, Cyril announced his retirement from show business. [shows picture of Dave, still in the straight jacket but now with gray hair looking out on the horizon] Many years of isolation followed. Unable to cope with life out of the public eye, Cyril St. John, "The Escapist," lapsed into mental illness and was institutionalized.

[Scene goes to a room in an asylum with a bunch of mental patients struggling to escape their straight jackets, including Kevin, with Dave in the middle standing perfectly still. As Kevin struggles past Dave, he breaks free and puts his arms in the air as he leaves.]

Kevin: Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh Yes!

[Scene changes to documentary-style interview with (a different) Kevin, looking like a hippie with large orange hair and 60s clothing.]

Kevin: Now in the early 70s, something strange and wonderful happened! The old kinescopes of "Fit to be Tied" were rerun all over America [makes a circle with his arms] ["A 37 year old virgin" appears at the bottom of the screen.] And a whole new generation was being turned on to Cyril St. John! This, of course, led to the famous Carnegie Hall appearance in '74!

[Scene goes to a Carnegie Hall stage with Dave, still in the straight jacket, hanging from the ceiling singing Groucho Marx's "Lydia, The Tattoed Lady," but only half-heartedly and only the first part of the first verse.]

Dave: [singing] Lydia, oh Lydia. Say, have you met Lydia? Lydia, the Tattooed Lady! [struggling] Uh, uh, oh. Oh Lydia. Lydia! Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.

[Scene goes back to funeral service from the beginning.]

Narrator 1: That was to be The Escapist's last public appearance, but for one.

[Coffin hanging from a rope bundled up in white cloth is lowered into the open grave]

[Picture of Dave as Cyril St. John appears and below reads "Cyril St. John, 1897-1976"]

Credit to Kids in the Hall/Broadway Video