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the Show Assistants

It's not me wearing it. But I do still have the mask.

In the fall of 1982, I joined the world-famous Rice University Marching Owl Band as a Show Assistant.

After playing a Pac-man ghost in the season opener, my first real project as an SA was to design the main character's costume for the now-famous "UT: The Ultra-Terrestrial" show, regarded by many as the best show in MOB history (your mileage may vary, if you are wrong).

It really was a great show.


Once securely placed within the Organization, I adopted a bewildering array of disguises, skillfully throwing my enemies off my track.


Thanks to my ability to sow confusion among adversaries and audiences alike, I was able within a few brief years to rise to the pinnacle of MOB Show Assistantdom, becoming Production Manager (called "Executive Producer" in today's MOB) in 1985.

Following my successful climb to power, I was content to rest on my laurels for a few years, staying with the Show Assistants as an alumni member and joining the ranks of the venerable MOB Old Farts. But new SA challenges lay ahead...

The Show Assistant Video

Beginning in 1988 and continuing through to my last season as a full-time MOBster in 1998, I wrote, produced and directed the annual Show Assistant Video.

Mixing exciting footage of the SAs recorded throughout the season with original scenes so hilarious they had audiences wondering if there was any golf on TV to watch instead, for eleven years the SA Videos capped each MOB season with a montage of everything the Show Assistants did that year, a summary of all the running jokes we told each other that no one else could possibly understand, and lots and lots of unnecessary and misleading references to lobsters, penguins, and snarling rats. Not to mention run-on sentences.

At first, the SA Videos took the form of news documentaries, with on-screen anchors presenting the story of the past season's SA triumphs. These first outings were generally taped on a Saturday late in the MOB season, and then edited together with footage from the season in time for the MOB's end-of-year banquet.

Eventually, however, the format changed and the annual video became a fully cinematic, feature-length film with a quality to rival that produced by the best Hollywood directors (when they were around 5 or 6 years old) and with budgets well in excess of ten dollars.

These SA movies took far longer to write and to produce, and were generally shot over several weeks in the spring, and then premiered in a special event late in the spring semester. The SA movies often featured their own props and costumes, becoming Show Assistant productions in their own right, and they are surely destined to live in fame for all Eternity.

The Show Assistant Videos:

  • 1988: TV coverage of the Seoul Olympics focuses on the Marching Band competition, where the Show Assistants lead the MOB to a well-deserved gold.
  • 1989: A billion-dollar marketing blitz prompts an investigative report into the Show Assistants.
  • 1990: The Show Assistants become unstuck in time, with reporters scattered throughout the season.
  • 1991: Hard-line Precision Marching activists stage an anti-MOB coup in Rice Stadium.
  • 1992: The Show Assistants lead the MOB to a repeat gold medal in the Barcelona Olympics.
  • 1993: Show Assistants— The Movie: in the first movie-format SA Video, a spy from the Texas Aggie Band infiltrates the Show Assistants.
  • 1994: A news report on a mysterious band of heroes fighting Marchers and penguins around the Rice campus. The last documentary-format video.
  • 1995: The Duct Tape of Power: inept SWC conference band members try to destroy the Show Assistants, while a Magicians plots to use the Universal Talisman of Duct Tape to make a bad polka band rulers of the Universe.
  • 1996: Independence MOB: aliens from planet WAC attempt to destroy the MOB by blowing up Rice Stadium; Show Assistants launch a pickup truck to infect their mothership with the Louie, Louie virus.
  • 1997: Show Assistants— The Final Chapter: the SAs journey into the far future to help a resistance movement fight against an evil queen who has outlawed all comedy.
  • 1998: The Rats of Wrath: a supervillain known only as the Propmaster plots to gain total control of all props.

Prominent SA Video running gags, and the lines that introduced them:

"I imagine that writing a new show every week must keep the lobsters pretty busy, right?"
"Well, actually we don't have any lobsters writing shows."
"Sorry, must keep the mobsters pretty busy, right?" (1989)
"Lobsters are larger than kumquats" (helpful behind-the-scenes note, 1989)
As the Duct Tape Rolls
"Oh, Tony! It's... it's so... big!" (1990)
Snarling Rats
"I've just been handed this urgent bulleting that the entire MOB has just been devoured by snarling rats! Oh, wait, sorry, I misread that. The Show Assistants have just completed work on props." (1991)
Bubba Jones
"This just in: the EEC has declared war on a Mr. Bubba Jones of Lubbock, Texas. EEC spokesman Jean-Claude Dom Perignon said it's nothing personal, they just don't like his name." (1992)
"The Show Assistants: Who are they? What are they doing? And why are there all these penguins in the studio?" (1994)


And of course, the historic St. Show Assistants' Day Speech:

"I'm tired of having all these bad guys show up, Video after Video, to try and destroy us. Isn't it time we stood up for ourselves? Isn't it time we showed the audience— (aside to the audience:) Hi there! —that we're not just punching bags for every Sousa-loving villain that comes our way? What do the Show Assistants stand for, anyway? What ripens the kumquat on its vine? What inspires the lobster on its lonely walk 'neath shimmering sea? What doth the lowly rat, snarling in its den, revere above all else? Comedy! Comedy! Comedy!
Do we but this deed, and song and story shall light us down the paths of history even unto the end of the world! And he that outlives this day, and comes safe home, will stand a-tip-toe when this day is named, and rouse him at the name of— SHOW ASSISTANTS!" (1997)


Since I left Houston and stopped being a full-time MOBster, there hasn't been another Show Assistant Video. And I have to ask: will it always be so? Will no one take up the mantle and restore this once-proud tradition? And why do all these sets of three questions always end with one about penguins?

The world awaits the answer.

All this fun is out there waiting, just waiting for the next person to make an SA Video.


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