Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 151

Robert Ganthony

The Funnygraph
From "Bunkum Entertainments: being a collection of original laughable skits on conjuring, physiognomy, juggling, performing fleas, waxworks, panorama, phrenology, phonograph, second sight, lightning calculators, ventriloquism, spiritualism, etc., to which are added humorous sketches, whimsical recitals, and drawing-room comedies.  London: L. Upcott Gill [circa 1900], pp. 56-62.

THE skit, which the author has given as a ventriloquial sketch since the phonograph was first introduced into England, can be presented with the assistance of a confederate concealed and using a speaking-trumpet, when he can give imitations of anything he likes, or the subject matter of the following skit can be adhered to, and worked ventriloquially if the lecturer can ventriloquise; * or done by confederacy, which is, perhaps, more consistent with Bunkum Entertainments.  A burlesque phonograph can be made with a cigar-box, egg-cup, white reel of cotton, tin funnel, and, as shown in drawing, the funnel fits into a speaking-tube, as will be understood by accompanying illustration.  (Lecturer assumes Yankee accent.)

* See "Practical Ventriloquism," published by Upcott Gill.

The Performance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have much pleasure in introducing to your notice the very latest phonograph.  I have just brought it over from the States, and will set it before you (arranges it).  There are some parts of this apparatus that have been misunderstood (takes up a couple of "baby soothers"), these are the parts.  

I used to invite gentlemen up on to the platform, so that they might inspect everything as we went along, until one night an old gentleman got hold of these and began sucking away at them, under the impression that this was a sort of feeding bottle placed here to refresh anyone who came on the stage to assist, whereas, anyone who has seen a phonograph knows that these are intended for the ears.

You place one of these in each ear--if you happen to have two; of course, if you have only one, you place either of them in whichever ear you happen to have, but if you have two, you place one in each.  You ram them through until they meet in the middle of the head, so, and then you hold your breath and listen--you keep on listening, and if you don't hear anything, well, your case is hopeless!

You see that I only have accommodation here for two heads with two ears each, or four heads with only one ear each; and therefore, as most of you this evening appear to have two ears each, I cannot show it you in that way, but I have recourse to this gold trumpet (shows tin funnel), which allows the sound to be permeated all over this vast building.  This is the gold trumpet--the reason that it looks like it does is that I don't want to appear ostentatious; I have had this electro-plated to resemble silver, and it looks like tin, but otherwise it is all right (places it in hole A).  I will just put it in there, and it will stop there if it does not happen to fall out.

This is different (takes up egg-cup).  This is when you make the sound, like a pair of boots, while you wait.  The sound, as you speak into this receiver, strikes the tympanum there, passes round there, down this tube (indicate cord), goes into here, on to this new-laid wax (cotton reel).  I know it's new laid, because I saw the bees lay it last night, and then it goes from here to there (indicates reel and funnel), from this to that (indicate), from--well, we don't want to get into an argument about it--it goes from there to there, and that's all I have to say about it.  I explain this apparatus because I like you to understand it before we begin.  I don't quite understand it myself, even when we have finished, but as I don't pay to hear the lecture that doesn't matter.

The reproductions of the human voice and other noises, which I shall now introduce to you, are called "Records"--they are called "Records" because the sound is recorded by indentations made in the wax, when, on electricity being passed through those indentations, the air is reverberated in the same way, and that's why they are called "Records."

The first English "Record" will be a Scotch one, a Scotch gentleman playing a Scotch bagpipes on a Scotch mountain twenty Scotch miles off.  If you think you would like to hear that I will get the apparatus in order.  The Scotch bagpipes twenty miles off.  (Pause.)  Did you hear anything?  No, I guess not; well, that shows you the accuracy of the apparatus.  We now proceed to Record No. 2.  Record No. 2 is a rooster.  Perhaps I may as well, in addressing an English audience, explain that a rooster is a male hen.   The rooster you are about to hear was called Robinson, and as people do not know why, I may mention that it was because Robinson Crusoe.  This, then, is a record of Robinson when he crew so.  (Phonograph crows.)  That is Robinson.  Now, while I was taking this Record of Robinson a flock of rooks passed across, a dog barked at the rooks, he had cause, a man reproved the dog for barking at the rooks, he had cause, and the rooks had caws, of caws, and this is the effect of the cause.  (Phonograph caws.  Phonograph imitates in succession rooks cawing, dog barking, man saying "Lie down, will you lie down!")  And that is the cause of the effect.

You may think that this is all done by an automaton, but I can assure you that there is nothing of an automatic character about this; you can see for yourself that this is a real funnygraph and not an automaton. 

I shall now make a Record, and let you hear for yourselves how faithfully the apparatus repeats any sound submitted to it.  To select a familiar illustration, I shall imitate two English swells asking each other the way about London.  You might notice how well I imitate the English swell.  Of course, I don't want to offend anyone present, you quite understand this is science, it is not impertinence--there's not much difference, but it is science really.  (Speaking with American accent into egg-cup) "Well, Guss, are you going up Pall Mall or are you going up Piccadilly?  Yah!  Yah!  Yah!  (Pause and phonograph repeats.)  A little imitation of laughing and crying may perhaps amuse you more.  (Into egg-cup)  Can you--(to audience) of course it can't--I'm only asking it that to make a kind of conversation of it and get you interested.  (Into cup) Can you laugh, Mr. Funnygraph?  Ha! ha! ha!  Can you cry, Mr. Funnygraph?  Oh! oh! oh!  (Phonograph repeats.)  The last "Record" will not be a record at all.  I'm going to sing; you needn't get up and go out, I sha'n't sing very much.  I shall just sing a little song, written and composed by an American, called "The Last Rose of Summer;" it is a very nice song when you hear it, as you doubtless do to-night, for the first time.  (Sings into cup) "'Tis the--(to audience) I'm sorry I haven't a better voice, but you quite understand that this is not a concert that is going on now, it's a scientific lecture; you're learning something now, it's not like a lot of tomfoolery (taking up egg-cup and singing into it).  "'Tis the--" (to audience) of course, if I had a better voice I should use it.  I am doing the best I possibly can with what Nature has provided me with, and I can't do more than that--if I had a voice like Santley or Sims Reeves I shouldn't be playing the fool here, I should be at the Albert Hall.  (Mouth to egg-cup, and then to audience) You understand this is a scientific voice, quite good enough for science.  (Sings.)  "'Tis the last rose of summer, left--" (phonograph concludes "blooming alone.")  You see, ladies and gentlemen, it not only repeats things, but finishes a song, words and all, it never heard before, and concludes my lecture on the Funnygraph.  

THE PHONOGRAPH (pp. 143-5).

THE phonograph, the phonograph,
'Tis a wonderful thing, the phonograph;
But what happened to me will make you laugh,
When I brought home a new phonograph.
I felt rather gay,
So I thought I'd essay
How a kiss would come out
In a phonograph way.
I said "Oh, you darling!  delighted to meet you,
With a chaste osculation permit me to greet you;"
Then I fired off a regular volley of kisses
Like a parting salute of a school of young misses.
But Jane, who that moment came in at the door,
And never had heard such a sound there before,
Said, "Oh, sir, how can you?  What are you doing?"
"Oh, Jane!" I exclaimed, "there is mischief a-brewing.
How could you with such indiscretion address me,
Why not in some silent way seek to repress me?
As soon as your mistress comes home from her walking
This horrid machine will set to a-talking;
The things will be lively 'tween you and your missis,
For when, after 'darling' and hundreds of kisses,
Your voice exclaims, 'Oh, sir!' and 'what are you doing,'
She'll be sure to suppose it was you I was wooing."
"Oh, drat it!" cried Jane, as she lifted her broom,
"If I'd known it I wouldn't have entered the room!
But I'm sure I won't let such an insinuation
Be the means of my losing a good situation.
And if there's no other way out out [sic] of it, dash it!
I'll give it a crack with my broom and I'll smash it."
And crash on the floor, broken in half,
Fell the wonderful phonograph.