Dan and Jay Premiere Praxedes II

With little to do aboard the Titanic but perform, Dan and Jay began to tinker with the bits of their archives that always traveled with them, including their fathers’ notebooks.  When they discovered Praxedes, the world’s first comedy automaton, they were inspired.  Sourcing parts and free labor from the lower decks of the ship, they had soon built an improved automaton, most impressive, perhaps, for its humanistic appearance. The voice, provided by a phonograph, would consist of pre-recorded lines and, with their near-perfect comedic timing, it was hardly noticeable that the third man onstage was getting neither paid nor fed.

Dan and Jay had adapted numerous sketches for Praxedes II to perform, the most popular of which were “Mr. Neville Can’t Sleep,” “Cinnamon Shoes Priqueness,” and “Hold the Ice, Fanny,” the latter of which they knew would get a rise out of their British co-passengers, since fanny was a slang word for a woman’s nether-regions.  They were fortunate to not only have with them a phonograph, on which they’d listen to humorous japes and natty tunes, but a lathe cutting machine on which to record all of Praxedes II’s parts.  They then took the resulting records and practiced for hours on end, hoping that Praxedes II’s random mouth (and occasional arm) movements would sync well-enough with the words.  They did.

A sample from “Hold the Ice, Fanny”:

Dan: Say, Fanny, throw us a drink, would you?

Jay: Certainly, sir!  And for you!

Praxedes II: There’s no ice, bird!

J: Who are you calling a bird, you cad?

D: Have some respect, sir!

P: I refuse!  There’s no ice at all!

J: But I put it right there, in your glass!

P: None that I can see!

D: Just drink your glass and shut up!

J: As we always say when we drink on the ocean, full steam ahead!

D: Full steam ahead!

P: Full steam ahead!

The greatest reaction Dan and Jay got, though, at the end of their first performance with Praxedes II, was when they would reveal his inner workings.  So perplexed were the audience that they got numerous requests to examine it closer, which they did not oblige, for fear their patent-pending design would be stolen.  Their fears, it turns out, were not unfounded.  On the night of April 13, just before they went on stage, Praxedes II was nowhere to be found.  With only minutes before they were to be on stage, and Jay’s stalling script lost within reams of paper, they went on without him, doing their old act, which neither delighted nor surprised the audience.  Said Jay:

They were expecting the surprise, now, which, for me, killed the magic of the performance.  They had no interest in our sketches, old or new, without the goddamned robot.

After their set ended, Dan and Jay had intended to retire to the bar for the evening, when they noticed a bearded gentleman running away with what looked to be the records they had cut for Praxedes II.  They then cornered the man, who turned out to be the ship’s captain, Captain Smith.  Swearing them to secrecy, he told them that he had had word via telegraph that he must complete a secret mission, and so replaced himself – temporarily – with Praxedes II, using “Hold the Ice, Fanny” as the record of choice, hoping the hilarity of those lines alone would keep his men entertained long enough while he was gone.  Unfortunately, had he chosen “Cinnamon Shoes Priqueness,” a sketch where Praxedes II plays a character who compulsively agrees with everyone around him, such that he accepts the moniker “Cinnamon Shoes,” against his better judgment, the ship might have been saved.  Instead, Praxedes continued to insist their was “no ice” and continued to call his shipmates all “Fanny.”

Author: Jay