The Question Mark Show
by Doug Higley
We've all heard of the 'Man Eating
Chicken' and the 'Giant Bat' grinds...all have the ability to
amuse and occasionally draw a beef or two. But what if your with
it and for it and and you ain't got a dime to buy some Chicken?
If you're broke and you need 'coffee money' whatcha gonna do?
Well...if you have a large pair of 'cajones' and can stand the
heat, put up a Question Mark Show!
Assuming your a hobo and it's the time of the depression that is!
Say, you hop a freight and wind up in
New Mexico broke as can be. Hey! There's a Carny set up outside of
town! You make your deal and proceed to build your show. First off
you find a house with some fresh laundry hanging on the line and
you snatch a bed sheet. Back at the lot you stake out a Square
with a few sticks and some string you found. You beg a tin of shoe
polish and draw a huge Question Mark on the sheet which you hang
from a tree in front of the Square of String. Also on the sheet
you write in large numbers "10 cents" Your buddy/partner now
stands in FRONT of the sheet/banner with his Hat in hand to
collect the dimes. He must remain SILENT and never answers any
questions...he just points to the Square and the Tip gathers
around the empty square waiting for the show. Eventually the
partner with the most guts, collects the dimes from the hat into
his pocket and enters the square
and addresses the 'audience'..."Ladies and Gentlemen..I'm sure you
are wondering what you have paid your dime to see...well...Not A
Damn Thing! Thank You." and he immediately leaves the Square and
A couple of things can happen here. The dumb struck Tip just
wanders off muttering to themselves... some get the joke and laugh
then go off to find a friend to see this great show (!) and get
'took' as well...and occasionally there's a beef. The beef can be
handled by giving the offended party their dime back. "Just a rib
friend...just a rib."
Would this have worked? You bet, and it did work in the old days.
More recently I once did a one afternoon grind show using the same
principle just to see If it would win the money. I put up a sheet
with a big Question Mark and "Twenty Five Cents" on it. I never
said a word...just stood there with a small box (I don't have a
hat) and some quarters in it. People would say what is it? And I
would just shrug and shake my head. Behind the sheet I had my 84
Olds parked with the Trunk open and black blanket draped inside. I
cheated the game though by actually having something for them to
see...a small Pygmy Mummy I had gaffed up and a little sign that
said..."What is it? Who Knows!
But you must admit it IS a ? "
Didn't win a lot of money but I did turn a decent Tip! Amazing.
Any Beefs? Not a single one.
A more elaborate version of this became my Strange Thing Show,
which won a lot of money using the same principle.
That's another story and I'll tell ya HOW and WHY it works next
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