I’ve done various M.C. gigs in various places. The flat-out weirdest one was when I hosted the Winneshiek County, Iowa, Fair Queen Pageant. The actual competition took place in a high school auditorium in front of a handful of parents and high school friends of the competitors. That was pretty routine, as far as MCing goes. But the winner was to be announced at the fair’s main grandstand on the biggest night – right before the stock car races.
So what you had was six or eight small-town Iowa beauty contestants in their evening gowns, one short east coast Jewish local radio announcer looking bewildered in a rental tuxedo (me, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet), a couple fair officials wearing – more sensibly – flannel shirts, and five thousand spectators already buzzing on Hamm’s and getting impatient for the races to start. As I recall, we got through Miss Congeniality and the four other runners-up in about 35 seconds. Fortunately, I was not required to sing “There She Is… Miss Winneshiek County Fair” when we got to first place. (Of course, it would have been drowned out by the sound of engines revving, anyway.)
To top it off, all the Fair Queen contestants had the foresight to have brought a change of clothes along with them. I, on the other hand, ate my complementary corn dogs and Dr Pepper in my rental tux as the stock cars roared.
I got away without having to wear a tuxedo for any of my key M.C. jobs when I lived in Rochester, Minnesota. The aptly named Rochesterfest included a parade every year, and for reasons unbeknownst to everyone but the parade organizers, they always had a couple of Minnesota Public Radio people announce the floats to the people gathered in part of the parade route. My most vivid memory of this was the year my friend and fellow reporter Matt Algeo and I were stationed along the route for a parade for which roughly half the entries seemed to be Shriners:
Me: “Look, Matt. More Shriners.”
Matt: “That’s right, Mitch. And these Shriners are driving miniature motorcycles.”
Me: “Let’s give them all a big hand.”
Not surprisingly, when they called on the two of us to M.C. part of something called the Eagles Telethon on a local TV station, they assigned us the heavily-watched 3-to-5 a.m. timeslot.
So the Big Brother Big Sisters “Bowl for Kids’ Sake” in Flagstaff (remember the first paragraph?) is a pretty easy gig. Basically, it involves standing on a staircase (the one that, unfortunately, leads to the bar) with a vaguely-functioning p.a. system microphone, razzing teams for missing easy spares, and urging them to roll a strike when there’s a red head-pin (“…and that’s another free 2-liter bottle of Wild Cherry Pepsi for the team of nurses from Flagstaff Medical Center!”). It’s a free t-shirt, a sense of helping people, and a chance to come home smelling like a bowling alley. And they seem to actually appreciate some sarcasm. (“Sorry, Flagstaff insurance team, you had to knock down all the pins for the free Bloomin’ Onion. That was none of the pins.”)
And yet, still no call from the Motion Picture Association of America. You’d think they’d at least need a back-up for Chris Rock.