copyright © 2002 Jeff Goode

The Red Herring

A piece for Oliver

(Jeff is acting like a fish. Oliver stands next to him, reading a poem.)
The herring is a crafty fish
The red ones are the worst.
You'll find them in the oceans deep
If they don't find you first.
The herring swims alone it seems
Forsaking shoals and schools.
It lures you up a creek, that way
(Oliver becomes distracted)
...into shallow pools
And just when you expect it least
That's when the herring strikes
You'll find yourself surrounded by
A mass of bass and pikes.
They pounce with fish-ish fury then
With biting and with pecking.
With finning and with sculling till
They damn your soul...
(Oliver becomes distracted again.) hecking.
And as you wait at heaven's gate
You'll think back to this poem:
Red herring fish? Intriguing dish.
(Oliver becomes completely distracted and never finishes the poem)
[But better not to know 'em.]

JEFF. Is something wrong?


JEFF. You look a little distracted.

OLIVER. I'm sorry, I'm a little distracted.

JEFF. Why?

OLIVER. Oh, I just had a baby...

Oliver gives all the pertinent birth announcement information
"Emerson Ann Oertel, born October 12th... etc."
JEFF. That's great. Congratulations.

OLIVER. You want to hear something really cool...?

JEFF. Sure.

Oliver tells something cool that happened.
JEFF. Wow. That's great. Do you have a picture?

OLIVER. Got one right here in my wallet.

(Oliver show Jeff a picture.)
JEFF. Oh my God! What an ugly baby!

OLIVER. Whoops. Sorry, that's my penis. Here she is.

(Oliver shows him a different picture.)
JEFF. Awwww... You know, I was getting a little irritated with you for fucking up my piece, but this is MUCH COOLER than a No Shame piece.

OLIVER. I was hoping you would say that. Bring 'em in!!

(OTHERS rush in with a copy of the photo for everyone in the audience. Oliver supervises making sure that everyone in the audience gets one.)

(When he's finished, Oliver goes back to his place next to Jeff.)

JEFF. You fucked up my piece.

OLIVER. Just trying to be a good parent.


This is a piece that I wrote as a surprise piece for Oliver Oertel to perform at his first No Shame in L.A. Oliver had missed the first couple weeks because his wife had just had a baby a few weeks before, and I knew that everyone was going to want to know what her name is, when she was born, etcs. So the piece was structured to be something Oliver could do with very little rehearsal (or advance notice) that we could spring on him whenever he finally showed up for the show. Jonathan Price wrote a nice water underscoring for the poem section which was also designed around the fact that Oliver would have never heard the music before that night. I printed off a hundred copies of pictures of Oliver's baby from a JPG he had sent me, so he wouldn't be suspicious when I asked him for several dozen pictures of his baby in advance.

By the way, it is also Meghan Schumacher's baby. But she wasn't in the piece. I'll have to write something different for her whenever she makes it to the show.

"The Red Herring" debuted November 8, 2002, performed by Oliver Oertel & Jeff Goode. Music by Jonathan Price. With Chris Clarke, Brian Rochlin, Tory Seiter & Michelle Garb.

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