SMOKE: A World Of Lies
Originally published: 12 September 2003
I'm a pretty truthful sort - I will as easily reveal my bad sides (corruption, greed, money-laundering, organised crime) as my good ones (enormous member, strong tongue and an eye for a thong-clad ass or a comely set of funbags), but even I have to lie on occasion and it's more often than not.
Not when dealing with you folks, you understand - I'm talking about everyday issues, when the truth becomes an irrelevance in light of the greater good.
I was going through some old sketches I wrote a few years back with two partners (for convenience sake we'll call them 'Erb and Grey, and we called ourselves The Bison Brothers).
We compiled a whole pilot episode for a comedy series on local television, but didn't get very far as we were told - quite literally - that we were not black enough.
We were instructed to go away, form a company with a board which contained a certain percentage of black representation and ensure things like having half the episode in a language other than English, with subtitles - the list was endless.
Obviously we didn't have the resources to do this so the project fell by the wayside, which is a pity as we believed it was funny, if a little spicy.
Anyway - I was going through these sketches, and found one that we hadn't picked for our pilot, and which I had totally forgotten about.
It's called "Honest Mark" and features a recurring character whose comedy lies in the fact that he is a completely honest person, which doesn't help him much when it comes to the various jobs he tries.
Here it is:
[Ext. Suburbs. Day. Quarter-to-five-ish. A young, newly-wed couple are standing on the sidewalk outside a house with a "For Sale" sign outside. Possibly an agent's sign, with something like "Honest Mark's Properties", or perhaps something a little more creative, depending on the currently available art talent.
Parked in the road next to the couple is a modest sedan, possibly a white Mazda, or maybe even a blue Opel Kadett (these were the cars we owned at the time). They are waiting for the estate agent to arrive to show them around. They are admiring the house from the outside, and we watch them with the camera from across the street.
But not for long - we pan across to the road as we hear a car approaching. It is also a modest sedan, either a white Mazda or a blue Opel Kadett (depending on availability.)
It comes to a rather jerky halt, which should not be too difficult for the driver, who is none other than 'Erb in the role of Honest Mark. Honest Mark gets out of the car, as the couple, led by Grey, approach to greet him.]
Honest Mark: Hi - sorry I'm late, always am. I'm Honest Mark, and you must be Grey and Angie.
[They shake hands, saying hallo. Or hi. Improvise, man.]
Honest Mark: Alright, well, let's show you inside - oh - mind the broken tile there.
[He indicates to a cracked tile, or stone, or piece of broken ground that they might stumble on].
Honest Mark: Right, let me just find the key.
[He fumbles around inside a moonbag or equivalent pouch for the keys to the front door, in vain].
Honest Mark: Would you believe it, I haven't brought the keys. I am such an idiot. Wait - there's a way of getting in here without the key - watch!
[He pulls a small penknife or closest substitute out of his pocket and wiggles it into the lock of the front door. It requires very little effort and the door swings open.]
Honest Mark: [proudly] There you go - not very burglar-proof, but at least you can get in. Come inside, come inside.
[We cut to Int. House. The view from inside the house looking out over Honest Mark's shoulder, at the slightly shocked yet ultimately still-trusting faces of the couple as they enter the house towards the camera. Mark moves aside to allow them to pass.
They walk right up to the camera to eventually block the lens completely. The darkness fades up to Int. Bedroom. Camera is facing the doorway from across the room as Angie, then Grey, then Honest Mark enter. The couple are looking around in obvious approval, nodding and murmuring and marking out squares on the wall where pictures would go.]
Honest Mark: Great little bedroom, pity about the damp [he points out patches on the wall]. And of course, being an East-facing bedroom, you get the full force of the summer morning sun which, believe me, by 7.30 in the morning on your day off is hot enough to fry an egg on the bonnet of that pretty car of yours out there.
But get some heavy drape curtains, you'll be alright.
[He moves to the built-in-cupboards.]
On a brighter note, the built-in cupboards are fantastic - [he starts to open them, but changes his mind] - hang on, slow down, uh - they are really great, but being a damp, warm space of course there are cockroaches. Unavoidable, I'm afraid.
Look - get yourselves a can of something and keep it on your nightstand, although to be honest I wouldn't be able to sleep at night knowing those fuckers are everywhere, creeping around in the night covered in shit and God knows what. Still - that's just me - I DO NOT do creepy-crawlies.
Grey: Look - is there anything decent about this house at all?
Honest Mark: Oh God yes - it's a renovator's paradise! Won't last three months before it's infested with all manner of rodents and minutiae, rotting at the seams and falling in on itself.
The fireplace doesn't work, the taps run with brown gunk, the toilets - no, let's leave the toilets out of this - the kitchen tiles are a paraplegic's nightmare and the garden is populated by a mole snake colony - not dangerous, but I wouldn't go having kids for a while.
No - the owner's a cheating, thieving bastard who covered up all the imperfections with layers of cheap paint and is asking a ridiculous sum of money for what is, in essence, a fucking hell-hole. But there you go.
Grey: Well I'm sure we won't be buying it then, will we?
Honest Mark: To be perfectly honest I wouldn't either. I've got another place you can have a look at if you like - it's also a bit crap but it's certainly better than this one.
Grey: I don't think so, Honest Mark - we've seen enough.
[Grey and Angie leave. Mark follows them through the front door and stands on the porch, watching them walk to their car. He shouts out after them.]
Honest Mark: You've got fantastic tits, love.
[He turns to the camera with a wry, perhaps sardonic, grin.]
Honest Mark: Honestly!
All of which got me thinking about honesty and how unnecessary it is at times. If we were all Honest Mark's we would never do any business, would we? We'd be forced to point out the small print instead of hoping the customer doesn't read it.
We'd have signs warning people of products that are over-priced, poor quality and which come with a suspect guarantee. Car mechanics would blurt out how they fixed your car with cheaper parts than they quoted and how it will all break down again real soon, in order to get you to come back to them.
Estate agents would point out the problems instead of the benefits, casinos would warn you that they have the stats to prove just how much they're going to screw you, advertisers would advise you on which products not to buy and politicians would 'fess up on precisely which fingers they have in which coffers and which fingers they have in which hooker's drawers.
If everyone was truthful the world would be a brilliant place and everything would be fair. But because most are not truthful, telling the truth in this age of business is only going to get you screwed by those who prefer the comfort of lies.
What worries me is that the lies are becoming bolder and bolder and nobody is being made to pay for them. The more lies liars get away with, the bolder their lies get and for me it's at the point where only the truth will suffice from my side, because I'd get too caught up in my own web of lies and deceit if I didn't.
Then again - I could be lying.
All Smoked Out,