introduction: (re)percussions
A white, middle-class man carrying a briefcase enters a waiting room.
He joins another man who is also white, also middle class, and also
carrying a briefcase. Soon after the second man sits he begins idly
tapping the resonant surface of his briefcase, marking time. As though
interpreted either as a provocation or as an invitation, his serial com-
panion responds to this tapping by executing a modest but unmistak-
able percussion solo. Within moments, we are treated to a truly vir-
tuosic exchange of solos, each more extravagant than the next, and
soon the waiting room becomes a stage where something like a ‘‘drum
battle’’ between Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich is taking place. At the
height of this silliness, in walks the receptionist to inform the first man
that he can now be seen. Her look of suspicious astonishment brings
the hilarity of the situation to its moment of culmination, although
almost immediately after the first man exits he is replaced by another
man, and the tapping begins anew.
Those familiar with the perverse world of ‘‘British humor’’ will rec-
ognize this as one of the many sublime gags performed by the now
disbanded troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus. When I first saw this
skit, I was drumming professionally, and if I remember straight, what
got my attention was both the resourcefulness of the solos and the
apparently irrepressible drive toward public humiliation (masculine
masochism?) that, even today, triggers my convulsive and ultimately
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