Targeting the Audience

On Saturday, summer camp ended for the season. We went out with an awards dinner and a skit revue titled, “Encores.” I co-wrote this year’s, like last year’s, and modeled it after Saturday Night Live. There was “Celebrity Jeopardy” and “Weekend Update” as well as a musical guest.

Afterwards, the camp director approached me and said it was one of the best he’d ever seen. “Except for one thing,” he added. “That Drunk Uncle guy. I didn’t really understand that.” He was referring to a reoccuring character on SNL’s “Weekend Update.” Their version of Drunk Uncle complains mostly about the state of youth today. One of my co-workers has a solid impression and we ran with it. He complained about the coaching in campers’ tribal competition.

“So you didn’t like it?” I repeated dumbly.

“No, no I didn’t really see the point,” the director said. “But I’m not your target audience.”

This summer I also wrote Eagle Tales, the skit series that camp uses to teach the Christian gospel and camping values. In the past, Eagle Tales was a disjointed group of skits with consistent characters but an unconnected plot. That’s not me. Instead, I wrote a six part series that followed young Finneas the Knight, his twin sister Quintus the Archer, and Steve the Wizard. Steve spoke like Satchmo in a wizard hat and cast spells from an electric guitar. He was inspired by a picture of actor Ian McKellan in sunglasses For some reason, Steve was the absolute star.

In each episode, Steve had maybe four or five lines – half of which were always “STEVE!” Regardless of depth of character, campers loved him. Before some performances they would chant, “WE WANT STEVE” so loud that my character, a puppet named Blizz the Well Informed, would have to quiet them.

“Silence, children,” Blizz would squeal.

“Orange elmo!” campers would cry back.

The adventurers traveled a long way to slay a dragon and rescue a princess. Along the way they crossed the Bridge of Broken Rainbows, were captured by Rothgar the Pantsless, dueled Joe Jonas, and recited numerous puns and Star Wars references. Yet all the kids wanted was Steve.

I think the most frustrating thing involved in directing Eagle Tales was that no one appreciated my humor. Not only the kids, but even counselors didn’t recognize the deep pool of kill puns (Sorry to cut it short, I hope you get the point, Let me put a bow on it). It wasn’t until August until I realized that I missed my target audience. In my effort to craft the show that would make me laugh the hardest, I forgot that eight year olds don’t really have the cultural back ground for things like, “He’s all tied up at the moment!” All they wanted was a quirky wizard with a funny name.

In the last two weeks I finally gave the actor playing Steve carte blanche to say his name as many times per episode as he wanted. It was our most successful run to date. No person has yet to recognize the Star Wars quote in each episode.


One thought on “Targeting the Audience

  1. I laughed at this and I’m sure I would have laughed at eagle tales… but then again I will watch an entire anthology of episodes if I catch a Vader reference while channel surfing. Star Wars is my sense of humor.

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