There is a fine line (if any line at all) between some performance art and plain old standup comedy. John Arthur Sweet is a hugely entertaining, subversively ironic monologuist and, judging from audience reaction in this live show at Banff earlier this year, he is very, very funny. The monologue is called “Squirt,” the subject is love (sort of), Sweet’s acting is delightful. Watch the video; the script is below.
Oh, this is nice, isn’t it? That sun! It’s nice, eh? Nice.
Mmm …. ahhhhh …. (sigh) … oh, yeah.
(Throat clearing.) You know … um … there was something I wanted to ask you about. Yeah … Look, I’ll just mention this and then we can sorta move on—(Gesture.)—down the road … So I got your email, and that’s great, I’d love to do that … thing … on Saturday. So yeah.
So, like, um, at the end of that email, you inserted something that wasn’t terribly relevant, it seemed to me, to the subject matter. You said—I don’t know if you even remember this—but you typed, “I love you.” So …
Well, it’s not really a problem, it’s just that you wrote, “I love you,” at the end of this otherwise strictly, you know, administrative email about arrangements for Saturday, and I wondered what you meant. In concrete terms.
Yeah, well, okay, great! … but … I think the thing is, we haven’t really arrived at a common definition of basic language.
No, I’m not being overly analytical. I’m just saying, you typed—that is to say, I assume you typed—or did someone else add that line? Yeah, so it was you. So I’m just saying, you must have meant something when you typed that. Or did you mean nothing? You either meant something or you meant nothing. If you didn’t mean anything as you typed “I love you,” then … well, I find that really quite fascinating. You know, that the human brain can conceive language that is utterly meaningless.
(To waiter.) Oh, yeah! Two gin and tonics, please! Thanks.
Like, there’s all these people all over the place all the time, going “I love you” … I love your hair … I love that new song by Rihanna … I just love polar bears … Oh, I love diversity … I love being part of a country with such a rich multicultural fabric … I just love the First Nations peoples, with their rich and authentic this and that … I lub you … Ahh lub ya … You know, and meanwhile we’re, like, killing each other and … and poisoning people’s water supplies … So, what I’m wondering is, where’s the love?
No, I’m not being overly serious, actually. I’m just looking for information. Making conversation. As we wait for our libation. See, I’m a kind of poet, too!
Wow, it’s so nice. I’m glad we came here.
(humming “Whistle While You Work”) Dee dee dee dee dee, dee-dee dee dee dee dee dee—gna gna gna gna, gna gna gna gna, gna gna gna gna gnaaaaa—
Let me say just one more thing about that, and then that’ll be it. So last night, when you came in my mouth— No, calm down, calm down— I’m just saying, last night, when you came in my mouth, in that very instant, as I felt this warm, viscous, salty grey liquid oozing all around my teeth, I was thinking, “Is this what he meant when he wrote, ‘I love you’?” … Don’t look at me like that, please!
No, you’re not— … Look, here’s a perfect example of what I’m getting at. When that waiter came over and asked if we’d like anything, I told him, “Two gin and tonics, please.” That’s all I said. Five words. And actually, the “please” on the end was gratuitous, so … four words … And actually, did you know that in French, a gin and tonic is “gin tonic”? Not “gin et tonic.” Yeah, it’s true. So you don’t need the “and” either. So, three words. Just like your “I love you.” Now, when I said those three words to the waiter, he didn’t have to say anything, he didn’t have to interrogate me, because we have an agreed-upon definition of basic terms. He knew to go over to the bar and take two translucent beverage containers, put an agreed-upon amount of gin in each glass— I mean, all I said was “two gin and tonics,” but he’s not going to go and pour, like, half the bottle of gin in one glass and half in the other. He’s going to put a particular amount, which we both more or less know, into each glass, add ice, and then tonic up to the top. And … here’s where it gets almost creepy … I know that he is going to put a little slice of lime, cut down the middle, on the lip of each glass. I didn’t say anything about lime! Did I say anything about lime? But he knows I’m expecting it, and I know he’s going to deliver it. That, my dearest, is what is called communication.
So, what I’m saying is, and I don’t want to be vulgar or anything, but when you say, “I love you,” does that mean that subsequently you get to stick your thing in my mouth and squirt warm liquid into it?
Hey, you know what? Just forget I said anything. Let’s just enjoy these gin and tonics. Here they come! And I can see the lime wedges from here.
— John Arthur Sweet
John Arthur Sweet is a Montreal-based monologist and book editor/translator. His last full-length monologue, Waiting for André, was performed across Canada and at the Prague Fringe Festival between 2008 and 2011. He is working on a new monologue, entitled Who Waits at the Top of the Stairs, an extended love letter to his adopted hometown. John was a participant in the 2013 Spoken Word residency at the Banff Centre, which inspired him to begin creating shorter pieces, works incorporating elements of poetry, as well as French-language monologues.