Note: This was performed at my church's yearly celebration of famous UUs and their gifts to society. It loses a little when you just read the text.
Two large signs that say “Applause please”
A gaudy trophy (we used a soccer trophy)
(Entire cast is onstage, with any youth without assigned parts dressed as circus people. PT is in the center of the group of circus people.)
Announcer: Welcome, Welcome to the 1890 Universalist of the Year Awards. Tonight we honor a very important Universalist and one of the most famous men in the entire world, circus legend PT Barnum!
(Applause people hold up posters that say “applause please” Audience, one hopes, applauds.)
Announcer: You probably know PT’s story. After all, his autobiography is one of the best selling books in the entire world. You know he has given away large portions of his fortune to museums and libraries and to Tufts University. You know that he has revolutionized circus and entertainment. You know that he has helped change the circus from a den of iniquity to a den of delight! You know that he started the Greatest Show on Earth. You know who he is and you know that we’re giving him the Universalist of the year award, so give it up for :P.T. Barnum!
(Applause people hold up signs, PT steps to the front.)
PT: (Delivered in a way that makes him sound VERY impressed with himself. Jumbo should look increasingly agitated as the speech goes on.) Thank you, thank you, I’m honored to receive the Universalist of the year award. I have given a lot of money to museums and educational institutions, but I’d like to talk about one more reason why I deserve this award: My political work.
Now maybe it’s not appropriate for a church to give an award for political action, maybe that’s why you left it out of your speech, but before the war I spoke out against slavery frequently and I even served two terms in the Connecticut legislature. Also, I…
(Jumbo steps forward, takes mike from PT)
Jumbo: Now PT, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish but Clara Barton was the greatest Universalist of all time.*
PT: Well… I…
Jumbo: I don’t know why you think you can even get a religious award, you did so many bad things.
Jojo: Yeah, take it from your old pal Jojo the dog-faced boy, you’ve been lying to people and cheating them your entire career!
PT: Now really!
Jumbo: It’s true. Let’s talk about the Cardiff Giant for a second.
PT: (proudly) One of the most famous hoaxes in history, I might add.
Jumbo: The bible said some things that people thought meant there used to be giants roaming the Earth. So a tobacconist named George Hull made a sculpture of a giant man out of wood and started displaying it, claiming that it was one of those biblical giants. You made your own and started to claim that your giant was real and HIS was a fake, when both of the giants were just made up.
PT: (laughing) The thing of it was, when Mr. Hull took me to court, they ruled in my favor because the judge said there was nothing illegal about calling Hull’s fake a fake! I won the case!
Jojo: PT, you’re missing the point. You were CHEATING people. People came to your museums and your sideshows thinking that they were really seeing a giant man or the body of a mermaid, and none of that was true. How can you accept an award from a religion when you made all your money from tricking people?
(PT takes microphone, addresses audience. He should really sell this. Make the audience feel like PT is snowing them but they are having too much fun to care.)
PT: Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy is right. While I gave a lot of my money away, I made a lot of money from fooling people. But did you ever ask yourselves if those people really deserved to be fooled?
It’s a really complicated world out there, my friends. And if you’re the sort of person who runs around automatically believing in giants and mythical creatres, you’re going to have a difficult life. I gave lots of money to universities. But if you spent five cents to go to my circus, saw the unicorn, thought to yourself that it looked like a goat with a horn on it and figured out you can’t always believe what you’re told, then for five cents I gave you a better education than some people ever get.
Part of being a religious liberal is thinking for yourself. I taught thousands of people to do that.
So I ask you, members of the audience: Do I, PT Barnum, deserve this award? Applaud if you think I do.
((Applause people hold up signs. Announcer looks over the crowd (who should be going nuts), nods, and hands PT the trophy. He holds it up triumphantly.))
Announcer: The greatest showman on earth, my friends. The greatest showman on earth.
*Nobody got this joke, at all. The silence was deafening.