How to Wash An Elephant

Before introducing this stunt, choose three people to leave the room. They should not overhear the narrator. The narrator explains to the audience that the stunt is called "How to Wash an Elephant", a classic example in communications. He tells the following story and pantomimes the motions as he goes. Narrator: One morning, Farmer Friendly went out to the barn to begin his chores (pantomime walking). He threw open the barn door, and to his surprise, he found an elephant in his barn (pantomime throwing open door, surprise). The farmer didn't know what to do with the elephant, so he decided that the first thing to do was to wash it. He led the elephant from the barn (pick up the elephant's trunk and walk with it over your shoulder, open and close the barn door). He left the elephant near the pump, got a bucket and scrub brush, and pumped the bucket full of water (pantomime the actions). Now he was ready to begin. First, he scrubbed the left side (lift up the elephant's ear and wash that). Then he was ready for the stomach (lie down on the floor; wriggle under elephant and scrub underside). Next, the right side (repeat actions as for the left side). Then he scrubbed the elephant's face (pantomime scrubbing between the eyes and down the length of the trunk). Almost done (walk to the rear of the elephant, gingerly lift up the tail and quickly scrub there). There, that's done! (Pantomime throwing out rest of water, putting the brush in bucket and setting bucket beside the pump. Take the elephant by his trunk and lead him back to the barn, open the door, lead him in, go out, and shut the door behind.)

The narrator tells the audience he will call people back in, one by one, and pantomime the stunt without the benefit of narrative. The first person will do what he remembers for the second person, and so on. He will, of course, have no idea what the motions mean, so it can be very funny. By the time the actions are pantomimed for the third person, they will be distorted and bear little resemblance to the original version. After all three have tried their luck, the narrator explains the story and tells them what they were doing.


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