The Craziest Theme Request Ever…
When you do live caricature, especially in a theme park or retail setting where speed is not as important as it is when doing parties or events, you get a lot of people asking to be drawn doing this or that. There are many standards like “as a baseball player” or “singing karaoke” or “riding a motorcycle”. I encourage my artists to charge a few bucks extra when the theme being requested is something that will take more than a minute of extra time… they are paid on commission after all.
Now, these are caricatures and supposed to be funny, so I always make my theme into gags… take the above examples, for example. For the baseball player I might draw the ball bouncing off his head or, if the guy is really big, have a tube of goo labeled “BALCO” falling out of his pocket as he hits the hide off the ball. For the karaoke singer, I’ll have a couple of audience members cringing with their fingers in their ears. The motorcycle rider I might have on a tricycle with a sign taped on that says “My other bike is a Harley”, or have the chopper handles so high he can’t reach them when seated. Anyway, the point is it’s supposed to be funny, so I try and make it funny.
Sometimes you get some weird theme requests. Often those making the requests think they are being really original with what they ask for, when in fact it’s something that gets requested all the time. If I had a dime for every wannabe gansta who asked to be drawn with a “nine” in one hand and cash in the other, I’d be retired in Hawaii by now. Incidentally they always got a squirt gun and a fist full of monopoly money in those drawings. I did get many really truly odd and unique requests over the years, though. Most I have long forgotten but there was one I did many years ago that still sticks out as the weirdest theme request I was ever asked to do, and one of the ones I had to be the most creative in pulling off.
This took place not in a theme park but at my stand at Underground Atlanta, probably about 1991 or thereabouts. I was drawing late one night and got a big group of local college students who were out partying all getting drawn… and they were all pretty drunk. They would tell me their major or main focus of study, and I’d come up with some gag about it. Most were the usual subjects like psychology, medicine, etc. and I did some gags that got them rolling. They began to try and stump with their requests, which they could not do. The last one was the one I remember the most.
The subject was a petite girl, maybe 20, who had a boisterous friend I had just got done drawing. The friend sat the girl, who was a little sheepish despite being pretty intoxicated, down in front of me and challenged me to draw her with a theme about her area of study. We had a big crowd of drunk classmates who got real interested right then, so I figured whatever this girl was studying was a subject of a lot of jokes and comments by her friends.
“Okay,” I said as I started the drawing, “What’s your major?”
“Biology,” she replied promptly, looking at her friend with a pleading sort of expression.
“Tell him what kind!” the friend demands.
“I’m going to be a field biologist and animal behaviorist, and study animal behavior in the wild and in captivity,” she explained, still looking embarrassed.
“What are you studying SPECIFICALLY?” Her friend insisted, “What your thesis on?”
The girl hesitates, and then says “I’m studying the mating habits of certain animals…”
“ELEPHANT SEX!” the friends blurts out. “SHE’S STUDYING ELEPHANT SEX!! Draw THAT!”
Now, it’s late and Underground Atlanta was known (at the time anyway) for its nightlife, but it is still an all-ages retail center and I never work “blue” anyway, so I had to come up with something reasonably family friendly. Plus, all this time I had already been drawing her face so I was a bit limited as far as an elaborate scene. I had to add something simple in the background.
What I did was draw her at a desk working on a paper, with her chin resting on her hand and looking up into the air like she was daydreaming. The pile of books next to her had titles like The Joy of Elephant Sex, The Pachyderm Orgasm and Tr?¬™nka-S?¬™tra, plus a video tape called “Dumbo does Dallas”. Above her head, I drew this as her daydream (obvious recreated):
That got a big laugh. That one is still the all-time champ of my weirdest theme request ever.
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