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Water Cooler: Everybody plays the Aprils Fools’ sometime

Local comedians, from left, Eric Edelstein, Darryl Burns and Mark Robbins share their best April Fools’ Day stories. (The Spokesman-Review photos)
Local comedians, from left, Eric Edelstein, Darryl Burns and Mark Robbins share their best April Fools’ Day stories. (The Spokesman-Review photos)

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Spokane comedians remind us why it’s so important to keep laughing in these difficult times.

Here are a few stories shared by local comics about their memories surrounding April Fools’ past.

Eric Edelstein

Gonzaga graduate Eric Edelstein has lended his voice acting talents to Cartoon Network’s “We Bare Bears” as Grizz and “Monsters Vs. Aliens” as B.O.B., in addition to appearing in sitcoms “Parks and Recreation” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In 1999, Edelstein journeyed down to a lumberyard near Thor and Freya for an April Fools’ prank for the Jay and Kevin Show.

“On April Fools’ Day, I went into a lumberyard and started talking to the guy about long pieces of wood and really specific things. I let on that I was building a casket, and I wanted to see if he could help me build this casket. He started getting more and more nervous and he was asking who I was building the casket for, and then I told him I wanted to build it for me. I thought nothing was wrong with me, but I just wanted to be prepared just in case and could he give me the lumber to let me go home and build the casket. He was absolutely terrified, had no idea what was going on. Jay and Kevin let him off and let him know that we were doing April Fools’ pranks, but for a point in time, he thought he had a guy in his lumber yard that wanted him to come home and build a casket for him. ‘I’m a big guy and I’m not gonna let some coffin company rip me off. I wasn’t born yesterday. What I’m needing here, friend, is I’m gonna need some big old planks, you can tell I’m a big guy, and I might be hanging onto this for 40, 50 years. I don’t smoke, I plan to be healthy, but I’m not gonna get (taken advantage of) by the death industry.’ ”

Mark Robbins

Mark Robbins, who has graced your television sets plenty of times as one-half of the comedic couple in the ads for Northern Quest Resort & Casino, remembers the suspicious pancakes that defined his April Fools’ Day vacations with grandparents.

“I grew up on the other side of the mountains, but I spent most summers at Loon Lake where my grandparents had a little five-cabin resort, but we would also visit during spring break, which frequently included April 1. Every April 1, my grandmother (whom we called Bocabon – long story) would make pancakes, and she would set her alarm to make sure to get up before everyone, when we otherwise knew her to stay in bed and read. But every year, you would come downstairs and find her making pancakes with a half-empty bag of cotton balls sitting deliberately on the counter. The suggestion was that she would put cotton balls in the batter, and nobody knew who would get one in their pancake. But nobody ever did. She never did it. The whole joke was the suggestion – the possibility. She would make breakfast with a sly grin, and she wouldn’t respond if you asked her about it.”

Darryl Burns

For The Spokesman-Review’s comedian-in-residence Darryl Burns, his premier April Fools’ prank recalls punking a rookie comic.

“A few years when I was in Alaska, I got booked for a show in Anchorage – I lived in Fairbanks, Alaska, which is an 8-hour drive. It was me, a guy named Dave Morris and Aaron Johnson, who was new to comedy. We drove to Anchorage in about 8 1/2 hours and this was only the new guy’s second show. We got to the venue and I talked to the booker to let him know we were there. I went and got with Dave and told him, ‘Let’s prank the new guy.’ He was all in. About 10 minutes before the show, we were backstage, and I left and came back with a sad look on my face – Dave playing along. I said that we drove here for nothing. He doesn’t need us. So Dave acted disappointed, I did too, and poor Aaron didn’t know how to act. Later, the MC walks past us goes on the stage and said the usual, ‘Good evening, people,’ then he goes, ‘Our first comedian, very funny guy, put your hands together for Aaron Johnson!’ The look on his face was priceless.”

Keep ’em laughing

This is all to say that it’s important to keep people laughing, especially right now. Just ask Edelstein.

“We just have to. It’s hard to articulate, but we just kind of all intrinsically know that we need to laugh. You have to laugh to be distracted from all this craziness right now, and humor has always been the thing that allows people to get through something together.”

This uniting force of funny has been especially prominent in Edelstein’s latest project, “Voice Actors Read,” an Instagram initiative recruiting featured voice actors to read children’s books.

“It’s just been incredible,” Edelstein said. “It’s been like the end of “It’s A Wonderful Life” where every single person I ask to do it, they can’t say yes fast enough. It’s just been so heartening and kind of magical.”

The reaction has been bigger than Edelstein imagined.

“We get the notes from parents, as stressed as they all are with this thing having over all of us and financially, it means the world that we can just have a small place for them to go everyday and hand their phone over to these clowns and cartoons that will entertain their kids.”

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