AUTOMATIC PILOT (old comedy sketch)

Here's an early script that was performed in the stage show "Children with Hands", directed by Oliver Butler at the wonderful UNDER St. Mark's.  Will Carlough played Pete and Paul Thureen played Felix.  Each actor did excellent work and it was delightful for me to see someone else play parts that I would've messed up.  (Spoiler: Paul did an amazing job at making the crying very real and laugh-out-loud funny; whereas I would've probably played it for laughs or made it too pathetic.)


(PETE and FELIX sit side by side, holding the controls of a commercial airplane)

PETE: Confirm cabin pressure to altitude.

FELIX: Check.

PETE: Then we can kick back ‘til Fort Worth.

(PETE visibly relaxes and seems much more comfortable.  FELIX begins to sob, gently.)

PETE: (unnerved) Something wrong Felix?

FELIX: (sniffles) N-n-no.

PETE: Good.

(PETE seizes the moment to leave the cockpit)

FELIX: Wait!

(PETE stops, not yet out of his chair)

FELIX: Maybe there is something wrong.

PETE: Oh.  Huh.  So…Maybe you should talk about it.

FELIX: I’d like that.

PETE: I’ll get one of the girls –

FELIX: No!  Forget it.  I don’t want to trouble them.

(FELIX weeps quietly at first, then louder.  PETE won’t leave, but he can’t bring himself to talk either.  He checks the altitude, turns a few meaningless knobs.  He smacks his lips and looks out at the sky.)

PETE: Are you sad?

FELIX: (nods)


PETE: Why?

FELIX: Well I…I’ve been on this diet for six weeks and I’ve only lost two pounds.


PETE: Wow. 

(FELIX falls apart)

PETE: Is that the real problem?

FELIX: I guess not.

PETE: So…?

FELIX: Most days I just do the job and go home and play golf or rent a movie.  But through it all, it’s like I’m on automatic pilot.  I don’t really enjoy anything and every now and then I just want to cry and cry and I feel like it’s never gonna stop.


PETE: What’s the name of the diet?

FELIX: It’s not that.  I just get so depressed, and then I snap out of it.  But for a while it hurts, and it hurts so bad.

PETE: Like your insides are rotten?  The air tastes bad.  You want to pull out your eyes and squeeze all the pain out of your head.

FELIX: You feel it too?

PETE: No, but I’ve read your diary. 

FELIX: (speechless)

PETE: You shouldn’t leave it out in the cockpit.

FELIX: (drops his head in his hands)

PETE: Sorry.  I mean, yeah, I can see something’s wrong.  But I don’t know.  Maybe it’s just that guys like you and me, we feel too much.  I guess that’s why we become pilots.

FELIX: What does that mean?

PETE: I don’t know, it sounded good.

FELIX: Maybe I do feel too much.  How about you Pete…are you happy?

PETE: That question is a little too self-effacing for me. I prefer to ask myself, “What’s for dinner?  Where’s the bong? What’s got two thumbs and likes blow-jobs.” 

FELIX: Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out, huh?

PETE: My uncle used to say, getting in touch with your feelings is like rubbing your dick in velcro – as soon as it starts to hurt, you should stop. Immediately.

FELIX: (exhales) He sounds like a smart guy.

PETE: He was.  I just wish he’d followed his own advice about the velcro.  But, aside from crying about his scraped, raw penis, he seemed to feel pretty good about not feeling anything at all.

FELIX: I’ll drink to that.

(They hold up tiny bottles of gin and make a little toast)

FELIX: Pete, is it okay if we never talk about this again.  And we never, ever mention our true feelings aloud?

PETE: Hey, that’s what male friends are for.

FELIX: Thanks. 

(They assume their original positions and fly towards the setting sun.)

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