THE SOUND of a deafening drum roll is heard in the land.
"And now - live! - on tape! From Las Vegas! From Hollywood! From New York City! And from Stockholm, Sweden! A Cartel of Interlocking Directorates presents, The 1978 Nobel Prize Awards Show!"
A studio audience goes audibly mad with delight.
"Starring, in alphabetical order . . . Aldo Ray! Johnny Raye! Danny Kaye! Marilyn Maye! Alice Faye! Bob and Ray! And special guest star, Morty Gunty! And now here he is, your host for the evening, Jonnnnnnnn RRRRRRitter!"
The crowd rises in rapturous appreciation.
Thank you, thank you, Don Pardo. Yes, it's me, John Ritter, welcoming you to the first annual telecast of the Nobel Prizes and my 423rd TV guest appearance this year. How did they get me? Easy. I have no shame. But now, on with the festivities. Here by satellite from Stockholm is the president of the awards committee, Bjorn Bjegelman."
A rash of satellite crackle evolves into a wobbly picture of Mr. Bjegelman.
"Thank you, Yohn. Little did my great-great father-in-law's second cousin Alfred Nobel dream that one day his prizes would get their own network TV special. We at the Nobel committee were happy to cooperate with the American television so that we could bring the excitement and the very unique glamor of the Nobels to a world-wide audience.
"And I'm sure that dear old Uncle Alfred would have loved our idea of changing the name of the prizes to the Nobees and improving the selection process. To determine tonight's winners, we didn't go to a bunch of grumps in an ivory tower. We surveyed 100 customers at the Value Mart Shopping Center in Rahway, New Yersey. But now, let the entertainment ensue!"
Lola Falana materializes in a cloud of puce, blue and mauve smoke.
"Than you, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Lola Falana and I just want to say how wonderful it is to be here tonight on tape and, well, maybe I should say it, like the man says, with music!"
The band goes "Doot-doot-dootie, doot-doot." Lola proceeds to sing.
"Hey world, get offa my back! / Hey hassles, I give you the sack! / Hey blues, don't want no bad news! / Hey cake, gimme a break! / Hey fellow, I wanna be mellow! / Hey Clyde, let's go for a ride! / Let's have some fun, 'cause I'm number one! / Don't give me jive, 'cause I am alive! / Nothin's gonna get me down, never gonna wear a frown, don't you say that I'm a clown or Hey World, I'll step on your face!"
Falana dances with five too-lithe gentlemen for 4.3 minutes, after which John Ritter returns.
"Lola? What can I say? You were simply fantastic, right audience?"
"And now, on with the awards. As you know, the Nobees for chemistry, physics, economics and medicine were handed out before showtime, so how about a big hand for the winners?"
Is heard a big hand.
"And now on to the very special prizes that are brand new this year. First we go to Nevada, live on tape, to see who will be named the Las Vegas Humanitarian of the Year! And here she is, Cheryl Tiegs!"
"Thank you, John; it's wonderful to be here. The nominees for Las Vegas Humanitarian of the Year are, Totie Fields, Sammy Davis Jr., Debby Boone, Danny Thomas, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis and Ann-Margret. And the winner is - oooh! I'm so excited! The winner is . . . Totie Fields!"
An announcer intervenes: "Accepting for Ms. Fields will be Merv Griffin."
"Yes, it's me, Merv Griffin, and I know that if Totie Fields, a great, great, very special, very courageous lady, one of the truly unique talents in the history of show business - this lady is SO talented, and so down to earth, too - I know that if she were here tonight, she would want me to say, quite simply, "I deserved this. She is an inspiration to us all."
"Thank you, Merv - it's me, folks, John Ritter again.And now, it's time for the award for Cultural Uplift in Broadcasting. The nominees are, Mobil Oil Company for their TV documentary 'The Solar Power Hoax,' Gerald R. Ford for 'An Hour with Gerald R. Ford That Seems More Like an Eternity' and Steve Allen for the world's first radio program for the deaf, 'Meeting of the Mimes.'
"And the winner is - Steve Allen for 'Meeting of the Mimes'!!!"
The orchestra plays, "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," and Steve Allen walks out saluting with one hand and holding a glass of orange juice in the other.
"Thank you, ladies and germs. But all seriousness aside, folks, I want to thank my real inspirations for this award - St. Thomas Aquinas, Walt Whitman, Leo Tolstoy, Giuseppe Verdi, Helen of Troy and Col. Harland Sanders, all of whom I know on a personal basis.
"Rather than just speak my thanks, I'd like to honor and thrill you with my 4,0001st original song, which I just scribbled on a napkin here at the Stockholm Ramada Inn. And it goes, as they say in show business, a little bit like this . . .
He begins to snap his fingers and the audience, stifling a groan, applauds.
"Hell-ohhh. How do you dooooo? It's a pleasure, to make your acquaintance. Lovely weather we're having. Hope you have a nice day. Thanks for coming, it certainly was nice to meet you. Hey let's have lunch, I'm free on Friday. Don't get up; I'll show myself out. Ohhh, hello, how do you do, good to know you . . . and hope you have a - hey, hope you have a ver-ree - yeah, hope you have a very very very very . . . NIIIICE DAYYYYY!"
Thanks, Steve, extraordinary as always. And now, a biggie, folks - the Nobel Prize in literature, which this year goes to . . . the one and only . . . Alex Solzhenitsyn for his big bestseller, 'The Vermont Archipelago.' Let's hear it!"
An announcer intervenes: "Accepting for Mr. Solzhenitsyn will be Kermit the Frog."
"Kermit T. Frog here. Alex is sorry he couldn't be here tonight, but he's taping a two-hour network special on 'Vile Materialism in the West' for MCA. It's a million-dollar deal that his agent at CMA got him, and Sir Lew Grade has bought the movie rights for ITC, and Robert Stigwood has bought the disco-album rights for RSO, and we're all thrilled on 'The Muppet Show,' because one of our favorite programs was when Alex dropped by to denounce us as capitalist puppets. Alex will be Johhnny Carson's guest host next Monday. He's swell guy and we couldn't be happier. So LET'S HEAR IT NOW!!!"
"Thank you, Kermit. And now it's me, John Ritter again, with the biggest biggie of 'em all. Yes, the Nobee for Peace. We all know how important peace is. Hey, it's the greatest right? So, if I may have a pretentious drum roll please . . ."
Pretentious drum rollllllllll.
"The nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize are, Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Barbara Walters, Shirley MacLaine, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, and Anita Bryant. And the winner is - Bahhhhhhhb Hope!"
The orchestra strikes up you can imagine which song and the audience gives its first kneeling ovation of the night.
"Hey! Isn't this terrific?Yes, it's me, Bob 'Peace-It's-Wonderful' Hope, and I just wanna tell ya, this is some honor. Hey, I haven't been so thrilled since Billy Graham asked me to appear on his dashboard."
"No, seriously, isn't this trophy something? It looks like they had Paul Williams bronzed."
"But I wanna tell ya, that if it hadn't been for all those wonderful wars, we really couldn't appreciate the peace we have today. So - Les? - Thanks, for the memory, of slogging through the mud, shedding all that blood, I'd take a bow for you right now, but they nipped me in the bud, hey thank yoooooo, so much . . ."