How to Wash An Elephant
Posted On: 2008-09-24
Before introducing this stunt, choose three people to leave the room. They should not overhear the narrator. Narrator explains to 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 walking with it over your shoulder, open and close 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 elephant's ear and wash that). Then he was ready for the stomach (lie down on floor; wriggle under elephant and scrub underside). Next, the right side (repeat actions as for left side). Then he scrubbed the elephant's face (pantomime scrubbing between eyes and down length of trunk). Almost done (walk to rear of the elephant, gingerly lift up tail and quickly scrub there). There, that's done! (Pantomime throwing out rest of water, putting the brush in bucket and setting bucket beside pump. Take the elephant by his trunk and lead him back to the barn, open door, lead him in, go out and shut door behind.)
Narrator tells audience he will call people back in, one by one, and pantomime the stunt, without 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, it 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.