Bob Sokol and Amyl
on Stupid Pet Tricks


Amyl and I were on an extended visit to my Dad's house in New Jersey back in 1983 when my friend Clive clipped this ad from the New York Times classifieds:


Since Amyl was one of the smartest dogs he knew, he convinced me to call. When 'Chris' answered the phone, I told him a few of the tricks that Amyl knew and he invited me to the next set of auditions. A few weeks later I drove into New York City to a small off-off-Broadway theatre where I spent a day's pay to park my car and began the walk up three or four flights of dimly lit stairs. I wasn't sure I was in the right place until I met a woman coming down the stairs talking excitedly to a parrot in a cage...


The auditions were being held in a room the size of a gymnasium which held one small desk and Chris, a very nice fellow who welcomed me with more enthusiasm than you would have expected from a guy who was spending his day interviewing old ladies with parrots... Amyl went through a quick rendition of her tricks including 'give me an ARF!', 'crawl like a dog', 'scratch your nose', 'take a bow', and

'BANG! you're dead!'...


But, of course, it was the old 'throw the empty beer can in the trash' trick that got Chris's attention. He said they would be in touch as soon as they had an opening, and that was the last I heard for several months. One Thursday I got a call that there would be a spot for us the following day, but they called Friday to say it was a false alarm... Thanks a lot...


Then, one day the call came. A definite spot for us that night if I could high-tail it into the city for a five-o'clock taping. This time I had to borrow enough money for the parking at Rockefeller center and talk my way past the front desk with Amyl. "We're gonna be on Stupid Pet Tricks tonight, REALLY!". We made our way upstairs to the studio where a pimply-faced NBC page seated us in a storeroom with several other pet-owners and their deranged animals. Amyl was very well behaved, considering how many hours we spent sitting in that room waiting for something to happen. Someone informed us that there would be a walk-through of the entire show (without Dave). He likes to be 'surprised' by the pet guests. So we went out and did our routine once for the empty theatre, which was a good thing for Amyl. She had an opportunity to check out the stage and find the trash can they had provided for her. The pets that didn't get their tricks right at rehearsal didn't get them right on camera later, either. Go figure...


After that, we were back in our storeroom for an hour until they informed us that THE DAVID had arrived and they were starting the taping. If all goes well, they told us, the cameras roll for an hour with no breaks and the show airs later in the evening without editing. They were nice enough to give me several passes to the show, so Clive, my sister Ellen and her friend Billy were out in the audience.


When our turn came Amyl was a real trooper; the one in a hundred pets that does the trick right and gets a laugh anyway. She even took a bow on command. When I got offstage, I called everyone I knew in the country to tell them that I was going to be on. Of course, it was the day of the final game of the World series and the game ran late so "THE LATE SHOW" aired even later than usual. And I took all my fans in the audience out to dinner after. Between buying dinner, gas, parking, long distance phone calls, and a missed day of work, even when I subract the fifty dollar 'honorarium' the show gave me for being on and signing away any rights to my performance, the whole experience cost me several hundred bucks... I was a local celebrity for a few days, and then I put it behind me.

It was years later that I realized that 'Chris' had been Chris Elliot who went on from stage manager to comedy sketch extra, and then moved to be the darling of the Saturday Night Live cast. Though I must confess that, having been brought up on Long Island listening to AM radio, I was more impressed to learn that his Dad is Bob Elliot of the Bob & Ray comedy team. I was really tickled to see them as father and son on Chris's short lived but critically unacclaimed TV series, "Get a Life". His character matured(?) somewhat as Bradley the tabloid photographer on the shorter lived series "The Naked Truth" with Tea Leoni.

Now I find myself living in a different place and living a new life. About once a year, on a random day, about a dozen people will come up to me at work and on the street;

"Were you on TV last night?"

"Didn't I see you on Letterman?"

"I know you from somewhere!"

Yes, America, I have truly arrived!

I'm in RE-RUNS!

Watch our entire performance; You'll get to see Dave with long hair and, if you look close, 4 inch heels!!!


Please note that my little joke about "back when they used to have football on TV" was funny at the time; this was taped late in the infamous NFL 'strike shortened season' of 1982 - '83.

Amyl lived a full and happy life and died peacefully in 1992 just shy of her fourteenth birthday. I am often asked if I have a dog now and, of course, "does she do all of Amyl's tricks?". Well, I do have a wonderful dog now; Sibyl (Shepard) is a very clever pup, and while I have not attempted to make the showman out of her that Amyl was, she will put that empty can in the recycling bag for you!

A guy came up to me at the Kerrville folk festival and gave me this beautiful print of this picture he had taken of Amyl the year before. Click on it to see a full-size image.


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