Improv Gone Bad

Though I can’t remember why, my young friend Bobby Reynolds and I decided to act out the often told joke Forrest Gump Goes to Heaven at church one evening. A spur of the moment idea with no rehearsal, but we were both familiar with the joke and both a little on the hammy side (Bobby more so than I) so we knew it would be fine.

Young, handsome, and never without a quick-witted response, Bobby played Forrest and I portrayed the angelic host at the pearly gates. “Fine” sounded like this:

“My name’s Forrest, Forrest Gump. People call me Forrest Gump.”

“Well, hello Forrest Gump. Welcome,” I looked for his name on my imaginary list. “Ah, here you are. Says here that before I can let you into heaven you have to pass a test.”

“Didn’t know nothing about no test.”

Responding to the concern on Bobby’s face, I continue. “Oh, don’t worry. It’s just three simple questions for you to answer. I’m sure you’ll pass with flying colors. Ready?”

“Except colors don’t really fly. Mama always said stay ready for anything, so ready, set, go.”

“Okay then, the first question is, how many days of the week begin with the letter T?

Bobby – oops, I mean Forrest – tilted his head upward, eyes squinted, and rubbed his chin. “Hmm…days of the week that begin with T…hmm.” A huge smile brightened his face, “I’ve got it! Two. The answer is two.”

“Two. That’s corr–”

“Today and Tomorrow,” he quickly interjected with no doubt in his tone.

“Today and Tomorrow? Well, that’s not exactly…oh never mind, let’s just stick with ‘two’,” I said, shaking my head. “After all, I didn’t ask you to name them, just count them. Moving on to the next question.”

Forrest nervously rubbed his hands together and awaited his next question, which I read from the invisible paper on my invisible clip board. “All right, Forrest, now this one is a bit tougher. How many seconds are in a year?”

Seeing his distress, I reassured him, “Just take your time and think about it. We’re not in any hurry here.”

So he did. He paced and mumbled and worked imaginary math problems in the air with his finger. Then he popped his forehead with his hand as though reminding himself he could have a V-8®. “I know the answer. This was a tough question, but I have figured it out in my head. There are twelve seconds in a year.”

Staying in character despite wanting to laugh at the expression on his face, I asked in bewilderment, “Twelve? How on earth did you conclude there are twelve seconds in a year?”

“We’re not on earth, sir. This is Heaven.”

Oh great, I walked into that one. Okay, I’ll play along. “I beg your pardon, Forrest Gump who people call Forrest Gump. Let me rephrase the question. How in Heaven did you conclude that there are only twelve seconds in a year?”

It was becoming more difficult not to snicker along with the congregation as so matter-of-factly Forrest replied, holding up one finger at a time so we could count along, “January second, February second, March second–”

“Enough!” I grabbed his hand before finger number four could release itself from the fist.

“Maybe I need to be more specific when I ask these questions. However, I am going to give you credit for that since I was not specific and your answer is – well, it isn’t wrong. But now Forrest, it is very important that you get this last question right, and it is the most difficult of the three. So be very careful and remember, you can take all the time you need.”

“Okay, sir.”

“For the right of passage through these great pearly gates into the majestic wonder of Heaven…” I asked as though I were auditioning to host a game show, “tell me, Forrest, what is God’s first name?”

Without hesitation Forrest blurts out, “Oh, that’s easy – Howard,” he rocked heel to toe in triumph.

The bewilderment on my face was not part of the act. “Howard? Howard? What are you talking about, ‘Howard’?”

“That’s His name, Howard.”

It’s not Howard, it’s Andy!”

“Andy?” He was not willing to accept that answer.

Unbeknownst to the people occupying the pews, Forrest and the angel left the building at that moment. Bobby and June now stood before them. I’m sure they were all thinking what great actors we were as our confused tones were now loud and genuine. The debate continued with neither of us willing to budge.

“Andy? Are we telling the same joke, here?” He was as muddled as I.

Uh-oh. The people figured it out. Amidst the hilarity we heard a few call out, “Well? Which is it? Do we call Him Howard or Andy?” “Yeah,” another inquired, “does Forrest get to go to Heaven or not?”

I directed my response to Bobby’s question, “Yes, we have to be telling the same joke. You just don’t know the punch line.”

“Yes, I do,” he argued, “it’s Howard. Andy? Where does that come from?”

Time for a song. I burst into the much-loved hymn, “Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me…”

Laughing so hard he had to brace himself on the dais hand rail, Bobby was determined to have the last word, “Oh! I get it.” He composed himself in order to stand his ground, looked me in the face, and assured me I was wrong. Calmly, but firmly, he explained.

“The correct answer is Howard. And not because of some song, but because the Bible says so. Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name.”

Touché Forrest, touché.

I will bow down [in worship] toward Your holy temple And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word together with Your name. Psalm 138:2 AMP

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man. Colossians 4:6 KJV

Robert “Bobby” Reynolds, I am blessed to know you. Thank you for your dedication and service to God, country, family, and friends.

Till next time,

June