Hello, and welcome to this week's 'From The Mouth Of The Mouse!'
Each week, we spotlight a different Cast Member story to give you more insight into some of your favorite attractions, resorts, and movies from all over the Walt Disney Company.
This week's From the Mouth of the Mouse interviewee has a very special job. He takes guests to exotic lands and travels down the rivers of the world.
And he does it every 20 minutes!
That's right, John is the envy of us all: he's a Skipper on the World Famous Jungle Cruise!
Known for its hilarious sight gags, the backside of water, and most important, the Skipper's corny jokes, the Jungle Cruise has entertained and delighted since its opening in 1955.
John took a few minutes out of his busy day at Walt Disney World traveling down the Nile (which, as you know, goes on for niles and niles!) to answer a few questions.
JEFF: How does it feel to be a Skipper on the World Famous Jungle Cruise?
JEFF: How did you stumble upon this great job?
JOHN: It feels great! I love it! I get to take people on a trip they'll never forget. Or, if they hate my jokes, a trip they try to forget right away. Either way, it's memorable. Or un-rememberable. But mostly memorable. For me, anyway. Because I have to remember it. It's required. I just can't wing it!
JOHN: Exactly how you just phrased it. I stumbled upon it. I used to work at the Tropical Serenade, but one day, I took a wrong turn, and found myself on the Jungle Cruise docks. When I realized my mistake, I turned around, stumbled, and fell into a boat. I've been there ever since.
Walt Disney World's World Famous Jungle Cruise!
JEFF: As a Jungle Cruise skipper, you need to perform for the guests on a constant basis. Do you have any formal training or have you worked as a comedian?
JOHN: Like most of the Jungle Cruise Skippers, I have no formal training. They give us a uniform, a boat, and a map, then tell us: "Have at thee!" They thrust us into the wilds of the jungle without any sort of protection, and we have to fend for ourselves.
Fun fact: we don't actually work for Disney. We're kind of like natives to the Jungle Cruise who just happen to lease the land to Disney. You know, like how Australia was a dumping ground for criminals, and then they became natives to the land? Same deal with us.
Seriously, though, I did have a background in standup comedy before. Not formal, but I did it on a semi-regular basis. Like most of my fellow Skippers, I still do it.
There used to be an annual standup comedy show filled with Skippers, but I'm not so sure they still do that. Of course, we didn't tell our Cruise jokes. We had our own. Which weren't nearly as funny.
JEFF: The Jungle Cruise is one of those rides where, because of the Skipper, it's never the same. Jokes (and their delivery) change depending on who pilots your boat. How is that worked out in the script?
JOHN: Well, the script is fairly large. Not, like, War and Peace large, but it's a decent size. The 'approved' script has a bunch of different variations of jokes. Different ways to set up the punch lines, different punch lines, and different jokes altogether. You may hear something on one cruise and then hear something completely different on the next.
They're awfully picky about what jokes you use, and they want it to seem spontaneous. They forbid you to go 'off book,' but if you do, that's how they feed the giant python.
Of course, though, some of us can't resist, so every once in awhile, we throw out some good ones. If I have a really cool 'crew' that is really into it, they may get some good ones that aren't exactly Disney friendly. And if I get a really bad crew who just sit there like bumps on a log... they may get some good ones that aren't exactly Disney friendly!
Rarely seen view of the backside of water
JEFF: Do you have a favorite joke?
JOHN: I do! (Silence)
JEFF: ...and it is?
JOHN: Oh! You want to know it! OK. So a priest, a rabbi, and a lion walk into a bar...
Just kidding. That's not a very good joke, anyway.
I always loved the back side of water joke. It's so dumb and simple that it cracks me up every time. I love when kids crack up at it, too. Really makes me smile.
Another really good one is, again, with the python. I say it's a special snake that starts with the letter 'P' and ask if anyone knows what it is. Of course, most people say python, and I say "No, it's plastic!" Or, if I have a real smarty pants who actually says "Plastic," I say: "No, sir, it's a python! Come on, get into the Disney magic."
Walt Disney World's Plastic Python in its natural habitat
JEFF: Did you work on the Cruise back when they shot blanks at the hippos?
JOHN: No, I didn't, but I remember that. I thought it was a little too 'real' for the ride. I think it's a much stronger piece now.
In fact, that's another of my favorite jokes, when you say you're going to scare off the hippos with the gun, then you shoo them away with it. If a Skipper really gets into it, it's hilarious.
JEFF: Do you have any opportunities for magical moments with guests?
JOHN: I do! When a young kid sits up front, we usually let them pilot through the temple, because that's an all visual thing, where we don't speak. It's the one time on the WHOLE ride that you don't have to listen to us blabber. We don't say anything.
I think it's because the original show writers were too lazy to come up with any jokes for that part. "Hey, they're in a building for 3 minutes, why do they need to talk?"
Of course, the kids aren't actually steering the boat. But they think they are. And we give them a nice little co-pilot license. I love seeing the kid's faces when we do that!
JEFF: I know the ride is a on a track, so you're not controlling the movements of the boat, though you do control its speed. Ever have any run ins with another boat?
JOHN: I haven't, but I know someone who has. It was just a minor bump, but it scared the hell out of the guests. I remember they told me that they said something real clever, but I can't remember what it was. So it couldn't have been THAT clever.
They were waiting to unload at the dock when it happened. Another boat in front of them was taking too long, so they started arguing like two folks in a traffic jam. Not for real, mind you, but it was funny. They even traded insurance information.
Thanks, John, for talking with me about the Jungle Cruise!
And thank you for reading - Do you have a favorite Jungle Cruise story or joke? please share it with us below. And don't forget come back each week to hear more of the magic directly From the Mouth of the Mouse - same jungle time, same jungle channel.
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And finally, a lot of folks who followed me over here from my old stomping grounds have been asking if the Podcast will return anytime soon...and the answer is yes! I have a few lined up that need to be edited, so look for them in the coming weeks. And if you're new to the column, and would like to catch up, you can download them by visiting it's iTunes page right here!
If you are, or know, a Cast Member who would like to share some of their stories and possibly be featured right here on MiceChat, please email me at email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you!
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