‘Twain’ comes to life in one-man show

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A lawyer once introduced Mark Twain as a humorist who was also funny.

As Mark Twain, Dave Ehlert was humorous and also funny.

Ehlert portrayed the American humorist, author and storyteller in “Mark Twain 100 Years Later” at the Trojan Center Theater on Tuesday.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Speaking of lawyers, as he did often, “Twain” said he was once asked how he would save a lawyer from drowning.

“I said that I’d shoot him before he hit the water,” Twain said and drew laughter from the audience.

Twain told of riding the rails, consuming whiskey to prevent toothaches, dreaming of becoming a steamboat captain and joining the Confederate Army for all of two weeks.

Of writing, he said there were two great writers, Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain.

“Kipling knew all there was to know and I knew the rest,” he said. “I was born with superior intelligence and it wore off.”

As a boy, Twain worked at many different odd jobs. As a man he worked as a steamboat captain, journalist, travel writer, humorist and lecturer. But, all the while, he was a storyteller and, somewhat a liar at times.

“There are three kinds of lies,” Twain said. “Lies, damn lies and statistics. I’ve been accused of exaggeration but I just remember big.”

Twain reeled of quotes like a loose line from a casting rod and each drew laughter from the audience.

At times, he turned a bit serious, especially when he talked about the books he penned.

“All American literature can be summed up in one book – Huckleberry Finn,” he said. “The stories in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are based on real events that happened to me as a boy. The characters were real people. With Huckleberry Finn, I got the story right. Huck Finn was an ignorant, unwashed boy with a big heart.

“I have no prejudices – white or black, rich or poor – we’re all human beings and you can’t get worse than that.”

Twain spoke of aging saying that wisdom comes with age, but “sometimes age comes alone.”

“I’m in the winter of life with only memories to warm me,” he said. “The first one-third of life is the best and the rest is spent remembering it.

“Life is like a soap bubble that floats a while and then vanishes.”

Twain closed with this admonition to his audience, “Don’t stop laughing. He who laughs keeps his youth.”

Jeff Spurlock, Troy University Hall of Journalism, said Ehlert was wonderful as Mark Twain.

“It was wonderful to have someone who can impersonate one of the greatest writers of all times,” he said. “Mark Twain had very little formal education but was a gifted writer.

“When Dave Ehlert walked out on stage, he looked like what we pictured Mark Twain to look like. He talked the way we thought Mark Twain would have talked.

“He was funny and uplifting. We all have read books about Mark Twain but to have someone actually portray him brought it closer to home. It was a very entertaining hour at Troy University.”

Margaret Stewart, former librarian at Troy Public Library, agreed that spending a morning with Mark Twain was a rare treat.

“As much as I have read about Mark Twain, I left the theater knowing so much more about him and appreciating him even more,” Stewart said.

“I learned things about his life that I had never known. I felt like I had really spent time with Mark Twain and it was an absolutely wonderful time.”