The Rose

The same actor gets another unexpected call one morning from a Broadway producer. “Listen,” he says, “if you can remember one line of dialogue and get down to the Shubert for a costume fitting, I can put you in a play this evening. Can you do that? Can you remember one lousy line of dialogue?”

“I can,” the actor replies. “No problem at all.”

“Here’s all you have to do,” says the producer. “At the beginning of the second act, you walk out on stage holding a long-stemmed red rose. You sniff the rose and say, ‘Ah, the sweet fragrance of my mistress.’ Can you do that? Can you remember that one line:”

“I can do it. Please, just give me a chance. I can do it.”

“All right,” the producer replies. “You’ve got your chance. Get down to the theater.”

The actor heads down to the theater district. As he’s being fitted for his costume, he rehearses the line. Over and over, he says it. The first act begins. The actor rehearses backstage. The first act ends; the audience goes out for intermission. The actor keeps rehearsing. Intermission ends; the audience returns.

The curtain rises for the second act. The actor makes his entrance and delivers his line. Pandemonium ensues. The audience is laughing so hard that the play can’t continue. The curtain is lowered. The producer storms onto the stage, furious. “You son of a stupid! You’ve ruined the play!” he screams.

“How?” the actor replies. “Did I forget the line?”

“No, you forgot the rose!”