Fragments From 'Nobel! The Musical'

From time to time the news cycle offers up an event of such import and complexity that it can only be comprehended through the medium of musical theater. This week resident composer Ben Greenman says that this musical about Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize was the last one his writers got in before the strike, even though that it has been about eight million years since that happened, but whatever!

TEENAGED AL GORE:

I wish I could swim

See that boy over there?

I envy him so

He has such nice wet hair

But something arrests me

And gives me great pause

It's not fear of drowning

It's not that film "Jaws."

I know the statistics

For all of these things

But the water is freezing

The freakin' stuff stings

[ANNA, also a teenager, hears TEENAGED AL GORE talking.]

ANNA:

I am a girl of some repute

I have a low-cut bathing suit

I think that young Al Gore is cute

Last year in band I played the flute

[ANNA walks to the water. TEENAGED AL GORE starts to follow but stops at

the water's edge.]

TEENAGED AL GORE:

Damn it

I'm shivering

My forearms are quivering

I wanted some bravery

But my heart's not delivering

Anna, wait-

You look great-

Sometimes males and female mate.

[ANNA ignores TEENAGED AL GORE and walks off with another boy.]

TEENAGED AL GORE:

I curse this foul ocean

And its frigidity

Now I am left alone with

My own rigidity

I call on the gods

And ask them to decree

That the cold ocean turn

To a vast lukewarm sea

I call on the gods

To heat up the oceans

And by doing so save me

From my shameful emotions

[TEENAGED AL GORE goes home and tries to forget about ANNA. He throws himself into his studies, then into journalism, then into politics. He marries. He starts a family. Years later, as a United States Senator whose work concerns climate change, among other topics, AL GORE finds himself dictating an editorial for the Washington Post to his secretary.]

AL GORE

It's with a heavy heart that I enter this debate

Living species are expiring at a rapid rate

So here, right now, today, I call for a new plan

To rescue our dear earth from the tentacles of man

Perhaps around the capitol you've seen my new graffiti

"Big Al Says Let's Not Forget To Ratify the Kyoto Treaty."

[AL GORE goes home. He plays tennis, takes a little run, eats, watches an episode of "Alf," and then steps into the shower, where he reflects with pride upon his editorial.]

AL GORE:

It's a wonderful feeling

To take a hot shower

But the earth must be cooled in this perilous hour

I can wash, I can lather

I can rinse and repeat

But we must force this warming to beat a retreat

[Suddenly, in the shower, AL GORE stops, stockstill.]

AL GORE:

Holy moly

Holy crap

It's as if

I got a slap

I remembered

Something bad

Back from when

I was a lad

[AL GORE goes into his bathroom and speaks to the mirror. He is nude.]

AL GORE:

I have said that I don't know

The cause of global warming

That is not exactly true

I am partly disinforming

A few minutes ago

I was gripped by a thought

I was in a cold sweat

Though the water was hot

I was seized by the fear

That I caused this alarm

Years ago as a boy.

I did the earth harm

I was simply attempting

To turn a girl's head

I didn't want boiling oceans.

Or our polar bears dead!

I just wanted to walk

To the water and wade

But the ocean was cold

And I was far too afraid

[Consumed with guilt that his appeal to the gods caused the oceans to heat up, AL GORE devotes himself to an aggressive environmental agenda throughout his time as Vice-President in the Clinton Administration. After losing the 2000 election to George W. Bush, AL GORE decides to exit politics and become a full-time climate-change activist.]

AL GORE:

I fight for my planet every day

Like a kind of superhero

If climate change was a giant moth

I would be the great Go-jiro

That's Godzilla's real name

The two beasts are one and the same.

[OTHERS question AL GORE's conclusions-not those regarding Godzilla, but those regarding climate change.]

OTHERS:

You say the planet's slowly heating

But honestly, aren't you repeating

Science that has been debunked

And consequently should be junked?

For that matter, suppose the seas

Are warmer by a few degrees—

Is this really something that

We must spend billions to combat?

[AL GORE stands in front of a world map, which begins to scroll behind him, and reviews what he has learned about climate change.]

AL GORE:

Look, I wore a Speedo

When I went to Tallinn

It's as warm as Quito

And that's just appalling

The very next day

It was off to Helsinki

Where I sported a thong

As wide as my pinky

Reykjavik was next

And to reprise my point

I fashioned a sleeve

To fit over my joint

In all of these places

It should have been freezing

But instead the weather

Was mild and pleasing

So when the detractors

Question this finding

I must always insist

That the facts here are binding

[After AL GORE's World Swimwear tour, he invents a better way to spread his message: slide presentations on campuses across the country.]

AL GORE:

Let me say right away

That my tone is monotonous

Still, you can see that

The earth will grow hot, and thus

We need to be careful

Be better caretakers

Consumers and companies

And even lawmakers

I know that some people

Think I'm Chicken Littling

But they are like Nero

While the earth warms, they're fiddling

[When people in the audience fall asleep, as some do, they blame it on the warm room, and blame that, in turn, on climate change. But increasingly, people begin to show interest in AL GORE's work, including a number of celebrities.]

LAURIE DAVID:

Am I upset?

Of course I am. You bet.

I'm also quite saddened and disturbed.

Our ability

To take responsibility

Has been almost completely curbed.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO:

We have to save our planet

We don't have any choice

We have an obligation

To speak with a collective voice

Until now all attempts

Have been tangled in red tape

Now I think I know

What's wrong with Gilbert Grape

[Different celebrities get different reactions from AL GORE]

TOM ARNOLD:

This is so important

Indisputably vital

The earth's present course

Is quite suicidal

Any help whatsoever

You might need from me

Just say the word and I'll be there

Count me as your deputy

AL GORE:

Absolutely—

Whatsoever—

So nice of you—

Right, yeah, whatever

JESSICA ALBA:

Mr. Gore

I implore

You to let me do my part

Please, sir, tell me how to start

Do you need any help

Applying for new grants?

AL GORE:

New studies have shown

What I have long known

Most of the warming

Occurs in my pants

[AL GORE and his celebrity supporters begin to spread the word about climate change. While talking to LEONARDO DICAPRIO about whether "A Boy's Life" should have carried a disclaimer distinguishing it from the magazine of the same name, AL GORE is approached by a HOLLYWOOD INSIDER.]

HOLLYWOOD INSIDER:

Excuse me

Mr. Vice President

I know

It's not so evident

But I love our environment

I'm conservationist. I'm green.

Have you thought of bringing

Your message to the silver screen?

AL GORE:

I have, to be frank

It would help spread the news

I'm assuming that

I would be played by Tom Cruise?

HOLLYWOOD INSIDER:

To illustrate your deep conviction

We were thinking a nonfiction

Film might make a bit more sense.

Plus, Cruise is handsome. No offense.

[AL GORE cries a bit but recovers his composure. The film, "An Inconvenient Truth," wins an Academy Award. AL GORE begins to fly around the world, spreading his message of climate change. Critics, including conservative commentator SEAN HANNITY, question his motives.]

SEAN HANNITY:

Brand him as a hypocrite?

Sure, I'll take a crack at it.

Can you believe that guy's presumption?

He preaches limited consumption

And energy awareness, yet

He travels in a private jet.

He's blinkered, unhinged, and pedantic

And his carbon footprint is gigantic

[AL GORE soldiers on.]

AL GORE:

Other men fret about the economy

Or sharpen up their political bonhomie

Confronted with science that is large and complex

They put their head in the sand and save their own necks

They say that I'm am grandstanding

Though my speeches now run a hundred grand

Still, how can you put a price on life

As our planet fights its brave last stand?

[Rumors begin that AL GORE may be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Finally, in October, 2007, he is.]

AL GORE:

The Peace!

The Prize!

What underlies

This great award

Is broad accord

On our earth's dire fate

The challenge for us now is great

Let's stand against waste and excess

And save our planet from distress

The Prize!

The Peace!

Can we decrease

Our consumption?

Our assumption

Is that we can

And offset the effects of man

We've walked the earth for centuries

Can't we tread more lightly, please?

The Peace!

The Prize!

The world's eyes

Are on this cause

Perhaps new laws

Will soon be passed

To help control our greenhouse gas

Emissions and pollution, too

Planet Earth, this one's for you!

[The lights fall. AL GORE speaks softly.]

AL GORE:

The Prize!

The Peace!

I am released

From servitude

I feel renewed

When I was young I loved a girl

And thus endangered the whole world

I've done my penance; I've done my best;

I've acted nobly; now I can rest

[AL GORE falls to his knees and kisses the earth. It is cooler than he expects. He smiles, closes his eyes. He opens them, joins Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.]



Previously:
Fragments From "Copperfield! The Musical"

Ben Greenman is an editor at the New Yorker and the author of several books of fiction. His latest book, A Circle is a Balloon and Compass Both, was recently published.