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The Buckwheat and Joe Show
By Joe Tyler

 People often ask me, "Can your bird talk?" I always say, "We’ll ask him...Buckwheat, can you talk?" He answers back, "Can YOU fly?"

Buckwheat has learned to associate what I say with what I want him to say, to get a reward. And he’s done it in front of hundreds of people at a time. Being a comedian myself, I’ve enjoyed writing, rehearsing and performing jokes. So I know what goes into preparing a routine; and Buckwheat has taught me what it takes to get a much more heartwarming response than I could ever get alone.

I’m known as "the birdman" at local schools. We’ve played many bird clubs, shows, university student lounges, TV appearances, and even an ornithology class along the way. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work to keep him in performing shape. In all, Buckwheat has about 30 responses in each show, and he talks and does avian stunts for over 14 minutes during our dialogue portion of the show. I also do one liner jokes, an introduction to the African Grey Parrot and a poem called "Buckwheat’s Song."

Buckwheat of Kilimanjaro recently celebrated his seventh birthday, or I should say "hatchday." That wasn’t the day that he was laid (tongue in beak). That was the day that he pecked and clawed and scratched and dug and tore his way out of his egg shell!!! Every year his "hatchday" gets bigger and bigger....we’re going to have to rent a convention center next year. We had 20 people pile into our house for a private party this year. Buckwheat kept looking at me as if to ask, "Why are all these people in my living room?" We celebrated by doing the performance for which we are both well known, "The Buckwheat and Joe Show."


"How do you build a comedy show for a Grey Parrot?" you may be asking. Buckwheat and I build the punch lines first. That’s when he learns to say things like "Say hello Joe!!!" And then I come up with the lead-ins like this one, "When Buckwheat wants to get control and take command of me, he says....." "Say Hello Joe!" And then I say "Hello." My wife and I repeat the punch lines to get Buckwheat in the mood to say them, and sometimes, he even makes them up himself. It’s my job then to get him to say them enough times, so that the phrases can be phased into the performance. When I catch him saying a bit for the routine, I jump up and give him a reward through the cage bars, or wherever he may be. If I can’t get a reward to him, I can say "Good Bird." He has learned over the thousands of times I’ve said "Good Bird" that he must either be a good bird, or that I’ve got something for him. In the training world, "Good Bird" is the "bridge" to the reward. That is, he hears it and knows I like it, and therefore, he does it.

I’m Buckwheat’s "straight man" in the "Buckwheat and Joe Show." Buckwheat starts out the act by showing off his pretty red tail feathers. He does pirouettes on his T-stand. Then he does what I proudly call the "funky chicken" in which he bobs his head and lifts his wings at the same time. Next in the show he gives me a "high five," by holding up one foot as I hold up my hand. Then I explain that actually it’s a high four because Buckwheat only has four toes. Then I get him onto my hand for his spoken parts.

Buckwheat gets a reward during the performance for saying, "JOE..JOE, BARK LIKE DOG!!" He can interrupt at any point during the show and be rewarded. This way he gets a big laugh from the audience when I go, "woof..woof." Then I say, "See folks, he’s got ME trained." Just prior to this response, I get him to bark like a dog, so turn about is fair play. Besides, repetition is one of the principles of good comedy. And he’ll repeat, "JOE...BARK LIKE DOG," a few times throughout the performance.

"The Buckwheat and Joe Show" demonstrates the abilities and trust that one exceptional African Grey Congo has when taught in a nurturing environment. Buckwheat was brought up performing and his confidence exudes with every show. He is by nature shy, but when he gets in front of a large receptive audience, he turns himself into a hilarious hunk of humorous bones. The effect is spectacular.

Buckwheat is the only African Grey I know that travels any distance to perform. We have been as far away as St. Louis from Reno, and he takes travel well. We will be performing in Atlanta for the Grey Play Round Table Convention in September 2000. So, if you have a need for truly unique entertainment, please give Buckwheat a call. As his agent and straight human, I’ll set you up with a date.


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