Mark Twain returns to Lockport for an entertaining visit

By Chris Farrington
Lockport Journal March 26, 2000

Lockport’s historic Palace Theater filled with laughter from young and old as Mark Twain returned to lecture Saturday night — 131 years after his first visit.
The 1869 visit was made by Samuel Langhorn Clemens, Steamboat pilot, newspaper reporter, gold miner and prolific author who adopted the pseudonym Mark Twain early in his life.
Twain died at the age of 75, so it was Mike Randall who spoke in Lockport Saturday, starring in a one-man "Mark Twain Live!" show he has done for nearly 30 years.

Some 800 spectators filled the theater for the Lockport Junior Service League presentation, a fund-raiser for the League, with 100 percent of the profits going to charities and non-profit organizations throughout Lockport and the county.
Randall’s show aims to give the audience the feel of the wit and wisdom of Mark Twain as he entertained his peers nearly a century ago.
Clemens’ lecture in Lockport was given at the former Arcade Hall in downtown Lockport, according to Sue Cassidy, League president. She said the visit was delayed because of bad weather, but quipped “we were fortunate tonight the weatherman
was on our side” as she introduced Randall.
Randall reached out to the crowd with a “good evening” greeting that was answered by many in the audience, which applauded often during his 2 hour performance.

Made up to look like a 70-year old Twain, Randall also mimics Twain's mannerism, speech and actual words to create a portrait of what he calls “America's original stand-up comic, Mark ‘I’wain.”
He began the show by commenting “I noticed many changes in the city. The last time I was here, I was able to catch up to a lawyer friend.”A string of stories, speeches and essays followed as Randall moved from the lectern to a chair on stage, keeping in character with a pipe and a cigar.
"I hope you don’t mind if I smoke,” he said. “I know it’s not allowed in here. (pause) That’s why I do it.
“I can give up smoking any time. (pause) l've done it a thousand times.’
Although the Twain stories come from a century past, Randall phrased many to tickle the audience of today.
“God invented idiots. (pause) That was for practice. (pause) Then he invented school boards” got not only laughter, but applause as well.

Alter an intermission, Randall’s opening. “I’ve pretty much made up my mind I’m going to run for president’ brought on a wave of applause.
“Man is the only animal that blushes (pause), or needs to” also pleased the crowd.
Speaking as a 70-year old on the subject of exercise, Randall said, “I believe in sleep and rest. I can’t see any benefit in being tired. I'm pushing 71 now and that’s all the exercise I need.”
He left the stage to a standing ovation.

Randall’s performances have been staged on college campuses, at opera houses, churches, schools and regional theaters, mostly in the Western New York area. Like Samuel Clemens, who refined his storytelling skills over hundreds of speaking engagements, Randall estimates his rendition of Twain spans more than 2,000 performances — starting when he was 17 years old.  He put on his first public performance in 1972 at Rosary Hill College in Amherst.  Clemens was born in 1835 in Missouri, died in 1910 in Redding, Conn., and was buried in Elmira.

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