Our Gang also known as The Little Rascals started as a series of short silent comedies starring everyday kids in the 1920s. Though the original series ended twenty years later, the idea of The Little Rascals soldiered on, following television into the first talkies and color pictures. The last adaptation was well into the ‘90s.
Now Fancy Pants Theater in Kalamazoo and 23 local kids are making their own adaptation of the series called Little Pants. There will be a live taping of Little Pants this weekend. You can see it Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. or Sunday at 3 p.m.
Just like in the original Our Gang, there’s no script. Director Carol Zombro just gives the kids a scene and lets them run with it. Zombro says that’s what made The Little Rascals so funny. It let kids be kids.
“You know, they don’t want to wear business suits and go in and try to do math," she says. "But it’s funnier to go in and watch them do what they think is math. It’s just funnier to watch them try to be what they think adults are, instead of us telling them what they should be doing.”
"Rehearsal” at Fancy Pants, also known as their Playcare program. Playcare is what it sounds like—part theatre and part daycare. When WMUK visited, Zombro was just about to take the kids on their 'character walk'
“They all have to get a costume and some props," says Zombro. "And then we walk them all and they have to stay in character.”
Ian Woodruff describes what he picked out for the character walk.
"A blonde wig, a cowboy hat, a green coat, a tie that’s not tied, and a big spatula guitar,” he says.
Ian's nickname is Phantom Blonde. Each kid gets a nickname for the film. Zombro says for the most part, embarrassment and stage fright aren’t a problem here.
“They are not inhibited at all," she says. "They are not afraid. Once their parents get in, they might be a little shy. And you have to kind of remind them that they are loud individuals and they can talk. But once you get past that little bit of stage fright, they will do anything on stage. And they are not afraid and it’s beautiful.”
Jeanne Gould-Mcelhone or ‘Bubbles,’ practiced her goofy monologue:
“I am noisy! I shout, I scream, and I yell! Some people can't even think! I make so much noise!" she shouts. "I make people…tired.”
What would The Little Rascals be without a song? After monologues, the kids do a number accompanied by plastic cups.
Zombro says she’s not surprised that Our Gang has become a legacy. She says, simply put: kids are just funnier than adults.
“The reason that it’s still a thing at all is because kids are adorable," says Zombro. "And when you stick them together and tell them to do something it turns out hilarious. Bill Cosby—‘Kids say the darndest things.’ Everybody knows that that’s true.”