He's The Name-man! The Name-ster! The Name-meister!

April 03, 1991|By Jean Marbella

Heyyyyy, it's Robbbbbbb! The Rob-man! Rob-ski! Baron Von Rob-heimer! Captain Rob of the S.S. Name Boat! On the phoooone. Telling us how to hang around the Xerox machine and make any bypasser's name funnnnnny!

You've seen him -- if not on "Saturday Night Live," then in your own office: the guy by the copier or coffee machine who just has to say something to you every time you walk by.

But Richard, the character on "Saturday Night Live," is funny rather than annoying. Created and portrayed by comedian Rob Schneider, Richard is a nerdy yet endearing sort who can turn any name or activity into a monologue of improvised words and phrases so dumb that they're funny.

Richard, who debuted in January, has made three appearances to date and seems on his way to becoming another of those "Saturday Night Live" characters -- like the Church Lady or Hans and Franz -- whose schtick insinuates itself into our own conversations.

"People come up to me on the street say, 'My name's Willie. Do me!" Mr. Schneider said. "So I'll say, 'Will-man. The Will-meister, asking me to do himmmm.' "

The character came out of a riff that Mr. Schneider began doing one day on the name of a fellow writer-performer.

"I just started it playing around the office in the writer's wing where everyone has towalk through," said Mr. Schneider, 27, who has been with the show for about a year. "I would sit in this swivel chair, and whenever Adam Sandler would go by I would say, 'Adammmm. The Adman. The Adam-meister, getting some water.' After a while it just became a joke between us. I would just exaggerate it more and more."

He brought the idea for the character up at a meeting, and the rest of the staff was tickled by the prospect of a guy who does nothing but improvs on bypassers' names.

And now, you too can drive your co-workers crazy by talking like the Richster. The idea is to just keep piling on the names, improvising and rhyming to the point of absurdity. It's like that song, "The Name Game," by Shirley Ellis -- you know, "banana fanna fo fanna" -- except not as formulaic.

Here are some tips to get youstarted:

* Draw the name out the way Richard does: Turn "Tom," for example, into "Tommmmmmm." It also helps to drop your voice about an octave, talk through pursed lips and in a sing-song way and tilt your head to the side every once in a while for that ironic quality.

* Rhyme the name. "Tina" becomes "Tina-nina." Better yet, singer (and "SNL" guest host) Sting becomes "Sting-a-ling-a-ding-dong."

* Make it Teutonic by adding "-meister," "-heimer" or "-hoffer" to the end of the name. These combos particularly take to the addition of "the" or "von" before the name.

* Try other all-purpose endings, such as "-o," "-ola," "-erino," "-ski" "-tella," and the ever-popular "-man."

* Make the name part of someone else's name. On the most recent sketch, for example, "Drew" became "Franklin Droosevelt" and "Drubik's Cube."

* Make use of titles such as "Senor" or "Mademoiselle" or "Baron,"with appropriate accents and endings.

* And don't forget "Mc-" before any name -- even if it's not "Donald" or "Namara."

* For a couple, add "-ster" to the end of the man's name and "-stress" to the end of the woman's name -- turning Steve and Sandy into "The Steve-ster" and "The Sand-stress."

* With long names, try dropping the last syllable or two before adding your choice of endings. "Randy," for example, works better as "Rand."

* Don't despair because some names seem to resist additions. When Donna comes by, say, "Donna, wanna make some copies," or "Senorita Donnita."

But what do you do with a name like, say, General Schwarzkopf?

In cases such as this, you have to take something they've done and play with it -- and, remember, intonation is everything. Mr. Schneider suggests: "General Schwarzkopf, taking out the Iraqis, the Iraq-olas . . ."

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