William Tell skit – a classic clown skit for two clowns
The William Tell skit is a classic clown skit that’s been performed in circuses, on film by Charlie Chaplin, by Danny Kaye, and countless others. The basic setup is as follows:
Props required: toy bow and arrow, apple. Optionally, comedy glasses (either over-sized or like Shemp Howard used to wear, which can be found at Dollar stores)
One clown plays the part of William Tell, and the other plays his son. To prove his prowess at archery, William Tell is going to shoot an apple off the head of his son. Unfortunately, William Tell is older and somewhat near-sighted.
William Tell: [addressing the audience] Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I will re-enact for you a great feat of archery from my youth — shooting an arrow off the top of someone’s head!
Son: That’s so cool! I’ve always wanted to see that!
William Tell: [turns toward his son] Don’t worry — you’ll be seeing it up close!
Son: [reacts] That’s great!
William Tell: [putting the apple on the top of his son’s head] You’ll have the best seat in the house.
Son: Great! [realizing] Why is this apple on my head?
William Tell: You’ll get a close-up view! [turns toward the audience] Ladies and gentlemen, I will now shoot that apple off the head of my own son [brandishes bow] with this deadly weapon!
[while William Tell is addressing the audience, his show is visibly (clownishly) showing fear, and then gets an idea – takes the apple, and takes a big bite out of it. This becomes a running gag, with the son taking a bite out of the apple every time William Tell’s back is turned]
William Tell: [turns around, sees the bite out of the apple] What’s going on here?
Son: The apple … had a worm. A very, very hungry worm!
William Tell: [turns back to the audience, while the son takes another bite] and I’ll use this deadly arrow! [turns back to his son] Another worm?
Son: [nervous] um … Yes! Huge! Hungry!
William Tell: [turns back to the audience, as the son takes another bite – turns around to catch the son in the act] Aha!
Son: Uh-huh! [runs off, with William Tell in hot pursuit]
Notes: it should go without saying that there are dozens of variations to this, such as:
- Replacing the eaten apple with
- Another apple [by William Tell]
- Another fruit [Charlie Chaplin used a banana in The Circus]
- Something else [a balloon, a candy cigarette, a plush animal, etc.]
- Using 260 balloons as the ‘arrow’ so that William Well can ‘fire’ the arrow into the audience, at his son, etc.