Skits, stories and songs to make your next campfire memorable

Somewhere on the African savannah, an immense pool of water evaporates. The crystal-blue lake shrinks and shrinks until it’s gone. At least that’s what the audience sees. In reality, it’s just a person pulling a large blue cloth through a hole in the stage.

Dana Amendola, Scoutmaster of Troop 97 from New City, N.Y., loves to tell his Scouts about this low-budget effect from Broadway’s The Lion King. Coincidentally, every Troop 97 campfire is a low-budget affair. But worry not, says Amendola, whose day job is with Disney Theatrical Group. Imagination can outshine a Disney-sized budget.

“I constantly tell my guys, ‘Think outside of the box,’ ” Amendola says. “Just think differently. If you allow kids to think that way, they’ll surprise you.”

The BSA didn’t start the tradition of sitting around a campfire sharing stories and songs. But generations of Scouts and Scout leaders have perfected this craft at state parks and Scout camps, and on ocean beaches and mountaintops.

Whether your campfire is a camporee extravaganza for an audience of 500 or a circle of a dozen Scouts and adults, a little planning can go a long way.

Consider the four S’s: showmanship, skits, songs and stories. Get it right, and treat yourself and your Scouts to a fifth S: s’mores.

SHOWMANSHIP

Big-picture planning strategies.

Follow the Fire

At the beginning of the campfire, the flames are high — and the energy should match. As the fire dies down, things get calmer. This is the time for a slower song, the Scoutmaster’s or Cubmaster’s minute, or a story with a message.

Leave Them Wanting More

We asked Mac King, who wrote the book Campfire Magic and who performs 10 shows a week at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, about the ideal campfire length. Consider that his comedy magic shows are about 70 minutes long, and remember that his audience members “have paid money and they’re in theater seats all facing the same way,” King says. “After a day of camping or hiking or whatever you’re doing, that’s way too long.” The sweet spot, King says, is 30 to 45 minutes.

Find the Right Host

Cub Scout campfires should be hosted by an adult; Boy Scout campfires should not. The master of ceremonies keeps the show flowing, injects energy and encourages people to react. Let’s say you’re introducing a skit from Den 2 or the Owl Patrol. “The last thing that should happen is you say their name and start applauding as they make their way to the front,” King says. “When they’re done, you start the applause.”

SKITS

Silly stuff to get them laughing.

Consult Boys’ Life

A proven source for can’t-miss skits: the back of Boys’ Life magazine, where jokes have entertained readers for decades. Many of the jokes in Think & Grin can be dramatized and performed by several Scouts. In this example from BL, there are roles for five: one Scout to play the nurse and four to play new fathers.

Four men are in the hospital waiting room because their wives are having babies. A nurse goes up to the first guy and says, “Congratulations! You’re the father of twins.”

“That’s odd,” answers the man. “I work for the Minnesota Twins.”

A nurse says to the second guy, “Congratulations! You’re the father of triplets.”

“That’s weird,” answers the second man. “I work for 3M.”

A nurse tells the third man, “Congratulations! You’re the father of quadruplets.”

“That’s strange,” he answers. “I work for the Four Seasons Hotel.”

The last man is groaning and banging his head against the wall.

“What’s wrong?” the others ask.

“I work for 7UP!”

Find More Skit Ideas

A Google search for “campfire skits” turns up hundreds of ideas, and skit books are available at Scout shops and scoutstuff.org. But the best source of all is a Scout’s imagination.

Consider Content

There’s a simple test to determine a skit’s appropriateness: the Scout Law. Is the content friendly, courteous, kind and clean? A skit must not embarrass someone — unless it’s the Scoutmaster or Cubmaster and he or she is in on the joke. It shouldn’t involve religion, politics, race or ethnicity, inside jokes or cross-gender impersonation. Many pack or troop leaders will ask to screen skits beforehand. If an inappropriate skit still makes it to the stage, an adult can step in and say, “Excuse me for interrupting, but we need to ask you to stop this skit. This material isn’t suitable for our campfire. Participants, please return to your seats.”

SONGS

Audience participation at its finest.

Involve the Audience

Mac King begins his Vegas show with “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Though reluctant at first, even the adults get into it after a bit, clapping their hands and stomping their feet.

“It’s a license to be a kid again,” King says. “It gets the audience unified. The more you can involve those people who aren’t actually performing, the better it is.”

Consider Song Types

There are slow, meditative songs like “Scout Vespers” and fast, action-packed ones like “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” Remember to use your fast songs when the fire’s high and slow ones when it’s low. Search “Scout songs” on Google and YouTube for a catalog of great examples.

Repeat After Me

For large groups, repeat-after-me songs are the ticket. They require no memorization or practice from the audience, though the song leader should have it down cold. “Boom Chicka Boom” is one of our favorites. For each line, the leader says it first, and the audience repeats.

I said a boom chicka boom.

I said a boom chicka boom.

I said a boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom.

Uh huh!

Oh yeah!

One more time … ______ style.

The verse is repeated in a new style. The styles can be silly voices (opera singer, underwater, zombie) or alternate lyrics. Use these examples or invent your own.

Photographer style

I said a zoom clicka zoom.

I said a zoom clicka zoom.

I said a zoom clicka smile watch the birdie clicka zoom.

Janitor style

I said a broom sweepa broom.

I said a broom sweepa broom.

I said a broom sweepa moppa sweepa moppa sweepa broom.

Barnyard style

I said a moo chicka moo.

I said a moo chicka moo.

I said a moo chicka watch your step, don’t track it in the room.

STORIES

A dash of drama that thrills and inspires.

Practice Until Perfect

With the right mix of memorization, confidence and practice in front of a mirror, anyone can become a skilled storyteller. Look for stories — true or not — in which a moral is wrapped inside a funny or thrilling tale. And finish the story in three minutes or less.

Beware of Ghosts

The fire casts long, dancing shadows on the trees beyond. The moon slinks behind a cloud. A wolf howls. The mood is right for a ghost story, but proceed with caution and consider your audience. A spooky tale should cause goose bumps, not nightmares. A story that makes Scouts afraid to go camping again is counterproductive.

Step Back in Time

End the campfire with a visit from a famous historical figure — in costume, if possible. Perhaps Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell talks about his time as a spy in the British army, when he hid sketches of enemy forts inside detailed drawings of butterflies and plants.


Three Funny Run-Ons

Run-ons are micro-skits that serve as a perfect transition between longer songs or stories. They work best with no introduction: The performers run on, say their lines and run off.

Scout 1: “At first I didn’t believe my dad was stealing from his job as a road worker.”

Scout 2: “Then what happened?”

Scout 1: “When I got home, all the signs were there.”

Scout 3: “What do we want?”

Scout 4: “Low-flying-airplane noises!”

Scout 3: “When do we want them?”

Both: “Neeeeeeooooooowwwww.”

Scout 5: “I told my friend that she drew on her eyebrows too high.”

Scout 6: “What’d she say?”

Scout 5: “Nothing; she just looked surprised.”


Campfire Safety

Never let a campfire burn out overnight. While everyone else heads to their tents, at least two Scouts and two adults should stay behind to extinguish the fire.

Start by splashing water on the embers. Then stir the damp ashes with a stick and splash them again. Keep doing this — splash and stir — until the fire is cold to the touch.

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