The Good Innkeeper

(This is a sketch I am working on. It’s fun, so I’m sharing it as this week’s column. I plan on performing a finished version next year around Christmas. – Joe)


Bethlehem. 1 BC. A crowded inn. Night.

Joseph of Nazareth enters and walks to the front desk where the innkeeper is seated.

Joseph of Nazareth: Hello, good innkeeper.

Innkeeper: Ring the bell.

Joseph: I said hello, good innkeeper. My name is Joseph of Nazareth.

Innkeeper: I said ring the bell.

Joseph: I hardly see the point.

Innkeeper: Just ring the bell!

Joseph rings the bell.


Innkeeper: I heard you on the first ping!

Joseph: Sorry.

Innkeeper: Are you!?

Joseph: Yes. Ahem. I am traveling with my wife Mary. She is with child. We need a place to stay for the night.

Innkeeper: I don’t see what I’m supposed to do about it.

Joseph: You’re the innkeeper.

Innkeeper: That’s a wild accusation.

Joseph: Are you not the innkeeper?

Innkeeper: That depends.

Joseph: Is this an inn?

Innkeeper: Yes.

Joseph: And do you keep it?

Innkeeper: Yes.

Joseph: Then you’re the innkeeper.

Innkeeper: Curse your science, Nazarene!!!

Joseph: Good innkeeper, now that we have established that you are in fact the innkeeper, I beg of you to rent my family a room for the night. We just need some space on the floor for a few hours. That space over there will do – the one by the pile of leper arms.

Innkeeper: No.

Joseph: Why not?

Innkeeper: Many reasons.

Joseph: Such as?

Innkeeper: Suppose another man and his wife and unborn child come in later and they want that spot on the floor. We’ll call them the Goldsteins. If you took that spot now it wouldn’t be fair to the Goldsteins, would it?

Joseph: But we were here before the Goldsteins.

Innkeeper: I find that suspicious.

Joseph: Are you accusing me of something?

Innkeeper: If the Goldsteins were out of harm’s way they would have been here by now.

Joseph: But there are no Goldsteins.

Innkeeper: How convenient for you (whispers) murderer.

Joseph: I can’t murder them. You made them up in your head. The Goldsteins don’t exist.

Innkeeper: Then they’re as good as dead.

Joseph: Yes. Exactly.

Innkeeper: He admits it!

Joseph: I admit nothing.

Innkeeper: And yet our lack of Goldsteins admits everything!

Awkward pause. One of the leper arms falls to the floor.

Joseph: You’re mad, innkeeper.

Innkeeper: Am I mad? Or am I so mad that I’ve come back ‘round the bend and I’m completely sane?

Joseph: Yes. No. I don’t know. Please, can I just have a room? I am a carpenter. I can fix something for you. I’m excellent with wicker.

Innkeeper: Fine! We have one suite left. It’s the outdoorsman’s suite. Do you like the outdoors?

Joseph: Well, when I’m not indoors, I’m usually outdoors.

Innkeeper: Good. Follow me. And try not to murder anyone on the way out.


Later that night, Joseph reenters the inn.

Joseph: Good, innkeeper.

Innkeeper: Ring the bell.

Joseph: Good innkeeper!

Innkeeper: I said ring the bell.

Joseph rings the bell.


Innkeeper: Shhh! Have you gone mad? You’ll wake everyone up!

Joseph: There’s a sheep in my outdoorsman’s suite.

Innkeeper: Oh, uh, that’s not a sheep.

Joseph: I know what a sheep looks like and that is definitely a sheep.

Innkeeper: It’s not a sheep, it’s a, uh, walking pillow.

Joseph: A what?

Innkeeper: It’s a walking pillow. It’s the perfect holiday gift for the active sleeper.

Joseph: I heard it go baaaaaah, like a sheep.

Innkeeper: Sheep don’t go baaaaaah. They go bohhh.

Joseph: They go baaaaaah.
Innkeeper: Bohhh.
Joseph: Baaaaaah.
Innkeeper: Bohhh.
Joseph: Baaaaaah.
Innkeeper: Walking pillow!!!!!!!!

A sheep hears the commotion and wanders into the room. The innkeeper puts his head on the sheep.

Innkeeper: Here, have a walking nap.

Joseph: I will not have a walking nap.

Innkeeper: If you’re not tired, you can try counting walking pillows.

Joseph: Fool. I know what a sheep is. That is a sheep. There is a sheep in my room. And there’s an ox, too.

Innkeeper: No. It’s not an ox. No. It’s an organic beef storage unit.

Joseph: There’s no such thing.

Innkeeper: What you call an “ox” is actually a living, breathing mechanism for keeping 800 pounds of beef fresh and tender until slaughter.

Joseph: That’s what an ox is.

Innkeeper: No, ox are big and mean. Beef is never mean. Beef gives you good blood and bones.

Joseph: Good innkeeper, my wife is about to give birth and there is an ox, or an organic beef storage unit, or whatever, sitting at her feet waiting to eat my child. And this is no ordinary child. I didn’t want to mention this, because there’s no way anyone will believe this, but our son is the son of God. He was conceived by the father and will be born unto a virgin. He will turn water into wine, heal the sick and die for our sins so that the father will open the gates to the kingdom of heaven and we may all live forever. I know that you, who doubt all this, can never believe this. But it is the truth.

The innkeeper looks off into the distance, at a star outside the window. Another leper arm falls to the floor. A mouse runs out of it.

Innkeeper: I believe you, Nazarene.

Joseph: But you haven’t believed a word I said all night.

Innkeeper: In my brain, this makes perfect sense.

Joseph: It does?

Innkeeper: Yes, I have always thought a baby should rule the world. Think about it. Because I haven’t.

The curtains draw while a choir of 8,000 Austrian boys enter.

While the front desk bell goes: PING-PING-PING-PING…

Jesus sleeps in his manger below
Resting his head on a walking pillow

Ignore the ox that is eating his foot
It’s just an organic beef storage unit

Good innkeeper, we will leave in the morn
We won’t tell the Bible you were a moron

From now on a baby shall rule the land
His breast-based economy is welcomed by man



Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles

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