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Van Gogh-Goghs Abandon Everest Attempt

LOS ANGELES (Scripps-Howard Johnson's News Service) Feb. 2, 1999 -- The Van Gogh-Goghs, a Los Angeles-based sketch comedy group, announced today that they are abandoning their attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.

In a press release faxed to several local media sources, the group said a number of factors influenced their decision, including Everest's unrelenting windstorms, lack of sufficient bottled oxygen, and the fact they are still 7,850 miles from the summit.

"Faced with all that, plus the fact that this guy told our cousin the Khumbu Icefall and Lhostse Face get down to minus 20 Celsius, we have no choice but to admit defeat," the press release concluded.

The group planned their attempt at Everest shortly after viewing the "Everest" IMAX movie at the Ontario Mills Mall. According to sources close to the group, several members considered the movie to be "really neat" and immediately set out to prepare for the climb.

"We established base camp here, in Los Angeles," said group member and mountaineer Rob Terrell, "We had hoped to establish our second camp at a four-star hotel in Kathmandu. But I guess it was just not fated to be."

According to paperwork provided by the six-man group, the third camp would have been on the peak itself, 29,028 feet above sea level. This would have enabled the Van Gogh-Goghs to be the first comedy group to perform at the summit of Mt. Everest.

"Any comedy group could climb Mt. Everest. We wanted to be the only comedy group to actually perform on the summit," group member and Sherpa guide Jason Torchinsky said.

"There, at the top of mighty Sagarmatha [Everest's Nepalese name], the Forehead of the Sky, so close we could almost touch the face of heaven, we would rest for about 20 minutes before starting the show," he added. "Although we would have waited as long as thirty or forty minutes, if other climbers were still ascending the peak."

The group's abandonment of this attempt has left a vacuum in the world of sketch comedy mountaineering. Van Gogh-Gogh crampon expert T. Mike Childs admitted he was worried that other comedians with superior resources would beat the VGGs to the summit.

"I hate to quit and have some damn standup hack or improv group beat us there now," he said. "Rickles is always looking for a challenge, and Seinfeld's made no secret of his jaunts to Mt. McKinley. I think he's practicing for the big one."

"Worst of all, now I'll never get to plant that S.U.Y.T. flag on the summit," Childs added.

Today's announcement came after the Van Gogh-Goghs had endured months of rigorous training. For the past six months, they've worked on adding a protective layer of doughnut- and beer-induced fat to their bodies. And, in an unusual move for the group, they've also rehearsed several skits.

"We could have done this," said Torchinsky, "Our 'Kick Me' signs were packed, our airhorns, our dribble canteens, our Gore-tex Groucho mustache glasses were all ready to go."

Unfortunately for the group, all this preparation couldn't solve the most common mountaineering problems: scarce oxygen and limited time.

"It takes five weeks for a person's body to become acclimated to the low oxygen levels at that altitude," group member and breathing fan Galen Black said. "None of us could get that much time off from work."

Finances also played a large part in the group's decision to scuttle the expedition. According to Van Gogh-Gogh financier Alan Benson, the group couldn't absorb the required $10,000 per person fee.

"So we'd be in the hole 10 thou each for the climb and five thou for a satellite telephone, and then we found out that the Nepalese government even charges an environmental deposit of $4,000 to make sure you haul all your garbage back," he explained. "Even using Rob's cell phone and lying about the garbage, that's $60,000, not even including doughnuts."

Group chef Charles Rempel seemed the most disappointed with the group's decision, "What am I supposed to do with all this damn ramen I bought? And the trail mix! I've got closets full of trail mix! Hunh? Hunh? Answer me!"

Though they all admitted that they were disappointed by this turn of events, the Van Gogh-Goghs attempted to find a silver lining in the situation.

"It is no shame to be bested by the toughest mountain in the world," Terrell said. "The fact we got as far as we did is a testament to man's undying struggle for survival. Doughnut?"

"Besides, this will enable us to concentrate full time on our plan to be the first comedy group to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon," Torchinsky added.

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