Bill Madison has posted a lengthy interview with Betty Aberlin of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Aberlin's comment on Fred Rogers' sense of humor started me wondering:
In some of the earlier operas, there were some wicked puns, that later on, the icon would not have engaged in. I’m trying to think of them. There was the pineapple can opera. . . . There was some kind of lyric that was pretty double-entendre.It so happens that we have three Mister Rogers operas in the family archives, all taped from television: Pineapples and Tomatoes (first aired in 1970), Key to Otherland (1975), and Windstorm in Bubbleland (1980). So I sat down to watch all three. And I can report that, yes, Pineapples and Tomatoes contains what seems to be an extended bit of double-entendre.
A synopsis: John Reardon plays Vice President Reardon of the Pineapple Can Telephone Company. Lady Aberlin plays the Opera Operator. X the Owl plays Benjamin Franklin. Lady Elaine Fairchilde plays herself. In the first scene, as VP Reardon, Miss Aberlin, and Ben Franklin chat over pineapple juice, an angry call comes in from Lady Elaine Fairchilde. She doesn't like the company's pineapple cans. Says Reardon, "She likes tomatoes better." He goes off to see her. The double-entendre turns up in an exchange between them:
VP Reardon: May I see your pineapple can, Lady?It turns out that Lady Elaine has placed a picture of a tomato on her can. It's not that she likes to eat tomatoes or feel them or smell them: she just likes the color red.
Lady Elaine: Here it is, my lovely can.
VP Reardon: And where is the picture of the pineapple?
Lady Elaine: On the other side.
VP Reardon: I'd like to check it please.
Lady Elaine: I'd rather you didn't.
VP Reardon: Lady, may I check your can?
Lady Elaine: You may if you can.
VP Reardon returns to the telephone company; Lady Elaine follows; and Ben Franklin, it turns out, has saved the day, by inventing new colors for the company's cans. Yes, red is one such color. VP Reardon and Miss Aberlin confess their love for one another, and thus the opera ends.
The canned humor in the above exchange is charming, as is the play on can and may. (Can I stay up till ten? Please? Yes, you can, but no, you may not.)
According to the Wikipedia article on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, there were thirteen Neighborhood operas. Why they haven't been issued on DVD as a boxed-set is beyond me. Until the real thing comes along, you can watch some of Pineapples and Tomatoes on YouTube, a transfer from somebody else's old videotape: Part One, Part Two.
Another Mister Rogers post
Blaming Mister Rogers