The People’s Court
Doug Llewellen…..Kevin Nealon
Judge Wopner…..Phil Hartman
Vonda Braithwaite…..Rosanna Arquette
Vonda’s Mother…..Jan Hooks
[ open on shot of Vonda Briathwaite and her Mother entering the courtroom and preparing themselves at their bench ]
Doug Llewellen V/O: This is Vonda Braithwaite, the Plaintiff. She sold her immortal soul to the Devil in exchange for success in her hairdresing business, but now claims that the Devil cheated her. She seeks nullification of the contract, plus damages.
[ image of Vonda and Mother is raised to the top of the screen, as “VONDA BRAITHWAITE PLAINTIFF SUING FOR: Nullification of Contract Plus $1,800” is typed across the bottom of the screen ]
[ cut to Mephistopheles entering the courtroom and preparing himself at his bench ]
Doug Llewellen V/O: This is Mephistopheles, the Devil. He claims that he did keep his part of the bargain, and that the Plaintiff is simply trying to wuelch out of her legal committment. He seeks the soul, plus court costs.
[ image of Mephitopheles is raised to the top of the screen, as “MEPHISTOPHELES (THE DEVIL) DEFENDANT SUING FOR: Soul Plus Court Costs” is typed across the bottom of the screen ]
Doug Llewellen V/O: The situation you are about to see is real. The people are not actors, they are actual litigants and cases filed in a California municipal court. They have agreed to waive their right to trial and to have their disputes settled in our forum.
[ cut to Doug standing in the outer hallway ]
Doug Llewellen: “The People’s Court”! Hello, I’m Doug Llewellen. In a moment, the case of the Beautician and the Beast. Judge Wopner will enter the courtroom shortly to hear testimony from the two parties.
[ cut to Judge Wopner entering the courtroom and taking his seat at his bench ]
Doug Llewellen V/O: Oh, here he is now.
Judge Wopner: Please be seated. I’ve read your statements. Now, Miss Braithwaite, you are the owner of a business establishment known as the Hair Affair?
Vonda Braithwaite: Yes, your Honor.
Judge Wopner: And, several months ago, the Defendant appeared to you in the form of some kind of large dog?
Vonda Braithwaite: A rottweiler, your Honor.
Judge Wopner: And you agreed to sell your mortal soul in return for success in the hairstyling field, is that correct?
Vonda Braithwaite: Yes, your Honor.
Judge Wopner: Mr. Mephistopheles?
Mephistopheles: Yes, your Honor?
Judge Wopner: [ unrolling scroll ] I have here a copy of the contract. I see that it is written in blood. The language in this document is fairly vague. Now, how exactly did you help Miss Braithwaite’s business?
Mephistopheles: Well, your Honor, in addition to giving her day-to-day advice in the running of a small business – tax planning, and so on – I advanced her nearly $2,700 for new equipment. Now, I have here three cancelled checks – one is for $1,260, one os for $940..
Judge Wopner: May I see those, please?
Mephistopheles: Yes. [ walks forward ]
Judge Wopner: Come on, let’s go, let’s go.
Mephistopheles: This is a receipt from the Anita Barver Supply Co. for three bonnet-style hairdryers. As you can see, they –
Judge Wopner: Yes, yes. I’ll study this. [ takes the receipts ] Miss Braithwaite, is this your signature on this check.
Vonda Braithwaite: Yes, your Honor.
Vonda’s Mother: Your Honor, I would like to say something, if I could, please.
Judge Wopner: Excuse me, are you a relative of the Plaintiff?
Vonda’s Mother: I am her mother.
Judge Wopner: And what is your occupation?
Vonda’s Mother: I am a barfly.
Judge Wopner: And, by that, you mean you loiter in bars waiting for men you don’t know to buy you drinks?
Vonda’s Mother: That is correct, your Honor.
Judge Wopner: Proceed.
Vonda’s Mother: Well, I don’t think that Vonda here knew what she was getting into this contract, now. She is only 18 years old, your Honor. 18, going on 8.
Vonda Braithwaite: [ annoyed ] Mother!
Vonda’s Mother: It’s true! Now, I’m telling you, she doesn’t understand words like “immortality” or a “soul” or “eternity”, or any of that business..
Vonda Braithwaite: Mother, I do!
Vonda’s Mother: [ whispering ] Vonda, I’m gonna smack you, honey, you’ve got to hush.
Judge Wopner: Alright. Thank you. I will take that under advisement. Now, Miss Braithwaite, in your deposition you state that, shortly after you started your business and went into agreement with the Devil, your business actually began to lose money. Now, is this your idea of success in business, Mr. Mephistopheles?
Mephistopheles: [ with a smirk ] Well, your Honor, that was kind of a trick. You see, as I promised Miss Braithwaite, I made her a great hairdresser. Her coifs were magical. Once you got one, you never needed another.
Judge Wopner: So there was no repeat business?
Mephistopheles: Exactly! But it’s more or less customary for me to cheat mortals in this way. By observing only the letter of the agreement. For example, I’ll give someone eternal youth, then have them sentenced to life imprisonment. That sort of thing. It’s pretty standard. I’m the Devil!
Judge Wopner: Now, according to Miss Braithwaite’s deposition, shortly after she filed the lawsuit, you began to harass her. Is that correct?
Mephistopheles: Your Honor, that is totally ridiculous.
Vonda Braithwaite: [ enraged ] What about coming to my house in the form of a black cat!
Mephistopheles: That was probably a black cat.
Vonda’s Mother: Well, what about throwing all that garbage into our yard! What was that!
Mephistopheles: I did not put garbage into your yard!
Vonda Braithwaite: Who hit my car in the parking lot, it didn’t dent by itself!
Mephistopheles: Now, you listen to me, I’m Mephistopheles, Prince of Darkness! When I start harassing you, you’ll know it!
Vonda’s Mother: I’ll tell you, if I find any more garbage in my yard, I’m gonna..
Mephistopheles: Shut up!! Shut up!!
Judge Wopner: [ banging gavel ] Mr. Mephistopheles, I’m warning you! You may hold dominion over the nether regions, but I run this court! Is that clear!
Mephistopheles: [ steamed ] Yes, your Honor.
Judge Wopner: Now, if the parties have calmed down, I’m ready with my decision. It’s clear that there was a contract between the two parties. What is not clear is the extent to which the Defendent kept his part of the bargain..
Mephistopheles: Your Honor, it’s clear that..
Judge Wopner: [ angry ] Mr. Mephistopheles, please! [ calmed down ] But, in view of the Plaintiff’s age, and the fact that she obviously did not understand what she was getting into, this court must fine for Miss Braithwaite.
[ Vonda and her mother scream joyously ]
Judge Wopner: The Defendant is hereby ordered to pay damages, and also to maintain a minimum distance of 500 yards between himself and the Plaintiff at all times.
[ show split-screen of Vonda and Mephitopheles at their tables, she happy, he fuming. SUPER: “JUDGMENT: PLAINTIFF” ]
Doug Llewellen: So Judge Wopner fines for the Plaintiff, Vonda Braithwaite. Let’s get a reaction. [ Vonda and her mother exit the courtroom ] Vonda, what have you learned from all of this? Will you ever sell your soul to the Devil again?
Vonda Braithwaite: [ thinking ] Well.. only for something really good, like eternal youth, or a really nice car.
Doug Llewellen: And, Mrs. Braithwaite, if I may say so, you look awfully young to be Vonda’s mother.
Vonda’s Mother: Well.. I’m 33, but that’s very nice of you to say.
[ they turn away as Mephistopheles exits the courtroom ]
Doug Llewellen: And let’s get a reaction from the Devil! Mephistopheles, any comment? Mephistopheles?
Mephistopheles: Leave me alone! [ apologetic ] I’m sorry. It’s not you, Doug. It’s just that I’m out $2,700 that I’ll probably never see again, plus I have to pay damages. What am I gonna do with three Bonnet hairdryers? Mark my word, the wench will be mine!
Doug Llewellen: Next time, you’ll get it in writing?
Mephistopheles: I had it in writing. [ stares hypnotically at the camera ] You, watching this at home, worship me! I command you! Become my willing thralls and live eternally!
Doug Llewellen: That’s all for this edition of “The People’s Court”.
Mephistopheles: Know the sweet, sublime feeling of complete obediance to your Evil Master! Come serve me, the Prince of Darkness, I command it! Hear me!
Bailiff: Come on, let’s go! Come on!
Mephistopheles: Wait, wait just a second.. Obey me! Obey me! [ laughs evilly ]
Doug Llewellen: Remember..
[ Mephistopheles continues to laugh evilly, as the Bailiff pulls him offscreen, but he jumps in for one more onscreen bout of laughter before being pulled away for good ]
Doug Llewellen: Remember, if someone cheats you in a business dealing, and you feel you’re being intimidated, don’t take the law into your own hands. You take them to court.
[ fade ]