This one is a pure comedy.
Archibald Beechcroft (played by comedian Shelley Berman) is a misanthropic New Yorker who hates his fellow man because he jostles Archie in the subway, steps on his toes in the elevator and spills coffee on him in the office. When his boss, Mr. Rogers, finds Archie in the bathroom washing up after a particularly aggravating commute and asks him what’s the matter, Archie says people are the matter and they need to disappear and be decimated. Later on, when the office errand boy Henry spills coffee on Archie’s jacket he is fit to be tied. At lunch Henry tries to make amends by holding a seat for Archie and then presents Archie with a book called, “The Mind and the Matter,” which he claims allows people to use willpower to control the world around them. Naturally, Henry spills some more coffee on Archie before he departs but despite himself Archie starts reading the book. And he must be interested in the contents because we see him reading it on the subway even while he is jostled back and forth on the subway car. Later on, we see him reading the book in his apartment and when he finishes, he declares definitively that concentration is the most underrated power in the world. He is convinced that he can change his environment using only his concentration and will power. His first application appears almost immediately. Outside his apartment door the landlady is repetitively and annoyingly knocking on the door and haranguing him that his rent is due and he must pay it now. Archie wishes her out of existence and sure enough, she disappears! Opening the door and finding her indeed gone he declares today the landlady, tomorrow the world.
The next day as he is standing at the top of the subway staircase, being pushed and shoved by everyone hurrying by him, he stops and closes his eyes and concentrates. And when next we see him, he is entering an empty subway station and even though the trains are somehow still running they are empty of people.
He reaches his office building which is also empty and heads up the elevator which is also running without the usual operator. Now he sits down at his desk and fills out the insurance paperwork which is his normal occupation. But of course, there really isn’t much point in filling out insurance forms if there aren’t any people to care. After finishing off the day by flying some paper airplanes across the office he ends up talking to himself in the mirror but unfortunately, his reflection is very dissatisfied with Archie’s current situation. He berates himself for not realizing that no people is even worse than annoying people. His reflection continues this discussion with Archie back at his apartment and after admitting that the present situation is worse Archie informs his reflection that he will populate the world with the only people he can stand, people just like himself.
The next morning, he fights his way through the subway, the street, the building lobby, the elevator and his office. All around him are men and women who all look remarkably like him and are if anything even more misanthropic than himself. After a few hours of this he admits to his reflection that the original situation was better than the all Archibald Beechcroft version of the population.
When next we see Archie, he is sitting at lunchtime at a table and sure enough Henry spills coffee on him. But Archie, while not very much sunnier in his disposition seems reasonably content with the normal annoyances of his normal environment. When Henry asks him what he thought of the book he says it wasn’t believable.
You all know I like the comedies best. Well, this is no exception. It’s a goofy episode but I find it very entertaining. Berman does an excellent job. A.