Takes A Pretty Big Key Ring For The Keys To 100 Cities

It used to be that receiving the key to a city was a rare honor worthy of the front page. Now, just as front pages are disappearing, apparently all you need to get a key to a city is to ask. Mark Malkoff is a comedy writer and filmmaker who's embarked on a month-long, cross-country tour to see how many mayors will give him the key to their cities.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Used to be that receiving the key to a city was a rare honor worthy of the front page. Now, just as front pages are disappearing, apparently all you need to get a key to a city is to ask. Well, ask Mark Malkoff, a comedy writer and filmmaker who's undertaken some unusual projects. He was on our show after living on an airplane for a month. Now he has gone on a month-long cross country tour to see how many mayors would give him the key to their cities.

Mark Malkoff joins us from New York. Thanks for being with us.

Mr. MARK MALKOFF (Comedian; Writer; Film Maker): Scott, thanks for having me on again.

SIMON: How many mayors bit?

Mr. MALKOFF: I am up to 94 and I'm going to go to a 100. I was just with the Baltimore mayor, Sheila Dixon, and that was my 94th key.

SIMON: Oh my gosh, 94 keys?

Mr. MALKOFF: Yes, in 31 days so far.

SIMON: What you do, just call them up. What you do?

Mr. MALKOFF: I personally contacted each city, each mayor and asked for the key to the city. And I said I would do some sort of community service task for each key.

SIMON: And you have?

Mr. MALKOFF: I have. Some of the mayors didn't want me to do community service. They're just like being here is enough, and they would just hand me keys. Seriously - I know, I have a video montage of mayors, me asking mayors why am I getting the key to the city. And they all say the same thing, which is because you asked.

SIMON: Can you generalize what they look like?

Mr. MALKOFF: Okay, I will say in the Midwest 90 percent of them for some reason have moustaches.

SIMON: The keys have moustaches?

Mr. MALKOFF: Oh, I thought you were talking about the mayors.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MALKOFF: The keys themselves - that's a good question. Some of the keys were one inch long, other's like Hampton, Virginia were five feet tall. And then others were made out of chocolate, which adds a question - do I eat the key or keep the key?

SIMON: So what kind of community service things have you agreed to do?

Mr. MALKOFF: Oh, my goodness. I did everything from planting trees to reading to kids, to riding with EMS units. Some cities�

SIMON: Riding with the EMS units?

Mr. MALKOFF: Yes.

SIMON: You're not a medical technician.

Mr. MALKOFF: I was an assistant.

SIMON: Well, God forbid, you could have hurt somebody.

Mr. MALKOFF: I could have, very likely. I also - Lancaster, Pennsylvania made me clean up after their police forces. I did this job�

SIMON: Okay. That sounds better. Any cities turn you down?

Mr. MALKOFF: Detroit turned me down just because Mayor Bing was running for reelection as it was crazy. But I thought that the funniest thing about being turned down by Detroit was, as my friend pointed out, Detroit gave their key to the city in 1980 to Saddam Hussein.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MALKOFF: I'm not making it up. I'm not making that up, Scott, it's true.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: I don't know if their standards have slipped or gone up.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: They deny one to you.

Mr. MALKOFF: I don't know. They don't like comedians, but maybe they like dictators. I don't know. Maybe I should have changed my bio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, Mark. thanks very much.

Mr. MALKOFF: Thank you so much, Scott.

SIMON: Mark Malkoff, comedy writer and film maker. You can see excerpts of his video project on our Web site, npr.org.

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