So smack in the middle of a riff I stopped and asked the audience: 1. Is there any difference between otters and beavers, and 2. If so, what are the differences?
A gal sitting stage left two rows back raised her hand. I called on her and she commenced to blather about otters and beavers, revealing only slight differences. Yet one bit of information stuck out. She said "beavers are venomous."
"Really," I toned "they're Republicans?"
She also said otters live on land, beavers don't. When I queried about why otters would have a beaver-like tail if they lived on land she said only "Well, they do swim, but they don't live in the water." So there.
Satisfied with the gal's information-albeit a bit sad to learn beavers are venomous, because I've always thought I'd try to pet one if I got close enough-I continued the show.
A few days later I received the following e-mail message:
We caught your show last Friday night in Brandon and loved it (as usual). Thanks for the many yuks.
You asked the audience for the difference between beavers and otters. I don't know if you were serious or goofing, but I didn't respond because, frankly, I didn't want to become part of the show! But in case you really wanted to know:
•Beavers are rodents (yes, rodents, Order Rodentia), and thus related to squirrels, mice, porcupines, and other such critters. They have big incisors that they use to cut down trees, which they use to build their dams and lodges, and which they also eat. And beavers are NOT venomous, regardless of what the cute 20 year old in the front row said. I think she's spent too much time on the Internet and not enough in reality.
•Otters are carnivores (Order Carnivora), and more specifically Family Mustelidae, which means they are closely related to weasels, skunks, minks, fisher cats (not actually cats, by the way), martens, and the like. In contrast to tree-eating beavers, they eat fish, crayfish, mussels, small mammals, and the like.