Posted by Steven Alan Green
The Fanatic Salon is a former hair salon turned comedy theatre space on the outer edges of Culver City, which for my international readers, is home to MGM Studios, where The Wizard of Oz was filmed in late 1938 and where the Munchkin actors famously debauched their way into ShowBiz sexual history, which I know is hitting way below the belt, so to speak. And, like the famed Yellow Brick Road (which has now been paved over with a Starbucks), the art of modern-day solo comedy improvisation and story-telling is guaranteed to be a twisty magical road which promises face-time with the Wizard himself, but also sometimes takes us through the dark and scary forest of WTF to get there. An outgrowth of the stand-up comedy Big Bang, diverted and influenced by the manifest destiny of Chicago-style improv (or “impro” as we say in London) from masters and former students of Second City’s legendary Del Close, and fuelled by really talented people wanting to “get up and play” – what you end up with is what could be the absolute beginnings of a brand new comedy movement, its humble seedlings first showing signs of life here on the Left Coast. A movement where literal rules rule the day and the only precept is to create something new, on the spot, both in content (within the stage walls) and in context, within the oft-barren sit-com mentality which has so infected our amber fields of comedy grain for far too long. What’s happening is a literal Comedy Jazz Age, born too out of worldwide economic oppression, foreign war, and like the 1930’s, a shifting sea-change of political identity. And just like the 1930’s, where the very rich (is there any other kind?) clink Martini glasses in high-towered New York private clubs, the great art of its day is created by the people. Working-class proven comedians, improvisers, writers and actors, who don’t have time to cling to resume, but who say right out front, in big glaring neon letters, perhaps the most heathen group of words ever uttered in Hollywood these days: “We are here to entertain you tonight!”
Top Tale is the creation of Tom Tully and Jonathan Menchin. Started in the spring of 2011, the idea is to create a story-telling competition, which is fun for all involved, including and especially perhaps the singularly ignored and forgotten part of the comedy scene: the art-form of the audience. In the “look at me!” world of too much emphasis on career and exposure, the general live comedy audience has stayed home for the most part these days and for two good reasons: The cost factor of going out and the simple fact that Variety is dead. Everything’s been segmented and divvied up. You want Hip Hop Comedy, there’s a channel for that. But with Top Tale, it’s not just a show with something for everyone, you really have to experience it in person. And with the free open wine bar and easy parking, you can’t lose. Being in the audience for this show is so much fun, you’ll wonder how you got lucky enough to get the job. The packed house at the intimate Westside theatre feels like you’re onboard a cruise ship, as co-creator and well over six-foot tall producer Menchin gently tickles the electronic ivories like Lurch at church, telling us casually with feeling he likes songs that tell stories, which leads into his introducing singer-songwriter Dale LaDuke, a New Wave John Denver, who’s romantic homage to Los Angeles was truly moving, windswept and spiritual. Then, BURSTING into the room with high powered energy is our host for the evening, co-creator of Top Tale, Tom Tully. Tom, co-founder of legendary LA improv troupe Off The Wall (whose original members include George Wendt and Robin Williams) is a shaggy slightly shorter Art Linkletter in a tux, and is perhaps the best host of any LA comedy show this reviewer has seen so far this year. Tom is all about everyone having fun as he then explains the rules to us. The idea is that six pre-chosen contestant story-tellers will come out and each tell us a one-minute story, then a five-minute story, and towards the end of the night, 4 will be eliminated, leaving two story-tellers to compete in a 2 minute story, the winner being the Top Tale of the night. The evening’s set up also includes 3 celebrity judges, a “feather tickler reminder person,” (the lovely Miranda Shane, who quietly waits to see if anyone goes over their allotted time) as well as a built-in heckler, located actually within the audience and played wonderfully by Off The Wall vet Andy Goldberg.
Our first story-telling contestant was Kevin McGeehan, who in Round One hinted at how low the evening might go (but never did) with his tastefully handled confession of having sex with a drunk girl, which given that Miranda, the Feather-Tickler, sitting slightly behind, looking at her stopwatch, seemed approaching salacious. When Kevin finished, the audience applauded, while the judges (yet to be introduced) nodded and conferred like Munchkin Town Hall. Next up at bat was lovely Deana Barone, an orthodox raised actress, who in her photo-negative of a SWF git-up, released an all too personal and metaphoric saga of “Looking for love through the stratosphere of sewage,” reminding us all that bodily function can indeed be an artistic attribute. Following her was Guy Jackson, whose story of “Offering Leo a chip” and was himself a character out of Of Mice and “Menchin”. Then it was Carl Kozlowski, whose story of narcolepsy and driving was a real smash. “Claire Thomasina J”, an English byrd drifted us off into a snowboarding as a kid story and finally, Josh Filiposki told a great story of coming home to a hot apartment, steaming with frustration and anger, but how things soon turned a wrinkle, with his wife and he getting it on, whilst the ironing was being done. Our inimitable host Tom then instructs the contestants to all please leave the stage and now it’s the judge’s turn, and he does it all with 1950’s quiz show anticipatory panache. This is where one of the funniest of the evening (heckler Andy) awoke from his mysterious slumber and batted them out of the park with his defacto on-stage straight man Tully, who was forced to multi-task as he tried to introduce, “our celebrity judges”.
As with “genius” or “porn star,” “Celebrity” is an all-too-oft thrown about term, and although our panel kinda does fit the profile, I think Tom meant it slightly ironically. After all, in the same way Christopher Guest’s films are all about the pomposity of class, Tom is all about inclusion, not class separation. Having said that, there was certainly Showbiz royalty on the panel this night. How can you go wrong with Fred Willard? From his film-stealing role as the enthusiastic out of touch Colonel on the military base in This is Spinal Tap, to his as clever as the host second-banana on Fernwood Tonight, Mr. Willard proves he’s much more than a famous rat. Nobody working today can create and deliver in the moment, accurate within context super-funny commentary like him; and yet he gives you the feeling that he’s just happy to be invited to something he secretly believes he’s way overqualified for. Like all of Fred’s roles in Guest’s masterpiece catalogue (Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, The Mighty Wind), Fred remains the wise-cracking naïve for this show as swell.
Sitting next to (and behind) Fred was Leigh Morgan Koechner, mother of 5 and talk show host from everydayfamily.com., who was unceremoniously interrupted by Andy, who was now sounding a little bit fake drunk, “You know, you’d have a lot less people on stage if you had one guy telling a six minute story!” This got a telling laugh from the crowd and of the one minor problem this show needs to work out. And that is the universal fact that sometimes a story being told is not all that spellbinding and when following another story which was rip-roaringly funny, can lie a bit flat, making you wish Top Tale would take a step they’re probably not willing to take: Let Andy heckle the story-tellers too, which might serve to keep them all on their toes at all times, including the judges. We, the audience, are essentially children at the end of the day and we want to constantly be fed with funny. But, we also want to participate. And, though Andy the Heckler does act as our proxy, I would’ve loved it for a real audience member to join in too. If Top Tale was held in a private home to invited guests, of course drunk Aunt Margaret would interrupt a story of any quality or length, just as Buddy or Sally would interrupt and heckle not just easy target Mel but also dearly loved and respected colleague Rob Petrie. Heckling is often overlooked as a supportive gesture. Even if a story is a good one and the teller is good and the audience is rapt with attentiveness, introducing Heckler Andy at the beginning of the show and then only reserving him for inter-staff ribbing and poking, is kinda like holding out red meat to an audience of jungle cats ready to pounce at the first sign of dead-air. Having said ALL that, all of the story-tellers were of a certain vetted quality, possessed and displayed their own quirkiness, and all did excellent jobs doing the most important thing: Keep the show moving, even if and when their stories didn’t quite get all the laughs, they or we may have hoped for. Rounding out the panel of celebrity judges was stand-up stalwart John Mendoza, whose out of nowhere off the cuff quips acted as perfect summation to this Marx Brothers-ian comedy supreme court. Top Tale’s Mendoza as Supreme Comedy Court Justice.
Towards the end of the night, when you could tell the vacation from reality was reaching its climax and the judges coalesced their votes, Tom led us all in a big group hug as we all sang-along an Irish-seeming pub song. “A story…a story…why don’t you give it a twist. A story…a story…we’re hoping that someone gets kissed!” The winner was announced. It was Carl with his story, “My Mother The Superspy”. And, just like that! Like a Viagra commercial on a TV that spontaneously combusts, the show was over. I left the Fanatic Salon feeling like I may have just witnessed the middle stages of something potentially very big. I loved Top Tale and recommend you catch the next one. I just kept wishing, we would’ve heard more from the judges throughout the show, more from Andy the Heckler, and more of a chance for the audience to participate in the voting process, other than to only judge the finals with applause. But these are minor complaints about an already great live comedy show envisioned by Tom & Jonathan, and performed like ballet by all the cast and players. Wife and husband Jane Morris and Jeff Michalski, veteran Second City legends, and venue owner Tommy Mitchell have created a great space in the Fanatic Salon for one of the greatest rides in the Comedy Amusement Park, located close by where The Lollypop Guild did their strut. I just can’t wait to ride it again.
I give Top Tail @ The Fanatic Salon 7 out of 8 Menorahs.
Enjoy the veal!
Steven Alan Green
Note: Next week is the second half of this two-parter: A Tale of Two Spontaneities with my review of Paul Provenza’s Set-List.
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK
SIGNS YOU ARE STILL IN THE MIDDLE CLASS:
1) You’re concerned the price of Hybrid is not about a car.
2) Dining out means eating Ramen Noodles in the park.
3) You consider catching up on email as reading.
No insurance company will cover me because of a pre-existing condition. I’m broke.
There are no hard and fast rules. Just soft and slow ones.
Obama crack corn and I don’t health care.
Reality game show idea. Contestants compete for the prize of most vain. If they win, they get cosmetic surgery. If they lose, they have to donate an internal organ. Show is called Makeover Island and is hosted by the corpse of Joan Rivers.
10.11.13 at 1:51 pm | Steven Alan Green back from the comedy dead.. . .
5.23.13 at 2:31 pm | On the occasion of my old pal and nemesis Jerry. . .
5.16.13 at 12:22 pm | A great new opportunity for our favourite. . .
4.7.13 at 5:32 pm | It seemed like an impossibility before, but I am. . .
2.20.13 at 1:09 pm | My long-awaited review of Nato Green @ The. . .
1.15.13 at 9:49 am | My public appeal to the director of Duel, 1941. . .
9.26.12 at 3:32 pm | I hereby call upon the powers that be in. . . (13)
10.11.13 at 1:51 pm | Steven Alan Green back from the comedy dead.. . . (7)
5.23.13 at 2:31 pm | On the occasion of my old pal and nemesis Jerry. . . (4)
June 23, 2012 | 1:39 pm
Posted by Steven Alan Green
A few years ago, I got into a literal face-slapping match at a London tea house with Eddie Izzard and our mutual dentist, Simon Godley, a very funny Radio 4 comedian himself. I was trying to show Eddie “The Gestapo Joke” and he just couldn’t get the timing right. You ask your cohort, “Say, have I ever told you the Gestapo joke?” They say, “No.” You then SLAP them across the face at the very second you shout out, “Liar!” If they inquire, “Why’d you do that?” You get in their face, fiercely point to them and say, “
ask zah questions!” Similarly, seeing Andy Dick’s show at The Comedy Store last Wednesday left me feeling a bit slapped – bitch-slapped to be precise; and my face is still stinging, and will for some time. Andy Dick is the Queen of Anomalies. I wouldn’t know how to categorize him as a comedic artist, other than as “Truly watchable!” in the same way a slow and continuous multi-car pile-up can be on a spring day. Whatever you think of him, whatever delicious mud he drags you through, you feel it’s all worth it, because Andy Dick is truly watchable. The trouble is, I just didn’t know what I was watching after a while. A cabaret or a rehearsal for a twelve-step meeting? A coming out party or just another overly-dramatic appearance of Norman Desmond from his indoor balcony? A comedy show or post-ironic “take” on a comedy show? The truth is, as with Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Kinison, Steve Martin and the King of the Put-On-of-‘Em-All….the late great Andy Kaufman, you never knew where the real show ended and the fake one began. I am a fan of the bold fact that “Dice” (the creation of Andrew Silverstein) was in fact a brilliantly invented character. Andrew Dice Clay—in the very early days—would reportedly come on stage as an impressionist. And, after doing dead on impressions of Pacino and DeNiro, he would introduce “Dice” as a compendium of the characters he knew from the old neighborhood, in a vague form of The Nutty Professor’s Buddy Love. Because of the set-up, you knew that whatever Dice did from then on, could only be considered an exaggerated inside joke, which nullified any offense. Andrew was “playing” a bad guy. It was only when Clay dropped the intro/impressions and took the stage already in the character of Dice, did his career skyrocket. But, with Messer Dick, unless he’s actually the master of all masters of staying in character continuously, seamlessly and most importantly: completely believably, he’s just another reality star performing in his own head.
Coming out on stage, perching cross-legged on a bar stool like Andy Dick Van Dyke, whilst swiveling right and left as he looked for Sally and Buddy: friendly targets in the audience, Andy was spell-binding. With his Fogerty like guitarist/singer, Tim Walsh (who could belt them out like the best of ‘em), Dick actually transformed into an almost Leonard Cohen-like non-melodic rants, with hits such as, “I’m So Sick and Tired of Me”. The free flowing “we’re just winging it” attitude Andy employed, worked for him, because that is what the audience loves. Intimacy; moment by moment. Ultimately, that proved the fait accompli for the rest of the entrants on this comedy lounge in a big ole Ionesco burlesque cruise ship heading straight to the bay of comedy hell. There was no emcee, comedians seemed to just pop through delayed curtain after delayed curtain and often, the comedians, as good as some of them were, seemed to have no contextual bearing whatsoever on the show itself. The Comedy Store Main Room (lightly peppered with under 50 people in a cavernous room which seats close to 350) is almost too high holy ground for such display of choreographed decadence. Twenty odd years ago, the likes of Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Eddie Murphy played there on a semi-regular basis. And twenty before that, the Main Room of The Comedy Store was the most mythical of all Hollywood nightclubs, Ciros. Sammy Davis Jr, Martin and Lewis, even Lenny Bruce played there. And, 20 before that, it was called “The Mein Room,” a Chinese noodle house. (jes kiddin) Perhaps if the roar outside on Sunset were not over-testosteroned German car engines, but were in fact Der Luftwaffe finally bombing West Hollywood, then I think the deconstructed disaster I witnessed tonight would’ve been in context and ruled pure genius. And in a way it was.
way. Andy Dick is fatally loveable and when you’re that liked by the audience, like any good politician, you don’t have to be understood or even say anything meaningful, which allows Dick to play the bad guy so well.
Providing support were impressive comedic performances by Jesus Trejo, whose “Rules are Rules” routine, completely won me over; Bob Wheeler’s, “people in LA suck” POV was dead on relevant, funny and true; Jay Mandium, an Indian from Dallas, provided some insightful examination of the modern American class system to the evening; Arnold Colery, a Frenchman who pretended we believed he grew up in Mississippi, although lacked credence, was absolutely charming; Tony Ray was way too loud for the room, but how can you go wrong with “We’re all gonna die in 2012” jokes?; Eddie Sheively made his parents proud with his “I smoke lots of weed” opener, segueing like a sport into lines like (hide the children first), “I j——d off a guy for Tapioca pudding”; Crazee Cindy (producer of the evening) introduced a certain WWF element to the already male contaminated atmosphere with a sample of Jersey Shore wit, “Would everybody just shut the f—k up?!” (I hate when people quote Shakespeare with no attribution.) “I was married to a Jew, but his nose was bigger than his d—k,” is not the sort of thing this writer should be submitting to a blog for this fine media establishment, but folks, my commitment to veracity, and to you, the discerning comedy public, takes precedence. Once she simmered down, dropping the defensive armor, she began to resolve into a mature and smart woman with a very keen eye for bullshit: Men. And, after all, isn’t that what we want our comedians to do? Point out the bullshit? Following Cindy was Aussie Monty Franklin, whose opener was the laugh line of the night, “This isn’t what I came to America for!” (That’s right folks. Crazee Cindy’s show had its own built in heckler. Nice streamlining of the process!) Well into the third hour of the evening, Kelly Ebsary made an all too brief appearance. This self-admitted “Diva” and Les Miz vet obviously has the kind of talent beyond almost any comedy club pay grade. Kelly entered and played the moment; a tough spot for any performer, going up late etc. This part Native American who “sleeps with Hagen Daz” has a set of pipes on her, pal, and a very charming damn the torpedoes sense of humor. The improvised jazz and comedy number Ms. E belted out was worthy of a sold-out house. She’s talent. No doubt. There were 3 or 4 more comedians to come, but the crowd was thinning. I was getting tired and wanted to go backstage and meet Andy, who was very warm and funny.
Surrounded by the highest quality of friends, lovers, bloodsuckers, sycophants and handlers, Andy held court in the kingly way only he knows how. I felt truly blessed to be that close to him and yet, had the wizard let me see too much behind the curtain? Andy Dick is seamlessly cute, trendy and tragic. Everyone should own one. Whatever it is, like all the great character comics I’ve seen over the years, Andy Dick makes you want to save him by being him. In spite of his troubles; in spite of him having to suffer the ultimate of consequences for any artist, he has to be himself. In the end, I escaped by kissing Andy on the forehead, the same way a parent says goodnight to children in pajamas. My work was done. I wanted to hang around, but had to pedal my bicycle down La Cienega. I just prayed the Nazi’s wouldn’t question me on the way home.
I give Crazee Cindy’s Andy Dick Show 5 out of 8 Menorahs
Steven Alan Green
Enjoy the Veal
Last Week’s Facebook Tweets
The difference between forward thinking and paranoia is knowing the hidden microphones in your house were put there by yourself.
Painter Leroy Neiman has died. Don’t know the details, just the broad strokes.
I just aquired $100,000 worth of Facebook stock. Picked it up for $300,000.
Owning an iPhone means never having to say you’re Siri.
June 14, 2012 | 11:32 am
Posted by Steven Alan Green
That smidgen of the city, “Fairfax” is nicknamed after the main drag Fairfax Avenue, which forms the western boundary of Hancock Park and served as the New Shtetl for post World War II Jews seeking sun and fun, as well as a little Gefilte fish now and again; and why shouldn’t they? The Mecca of Fairfax is Canters Deli, the former Esquire Theater, a movie-house no less, where the tilted glass display counters now stock lox, pastrami and chopped liver instead of candy and popcorn. What was once a cavernous dark room projecting black & white images of Bogart or Muni is now as perennially brightly lit as the film sets themselves. The living characters in this unintentional gastric comedy collective are the worker-BEE-hemions, with their hipster haircuts, expensive ripped jeans and never-dying stupid and pointless dreams in their medicated eyes. With a stiff Scorsese-like pan to the right, you’ll find yourself transported and trapped into a claustrophobic wet bar from your parents’ underground bunker generation. The Kibitz Room doesn’t kibitz around, belching out continuous great up and coming rock n roll from all sorts; and indeed Guns n Roses played there in the early daze, as did the son of Sixties Jewish laureate Robert Zimmerman, Jakob Dylan, whom first gained notoriety with The Wallflowers playing late night gigs at the deli. It’s the perfect mix of affordable food, well-drink and dusty dreamers. No wonder its survived the New Reconstructionist Vision of America as just one big interconnected shopping mall. Open 24/7, Canters is not just
late night hang, but clearly the place “we’ll all meet” when the real aliens come. After all, if we’re all gonna be anally probed, you might as well “Eat something!”
Just up the road from Canters (on the Hawaii side of the street) is Bang Comedy Theatre. Founded 15 years ago by yet another transplanted Second City Chicago alumnus, Bang offers a little something different for the comedy connoisseur. Successful Hollywood TV & screenwriter Peter Murrieta (The Wizards of Waverly Place) and his wife Aliza run Bang as both a school and a showcase. With emphasis on improv and scene-study; not just “how to be funny,” which as we all know is completely unteachable (see George Bush’s first term), Bang offers entertaining bang for your buck, and then some. With this kind of simple, restrained and honest approach, there’s little wonder their co-production with writer/director/performer Christine Schoenwald serves up some of the most interesting and compelling stories since Moishe lied to you down the street that the knish was, “Fresh this morning!...VAT do you vant from me?”
When I first entered the space last Thursday to review Pinata, the Personal Essay Show, I was mistakenly a little disappointed with the tiny stage, slightly awkwardly hiding behind the ticket desk, but I got into the mood like everyone else waiting for the show. I was ready for anything, including the last minute information to this writer/moron that there was in fact a full-fledged theatre rise in the back where the show that I came to review took place. Taking a seat in the front row, I couldn’t help but notice eight empty folding chairs on stage facing the audience. This was initially troubling for this writer who had his expectations on a story-telling show, not a panel discussion. Of course, my bad. Just a shade past 8pm, the cast of the evening took the stage then their seats and Christine came forward with the announcement that there will be candy tossed at us the audience at the end of the show and to not be alarmed. Putting aside my fantasy Candy was some porn star, I finally relaxed and saw a very interesting evening unfold live and right before my cynical little set of off-blue eyeballs.
One by one, each cast member would ceremoniously rise from their chair, cautiously approach center stage, paper in hand, and start reading, reminding me of the almost pagan-like ritual I last saw first-hand at the very bizarre 2009 Academy Awards when legendary actors would appear under a Star Trek beam of light and then begin to fawn to their descendants why they deserve just to be nominated, in a tone that can only be characterized as eulogistic. Now, I have to point out, that although I’ve even done a story-telling (reading from a paper) night or two myself, I felt this time being an audient, that I was witnessing the very secret confessions of convicted and reformed societal felons, whose only crime was to lead interesting lives, to tell of adventure so emotionally scarring, so informative of who they really are and – even more daring:
who they really wanted to be
. It made me feel what I think all artists crave to feel in inexplicably cold shouldering Los Angeles.
I felt welcome.
Whether I liked the fact or not, this evening was going to inventory and downsize my own self-mythologizing continuous running internal voice-over by sheer proxy of comparison. After hearing these guys, I had nothing to complain about in my life. Only theirs.
Starting the evening was Christine Schoenwald (the main producer of tonight’s show) who told a tale of sexual neurosis involving an artist named Nathan, and the subsequent shocking disappointment when she discovered his pervy ways. Christine, seemingly much shyer on stage than when I met her off, displayed incredible grace and courage as she opened up to us, as if she was auditioning for an orgy, but really didn’t want the job anyway. When she was done, she stepped down from the stage and sat in the audience, making me worry the entire process might be reversed, for which I was not prepared. Following her was stand-up veteran comic’s comic turned successful playwright Steve Bluestein, who took us on a shaggy-dog story involving his friend/”wife” Michelle traipsing up to Mulholland Drive to find a special type of decorative grass for their cinder-block apartment, which involved both a 2 million dollar mansion and a rusty Toyota with a coat-hanger aerial. The way Bluestein tells his story is almost as if he’s examining it himself for the first time, which my guess would be attributable to incredible reconstruction skills rather than the reality. Next was Tom Nevermann (an entrepreneur turned writer) who stopped the clock as he dragged us through an horrific true tale of his discovering he had rectal cancer. Doesn’t sound like traditional comedy material, but in Nevermann’s hands it truly was. James Judd was next, as well as the most perplexing. This critically acclaimed, award-winning playwright told tale of he and his lover seeking a certain type of polar bear on the North Pole; a story which was filled with gory and dishy stuff, coming from a man who clearly would be cast as the hostage who never shuts the fuck up, and ultimately that’s what happened. While I was still searching for his main point, James was called off stage for going over his time. I don’t know what happened to the polar bear. But then things got really interesting.
Roy Cruz, a middle-aged Pilipino Crate and Barrel employee during the day, was closest to my heart, as he wonderfully told how he had to learn to ride a bicycle late in life, while avoiding an overbearing mother who felt that, “Happiness should be sacrificed for good skin.” Creator of the hit show “Streep Tease,” Cruz knows how to reel you in, in part because he casts a deep emotional line. I personally related to Cruz’s plight, because, out of my own circumstances; I’ve been forced to ride a bicycle as my main form of transportation in Los Angeles for the last three years. He’s a very brave man –
! Next was another great surprise. Sarah Burrows, an unashamed, scratch that, a proud professional waitress…who entered the world of story-telling and stand-up comedy late in life (slow service), served up something very special off the menu. So refreshing for once, hearing that mathematical equation of wait-staff and customer put on its head. For a man who has spent way too much time and money in fancy and not so fancy restaurants, I was flabbergasted to witness through Sarah, how she viewed her (to some people) menial job. How she took great pride in creating an illusion, an experience, for her customers, was like watching a potter teaching ducks. Her to-the-cliff’s-edge patience with difficult patronage was outstanding and showed us that even this super-waitress has her limits, Bub! Quiffs like, “Hooters outfits distracts from bad food” was just an appetizer. Pure hysterical stuff through and through. It made me most ashamed when I remembered how I complained about a waiter who came to my table, apologizing literally on his knees. I was a dick. The most unpleasant story to have to listen to was no doubt from actor/activist Bill Brochtrup, who told of his temporary digs as an assistant casting director and how he and his co-conspirator created daily punking humiliation for the anonymous struggling actor. How he sorted unsolicited 8x10’s into “freak piles” later to put into his evil joke file coloring book and how fate unfavored a one Berle Duxman, as the sorrow-est struggling freak actor of all. When enlightenment finally came to him and how bad he now feels about it all, I still wanted him hung. A regular on NYPD Blue (and featured in Life As We Know It and Heʼs Just Not That Into You) Brochtrup courageously reminded all of us that what we secretly fear goes on behind the curtain – actually sometimes does.
Finally, Carrie Snow. From her book, “My Mom is Meaner than Your Mom,” Miss Snow opened up about growing up in Nothern California small town Merced, and an unsatiated sex life, having mostly to do with her previously large body mass. The former host of Comedy Tonight on PBS and Roseanne writer literally paints an emotional picture of each scenario she is in. “More people have seen me get dressed than undressed” is pure ironic Carrie Snow, who I have to say, not only looks great, but sounds better than ever. I knew Carrie (like most of us) when she was partially a “fat act,” and to her credit (as well as proof she was always funny – fat or thin) she’s funnier than ever. She’s Dorothy Parker meets Rhoda. Why on God’s formerly green Earth are there SIX (count ‘em- 6!) “different” white male talk show hosts on late night American network television? WTFFFFF? Listen up, you bored television executive reading this here article:
Scoop up Carrie Snow and give her a talk show
! If there ever was a feminine feminist comedy voice that neither pandered or drew blood, it is Carrie Snow. She is indeed
. I hate her. (NOT!)
I give Pinata the Personal Essay Show 6.5 out of 8 Menorahs. Lose the dead weight, tighten up the night a bit and they’re bound to offer one of the more interesting nights on the town, just up the street from a man in a beret, eating a corned beef sandwich.
Enjoy the veal!
SAG: Which is more important in story-telling: life experience, credibility of the witness, the way the story is written or performance ability?
Christine: As far as storytellers go I say that life experience ( good stories) is the number one quality to a good story, then performance because obviously you have to bring the story to life for the audience, then writing and lastly credibility. I don’t enjoy it when people read their supposed “personal essays” and it is obviously fiction. I want the truth and I want it to be personal. As Rick Reynolds says ” Only the truth is funny.”
SAG: Are there any differences (in your mind) between men and women story-tellers?
Christine: I don’t think there’s much of a difference between men and women storytellers. There is a greater number of women over men who write personal essays. This may be due to the fact that women are a bit more comfortable expressing their emotions-maybe I don’t know. I will say that women have a tendency to be a bit more bold and brutally honest.
SAG: Are there any favorites you have – whether they were on tonight’s show or not?
Christine: After over five years we’ve had some amazing stories and storytellers. I absolutely have a few favorites. But if I have to choose, anything Taylor Negron has read, has to be my favorite. Although he is also a very successful actor, writer and stand-up, he is the epitome of the storyteller. Every piece he reads is hilarious, heartfelt, fascinating and brilliant and then to top it off, his actual reading of any of his essays is beyond compare brilliant. He does shows both here and in New York.
PERSONAL ODDS & ENDS:
Sending my best wishes for speedy recovery to my friend Jerry Lewis.
Get well soon, Jerry!
In spite of it all, I still love and admire you and your incredible body of work. Sag/x
MY TWEETS OF THE WEEK:
“I try and give people an even break. But, when that doesn’t work, a good hairline fracture can go a long way.”
“Horror is the opposite of Comedy…Just look at Carrot Top!”
“24 Hour Fitness is a rip-off. Don’t know about you, but I’m only able to work-out maybe 2 hours at a stretch.”
June 7, 2012 | 11:52 am
Posted by Steven Alan Green
Little Ukraine, a burgeoning formerly derelict section of Los Angeles, Melrose Avenue just west of LACC, is fast becoming Hollywood’s Comedy Gulag; forcing Angelino audiences into laughter camps against their will. With the newer-ly-minted “Vlad the Retailer,” exposing sexy leg just down the street (and on this night, holding a fundraiser for ailing stand-up, the much revered Rick Shapiro), The Fake Gallery has been standing out as the epitome of creative spaces for free-thinking comedians and story-tellers for 11 years. Along with the usual sorts of fringy arty-types you’d expect to find inhabiting a big open spaced “fake-art” gallery venue, are the “real, but written” characters, one would expect to find in a Colin MacInnes novel. Fake Gallery creator and owner Paul Koslowsky (himself an hilarious former San Francisco stand-up comedian) mills in the back like one of those “real scientists” Speilberg used in the Devil’s Tower sequences in Close Encounters. All but very briefly featured in David Seltzer’s 1988 film about stand-up comedians, Koslowsky remains a true comedy pioneer. “Punchline” starred Tom Hanks as a deranged comedian and surgeon (is there any other kind?...I mean surgeon) opposite Sally “You Really LOVE ME” Fields as John Goodman’s oppressed housewife; who secretly sneaks out from under her iron-apron of suburbia, daring to do what her husband won’t give her permission to do: Open her mouth in front of strangers. Ironically, that’s what we saw tonight. Self-oppressed artists attempting to free themselves. Koslowsky’s real “don’t blink/you’ll miss it” screen-time comedic impression of “drinking like a fish” will never be erased from my mind. Trust me. I’ve tried. And in the same vein, seeing Dylan Brody’s show, “Thinking Allowed” at the Fake is just like fish-drinking. Incredibly funny and over all too soon. (Much like my wedding night. Another blog, another time.)
Former stand-up comedian turned “Humorist” (as well as producer of tonight’s show) Dylan Brody (according to his own website) is “one of America’s fastest rising storytellers”…. Now, I’m not exactly sure what genre is a “rising storyteller” (I’ll Google it later) but I can tell you this with complete unabashed moral authority, Dylan is not fast. No, Dylan is your “Word Sommelier,” who very cautiously pours out his maple syrup phrases and blueberry ideas onto his own six-grain “pancakes of embarrassment,” which is, after all, what The Fake is serving hot tonight and throughout the night: Embarrassment by proxy. And that is exactly what the LA Storytelling Scene seems to have gloriously become. Surely an outgrowth of 12 Step meetings, “flawed-confessions with a twist,” if you will, only without the industry connection.
Brody is all that, and more. He is in fact the Phineas Taylor Barnum of modern angst-personae story-telling, displaying immense emotional gymnastics, flying with the greatest of ease between a cringe-worthy story of defiance involving his dog pooping on a neighbor’s lawn, to his flying trapeze worshiping introductions of “tonight’s next guest…I’m so lucky and blessed…” That’s right, Brody will recount an awkward and hilarious story for you, then, when he’s done, he will awkwardly overly-fawn over his next guest, as if Brody were Merv and we were all his righteous hipsters. He’s really quite a cultural cocktail to be sipped and savored. At some point, I began to feel as if I were not in the audience, but sitting on a panel at a seminary, only to be sideswiped by one of Brody’s completely unexpected nuclear lines. I’m telling you, this man is a genius and here’s, if not proof, then strong indication: “I wouldn’t object to prayer in our schools as long as we can also require algebra in your churches.”
Dylan Brody’s gift seems to be his accidentally living life as a wit-armed Forrest Gump, followed immediately by his gracing the stage like a reporting WWII field general, recounting each and every gory detail of his overly-insecure and assumptive little losing war with himself. He’s a frenetic lip-dangling imaginary cigarette smoking testifying coroner. Dylan’s secret is this: You have to pay attention to what he’s saying because, like all great public speakers, he’s paying attention to what you’re paying attention to.
Joining Dylan for this wonderfully surprising evening were Alex Stein, who carried us through a complex trivial adventure having to do with David Bowie’s original band, The Spiders from Mars, although he missed one ironic layer: the character Ziggy was not only fictional, but the center piece of Bowie’s narrative. The patina of which Stein applies his take on his own take of his own take, is simply delicious stuff, even if he seemed to end up circling his own comedic drain. Bob Dubac, whose amazingly hilarious thought-provoking interwoven story of losing his memory after being crowned in the head with a golf club, reminded us all of one very true thing: Messer Dubac obviously thinks way too much, which ironically gives the golf club the upper hand in moral authority and that’s why we love him so much: Dubac is completely fearless. The fabulously cute and dangerously smart SNL legend Loraine Newman, whose personal fallen angel story, not only broke your heart, but baked you a fresh new one then and there, is what can only be described as pure Americana Gothic. Newman is not just comedy history, but indeed living-art. And finally, the great Paul Dooley, veteran Robert Altman acting troupe member (and one of the stars of the great bicycle movie, “Breaking Away”) took us on a tale of Midwestern “Fargo” proportions, all centered on the magical appearance of a severed foot in the middle of the Minnesotan winter, including the required supply of bumbling “Svens” conjecturing over steaming coffee.
The theme of the evening (if there was an intentional one) seemed to be survival. Survival of the fittest and of the footest. Learning how to seize those moments of meteoric awkwardness and then to twist them into something really special and worthwhile: a great story told by great story-tellers to raptured listeners. Whether it’s a bad night in the Gulag or a good night of live comedic story-telling, survival is inevitably granted to its funniest participants. I give “Thinking Allowed” 7 out of 8 Menorah Candles UP!
SAG: Dylan, In your humblest estimation, who was the greatest Jewish comedian of the last 50 years, and why?
DYLAN: I’d have to put Garry Shandling at the top of this list, I think. Sure – Groucho Marx’s career might have lingered into the past fifty years and that would put him in that slot but he’s not really “a comedian of the last 50 years” as I think it’s intended in this context. Shandling brought an authentic, conversational tone to the craft that made him a revelation from the first time I saw him.
SAG: Do you eat pork?
DYLAN: I do eat pork. I don’t keep kosher in any way. While I am a Jew by history and think of myself as generally, culturally Jewish, I do not practice at all. I am, in fact an atheist. I am so thoroughly an atheist that when people tell me they believe in God, I don’t entirely believe them.
SAG: What was your greatest comedic defeat?
DYLAN: In 1987 (I think) I had a bit part in a film called Rented Lips. A great many people involved in the film were people I wished to impress. It was written by and starred Martin Mull, with Dick Shawn, James Coco (who died before shooting was finished and was replaced with Kenneth Mars), Robert Downey Jr. (Downey Sr. directed), Shelley Berman, Pat McCormick, June Lockhart . . . just an extraordinary group of people for a twenty-three year-old me to find himself spending time with. Mull decided that the wrap party would include a talent show, an opportunity for the comics in the cast to perform, for dancers in the cast to show what they do and so on. Because of the ruckus nature of Hollywood parties, nobody listened and I went down in flames. Then the microphone was turned off and the music was turned back on. The next morning on the set, Martin Mull uncharacteristically came over to me and said, “Back from the worldwide public humiliation tour?” He grinned at me and I hated myself.
SAG: Too Jewish.