Firstly, my sincere apologies for the delay in getting this review of Nato Green out so late. It’s been a perfect storm of living and moving personal chaos in my life, seeing other shows for review, working as a stand-up and writer, having a good time in the various great bars here in SF, and a genuine desire in delaying reviewing anyone else named Green. Last week, I did a comedy gig in Oakland at the Pan Theatre. Produced by a very nice comedian up here, and someone I reviewed months ago and really loved. Samson Koletar. Before the gig, Samsom brought a man backstage, a horticulturalist at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens. The man was a comedy fan, and wanted to meet me and one other comedian on the bill. I thought it must be a mistake, but played along anyway. In the natural course of conversation, the guy asks me why I never did the 305 mile bicycle run from LA to Vegas for The Laughter Foundation. This was a giveaway. As hard as it was for me to believe, here was a genuine fan of Steven Alan Green! I thanked him and explained that we couldn't get the star name commitment for a show IN Vegas and therefore didn't have production money. He then pulled from a little plastic baggie, a little black leather-bound autograph book. He asked me to sign and gave me a full page. I was stumped. What do I do? So, I asked his name again (which was embarrassing) and then started to write something like, "To _____, You are the funniest horticulturist, etc., etc." And, no, I wasn't going to go the easy way out by stealth quoting Dorothy Parker, who, when challenged to use the word, "horticulture" in a sentence, said: "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." So, in general, my problems are seemingly solving themselves for me, with a little help, some luck and help from those invisible earthbound angels known as friends and clients needing my writing services.
So, I had to cancel the April 1 show at The Castro. This was going to be a benefit for The Laughter Foundation and specifically, COMEC: The Comedy Museum Exploratory Committee. We had some good names attached, but none big enough to add up to a sell-out. And, when that happens, the money is just not there to produce. However, Barry Katzmann (who runs Comedy Day here in San Francisco) has graciously offered to co-produce it with me in conjunction with Comedy Day mid-September. In the meantime, I get restless, ya’ know? My writing agenda is super-busy these days, what with two new writing contracts (one editing a book, the other writing someone else’s stand-up act), my working on the TV show pilot, writing my new novel, reviewing and performing shows), and yet; I kinda miss the bigger idea. So, here’s the latest plan. I am in very very early stages of producing a series of shows at a well known (but slightly smaller than the Castro) venue here in San Francisco. Four shows instead of one, and the selling point is that these shows will A) Display various aspects, genres and histories of stand-up comedy and B) All four shows will be produced by four independent producers. Me and my partners will provide the venue, the financing, advertising, publicity and let you (the comedian/producer) roll with it. Great comedians and comedy show themes and it's all under wraps; so don't bug me.
My personal big news is that I have just signed with a great voice-over agent. Stars is the biggest and the best in San Francisco. This is good news for me because I made carloads of cash in the UK doing voice-overs. But, for a variety of stupid reasons, it took me a long time to find an agent up here. But, a little persistence and it paid off. I was hesitant in telling this story because I don't want anyone to think I'll just write about them if they piss me off. It doesn't work that way anyway. No matter what I think someone has done to me, writing about them (as I have done once or twice with Jerry Lewis...have you noticed?) seems to often leave a bad stench in the mouths of the readers. I don't want to do that. However, I can't hold back this time. So, here's the story.....
I had contacted a voice-agent here in SF about a year ago when I was still in LA. Initially this agent was very nice and sounded enthused. She suggested I send up a CD of my voice-samples, which I thought was a bit antiquated, considering most voice agents these days use email and MP3 files. Nonetheless, I sent a CD of my voice samples, which included work from the BBC, Comedy Central UK, British Airways, etc. I called her a few months later and she told me she lost the CD and asked me to send a second one. I thought, of course! But, when Dave Sirus decided to film a bit of his mockumentary Archie Black (whereby I play the world's worst and most obnoxious comedian) up here in San Francisco, I brought the voice CD with me as we drove up. So, on the 3rd or 4th day I was in SF, I walk up to the voice-agency. I tell reception I am here to see the agent. The agent comes out, I formally introduce myself and hand her the CD. She thanks me, I thank her and leave. Then....nothing. I didn't hear a drip from her for nearly 5 weeks. I thought, time to follow-up. Which I hate doing in these circumstances, because the outcomes are never good. But, I did anyway. The few times I actually got the agent on the phone, she told me she hadn't listened to it yet, but would. I thought, okay, fair enough. But, then weeks stretched into months and, in the mean time, I had developed a phone friendship with someone else in the agency. The agent's assistant. The assistant was always very nice and professional and even complimented me on my phone voice. The assistant seemed to believe in me, as well as know something about this agent I didn't, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I knew the agent didn't come into the office more than 3 days a week, which was odd, but I was in no position to judge that as even relevant. After several attempts over as many weeks, I finally asked the assistant to listen to the CD himself and if he liked what I had to offer, to please pass along to his boss and if he didn't, I would simply go away, no harm, no foul. He agreed and within an hour, got back to me, told me he was definitely going to try and get it under the agent's nose. This went on for another few weeks. Finally, I called again and this time got the agent, who was just sounding like it wasn't a good day at all; and apparently, I was about to make it worse. I asked the agent what she thought of my voice CD. Very dismissively, she said, "Well, I listened to one track....." Yeah, yeah, I thought....and....? There was a long pause then she said, "It doesn't even have a label on it! I'm not interested." No, "Well, thanks for submitting to us, you are very talented, but unfortunately, we have someone just like you, so please check back in six months!" No. Just a real nasty unenthused crap bullshit answer. I thanked her anyway, thought to myself, "Well, her loss..." But, I wasn't done; oh no; not by a longshot. I know what I'm about to tell you is cringe-worthy to say the least. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes right now, reading this; so kids, close your eyes, here goes... I called the agency one more time and spoke with the assistant. I thanked him for all he tried to do and said if he ever went on his own as an agent, I would be honored to be represented by him. He was equally gracious, polite and professional, as he has always been. I then said to him, "You don't know who I am, do you?"
He froze. You could feel it by hearing the dead silence. I told him I write a very popular blog for The Jewish Journal online, reviewing live comedy, with a little bit of my personal travelogue in there for good messure. Furthermore, it wasn't the rejection that appalled me. It was the way the agent handled it. Forget leading me on for months and months on end. I'm loyal, that's my choice. I won't "shop" myself around. If someone is interested, I will wait until they say yay or nay. And, people change their minds all the time; this is the business we've chosen. However; as in everything in life, you gotta be nice. You don't dismiss a voice-actor with the talent and credentials I have with, "There was no label on the CD, therefore the answer is no." And, the reason there wasn't a label was that I couldn't afford to fork out the couple of hundred to get them professionally pressed, because I've been outta work! I mean, duh!! I just wrote my name, phone number and email on the CD. I'm not a graphic artist; I'm a voice-over actor. I informed the assistant that this is exactly the kind of thing I would write about in my blog. The cold rudeness and blatant stupidity of some people in the business. Well, he broke down and gave me the skinny. That he too hated the agent, thought she was unprofessional and rude to everyone (including him) and he was leaving the agency and told me to hang tough. Which I did. He knew some other agent who might be interested. Cutting to the chase........ I am very proud to say I am now signed by the finest voice-agency in San Francisco and perhaps the world (!) because they have Steven Alan Green! Thank you, K.G. Thank you. If anyone needs me for voice work, please contact Nate at Stars. I like happy beginnings.......
So, without any further ado, here, alas, is my review of comedian Nato Green at The Punchline comedy club, followed by my reviews of Solo Sundays in The Mission....
NATO GREEN @ THE PUNCHLINE with Jessie Elias and Jason Wheeler - San Francisco -12/20/12
The Punchline is one of the two main “real” comedy clubs in San Francisco; the other being Cobb’s Comedy Club, both of which are now booked and run by Live Nation; the aforementioned behemoth live booking and producing company simply the renamed Clear Channel. This is a huge departure from the natural order of things. San Francisco, like most of the great comedy scenes, had and have their time. And, there’s still time left. The Punchline, Cobbs, The Holy City Zoo, The Other Cafe, The Boarding House and The Purple Onion, were the basics where the The Big Bang of Comedy took place around the turn of the 80’s. Notice I didn’t say, “The San Francisco Big Bang of Comedy.” No. Because, I’m sure there would be many who feel that “Comedy” (the modern day stand-up boom) started in Boston, or Chicago or New York or LA, etc., etc. But, I bet my very limited knowledge under my instinct that it really started in here in my new hometown of San Francisco. The Punchline was owned by legendary rock n' roll macher, the late Bill Graham, and during the 80’s it was dominated by the producers of the San Francisco Stand-Up Comedy Competition, Anne and Jon Fox. The night I went to review Nato Green, the Punchline had too clinically a corporate or tourista feel to it; kinda like when the Hard Rock Café went national. There are nearly 50 photo portraits of culturally notable comedians covering two of the main walls of the club, done by the Bay Area's own, Dan Dion; while the green room contains about ten shots by Yoni Mayeri from the Eighties, all of which made me feel like I was entering a hallowed comedy club which was truly one of its kind. But, in a way it was like visiting the Washington Monument. George was no longer home. The three quarters full comedy night (a Thursday) displayed customers dining on big fluffy deserts, the extreme American version of Brits downing pints of beer before and during a show. Judge Judy dramatic prerecorded music pipes up outta nowhere, the lights go down and then the perfunctory, “No cameras, cell phones, etc., during the performance” announcement and we’re off for an evening of live comedy at one of America’s best known automated comedy venues. Welcome to Disneyland. Oh, but what’s this? Another bit of evidence, that I’m right. That like video killed the radio star, the absence of a professional emcee killed the comedy clubs.
“Host” comedian Jessie Elias, who looks like a downtrodden version of actor Jessie Eisenberg by way of proto-generation SF comedian Steve Kravitz, creepingly hits the stage with both his feet and his eyes. I’m not exaggerating. Elias never once looked up at the audience. Instead, his nerdy demeanor required the commitment of staring at his shoes the entire time, as if he’s being harshly disciplined. I tried staring at his shoes too, but lost interest after the first row of lace holes. “Charging people to cross a bridge is medieval. Give us 3 riddles to pass!” set the tone of starting off with a non-sequitur, which is like ending with the beginning. Okay, this guy is not doing an act. This is his brain. This is his brain on insert drug joke here. I like this guy until he suggests to “the guys” in the audience that since it’s too awkward to meet girls, your best option is “hitting her with your car; then you have to exchange information.” Clever, but you get the feeling that were he not a comedian, he really would do that; and worse, thought of doing it anyway. You just have to remember, he's a comedian whose awkward presentation is the filter by which to discount taking what he says too seriously. “Every 20 years, the population doubles, so if a cataclysm hits, we’d be back in the nineties” was a postulation I didn’t quite get; until his punch line of primrose positivity, “….the 90’s has better flavors”. I don’t even know if that’s true, but that’s not the point. Like all interesting and original comedians, Elias is training us, the audience, on the illogic in his own mind, ‘cause that’s where all the information gets filtered, rejected and processed. Continuing the weird food template and analogy, he advises us not to cut hard-boiled eggs lengthwise, “…’cause then you end up with a toilet bowl with pee.” Every word dripping out of his mouth; the ideas drooled onto his shoes. Finally acknowledging his presentational weirdness, Jessie admits to us and admonishes his dad by explaining the papis fermentice wanted him to make more eye contact with people…. “I showed him!” Wowzie. Who wins in that scenario? Not him. Not his dad and maybe us, the passersby forced not to flee the scene of the accident. Finally getting into Steven Wright-on world, he points out the probability that, “every time you see a homeless person sleeping in a box, that means there’s an appliance sleeping in a house.” The funniest stand-out of his comedy jaunt was recounting in trivial detail putting his name and birthday on a Coldstone ice cream email list and dredges us through a year’s long Draconian recount of getting constant unwanted updates about ice cream. This was hilariously funny because it spoke to the trickery of corporate consumerism; one that all of us, no matter how rustic and authentic of a left turn we think we took; always ends up sticking us statistically in the arse. He reminds me of Bobcat Goldthwait in his oft pained barely visible personae and bark. Whilst informing us he took acid in college, listened to Rossini and went on a little too long about the price of nachos at 711. Anecdotally visiting the Oakland Zoo, Elias makes an interesting tourista insight; that because Oakland, like San Francisco, has its own airport, football team and aforementioned zone of caged wild beasts, it’s analogous to the Soviet Arms race. I didn’t quite get all of Jessie Elias’ jokes, but no matter; the audience seemed to and, most imperviously, so did he, which may explain why all the shoe-staring. He was probably hiding a grin.
Then, Jessie reveals to us he’s the emcee for the night, the host and awkwardly reminds himself and us that he’s not really suited for the job; thus getting a joke out of it. Ha bloody ha. For my money, that’s the like cockpit door opening, the pilot coming out an announcing he’s not really a trained pilot, he’s a reenactor . This is not to blame Jessie in any way. He's just doing a hard and difficult job the best he can. But, come one, folks. Uhh….where do I begin. Look. I don’t want to detract from this review too much right now; but rest assured, in the coming months, I will write extensively about how important a good emcee is in producing a good comedy show, to the comedians and to the audience. David Letterman was one of the house emcees at The Comedy Store back in the day. He didn’t just learn to be a host on the air. Richard Belzer at Catch in New York and the list goes on. A good emcee is essential; a great emcee is a great show. It's a different skill set than stand-up. Okay, so, back to the review...
Jason Wheeler was a little more on my track, both in traditional modern man style and in perfunct delivery. “I’m like the dumb in a smart sandwich” is one of those interesting openers that belies itself, if by nothing more than, thinking if he’s smart enough to know that, then why does he think he’s dumb? “The San Francisco weather is unpredictable and seeing a rainbow in the sky might indicate the Castro exploded,” sounds out of place in this non-homophobic era and kinda smells like a joke he’s either been telling for a long time or has been waiting to. But if you’re paying attention, and add up the “dumb sandwich” joke with the rainbow one, you might find a brilliant comedy mathematician, who wants you to hate him. Jason knows this and proves he knows it by following through with audience admonishment, “Don’t groan; it’s just gonna get worse!” Which it didn’t. In fact, it got better. This mid-forties comedy time-traveler recently went back to school to finish his degree, which, according to him, was the dumbest thing he ever did. Hanging out with 18-year old “kids filled with hopes and dreams” made him feel filled with “angst and vodka.” (Now, he’s talking my language.) A tear on the newly corporately sold out James Bond, who now drinks Heinekens (“I’ll have a bottle, not in a can”), Wheeler’s double-Oh wears a track suit with chains, his pen releases Axe body spray. “I’m the Bond man” is the perfect keyhole in culture clash and Wheeler does it not only without a whiff of shame of knowing too much, but indeed with pride of disassembly. Something about predicting Tebow getting dropped by the Jets all because, as a good Christian, he won’t have sex with women, thus engendering blue balls went way over my metaphorical head. Growing up Catholic, he learned to read; and offered the safety travel tip that if you read The Bible on BART, nobody will fuck with you; which opens up a brilliant insight of how acceptingly gullible we are to accept that Eden had a talking snake, but serious Christonians will argue to the death about whether it was an apple or a pomegranate, which ingeniously nullifies the talking snake argument. His snap comparative between “homosexuality” and religion goes to where we’ve all been before in our heads, “on my knees, in front of a man in a dress, my mouth is open and he’s putting something in my mouth, saying, ‘This is my body,’” does make an important point about submissiveness, which segues right into rednecks harassing a gay guy, threatening him with his own temptations. “How’d you like it if I fucked you in the ass; you’d LOVE that, wouldn’t you, you faggot!” Beyond Jason Wheeler’s material is his delivery; and beyond his delivery is authenticity. Not in a long time, have I seen a comedian as committed as he and it’s a good thing, because at the end of the day, what makes really good comedy is authenticity and funnyman Wheeler is beyond the real thing. He’s one of us. I like him. More please.
Closing out the evening was our headliner, Nato Green. This comedian and writer on "Totally Biased with Kamau W. Bell" show on FX, this American Jew, opens us with a stance on mental health, guns and white men; which struck me as “finally, someone with something topical to say”, but then he pandered; or seemed to. “White guys should be regulated” following by, his real point: Supporting the right to bear arms for women. Building a case for the Second Amendment, Green references a militia in case we’re invaded; our “thoughts” are with the people. “We don’t pray; we think” kinda lost me, as I was too busy thinking. With a name like Nato, you’ve got to Google him and (as he points out) he does give the green light in Syria. People saying “Merry Christmas” are somehow being unintentionally anti-semetic, speaks to his own Jewishness. Not a fan of ballet (why? Did it come up?); for him, The Nutcracker is a girl meets Col. Sanders, he gives her mescaline and hallucinates for a half-hour is the same kind of culture-classing we’ve accustomed to, whereby a non-informant is not only the outsider, but the wiser. In Nato's case, it seems to sum him up. Being first a Jew in California, then New York, Nato explicates the secret code for politely guessing someone is a Jew, “I think you’re from New York” unintentionally harking back Lenny Bruce’s string theory that if you live in New York, you're a Jew. (Because he lived in NY, even "Cardinal O’Conner is a Jew” was Lenny.) Other Nato Green "Jew?" codings include, “You sound like Seinfeld”, “I bet you know a lot about cheese cake” and “pain”. Nato goes back to First Person again: “Whereas in New York, there are Hasids and [he] might as well be 'Hamas with bacon wrapped around [him]'. Covering more ground than Raymond Burr on the beach at sundown, Nato went prolifically everywhere. If there is a comedian who keeps up with the times, it seems to be Nato.
“Ever since having kids, anytime someone acts like a total asshole, I think they need a nap….such as Rush Limbaugh” reminds us that even though Nato’s a revolutionary, he’s first and foremost a family man. A little routine about waking up with an erection and hearing his kids outside the room was TMI foh show. But, being grateful the order of events wasn’t reversed was a place he didn’t have to take us. But, he did. SF skyrocketing housing prices, Haight Ashbury Freak jokes not working in Oregon, naked men in the Castro and “banning assholes in the Marina” were all spot-on local San Francisco referenced comedy material, and like Saddam Hussein, expertly written, neatly laid out and perfectly executed. Grabbing the wheel of his own getaway vehicle, we are now suddenly in the Middle East, where Jews are best at arguing. “We argue in my family to stay limber.” Green exposes it’s okay to hate the Israeli Military, and that’s not a prejudice. “Like I don’t like the comptroller.” Closing his Middle East section with commentary on Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israell, “You don’t need someone to recognize your right to exist if you exist,” makes an excellent existential point across all borders. Before the evening was over, Nato would cover the national election, the Republican’s hatred for Obama, the 3-Strikes law here in California, Gay Marriage, Activists Judges, the Fiscal Cliff, a brief drive-by on the Holocaust and yes, like all good Jews, Nato Green closes his set with a great psychological set-piece on eating and guilt. But, before he grabs his coat, Nato Green takes one final swipe at “people in the Heartland worried about losing America”, leaving this reviewer very interested in hearing what he has next to say and I guess one of the best ways of doing that (other than seeing him live) is to watch Totally Biased with Kamu Bell, for which Nato is one of their hottest & smartest writers.
As I left the Punchline, I was pleasantly greeted by the doormen and went to say hello to Nato, who was way too busy signing and selling CD’s. I introduced myself to him. He knew I was coming. Let me put it this way. Maybe he had a lot on his mind. After all, he just got off stage after a great show and was dealing with his public. Or maybe, just maybe, he was way too preoccupied with it being the eve of the scheduled Mayan Apocolypse; something, by the way, nobody on this mixed style comedy show even bothered to mention. Maybe, they didn’t have to. After all, the great Punchline is now run by a corporate giant. For some, already, that is the end of the world.
I give Nato Green, Jessie Elias and Jason Wheeler @ The Punchline Dec 20, 2012, 7 our of 8 menorahs.
Get a flippin' emcee who knows what he’s doing and let the stand-ups be stand-ups!!
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green
SOLO SUNDAYS @ STAGE WERX starring Maria Affinito & Sara Felder - 1/20/13
Producer & Publicist Bruch Pachtman (the other half of the production team along with Ty McKenzie, the artistic director of Stage Werx in the Mission) is simply a man who cares way damn too much. Bruce is one of those guys who literally seems to know it all, everything having to do with solo performance; how it’s done, what it means, how to do it, how to promote it, when it’s good, when it’s not. But, what is “Solo Performance” so you say? Is it stand-up without the jokes? Is it self-mutilating public flagellation? Is it a stone-stepping to greater things? Is it…ahem…a chance for the solo artist to open their emotional veins and let flow the wonder of their lives, their experiences (and pain) and how they view them now? Well, I don’t know, and more importantly, I don’t care. What I do care about is that there is A) such a thing as Solo Performance, B) That (masturbation jokes aside) it’s a fascinating performance genre and C) that someone like Bruce has taken up the mantel of The PT Barnum by way of Moses with a smartphone of said aforementioned performance art-form. In short, Bruce Pachtman makes one of the most difficult performance disciplines out there, fun. Or at least seem that way, to us, the all important audience.
“Welcome to Solo Sundays!”, proclaims Sir Bruce, the audience in his kingdom answering with unison public square cheers. Pachtman goes onto explain that Solo Sundays have been around for 4 years, not unlike a proud father talking of his kid playing third base. He also announced that, as of this year, Solo Sundays would also be included in SketchFest, a big deal up here in the Bay Area. (Since when did “Area” mean city or surrounding cities? Sounds like a rug. I hate it. Get rid of it.) So, without any ado (because you can’t say, “further ado” if there already hasn’t been at least some ado), please welcome the first half of our evening of Solo Performance, Maria Affinito. Oh, and I should point out at this very awkward and inopportune time, that Bruce wanted me to stress that, “these are workshops”, meaning not the final product. Hey, Bruce. What isn’t? I’m in my mid-fifties and still working on my vapid personality.
At 5 foot 4, 120 something pounds, this blue eyed, auburn curly haired steam-driven dynamo immediately grabs you by the short hairs, pulling you face-to-face into her crazy scene (man) with a mad (the English “mad”, meaning crazy to the point of functionally eccentric) and histrionicly loud attention-grabbing Italian mother, as if you were watching Neopolitain Twilight Zone cartoons; Maria has that much power in her tiny pretty little Italian hand. Hailing from a small town in Napoli, her mother doesn’t seem to know the difference (full stop) and in any case, doesn’t seem to mind, in the customs and obligations of mother-henning her daughter olde world style, virtually pimping her out to anyone and everyone in the local modern village of Redwood City, California. Which of course, embarrasses Maria once again, establishing who is really the adult/parent in this family scenario, which would certainly be a very intense afternoon over at Sigmond Freud’s therapy office & acting class. Even as they get back to the car to download the groceries; after her mother unsuccessfully tried to find a husband in the market (literally and figuratively) for her daughter, who was not in the market (figuratively or literally), her mother metaphorically rummages through random rubbish looking for cans. A can, a man, what's the difference. Mismatched clothing and diabetic pills left on the nightstand would be a black and white police APB of little Maria’s mum. Instead, she chews on a clove of garlic as if it were Wriggly’s, not even hearing her daughter scream and admonish her against, “….trying to sell [me] at Safeway!” It only gets louder. Poor Maria. No wonder she became an actress. It was either that or join the mob.
We are literally dredged through each cringe-worthy World War I-like attack from the trenches, as her mother shows up (I assume invited) to see her play Viola in Bill’s Twelfth Night, shouting on cue, an unwritten part from the gods, “That’s my daughter!”, as if her mother’s index finger had a powerful spotlight of shame on its tip, illuminating her red-faced turning daughter into a scarlet letter. In the play, of course (as if I know…), her character has a twin brother and they keep missing each other, prompting Heckling Mom to once again pitch in a slider, “You brother! He no dead!” (I can’t imagine what this is like, though I have done stand-up with my dad in the audience prompting me, but it actually saved my ass that night. Another story, another time. But, my mother would make crinkling noises in the audinece too.) And, then to make it a perfect evening of intensely awkward parental artistic bonding, her mother meets and tells the director, “You ah-need to-ah shave.” Then Maria does something stand-up comedians cannot do, but good actors can. She jumps out of character and tells us, the audience directly, “You laugh, but this is my mother.” It was at this point I totally got lost in the magical powers of Maria Affinito. I can almost buy an actor playing a character other than themselves and momentarily lowering the mask and talking with us. How magical that can be. We are immediately sucked not just backstage, but through the actor’s ears and into his/her head. I’ve been there; seen it done. But, it’s rare and even if an actor does it, it’s already written into the character. But, for an actor to first come on stage in the character of themselves, explicating their biggest awkward lifelong fears (that of their mother giving birth to them but never letting them live their own lives) and then, after that, break a forth wall which was never there in the first place and address us as if we were hiding in the backseat the whole time, is, well, stunning. What tightroped dexterity. Such displayed skill. But, then in a zap and she’s back into her Embarrassing Crazy Mother World, and this time, we’re now in the front seat.
Inexplicably, like Bill and Ted, the pair, daughter and mother, separated by a generation and not unlike the two brothers in Twelfth Night, are now in Rome together. Romulus and Remus meets The Last Detail. Maria explains to us, the audience (her new best friend) over and over her dilemma (and not as if we can solve it, and she knows that) and that dilemma is that she loves her mother anyway. That’s the dilemma. She cares for her without feeling sorry for her and yet somehow invisibly enjoys her mother’s company. The only mother she’s ever known is, after all, a mystery to her. How could this be my mother is the kind of question that most likely forged Maria’s strongly defined personal character, with perhaps a tinge too much to deal with pre-emptive bottled up anger. (A fine emotional vintage, this writer and comedian is well stocked up on in my own cellar.) I mean, this is the definitive definition of love. Folks, we forget we live in a world of, “are my thighs too fat?” and “if I comb my hair over my bald spot…”, thinking loneliness will be that sorrowful little puppy we can’t lose, but let’s not forget what true love actually is. Maria reminds us in her love-hate affair with her mother. Nothing reverse Oedipalian about it at all. I’m not saying that. I’m talking about Butch Cassidy still trusting in The Sundance Kid, even though he can’t swim.
Cut to: Rome clothing boutique…..
Rome, of course, is very beautiful. And to share natural and manmade beauty with your mother is nothing less than a poetic and brave thing. But, it’s also insane. And, this is what Maria is ultimately fighting for within herself: How insane must she be to love someone insane? (a showbiz metaphor?) And, of course, as usual in her life, psychodramatic real life scenarios await in the shadows with baited breath and drippy axes. An incredibly imperiously snobby boutique owner literally slams the door on her mother’s face. Seeing there are other customers in there, then panning to her mother’s mismatched fashion choice and missing teeth and her heart sinks and stays there laying helpless on the bottom of the sea of self-hatred; Maria forever regretting not telling the store owner off. Oh, I see, Maria. Only YOU can admonish the crazed escaped circus hobo, eh? Okay, you have your standards; and to be fair, it’s always easier to see others behaving like assholes than ourselves. (I’m the exception. I only see others as seeing me act as an asshole.) Her mother calls her horrible nicknames in Italian. Flashing back to 5th grade, her friend coaches her on how to fight; after all, her boyfriend Juan, can’t do shit. Cut to afterschool with the bully-supporting crowd shouting, “Punch her!” and “Strip her!”; but little Maria bites her opponent on the thigh like a good Mexican wrestler or hungry alligator. The next day, the bully limps, still hurling threats, although this time, less meaningful, less, ahem, bite.
Back in Italy…..
A 3-hour countryside train ride with her mother and all Maria can do is stare out the nostril-fogged window, continuing to beat herself up for not beating up the snobby boutique lady. Why does this bother Maria so much is the real question. One would think there would be a gracious transference; the abusive boutique owner playing the role Maria herself could never play; and that was closing the glass door on her mother’s embarrassing face. All of sudden they arrive at the small Italian village, a visage across the tracks is her mother’s childhood friend and they immediately share, “generations of secrets and profound loyalty,” the literal passport to enter, or re-enter the old world. Lila scrubbing underwear, her olive-like skin and pink soap are purely whistful and not at all expectedly lesbionic. Being quizzed by Gina what she cooks, sends Maria back to jumping rope and yet another horrible emotional verbal punch-up with her mother, this time involving the biggest symbol of Italian solidarity, spaghetti. Wandering through this non-material world, Maria is once again the victim of “bitches” who she revenges by picking up the piano and singing the most beautiful, haunting and transcendent song, Con Te Partiro, which instantly changes the molecular structure of the evening into smoothness, peace and harmony. Never to leave a good moment unchallenged, Mom attempts to follow her opening daughter with a poem for the groom, but ah-no ah-one lissens. And, just when you start to lose patience with both cringe-mom and overly-tolerant-daughter, Lila drops a bomb. Maria’s mom, was “raped by soldiers like Sophia Loren in the movies”. Her father would have her way anytime he wanted to with her mother. When she was 11, she was kidnapped. Never the same, Maria finally mea culpa's: “Too much suffering for one lifetime”, and, “as a teenager, I didn’t make it much better.” Folks, there’s lots of yelling in this show; and you’d expect there to be; that is, if you’d expect an authentic tale told with emotional acuity (quote alert), which is what you get. Maria Affinito is Carol Kane cute and as deeply talented. The type of talent which cannot be, and never is, learned in an acting class. Maria’s been both actress, director and anti-heroine her whole damned life. Her tears are ours; and we should be grateful and welcome them. After all, it is the sherpa guide who ventures up to the highest peak, reaches down to us, saying, “It’s okay; gimme your hand.” That’s Maria. Her mom? Probably waiting on the peak, teeth missing, mismatched clothes and nothing but an avalanche of love and embarrassment for the entire unsuspecting village below, as she yells, "Once you-ah make-ah yor way outta the snow, my daughter needs a husband!"
Bruce returns, taunting us with a secret weapon. Chocolate. Explaining that he would like our email addresses, he promises some very nice bits of chocolate for whomever has the clearest scrawl of the night. This is the kind of blood-thirsty showbiz tactics we want to see more of! And, now, Act Two of Solo Sundays at Stage Werx...
Clown nose, white umbrella and Confederate hat (as you do), Sara Felder marches into our view, with a “Ba-Dum-Dum” non-verbal, but audience participatory greeting, like the toy soldier replicant in Blade Runner. Enlightened to find a table of little plastic army men, Sara pantomimes war with herself, adding a second hat to the hat she’s already wearing and a red scarf indicating blood and foreshadowing an impromptu funeral in a potted plant for one of her soldiers, as rain SFX began. Then, she speaks. Tells us how it rained for weeks in Berkeley, literally “sheeting rain”, and then pulls back, informing us she doesn’t mind the rain, especially on the bus going to campus. The mixed cultural world of the bus foments a friendship with a female history major who likes Abe Lincoln, whom Sara dresses as during Halloween and Purim. Looking like Margaret Hamilton after a long weekend with the high school football team, Felder decides to write her senior thesis on Lincoln, removing a souvenier quill from the actual Lincoln Memorial. A dedicated deconstructionist of the Addams Family, Sarah is encouraged when her new found bus friend promises to one day take her sky-diving. Inviting her for Chinese, Felder learns that “deconstructing means taking your clothes off”; spurring an affair, which is contropuntally underscored with Camptown Ladies playing over the PA, and Felder, acknowledges us, the audience, and this entire silly scenario with, “I hope I meet your expectations; I know I met your price range.”
In the world according to Felder, there is plenty of Lincoln humor, and explicates the ancient Greek template for the four different body humors with as many chairs and varied coloured juggling balls, Klesmer music, juggling and the news that Lincoln was a funny guy, who loved humour, bodily or otherwise. Melancholic music, as Sarah does an impressive weird dance with the black ball; sitting on the floor, chair upside down on her lap, she plays – what else – harmonica. “Why do people go over the edge?”, a small thing out of order, “one more adjustment, I just can’t make”, and she always knew where the edge was: The Empire State Building. She doesn’t have a fear of falling; she has a fear of jumping, equalled to her fear of hugging someone on the subway. There’s lots of fear here. Fear of laughing at funerals, fear of losing her bathing suit in a pool. The PA announces, “Welcome back Susan Feldstein!” to which she replies, “It’s Sara Felder!” “Glad to be talking with you about Lincoln, the Jew who was shot in the temple!”, as she puts on the Lincoln costume. “When I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion,” made me wonder for the first time, what voice are we hearing? Is it hers or Lincoln’s or even ours? Serious Civil War music starts and now she’s wearing the red clown nose with the Lincoln costume and reads a letter to her from the man himself, the 16th President of these United States of Emotional Confusion. Suddenly, as with all blackouts, there’s a blackout, show’s over. You know, as I write this review, a few weeks after, I still don’t get it. What the hell did I just see? It certainly was “interesting” and entertaining on some surreal level. I don’t think we quite understand the context of it all (and context gives all things meaning), but perhaps that’s the message itself. All this talk of war and Abe Lincoln, mixed with impestuous affairs with bus lesbians, does what it’s supposed to do. It says it’s all trivial. It doesn’t matter, so why worry? A Comedia del Arte version of Gone With the Wind with a little girl-on-girl action thrown in for good measure, can never be beat as far as fun entertainment for the entire spooked-out big-eyed average American family. I mean, the hipsters and supporters in the Mission District loved it. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before we’re all wearing clown noses, studying Abe and dating lesbians. One can only hope.
Solo Sundays is a great idea, and like all great ideas, it has to be executived properly. Bruce Pachtman and Ty McKenzie do just that; providing space and guidence to new and experienced actors, comedians and mad creative people. And, after all, in the crazy world, it's always good to have a good Sherpa, not to mention a nice piece of chocolate. Catch the next Solo Sundays by visiting Stage Werx. Con Te Partiro? The song Maria Affinito sang and magically brought peace and justice without clenching her fists this time; the english translation is "Time to say Goodbye". And, she's right!
Enjoy the veal....
My life at Jimmy Woo's is interesting, if not cramed. Located in overly fashionable "The Marina District", me and about half a dozen regulars cram and live in what was once a Kareoke studio, now turned 8 beds in a small room hostel. It's all good. Certainly the price is right and the commitment of finding and getting an overpriced apartment in San Francisco is just too much for all sorts of reasons at this point. Plus, Mimi has offered one of her bedrooms in one of her houses in the small town of Albany, near Berkeley. That could be a new adventure. But, I want to hold tight where I am. Magic Mike, Reggie, Phillip and even Jimmy Woo himself all make up the unwashed hearts and minds representing a fabulous future forged of hard times, adventure and certainly, alcohol. As a matter of fact, just up the road on Lombard, at the base of the Precidio, is Liverpool Lil's, a great pub and restaurant, which has by default become one of my new HQ's. Julia (my executive assistant) and I met there after we visited the Palace of Fine Arts in Golden Gate Park, with a view of producing the next benefits for The Laughter Foundation. Yesterday, I helped one of the new residents with her rent. I didn't want to, especially since I thought, hey, A) I can't really afford to be doing this sort of thing and B) If I did it once, well, you know.... If anything, it made me feel better for calling that homeless person last week, a "Republican!" The other night, I brought my guitar down to Jimmy's Chinese & Japanese combo restaurant, which, as usual, was empty (mostly a food delivery business) and played guitar and sang. Jimmy and crew were astonishingly entertained. Who knew? Right? You never know; that's the entire point to understand here folks. Time must be evicted. Life is what you make of it, folks, true. But, in that making of it, it's about paying attention and keeping an open mind, but up to a point. I keep getting hit upon by gay men who think I'm gay. I guess the beard. To be honest, I'm not really ready to go there, just yet, if ever, thank you. I think I'll stick with chasing crazy women. The bottom line for me, when it comes to homosexuality, is a simple Narcisistic one. If I'm gonna love any man in this lifetime, it's gonna be me. And, I nearly never ever cheat on myself.
Enjoy the veal,
Steven Alan Green, SF 2/24/12
FACEBOOK TWEETS OF THE WEEK
They just discovered small amounts of chicken meat in McDonald's Chicken McNuggets.
I hit the mute button on the remote; The Miracle Worker came on.
I was once arrested for emotional rape. I forced my personality on someone.
When my British friends ask me why Americans talk so loud, I always say, "So, we can we can hear each other over the gunfire."
It's always good to remember the good in people, especially when destroying them.
My career is like my hair. Thin and unmanageable.
This relationship I'm having with myself isn't going anywhere.
My performance enhancing drug of choice is sleep.
From Golden Gate to the (818) @ Flappers Burbank. Mike Uryga (a very funny guy unto his own) always puts on great compilation shows favouring the San Francisco comedian. Now at Flappers in Burbank, this show is definitely worth the traffic. Thurs, Feb 28 @ 8:00pm. RECOMMENDED, ONLY IF YOU DRIVE.
Comedy Cult. Dave Sirus assembles an ecclectic bunch of jokesters at a unique performance space. This is a show I would not only find parking for, I would consider it my civic duty. Wed March 6 @ 8:30pm EXTREMELY RECOMMENDED
Mike Daisy's new show @ Joe's Pub. "Faster Better Social Click Lke Touch Tweet Yes Yes!!1! (or, Our Slavery is Rich and Full)" is the fucking title and longer than the show itself. Daisy has become reknowned as America's finest comic story-teller. Check him out if there's still tickets left. Joe's Pub Tuesday Feb 26, 9:30pm HIGHLY RECOMMENDED WHEN I WAS HIGHLY.
Samson Koletkar @ The Punchline. A very funny clever comedian, plus support from Edwin Li, with "The Minorities Stand-Up" - Punchline comedy club Tuesday February 26 @ 8:00pm. READ MY ETV REVIEW OF SAMSON HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Mark Pitta & Friends @ The Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley. A great venue, once graced by Chaplin himself, Pitta has reinvented modern comedy in a pastorally rich setting. Tuesday nights and this is the place to be. He can't say it, but the rumours are generally true that a once alien playing stand-up comedian of great note works out there on a semi-regular basis. I can't say for sure, but a little birdie told me. A little robin. Every Tuesay @ 8:00pm JUST F#&KING RECOMMENDED
Lewis Shaffer's American Guide to England is fellow ex-pat's piss-take on England's blurry vision of Americans. Lewis is always funny, quirky and ready to give. Leicester Square Theatre, Sunday, March 3, 6:00-8:00pm. RECOMMENDED RATHER HIGHLY
Beth Lapides's Instruction on Love in the Huff Post. UnCabaret creatix and comedy & spoken word guru-ess, Lapides is one of a very kind. Her words are all personally baked in her kitchen of love, acceptances and decadence.
G.O.D. On Demand. Comedian & Filmmaker Scott Miller crossbred the Trinity Broadcast Network with SCTV with hilarious results!
ODDZ 'N ENZ
Recently, I lost a family member. Anselm Hollo was my father-in-law, beloved father of my ex-wife, Tamsin Hollo, who has (and will again) contribute to ETV. Anselm was a true gentleman and intellectual knight. As a seminal brick in the wall which became the Beat Movement, Anselm worked closely with Allen Ginsberg. He had a great chuckle and we miss him. Anselm's obit in The Independent.
To have your comedy show reviewed or hire Steven as a writer, comedian, keynote speaker: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hollywood film & TV writing jobs for Steven Alan Green, contact: Noah Jones @ The Gersh Agency (310) 205-5836. Follow Enjoy the Veal on Facebook, and The Laughter Foundation and on Facebook. Never take life too seriously, you'll never get out of it alive!
SAG, SF, 2/24/13