Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category
If you made it out to Ferrari McSpeedy’s “Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs” at the 2011 Minnesota Fringe, thank you. If you happened to review the show on the Fringe site or on your blog or for a more official print or digital media outlet, thanks again. If you were one of the reviewers who suggested that I speak an unfamiliar form of English out of your ear’s range, believe me when I reply here, in typed words that I hope your eyes can read, I got the message.
I heard you loud and clear.
I used to review books and music for money, so I understand the impulse to protect innocent consumers from bad art for money and/or a lack of self-esteem.
What I think of the Pioneer Press and/or its theater criticism isn’t the point.
The point is this: I learned a ton performing in a big, goofy female western in Ayn Rand’s idea of a theater. Last time I got to perform with such talented folks in such an impressive venue was back in 2007, when I did vaudeville with Ned Beatty. Of course that Ned Beatty. No shit.
And, no, we’re not related. We established that chatting backstage, as soon as we were introduced.
But he’d be a cool grandpa. Too bad he wasn’t available for Fringe.
That’s the only excuse I have for neglecting my reader.
Acting is hard. Dialogue does not stick to my brain, it turns out. I’ve never been the kind of guy to memorize sets or stories word-for-word. When not working directly from a script or set list, I’ve always outlined what I planned to perform, then talked loosely around that vaguely memorized outline.
This has turned me into a rambling, inconsistent stage performer. Or a shambolic, authentic charmer, if you happen to enjoy what I do.
My difficulties with the acting craft made me appreciate all the more Will Eno’s “Oh the Humanity and Other Good Intentions” when I saw The Peanut Butter Factory’s current production of it at Intermedia Arts. Christopher Kehoe, Mo Perry and Matt Sciple made Eno’s abstract, existential jokes sing with equal measures of dark comedy and genuine vulnerability.
That’s why I pitched the production for an MPR Art Hounds segment. Besides the fact that I love radio.
I could now promise to update this site more often once I’m done with the Fringe, but that would go against my commitment phobias. Let’s just take this as it goes and see what happens. We’re both grown-ups.
So last week I performed half an hour of old and new material at The Brutenanny. I played a few banjo and guitar ditties, too.
That’s not detailed enough for you, you say. Well, I made fun of children, liberals, conservatives, reality TV’s Kardashian sisters and, mostly, myself. I hope you’re happy now.
The Cub Scouts and the audience’s discomfort with my comedic point-of-view were also critiqued.
And when the closing joke of my set turned out not to go as planned, I detailed my own rudeness to a dude in a wheelchair earlier that evening, a mean little story that I made up for easy laughs. Then, after my set was over, I learned that there had, indeed, been a dude in a wheelchair out in front of the bar before the show.
I’d not seen him. Maybe the camouflage he was wearing in my made-up story worked better than I thought.
Joshua Wenck used to be a member of the traditional roots music duo The Get Up Johns. Now he’s making music as Evangelista.
Paul Metzger leads the powerhouse avant-prog rock trio TVBC.
He’s also acclaimed for improvising on guitar and modified banjo.
Brian Beatty used to write “Jokes by Brian Beatty” for McSweeney’s and METRO and perform for comedy fans. Expect that, plus ditties.
Wednesday, May 25
9:30 PM | NO COVER
Wrote a small article about how and why I perform comedy, or whatever it is I do, for Minnesota Playlist. I’m theater-y!
Published a new poem in the latest edition of elimae.
Of course I’ve also been writing and rehearsing new shit for The Brutenanny — and polishing old turds that didn’t make it into last summer’s big solo show. Now you know.
Photo: Craig VanDerSchaegen/Minnesota Fringe
It might not be cool to confess the obsessions that have influenced my own creative endeavors, but I feel I owe my own microscopic successes as a writer and comedy performer to those true artists whose accomplishments demonstrated what was possible in the first place.
Possibilities have always interested me more than fame and fortune. If I’m ever rich and recognized from TV appearances, maybe then I’ll prance around pretending all my brilliant ideas were mine and mine alone.
If I’m even physically capable of prancing. I’m guessing I’m not.
My first short stories were so overwhelmed by my fanboy enthusiasm for Barry Hannah that I’ve salvaged a storytelling performance and two magazine articles out of the humiliation I felt when I was finally called on it the summer after finishing my MFA. My other literary faves comprise a motley hodgepodge indeed: Donald Barthelme, Flannery O’Connor, Lydia Davis, Terry Southern, Richard Brautigan, Ted Berrigan, Ishmael Reed, Kurt Vonnegut, Sam Shepard and J.P. Donleavy.
Long before I became serious about writing and performing comedy, I was a much-too-serious saxophone student (and a self-taught guitar and banjo player), so many musicians keep me listening to and looking at my approach to creative challenges: John Fahey, Captain Beefheart, Pere Ubu, Ornette Coleman, Skip James, Dink Roberts, Michael Hurley, Thelonious Monk and Sonic Youth.
In college I befriended more than my share of art majors, so I know just enough about art to realize what I appreciate: mostly primitive outsider junk, plus the paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jasper Johns, the early video work of William Wegman and the performance pieces of Laurie Anderson and Chris Burden.
Comedy was my earliest artistic crush. When I was only six or seven, I started laughing at my grandparents’ Bill Cosby records. And I started watching Richard Pryor and George Carlin on HBO when I was still too young to really “get” their funniest jokes. (Thank you, Uncle Bob.) My tastes in contemporary American comics run toward the predictably and deservedly respected: Louis CK, Zach Galifianakis, Mike Birbiglia and Bobcat Goldthwait lately. The majority of my comedic influences these days are all from over in the UK: Peter Cook, Billy Connolly, Stewart Lee, Johnny Vegas, Dylan Moran and Daniel Kitson.
What I believe these disparate artists all have in common, across generations and genres, is their honesty. Their incredibly personal points of view, too.
And that’s what I like to believe I’m learning from them: To recognize and trust the sound of my own voice when I hear it.
They’re certainly not teaching me to prance.
This time last year I was already putting together “The Big Four Oh: 40 Jokes, Poems and Stories by Brian Beatty.” I didn’t have to perform it until August’s 2010 Minnesota Fringe Festival, but I was nervous about my first solo comedy extravaganza. I wanted to do something bigger and better than everything I’d done before. I wanted to cap off a period of time — and to kick-off whatever was going to happen next. But mostly I wanted to retire my bear suit.
My fortieth birthday was a convenient conceit for my show’s title and opening joke, after the surprise beginning dance number and striptease. That the first thing I uttered in the show equated my birthday with Pearl Harbor and September 11th was my way of raising the stakes. That it was a joke capable of turning the room against me before I’d even got my start was part of the fun, too. Because I knew, even if the audience didn’t, that this bit was neither the most confrontational nor condescending joke in the next 50 minutes.
I don’t have to worry about topping myself this year, or alienating more baffled audiences. My submission for the 2011 MN Fringe, which I was calling “Burleyesque” even though I planned to keep my clothes on this year, didn’t make the lottery cut. Instead, I’ll be “acting” in a show by Mike Fotis and Joe Bozic, beloved by local improv fans and MN Fringe audiences as Ferrari McSpeedy.
I was one of five contest winners lucky enough to open for Louie Anderson, only to annoy 5,000 or so New Years Eve revelers because I got distracted by a loud-ish farter in the expensive seats down front. I’ve killed at the Hollywood Improv, as part of an industry showcase where no industry folks showed up. (Fortunately, the video crew did.) And I’ve baffled Minnesota Fringe Festival audiences with a mix of jokes, poems and stories, leaving at least one woman worried that I might be autistic. If her review is to be believed. Maybe she was just looking for an original way to say “deadpan.” Or “ugh.”
I bring up these tidbits of my comedy history because I often have to remind myself I know what I’m doing. Because it doesn’t look like it sometimes, I realize. I have eyes and ears, too.
But honesty in the moment, being present in the experience we’re sharing, outweighs my sense of responsibility to entertain like some kind of wind-up primate outfitted with cymbals, a too-small hat and an obnoxious cackle. I don’t know how or when my priorities changed, but change they did. I wanted more than just laughs. I also wanted a human connection with the people watching in the dark, which resulted in a looser performance style. Almost as if I’m making it up as I go along, except there are still punchlines.
Improvisation, some people call it. But, believe me, it’s not that, whatever it is I do up there.
Angie Heitz at Club Jager just sweet talked me into pretending I’m a celebrity at next Monday night’s edition of the bar’s wildly popular game show $50 Pyramid. Which most certainly should not be confused with any holdings of any game show production company looking to sue anybody for copyright infringement.
This will be my first time working (and drinking) with show host Ian Rans, but I’ve seen him on the television. Maybe you have, too.
Monday, April 4
9:00 PM to Midnight
923 Washington Ave N
How, exactly, did Angie sweet talk me into going out after I’m done with my new pottery class? She asked.
They’ll be playing music of varying complexities. I’ll be telling jokes, reading poems and fumbling around on banjo and guitar (in primitive fashion and in front of a bar audience for the first time in a decade plus).