Alternate characters have been in vogue ever since Groucho Marx slapped on a greasepaint mustache as his dancing eyebrows read the lines given to him by S.J. Perelman and George S. Kaufman.
Mainly a male dominated comedy genre, the explorers of slightly altered reality comedy stem from Charlie Chaplin to Pee Wee Herman to Borat. Way beyond “doing a sketch”, these are actors who happen to be comedians, and who bring to life their Frankenstein-esque characters, and who then completely inhabit the character, to the point where one actually forgets which direction comedy gravity is initially coming from. Few woman comedy performers even attempt the genre of character bending, perhaps dating back to when they were first warned off during the Shakespeare era as even the female characters were then played by male actors. Lily Tomlin, famous for her bevvy of disparate comedic characters, from little girl Edith Ann to one-ringy-dingy telephone operator Ernestine, always let us know she knew where the stage exit was. And in this era of doing a character “based on yourself” (i.e., your so-called “real life”), such as Amy Schumer in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck, as well as Maria Bamford’s on-stage stand-up character, self-deprecation for women by way of self-satire has come to mean empowerment for women performers; now more than ever.
Samantha Jane, an Uta Hagen and UCB Improv in New York trained actress and improv artist, in her new alt-Euro-trash-disco-queen character, Gën, takes us underground into a basement club smack in the middle of the worst part of Berlin. And, yet, all I had to do was find parking on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood to experience it, which by the way, was only slightly easier than climbing over the Berlin Wall circa 1962.
I realized I was witnessing nothing short of a sample of a comedic cultural phenomenon,set against the politically apocalyptic times we live in.
At the packed house at The Pack Theatre in The Complex, the show opens with european disco power pop, led down the rabbit hole by a dude base player and a keyboard guy, as “played by” Brandon Beck and Michael Chap Resnik. Sam as “Gën” enters and is speaking with an Eastern European accent so thick, you might think you accidentally walked into Sam’s Hofbrau. Her character tells us the most important information up front: where the bathrooms are. She’s from Slovenia and in fact, references our main and perhaps only modern day Slovanian reference point.
“The first lady of entire country usa is from Slovenia. I am here to become first lady of pop music.”
She reminds us how she only just learned about an American tradition they don’t have in her country. Halloween. Which is interesting because the entire show we’re about to experience is one big spookily weird candy to the audience party; and to point out, to my astonishment, the audience present absolutely ate it up like they were enthusiastic terminally ill diabetics. Many costume changes for Gën between the guest acts and that becomes a big part of the expectation. What’s she gonna wear next. She and her backup dancers/singers (Elisa Ellis and Catherine Durickas) wear costumes entirely consumed and made up from the most profane illicit illegal iconic materials: plastic straws. The backup chicks wearing stupid sparkle cat ears, alternating pink top/black top/black shorts/pink shorts. They sing a song with the chorus “If You Are Fast”.
A “Fishnet accident”
There’s lots of dancing and disco lights and interesting guest acts. J. Elija Cho who sings a song about “booty earthquakes”, a “song about Adam Levine, in the style of Adam Levine, about Adam Levine.” Song’s chorus is a list of places where he had sex in the apartment. “You don’t want to be my roommate cause I’ll have sex on everything in the apartment”; everyone clapped to chorus. Gën returns, costume change, wearing a Halloween skull around her waist “trick or treat skirt…mostly trick”; then sends her pretty minions like flying monkeys out into the audience to feed us with sweet snacks. (My delight of awkwardly trying to pull off a candy attached to one of their skirts was the closest I’ve come to sexual intercourse since the iPhone 7 was launched.) Next act was introduced as “Group of ladies and yet still funny” The Baegency (not a typo), who were three actresses doing a sketch about being home-bound, where they awkwardly go into a rap about being “a subscriber”, meaning they/she orders all kinds of stuff that gets delivered, so they never have to leave the house. Very awkward comedy timing in this particularly seemingly unrehearsed sketch as if they weren’t sure of their lines or stage cues. However. The “Gënius” of It’s Gën’s Bootie Earthquake Show is that just for the briefest moments, you do think maybe this is all part of a put on, so who am I to make audience judgements. Besides, I was still internally basking in the fact that I found a decent parking space.
We get a “message” from backstage than Gën was caught up in a “fishnet accident”, so she’s gonna intro the next act. “The Good Boy of Comedy”, Comedian Eric Jennifer (Hal Rudnick). “Good job, what’s your name” is his repeated over and over again until your eyes bleed catchphrase. Asks if there are any licensed drivers in the audience. “Make some noise if you are over 40 and still live at home” “Make some noise if you have to clip your mom’s toenails.” This guy is incredibly annoying and it wasn’t until I remembered what show I was watching that I started to enjoy myself as an audience member again, catching up with the rest of the crowd roaring with knowing inside laughter.
It’s Gën’s Bootie Earthquake Show is for the Informed Insider! Don’t dismay! We’re all stupid at first!
But my favorite part of the show was sheer theatrical brilliance. Gën on video herself, supposedly from backstage, but we all know secretly prerecorded, who tells us two important things. One, “there’s a scary man from ISIS” AND then introduces “El Hefe” which is a double act of her and Aaron Abeyta, harmonizing a very touching and funny duet with throwaway reveal lines: “You’re the only one in my life that’s a bigger mess than me.” and “Everyone would see how much I suck were it not for you.”
Gën and girls come back. Now the girls are wearing see through tops. Brings out DJ Pigeon head, a guy in a giant pigeon head. Now song about earthquakes, like when the earth is haunted. Heavy house beat. Bootie Earthquake.
Like dining in a bad restaurant that doubles as an S&M club, Everything’s a gag.
Overall, with the handful of squeaky noises coming from clear live mistakes, Gën’s Bootie Earthquake Show is a real trip down pastiche lane, genre bending, sexually provocative, and mostly amusing piss-take on not just an arcane branch of European entertainment tradition, but in fact an unwitting satire on American culture, because after all, it is we who get the inside joke and what frightens us the most is the premise may be born outta Samantha Jane’s imaginative head, but the punchline is ultimately, us.
Marcelina Chavira made the costumes, Ben Kuershner helped produce and this guy did set decoration: Jeremy Wojchihosky.
I got a chance to catch up with theatrically trained creator of Gën, Samantha Jane, and threw her a few questions:
LARF: What and/or who is the inspiration for the Gën character?
SAMANTHA:Gën was born after I went wig shopping with my friend Meaghan in Florida around 2009. I tried on that same black asymmetrical wig (yes it is very old and starting to go bald now) and she said “you look like one of those trendy Slavic girls” and I instantly did the voice. On the way home I was pestering my mother in the car by doing endless bits in character, which I’ve done my whole life, and I came up with the song title “if you want to dance dance, and if you want to don’t don’t. Because it’s like America freedom you know?” When I got back to nyc, my wheels began turning and she began to have a life of her own. She was also partly based on these two gay polish boys I worked with at the now defunct Williamsburg Cafe in Brooklyn. They wore a ton of neon and one day showed me a million blurry photos of Britney Spears bc they saw her somewhere and were the most excited to barely see person in a crowd that I have ever seen two people be. Their infectiously happy energy and love for New York City and America was a big inspiration.
LARF:How much of the character is a deep reflection of yourself and how much is opposite of you?
SAMANTHA:I sometimes say that Gën is like Borat, except I don’t hate people. I never want to make anyone else uncomfortable or make anyone else the butt of my jokes, it’s always me. She’s always Gënuinely happy, like the part of me that would dress up in glitter and dance around like a pop star when I was a little girl – no ego, no complicated sex stuff, just pure fun. I’m much more jaded, bitter and sarcastic in my real life, but she’s the deep inner child inside me that’s still endlessly hopefully and just wants to play. Beyoncé has her onstage alter ego Sasha Fierce, and Gën is like my Sasha Farts. When I put her on, the most pure and funny parts of me come out to play.
LARF:Is the show a straight pastiche of the “Eurovision” Gënre or a satire of it?
SAMANTHA:I definitely watched a bunch of Slovenia’s best-of in Eurovision as inspiration for the show. Also Aqua. I showed my collaborators as well, but then we took the idea and ran with it and made it our own. It’s more of an inspiration point than something we’re trying to satire in a real way.
LARF:How does Gën and her backup dancer/singers’ costumes and “Playboy bunny/1960’s airline stewardess” free sexuality square with the #MeToo Movement?
SAMANTHA:Not totally sure exactly what this is asking? But, one thing I talked about with someone is that Gën wearing ‘Bootie shorts’ and talking about booties all the time is like 10 year old girls grinding to Miley Cyrus- it’s about the fun of it, not about sex or “the male gaze.” Sometimes girls want to wear tight pink sexy things because it’s fun. We used to blame girls for being sexy “Lolitas” but hopefully now we are woke enough to realize that Nabokov was just a very eloquent pedophile. Little girls aren’t being sexy to attract actually sexual attention, it’s because sexy clothes and bodies can be fun. It’s playing dress up. Drag queens have always understood this, and more men are finally getting it now that Gënderbending/Gënderqueer stuff is becoming more normalized. Wearing sexy things isn’t always about “sex.” Are we supposed to wear full nun habits or burkas to make sure men aren’t tempted by our bodies?? I hope as a culture we’re moving past shaming women for “dressing like they’re asking for it” and towards holding men accountable for their thoughts and actions.
LARF:How much of what the audience sees a purposeful “bad” or awkward performance (including the acts) and how much is straightforward pure entertainment? You know what I mean? By “bad” I mean antiquated, out of place within (or actually without) the “times” we live in. Nothing related to talent or executions.
SAMANTHA:There’s definitely a bit of “bad on purpose” in my show. Gën is an amateur, poor pop star doing what she can on a shoestring budget with no help. I also embrace a lot of improv in my shows, so having it be ‘imperfect’ aesthetically can help that blend in seamlessly. A lot of my bits with my dancers are written backstage. But some things, like not being able to hear my DJ’s lines through the pigeon mask he chose to wear and we never rehearsed in, are completely unplanned bits of chaos that become beautiful gifts if you can roll with them. One person told me that was their favorite “bit” of the show, which is amazing because it was absolutely not written or planned but they couldn’t even tell. I often try to look at Comedy though the philosophy of wabi sabi, where they gild the cracks in pottery: sometimes the imperfections are what make something even more beautiful and unique. If you can fully integrate “mistakes” into what you do, then do you ever really make them? I’m cheating the system hahaha.
Gën’s Bootie Earthquake Show has its own built in audience of weirdos and know it alls and sitting in the back of the theatre, typing notes and remembering observations, I realized I was witnessing nothing short of a sample of a comedic cultural phenomenon, set against the politically apocalyptic times we live in.
If you follow comedians on social media like I do, it’s always a pleasant surprise when you feel like you’ve discovered someone new.
That’s part of the fun, isn’t it? Not just clicking on the latest 5 minute clip from Anthony Jeselnik. But in fact finding someone new. Award winning comedian Steven Briggs is “new”, though he’s been at it for a short while and is making incredible strides. I, for one, am a fan.
His short-form videos are non-consecutive, non-linier, and non-unfunny. Very well structured stories which always have a satisfying payoff, Briggs brings his own terribly unique outlook and embodies sort of a random universal element to all his, for lack of a better term: short comedy films.
Larf Magazine caught up with Briggs on the set of his latest film venture:
LARF: What inspired you to put so much craft and effort into what essentially is an episodic web-series?
BRIGGS: I wouldn’t call it a episodic web series because most of them don’t connect with each other. I would call it sketch comedy. I started out writing short sketches and then accumulated a bunch to where I wanted to see them made. I didn’t know how to get them made so I invested in a camera, editing software and taught myself how to make them. The goal was to eventually get them to come out the way I saw them in my imagination.
“John leguizamo is one of my biggest influences.”
LARF: Are you tracking the numbers? How are they?
BRIGGS:Yes, it’s weird. Some that I think will do nothing end up doing the biggest numbers.
LARF: How many episodes have you produced and how many more are you planning?
BRIGGS: I’ve lost count now but it’s over 100 sketches. I plan to keep on doing them because for me it’s a very satisfying creative freedom. Also it’s a great excuse to get together with friends and play around.
LARF: How long does it take from concept to finished product?
BRIGGS:That really depends. For example I wrote a sketch that required a horse and buggy. That took me months to find.
LARF: What kind of team do you have?
BRIGGS:At first it was just me. As the sketches started getting better I got some really talented people that wanted to help.
LARF: Where are you originally from and what brought you out to Hollywood?
BRIGGS:Originally born in New York. Landed in Hollywood on accident.
LARF: You recently won some kind of stand-up award?
BRIGGS:The presidential comedy festival. That was a incredible experience. Ryan Schendzielos put together an amazing festival and I would recommend it to anyone.
LARF: What do you ultimately want to get out of the videos? For example, would you like to direct a feature film one day? Or are you “selling” you as a comedy actor?
BRIGGS: I love writing. Currently I am working on finishing up my 5th pilot. Through making these videos though I have had to work every position on a film set and directing is a lot of fun as well and would like to do that for a feature some day.
LARF: How would you describe your character in the films? He seems to be hapless and yet likeable.
BRIGGS:A lot of my characters are like that. I like to find problems and work my way through them with the character in a unconventional way.
LARF: Who are your filmmaking and comedy influences?
BRIGGS:John leguizamo is one of my biggest influences. I grew watching John and have seen all of his one man shows and read his books. I love how he created something for himself and still continues to do it.
LARF: How are you finding being a stand-up on the LA circuit?
BRIGGS:I like it a lot. It’s very diverse and constantly keeps me motivated.
LARF: What’s next for you?
BRIGGS:I am going to continue producing the sketches but am also going to start producing some bigger projects. I am already in pre-production for one that I am very excited about.
For more info on comedian/filmmaker Steven Briggs, as well as performance dates, visit his website.
If there’s one truth in this town, it’s that nearly everyone lives in a bubble. The ones that don’t, always pay a high price of admission.
Barra Grant is the daughter of the late Bess Myerson, who rose to fame in 1945 as Miss America, the first Jewish American to do so. She then led a glamorous life in the spotlight as a regular panelist on the all important game shows of the time, including I’ve Got a Secret and served as a presidential advisor and even ran a failed senatorial campaign. Miss America 1945 (maybe not so coincidentally The Allies defeated Nazi Germany same year) was definitely big stuff back then, who eventually would be arrested for petty shoplifting, permanently disgracing her perfect Americana image, leading her to chase after men with money and forever live in a bubble even and especially to and over her only daughter. It is the daughter, Barra, the star of this show, who tells the tale of having to grow up under such Crawford-like dictatorship, and I don’t mean, Broderick or Cindy. Let’s put it this way. According to the daughter, Bess Myerson is to motherhood what Charles Manson is to social etiquette. And, Barra, the lonely daughter, was her ottoman for her to rest her tired stinky famous feet.
The show is set in Barra’s apartment in L.A. The lights come up and we see a royal throne center stage with a king or queen’s robe casually laying over it. It’s never addressed until the end when our star sits in it, wrapping up her final thoughts; the rest of the time it’s oddly out of place in a young girl’s apartment. Barra, “the daughter” begins telling us her tale of growing up in the 60’s, accompanied by the requisite video playing in the middle of the set to set the mood of the times. The phone rings. It’s Bess. The mother. Needing to talk with her daughter. To annoy her about something or other or she can’t sleep or she wants to come to LA or she hates the way she looks. It’s all placed on Barra’s shoulders. And to her credit, as a daughter, Barra is amazing. As a daughter. There for her mother at every single random whim. Catering to her. Solving her problems. Calming her nerves. Reassuring her.
Norma Desmond but without the dead monkey.
Besides being the daughter of Bess Myerson, who is Barra? That’s her journey to find out, as she tries the acting thing, which doesn’t work out and finally meets a man and they marry but then he dies. I’m oversimplifying it, but you get the idea. The show is neatly packed, adroitly directed, and commanded by the one and only Bess Myerson’s Ugly Daughter. And by the way. I did kinda feel ripped off. Barra ain’t ugly. Far from it. As if a silent movie star gliding effortlessly through her sorted past, ever seeking light at the end of a tunnel promise of a better future. Cause, after all, that’s what we all really want, isn’t it? To know, that whatever is making our current lives miserable, that there is hope simply because there is tomorrow.
One-person shows put on by children of famous people has become its own genre. I’ve even sort of dabbled with my infamous one-man show I Eat People Like You for Breakfast! – about me and Jerry Lewis, even though Jerry wasn’t my father; it did have a father/son aspect. The template is usually one of two. It’s either the child who just couldn’t live up to their parents’ stellar public image or connect with them in any real meaningful way, or the you may know them as a great artist and entertainer, but they were horrible people in private life. This show is both. Berra is the little lost child who survived to tell the tale of how she climbed out of the deepest hole in the world created by one of the biggest showbiz beasts of all time, eventually carving out a decent life for herself.
The “phone calls from mother” segments are Neil Simon quality.
This is the classic case of poor little rich girl, and that would’ve worked fine, were it not for the fact that as far as I could see, the central character (the daughter, Barra) couldn’t even exist without the existence of the mother, Bess Myerson. In other words, Bess Myerson’s Ugly Daughter has the propensity to bring us, the viewing observing non-participating audience, directly into the loop created by the daughter, the daughter created by the mother, the end result is, unfortunately, the audience is indirectly abused by Bess Myerson. There is no filter of hope or creativity to shield us from Barra’s extreme long term downgrading of her self-esteem.
More to the point, this show wasn’t contextualized within today’s social standards, specifically the #MeToo Movement, as well as independence from rich needy mom. Barra’s recount of Bess’s into the breach willingness to be abused and used by powerful men, seems to be color blind to the facts of the last 18 months vis a vi the blatant abuse of hard working serious professional actresses by powerful fat and lazy men. Yes, Barra’s story starts in the early/mid-Sixties when she was a budding teenager and yet, she’s telling us the story now. And therefore, unless I missed something, it would be incumbent upon the producers of the show to make sure our trusted on stage narrator (and star), at least squeezes that in. But to my recollection, that’s just not the case. This story is told within a bubble of time, encasing the bubble of Barra’s upbringing.
Ultimately, It’s a Story of Class Dominance
In these hard times for most, it’s hard to care about the princess stuck in the tower. And, even if we did, we need to like the princess first, and that’s where the show lost me. It’s not that I didn’t like Barra or her performance; it’s that it was so real, there was no performance per se and therefore I was detached. It was the story of an actual victim of a terribly abusive famous mother, who flittered from one rich guy to the next, leaving everything in her wake, including and especially her own daughter.
What she lacks in slick presentation, she makes up in authenticity. One has to keep reminding themselves that this is a real story and the person who experienced it is the one standing in front of us telling us the story. That is lost on us because the story itself if so unpredictably bizarre. The humor between the cracks of pain were there, I just didn’t think everyone in the audience that night could contextualize them. Basically, when a survivor makes funny while they tell you their very painful story, they are signaling that they’re okay and indeed they want you, the audience, to be okay too. I thought many times the show was much funnier than it even knew and certainly funnier than the audience of oldie but goodies did that night. That’s right. I also review the audience I’m surrounded by. 499 people can be wrong. I’ve seen it multiple times in my day.
Barra Grant was not made to be a story-teller. She was cast as the story.
Where the show would’ve been enhanced 10 fold to my liking is if Barra had connected to the audience much more directly and earlier on. In my opinion only, Barra should’ve broken the 4th wall and maybe even done a teeny bit of audience work. It’s adds that extra third dimension we as an audience need to subconsciously know that we’re gonna be okay. That the world is gonna be okay. It’s nothing less than that. Otherwise, a show like this can easily fall into very ugly self-parody. And that nearly happened twice, during the one or two soliloquies, when Barra went downstage, lone spotlight, and sad music playing on cue. I don’t know how to fix that and maybe it’s fine. It’s just this particular night I saw the show, it seemed one inch too close to self-mockery. Like a very bad Star Trek segment.
Leading us on in an entire set piece where the mother (so brilliantly played by Monica Piper via backstage) is the omnipresent dominating force, to the point, where I felt domineered myself and I was just in the audience. “Bess” calls and tells Barra she’s coming out to LA and can she pick her up at the airport. There’s an entire section about this and the next thing I knew, the mother never came to LA. Did I miss something? Maybe. But it was weird. Bess calls again and again and each time Barra assures us she’s got the trick solution, but it never works. The “phone calls from mother” segments are Neil Simon quality.
#MeToo Be or Not to Be
Barra’s value is authenticity, being the actual daughter of the super famous abusive person. But authenticity isn’t always entertainment. You’ve got to contextualize the times the action took place, and bring it into the present. There’s no question Bess Myerson was nuts. Mentally ill. And Monica Piper’s insistent phone calls as the mother to the daughter was the one basic comedy gag we can all relate to. I can’t relate to growing up under the shadow of a famous parent; I know not many who could, save for my late friend Francesca Hilton, and Kelly Carlin’s, who’s show A Carlin Home Companion I reviewed for this Journal a few years back. What made Kelly’s show work in particular is that her show was all about finding the perfect balance between understanding her father and getting the love from both parents any young teenage girl deserves. With Bess Myerson’s Ugly Daughter, there is no balance because it’s ostensivevly one-sided and closure to the lifelong ordeal is uncertain. There was never any question as to why her mother was like that and only at the very end, did Barra, finally sitting on the royal throne, have any epiphany whatsoever and by then, for my money it was almost too late.
TMZ Meets Queen Lear
What this show does have in spades are inside flashes to the weird cloistered world of fame and its affects on the family. What I find profoundly absurd is that it seemed as though we were being told a story from start to finish with no creamy filling. There were absolutely no good times to talk about. And the story which was told was, by nature, only one side of that story. The subject of the one person show was not its star Barra, it was Barra’s star, her mother Bess. As told to us by the daughter. What was missing was objective introspection. Not sympathy for the bad guy, but deep clear introspection from the victim
Because, at the end of the day, whether we grow up under a famous parent or not, to be fully human means living a life with the perfect balance of enlightenment and mystery. Which is almost the textbook definition of charisma.
This February 25 Los Angeles will see the grande premier of its first official British comedy night, well if you don’t count the losers’ dressing room of The BAFTA’s.
They say there’s nothing new under the sun. Well, that’s fine, because there’s almost always something new under the moon when it comes to Los Angeles nite-time entertainment. Whether it’s a new vegan Aboriginal food truck craze or an app that hooks you up with 27 year old’s who know how to find the coolest hippest yurt raves, LA has always been beyond cutting edge.
Whilst there’s always a new young comedy specimen or a hundred, randomly blowing into town from the mysterious Santa Ana’s, there are always new comedy theme nights popping up to accommodate. Comedy shows in coffee houses, dive bars, bookstores, laundromats, bus stations, emergency rooms. Every year, thousands upon thousands of young big dreamy-eye’d comic upstarts, give up the sensible life in Smalltown, USA, say goodbye to Mom and Dad, drive out west, hole up on a couch, grow their beards, tatt up their arms, and work during the day slinging cappuccino for a living so at night, they can refine their unique angst millennial who gives a shit point of view, all in a vague effort to reach for the stars and settle into a comfy life of money, touring and epic film and television careers. And those are just the lady comics.
So, when someone is trying to do something unique, different, I always wish them well, then place a one-way bus ticket outta town in their breast pocket, and start humming Midnight Train to Georgia. However, this time, a particular new show caught my eye, which is gonna be at one of the finest eateries and bars in LA, the legendary Cat & Fiddle Pub. In its new location on Highland Avenue, just above Melrose. I’ve got the man behind Bangers & Laughs, here tonight to tell you all about it. Larf Magazine is very excited to bring him to you. So, it is with great drunken prejudice, that I want to introduce to you an old institution, a comedy legend of sorts, an old geezer for damn sure…
Please welcome, all the way from Putney, Souf London, Nigel Arrisson!
LM:How are you sir?
NA: I’m lovely, and you?
LM:Well, frankly you should know how I feel without asking me.
NA:Why’s that then.
LM:Because, in case you’ve forgotten, you are a fictional creation of mine.
NA:Oh, yes; that’s correct. So, how can I help?
LM:No, it’s just that I want to help you promote your new comedy night.
NA:Well, I must say, I’m very excited about it frankly. I’m excited for Steven, first of all. He’s not been in London in 10 years and he’s missing it so. He loved it there and they seemed to love him as well.
LM:And, how did you come about?
NA:Well, you see, Steven created me. A simple canard brought forth by Steven’s impatience with Angelinos.
LM:How do you mean?
I, Nigel Arrisson from Putney, am the compere, the host if you will. Steven will not be there Monday. I will be.
NA:Well, you must understand; that although Steven was born in New York and grew up in Beverly Hills and Phoenix, and raised and trained as a comedian here in lovely L.A., he didn’t really completely flower as a comic until he went to England. He stayed there (on and off) for nearly 20 years. That’s quite amazing when you think about it. Anyway, while living and working over there, Steven became, how should I put this, he became more than Anglified. More than just a fan of British culture. He became part of it and in turn British culture infused in hisbrain and refused to leave. That’s how I was born.
LM:Wait a minute.
NA:Take your time.
LM:You’re saying. No. When I say “you’re”, I mean, you Steven are saying, that…
NA:Let me stop you right there. For all intents and purposes, Steven Alan Green doesn’t exist. Nigel Arrisson exists. In fact, from my particular point of view, Steven Alan Green is a fictional creation of my mind. True, “Steven” is producing Bangers & Laughs at The Cat & Fiddle Pub in Hollywood, a night of great British and American comedy, set in a British pub and done in full British tradition, but I, Nigel Arrisson from Putney, am the compere, the host if you will. Steven will not be there Monday. I will be.
LM:Well, either way, you have a great line-up. Matt Kirshen, Cole Parker, JJ Whitehead, Jim Coughlin, and the great Barry Sobel!
NA:Yes, and we expect to have a dedicated heckler, just to heckle me, mind you, none of the other acts.
NA:Plus there will be a joke telling contest. For a free pint! It’s only $15 minimum purchase to see the show and with our special $15 Pie and Pint special, you get into the comedy show for free!
LM:What time? Where?
NA: Monday, this Monday February 25th @ 8:30pm. The Cat & Fiddle Pub @ 724 North Highland Avenue. Above Melrose on the east side of Highland.
It has been revealed that President Trump has informed The First Family that the reason for all his multi-billion dollar deals with foreign countries is that he has very inside information that an alien race is offering a few very rich Earthlings safe travel before the impending intergalactic apocalypse in one of their space pods. Price per ticket? One trillion dollars.
With one wife and 5 children, that’s a whopping 7 trillion Dollars, if he includes himself. Assuming he wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about his in-laws, it may be safe to guess Trump would spoil a trill on one or all of his 9 grandchildren. Either that, or the aliens in question – the Dioximotos of Andromeda – are of the eating children genus; then it could turn out to be another Saudi deal for the great negotiator. Said Trump to our imbedded Larf investigative reporter:
“Look. The fake news will portray this as me using the world and copping out of my responsibility. One liberal fake news organization compared my plan to save my family to ‘just another Stormy Daniels’. The nerve. I’m gonna outlaw satire. If I ever get back to Earth; which I won’t, I guarantee you, because it will be destroyed by then. The Democrats. They destroyed the Earth.”
For years there were high level rumors that the Secret Government has been communicating with an alien race who’ve been supplying us with both scientific and what one top brain at MIT called “beyond science devices” which have allowed very successful secret experiments in the massive fields of time travel, sub-nuclear energy, as well as bitching up the food supply with vegan goldfish; the idea being that though they are in fact fish, they are genetically restructured and classified as vegan.
A Real Space Force
High Priest & President of the Almighty Dioximotos Union of States Canning Mortinger-inger-Clyde-Sub-Bracket-Whoop-Whoop! said today:
“We come in peace. But we basically had to Uber to get here and there’s only so much room.”
When asked why an alien would even want Earth-bound currency, which is supposedly useless on other planets, Canning was, well, uncanny:
“What we do is once we get the cash, we transfer it to our interstellar accounts and they do the conversion into Cheese Bits, our national currency. It’s not the same thing . Cheese. Cheese means ‘energy’ in Dioximotosian.”
When I pressed further about the nature of the impending world apocalypse, President Mortinger-Inger-Clyde-Sub-Bracket-Whoop-Whoop! said:
“I wouldn’t worry about it if I were you. It will happen so fast and from my understanding, most Earthlings are religious, especially these days.”
I thanked the alien president.
“My pleasure. Oh, and, by the way?”
“Your president is a moron.”
From the home front, this is Steven Alan Green reporting. 10/23/18
“A long time ago, I lived on a place called Earth. Earth was what they used to call ‘a planet,’ though to be perfectly frank, they didn’t ‘plan it’ very well, now did they….”
Professor Nigel P. Arrisson, Cryptocapitalist, Paranotnormalist and Theatre Critical for The London Fogg
The Myth Council Handbook – Chapter One: Nigel Reemerges
The darkest of darkest nothingness.
Cold beyond description. Void of the natural elements which make up fundamental life. Deep space and long and wide time have been and will be here, waiting and watching over us for countless more millennia.
The Milky Way.
A clouded dream of forgotten eons slowly swims into consciousness like a disabled octopus as we accelerate and descend into its sinewy complex tangled web of matter, gravitation, and light: the three basic elements contriving existence.
The Solar System.
An ancient association of planets and gaseous bodies eternally sailing around their worshiped god, the Sun.
A dark blue orb seemingly both lost and at home lies within the ellipses and once again remains the question mark of the universe, crying out to its mommy like a lost child in the supermarket.
Intense cloud cover acts like an ominous shroud where great angels once stood; but now has all the natural appeal of an abandoned parking lot.
The North American Continent.
Against the relief of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, the middle land bit of the Western Hemisphere stands like a naked Cherokee holding a flaming torch, posing for an awkward turn of the century carnival photographic selfie.
The American countryside.
Odd patchwork farmland comes to slow life as the sun creeps over the eastern curvature of the horizon, awakening the animals and beasts, while men, women and children dream in their most profound cycle.
Freshly fallen snow blankets the neatly kept Belleview Cemetery, which lays quietly next to the Belleview Mortuary, a Victorian two-story with rickety windows and in desperate need of a paint job. A crow caws, an owl hoots, a window rattles as a secret wind makes its damming presence known. In the midst of the eerie tranquility, the blackest of ravens, supremely guided by the moon’s watchful spotlight eye, descends from above, landing confidently on a tombstone.
Prof. Nigel P. Arrisson
Born a long long bleedin’ time ago; “died” March 24, 1939.
I mean, we’ll see.
The raven speaks and when it does, it’s not a raven’s voice at tall. No. It is the Victorian voice of an era way gone. An English chap, perhaps 50, perhaps ageless. And yet, the raven mouths the words perfectly, as they strangely come out and indeed sound human. As evidenced as you can hear…
“My name is Nigel Arrisson and I am dead and here present today speaking to you through this bird. I perished on March 24, 1939 just outside of Dusseldorf in a horrific biplane accident. My head and torso were tossed on either side of the Hungarian Romanian border. I was too unconscious to remember much after that, other than the sweet angel Gabriel carrying my soul in an intertransdimentional rickshaw up towards the Heavenly Gate, when lo and behold, Beelzebub shot an arrow he nicked from Cupid, piercing our hot air balloon and down I fell straight into the Underworld. It was a rough weekend to say the least and I decided from then on to pay a little closer attention to the details of existence.
On May 4, 3,256 B.C., it was a Tuesday I believe, I became employed as a junior auditor in training with The Myth Council, a 100,000 year old bureaucracy set up to monitor, tax and regulate myths worldwide. Every myth, from Cupid and the Devil to Lucky Number 7, but also modern myths such as weapons of mass destruction which led to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, to Climate Deniers to those are Nicole Kidman’s real breasts and to the basic notion that the free market democratic society works on behalf of everybody; every single myth – no matter how big or small — is created and monitored and regulated and ultimately taxed. Myths are not something to be merely relegated to ancient and superstitious societies. No. Myths are more alive, more prevalent and more powerful these modern days than ever before. Take for example, the final United States presidential election.
The notion that this billionaire celebrity could lead and in fact inspire the rest of the world by embarrassing his own nation, was a myth created by the billionaire himself. This was unheard of, heretofore; not since Julius Caesar woke up from a drunken orgy proclaiming to be God, had a mortal ever attempted this sort of political tomfoolery. Trump’s presidential victory caused such a row within the halls of The Myth Council, one meeting got so out of hand between the “Reality Right” and the “Leftist Imaginationers”, they had to bring in Hercules as head of security. And, even then, the lug-head sided with the wrong side.
The myth business has something called “A balanced myth,” whereby two opposing myths rise up and sort of bump heads if you will, causing discord and turbulence. Kind of like Jesus and the Devil, luck and science, and of course, gluten free and bacon. Never before has the beacon of civilization been so challenged. For here were myth creators on both sides. On one hand, you have those who believe that the man who ultimately became the final president of America was placed in office by, not just the will of the people, but by, much like Caesar believed, God himself, who I can assure you, cares fuck all about politics. To God, politics is merely mortal man pretending to be God. Politics to God is Cosplay. I’ve gotten drunk with him; I should know. On the other side of the opinion coin, the radical ultra-left intellectual set postulate that America’s last president was simply illegally seated by the head of an enemy state. And, by enemy state; of course, I’m talking about rednecks.
But even the 2016 election was incomparable to what had nearly happened to, well, the universe itself as we know it. Everything – and I do mean everything – was in various forms of control over the multiple millennia; that was a given. But, then, a very strange and totally unexpected thing occurred. Something so potentially devastating, it actually threatened the very existence of the sacred divide between reality and fantasy, which would certainly of course, implode every single atom ever created. In fact (not to take credit for it) it was my warning paper on the ever growing fissure in the fabric of existence, which caused sudden consternation within The Myth Council, and rather than taking my warning seriously as they should and funding research in an effort to prevent total universal destruction (as you do) those powerful fools instead decided classify my research itself as a myth, stripped me of my longstanding membership in The Imagination Guild, banished me from the faculty of Valhalla University, as well as making me redundant as Para-not-normal Investigator at The London Fogg. I was forever doomed to babble my proven hypothesis to unknown quantities of lessor educated minds, shall we say, inside of a maximum security mental prision.”
The raven picks at its feathers then shakes and caws, then continues speaking as he strolls through the cemetery.
“Apparently, it was my paper on the secret code of the English language that truly got them upset. It was almost as if I was somehow unwittingly revealing knowledge of a very powerful secret they didn’t want let out into the general reality. My paper, “The English Language Decoded”, not only postulated, but indeed proved, that the English language is not only purposely numbers based, but if properly understood and then applied to the inert laws of existence, Mankind could achieve godlike status and unlimited power. And that meant that everyone’s jobs would be up for grabs; not just mortal men, but gods and goddesses as well. Spiritual temp agencies would find themselves in an economic boon.
The Myth Council was very powerful for multiple millennia. There were a lot of lives and careers and egos at stake. And my hat’s off to them, for it is a tough job to tax and regulate all myths in the world, but to do so efficiently and quietly for a hundred thousand years is really quite the feat to be admired. However, let’s face it. They were too powerful. You see, The Myth Council could in fact not just affect so-called “reality” on Earth and other nearby being-based planets, but indeed change it; and that’s something that someone deep within the council apparently didn’t want to happen for one simple reason. It would make them all redundant. Useless. Think on it. If suddenly there was – let’s say — an app, which allowed every citizen of the final century of The United States of America to automatically, simply and easily get not just food, housing, and transportation immediately for free and forever, but also everything from unlimited coffee to eternal youth and indeed downright superpowers. Well, there would be no need for myths and if there was no need for myths, well, there goes the need for an utterly useless irrelevant bureaucracy. I’m talking about congress, as well as The Myth Council of course.
My troubles started off as sort of a meaningless pastime for me, you know, spending hundreds of years in solitary at the Universal Home for the Criminally Insane and Good Looking got boring. There’s only so many electroshocks one can truly enjoy before becoming addicted. And, so I doodled. I became obsessed with this notion that the very tool with which humans use to verbally communicate with one another was to them, unconsciously numeric and in fact secretly coded with the basics of the powers of the universe. The idea, at first, was quite simple. Allow me to simplify this for you as much as immortally possible. So. If I typed out the following sentence: ‘The red fox jumps over the fence,’ the human mind sees a picture. A picture of a red fox jumping over a fence. Nothing too mysterious about that. However, if one assigns the proper numeric value to the letters, the words, the phrases, the sentence, it means something entirely different. The word ‘the’ has a numerical value of zero. That’s because ultimately it’s a meaningless word. The modifier ‘red’ has a numerical value of 12,518 because red is such an emotional word and associated with things like fire trucks, bulls, blood, as well as early stages of syphilis. And, it’s not just words. Phrases have hidden numerical value as well. Full sentences, paragraphs, chapters, book titles, page numbers, punctuation and it goes on and on. Literally like the etymology of the ancient Hebrew language, but on steroids. When it’s all added up – literally added up – you end up with a specific sequenced number. For example, ‘The red fox jumps over the fence’ has a numerical value of 345,678. And that’s because the use of a second ‘the’ in the same sentence is not a value, it’s an exponential multiplier. And, that sequenced number (345,678) corresponds to The Myth Council Handbook and Operations Guide – Master Edition. For on page 3,456, the seventh line down and eight letters and spaces in, lies the following sentence: ‘God exists but only in church’ and when combined with ‘The red fox jumps over the fence,’ you get: ‘The red fox jumps over God but only in a church with a fence.’ You see? Trust me; it’s important. Ahem… Naively thinking it was just an interesting theory based on a mind boggling mathematical coincidence (as well as an overindulgence of Absinthe) I never intentionally meant to present these wild unformed drunken ideas to the Myth Council. Never. It was accidental. Although, ironically, according to the council, there are no such things as accidents. There is only miscalculation.
You see, when I presented another paper entirely; my paper on the existence of a universal fissure between the parallel universes of reality and fantasy based on a newly discovered growing fault within the universal matrix, well, I had been down the prison pub the night before and my theory on the English language’s secret numerical code, frankly, had been written on a cocktail napkin, which unfortunately, unbeknownst to me, got stuck on the bottom of the stack of papers entitled ‘The Final Fissure’. So, when it came time the next morning to present my paper on the potential disaster relating to the complete unknown parallel universe as we know it, well, I was basically, how do you modern Americans say….oh yeah, ‘fucked without knowing it’. The Grand Master Myth himself was even there. The entire board dismissed me out of hand without explanation, without even hearing my theory, and the next thing I knew, I was stripped of my doctorate and thrown in mental prison for 700 years, where I had quite the long time to think about why they were so upset with me in the first place. It took me literally 200 plus years, but one day whilst I was drying my washed socks on the steam radiator in my cell in Hades’ underworld, the penny dropped. I finally figured it out,. The answer was simple. The Myth Council were afraid of something else I had written. It would take me another 100 years plus to finally figure out that it wasn’t my somewhat dire warning of universal destruction in my paper The Final Fissure, but indeed the smeared cocktail napkin containing their heretofore ultimate secret of how the average mortal sentient being could indeed take compete control over their own lives by simply understanding the hidden code of the English language. And, my socks dried magnificently, by the way.
You see, like most ancient bureaucracies, The Myth Council has a myth of its own. A myth which circulates to this very day. They believe – and remember, myths are 50% belief and 50% real, they believed that nobody would ever discover there even was a code, let alone crack it. The code, which by definition, was supposedly purposefully hidden in the text of the literal bible and operations manual they use every day at work, was their little joke amongst themselves. The Myth Council Handbook, edition 11, was published and issued to all agents some time just before the Middle Ages, hundreds of years before ‘the invention’ of the printing press. (Another myth that things are invented.) In the Handbook of Myth Council Beliefs and Operations, every single myth ever invented is listed, as well as its origin, symbolic meaning upon the society when it began, as well as its powers of creation and destruction. Through the understanding of myths, the council controlled everything from world economies to religion to global warming (the worst plague seen on Earth in over 500 years), as well as the enormous disparity of wealth between the One Percent and everyone fucking else. The Myth Council was and remains the single most powerful governing body in the world and yet, very few people even know of its existence. They don’t have a website.”
The raven flutters up to and alights on top another tombstone.
“Like any out of control bureaucracy, they were and are potentially very dangerous. And, when something so unexpected happened in the world as we know it happened, they just didn’t have a clue how to handle it. And that thing that happened, happened simply because their system of accounting was flawed and they knew it. Mythical beings are created by the World of Fantasy and Religion Department on the 947th floor of Myth Council HQ in North London. Just up from that very nice new vegan restaurant on Rivington Street. Try their mango salsa. It’s lovely.
As many as one thousand years ago, I had warned the council that will-nilly retirement of myths, and modern myths in particular, could lead to some very serious consequences of epic and worldwide proportion. Then again, they never took anything I told them seriously. Those fools never realized they were simply playing god. For it begs to conclude that if a myth can come to life, then all evidentiary reason and inductive logic leads to the probability that a myth can also die. And, if a myth, which came to life in fantasy, dies in the real world; well then, you can pretty much kiss your optimistic ass goodbye.”
The ground around the grave starts shaking, the bird is fluttering up and down, trying to keep calm. A great underground earthquake rumble is heard and felt and all of a sudden, dirt starts unearthing itself, steam shoots up in spirals, the entire cemetery turns a monotonic chartreuse, and like a Victorian actor on an old stage elevator, a man rises up and presents himself. First, we see a black silk top hat. Then the dirt covered face of one of the oddest characters to ever enter a library, or a morgue for that matter, late at night. He rises up further, revealing an antiquated black Edwardian tail-coat. As the man’s spats reveal themselves, he appears to hold a black cane and a great white light from above, a spotlight from the heavens, beams and illuminates Professor Nigel P. Arrisson, Crypto-capitalist, Para-not-normalist and Theatre Critical for The London Fogg. He dusts himself off then extends his cane parallel to a grave. The raven flies and perches itself on the cane.
“Ah, sweet bird of flight. How I longed to be with you on the primal plane.”
Nigel suddenly and swiftly tilts his cane up towards the moon, the raven forced into his open mouth. He gulps, swallowing him whole.
“Yum. I was famished!…So, now, my universal flock. Let us being our story of how a troubled American teenage girl finds out she’s really the entire key to the potential destruction of everything as we know it. Let us meet the mysterious one. Let us meet……”
Nigel opens his hands and arms like Jolson meets Jesus and addresses the reader dead on.
“The one and only Mary!”
He instantly vanishes into a flash of smoke and fire, leaving confused field mice to squeak around the bit of scorched earth where he once stood only moments ago. On the outer reaches of the cemetery lies a lone tombstone, one which seems disenfranchised from the rest. As we inch towards it, the engraving becomes clear. And it is a sad shock:
Born: December 24, 1881 –
Died: December 25, 2019
Even though, it hasn’t happened yet and by all previous knowledge, might never happen at all.
Comedian Louie Anderson, the two-time Emmy award winner, is one of the country’s most recognized and adored comics; named by Comedy Central as One of 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comedians of All Time. His career has spanned more than 30 years. He is a best-selling author, star of his own standup specials and sitcoms, and he continues to tour the country performing to standing room only crowds worldwide.
The Larf Magazine Interview: Louie Anderson
by Mark Miller
In 2016, Louie was cast to co-star along with Zach Galifianakis and Martha Kelly in the hit FX series, “Baskets.” Anderson’s extraordinary new role is Christine Baskets, the matriarch of the Baskets clan. The character is based on both his mother and his five sisters, who were a major presence in his life. Anderson was nominated for the 2016 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance as Christine.
Sharing the ups and downs of his childhood experiences as one of eleven children in Minnesota, Louie crafted comedy routines that rang true for his early club audiences, routines that led him from his career as a counselor to troubled children to the first-place trophy at the 1981 Midwest Comedy Competition. Henny Youngman, who hosted the competition, recognized the diamond-in-the-rough genius of the young comic and hired him as a writer, providing invaluable experience that soon put Louie in his own spotlight on comedy stages all over the country.
Johnny Carson, the comedy icon for generations of rising stars, invited Louie to make his national television debut on the “The Tonight Show” in 1984, and the rest is history. Leno, Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, “Comic Relief” and Showtime, HBO and CMT specials followed, including hosting the legendary game show, Family Feud, making Louie a household name and opening doors for him as an actor. He has guest-starred in sitcoms like “Grace Under Fire” and dramas like “Touched by an Angel” and “Chicago Hope,” and he has had memorable featured roles in film comedies like “Coming to America,” opposite of Eddie Murphy, and the classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” In 2013, he took a dive on the ABC reality series, “Splash” where he conquered his own fears while becoming an inspiration of hope. His standup Special, “Big Baby Boomer” premiered on CMT, in 2013.
People would always laugh at what or how I said things, and most times I was being serious. One night, a friend dared me and in 1978 I signed up, got up and did stand-up for the first time. I got some laughs, felt the excitement and some love. A fat poor kid from the projects knew a good thing when he felt it.
In 1995 Louie put his creative energies to work on the Saturday morning animated series “Life with Louie.” The long-running series based on Louie’s own childhood and his life with his father, won three Humanitas Prizes for writing on a children’s’ animated series, making him the only three-time recipient of this award. It also earned a Genesis Award for its depiction of the proper treatment of animals and, most significantly, two Emmy Awards.
His best-selling books include Dear Dad – Letters From An Adult Child, a collection of alternately touching and outrageous letters from Louie to his late father, and Good¬bye Jumbo…Hello Cruel World, self-help for those who struggle with self-esteem issues, and his latest installment on family, The F Word, How To Survive Your Family.
When not in production, Louie continues to tour, traveling the States doing what Louie loves to do, stand-up comedy. On May 24, 2018, FX renewed “Baskets” for a fourth season.
Was Minneapolis a good place to grow up? Any fond memories?
Growing up in St. Paul Minnesota was great until I realized other places had sun and no snow! But, yes, people were great, mostly friendly and lots of social programs for this fat poor projects kid—me! One fun thing we looked forward to, even though it was freezing, was The Winter Carnival, a palace made of snow! Plus, a chance to Find King Boris’s Hidden Treasure—thousands of hoping people trudging & digging through the snow for a single Gold Medallion worth $2500.00. Which seemed like a million dollars to a poor kid from a family of eleven!
What do you remember about growing up in a household of eleven children?
Waiting for the bathroom and getting the smallest glass of Grape Shasta! My mom had sixteen births.
What were you like in high school?
I was friendly, kind of shy, kind of a hippie. Wanted to be liked. We hung out at the local restaurant, trying not to be cool.
What jobs have you had other than those in show business?
I worked at a gas station, an ad salesman, and doing social work.
Did you have a fallback plan in case the comedy career didn’t work out?
My fallback plan if comedy didn’t work was some sort of job in politics.
What made you decide to get into comedy?
People would always laugh at what or how I said things, and most times I was being serious. One night, a friend dared me and in 1978 I signed up, got up and did stand-up for the first time. I got some laughs, felt the excitement and some love. A fat poor kid from the projects knew a good thing when he felt it.
How much did you struggle before making it?
I worked in Minneapolis clubs with nice success for about a year and a half, then moved to Los Angeles in ‘81, struggled, then met Jimmie Walker, who kindly hired me as a joke writer. I wasn’t very good, but he got me in at the Comedy Store and after two years of auditioning, I finally got on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. My career took off and I’ve been very lucky, pretty much working steadily since 1984.
How was your experience writing for Henny Youngman?
Henny was great to me. He had a grandson and I wrote some comedy for him—Larry Kelly a lovely guy. I wrote some fat jokes for him. Henny loved to work. He was very business-like, but sweet at the same time. He worked hard and expected everyone else to do the same.
What do you remember about your network debut as a stand-up comedian on “The Tonight Show” in 1984?
The memories of my first “Tonight Show” are still bright. I arrived in a limo to NBC, got out the car and noticed a parking spot that said “Johnny Carson’. I paused and smiled. I was greeted by the talent coordinator and an assistant. Lots of smiles, how do you feel, I replied great, I was escorted to my dressing room, my name was on the door, there was a wardrobe person who came in and took my clothes, I could hear the band tuning up, then I was shown into makeup, things were moving faster, the talent coordinator came in and said you’re the second guest, Freddie De Cordova executive producer would be in to talk to me, the makeup person pulled off the bib he put on me and that was my cue I was finished.
Back to the dressing room, 15 min to show time. “What!?” I silently screamed. I took a deep breath and settled, looked at my manager and he said something positive. Freddie came in and told me the mechanics of the night, gave me a “you’ll be great” and away he went. The band was blaring now and I started to think about getting dressed, after the monologue I’ll get dressed, I thought. There was no Twitter back then, so I couldn’t tweet, “I just looked one more time at my set list and said to myself I got this, I’m ready!” I watched Johnny’s monologue on a small monitor. Then he threw to commercial.
I started to get undressed and I stood there in my tee shirt and underwear and thought about my Dad who was always in his underwear, let a fart go in his honor and giggled, he would have laughed. A knock at the door, talent coordinator, you’re up after this guest and after the next commercial “What!?” I silently screamed again. Got dressed, & drank some Diet Coke. Breathed deeply looked in the mirror, another knock you know who, talent coordinator, “ready?” he said. Yes sir, I replied. He was talking as we walked—something about if Johnny calls you over, go to the desk! No kidding. Every Comic knows that. We ended up behind the striped light-colored curtain that I saw a thousand times on my 18 inch black and white as a kid, I reached out and touched it, like any other kid of my mother, because she would have asked me after the show, “Louie, what material is that curtain made of you came out of on the Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson?”
I can’t believe it, back to reality, the band is blaring and we are back from commercial and I hear Johnny Carson’s voice: “Our next guest is making his national television debut and will be performing tomorrow night at the Comedy Store at the Dunes Hotel, please welcome Louie Anderson.”
I walked through that curtain, found my mark, and ad-libbed a joke a joke about McDonalds from Johnny’s monologue and I’ve been doing stand-up ever since. It’s the one thing in my life that I can count on, no matter what happens, no matter if the space shuttle blows up, no matter who dies, no matter who is president.
From that day in November of 1984, I had a friend I could count on, a drug that was non-toxic, an addiction that could help others and one that night after night saves my life and keeps smiling. Oh, yeah—he called me over. Thanks, Johnny!
I started to get undressed and I stood there in my tee shirt and underwear and thought about my Dad who was always in his underwear, let a fart go in his honor and giggled, he would have laughed. A knock at the door, talent coordinator, you’re up after this guest and after the next commercial “What!?”
Your 3-year hit animated show on Fox, “Life with Louie,” centered on your 10 siblings, a sweet-hearted mother and a loud, war-crazed father. Autobiographical?
Semi-autobiographical. Had to tone down my actual family, especially my father, who was alcoholic and abusive. Because this was a family show cartoon and I had to make a show that folks could watch with their kids. And that would have been a really good show for me and my dad to have had.
You’ve said you were picked on for your weight and dealt with that through humor. Did that occur throughout your youth? Could you give an example of how you dealt with the teasing and abuse?
When you’re a fat kid or different in some way, other kids who aren’t that way don’t understand it. It’s funny to them. It’s an easy target for them to call you “Fatso”, etc. And I didn’t like being teased; I was a sensitive kid. As Popeye said, “I can stands so much, but I can’t stands no more.” But I think I did a really good job of cooking up those hurts and turning them into anecdotes with jokes. I was fairly quick-witted and I soon found out how cruel I could be, but I didn’t really like that. I had bullies threaten me because I’d go right after their weak spots; I could see them. But finally they decided, “Well, maybe I’ll use Louie more as a jester than a whipping boy.”
I think also to some degree being fat is an addiction. My dad was an alcoholic and there’s lots of drug use and alcoholism and mental illness in my family. I think I’ve used food as a defense mechanism. Food became my second best friend after stand-up comedy.
What do you love about stand-up?
It’s so immediate. It’s like surfing the big wave. If you really work hard at it, you could get a really big wave of laughter coming your way. The idea, then, is to keep topping it and going deeper and deeper into it. Stand-up is a beautiful experience, night after night.
How much preparation is involved in putting together one of your televised stand-up comedy specials?
It starts with an idea, such as what’s going on in the world; what’s my take on it? Or, being a fat kid, with a lot of exclusion going on and you’re never included. The challenge is making some of these serious ideas funny. So, I look for a comedic vein in these ideas. I start out with a beginning and then almost always want an ending I can work towards. And I keep working on it and shaping it. You can tell what’s going to work out and what isn’t. I work it and work it and work it. And when I think I’ve got an hour, I crush it out at a club for a whole week, until it just becomes the song I want to play. Take a few days off, then do one more club, then I go shoot it.
How long do you work on a joke?
I once worked 11 years on a joke. The joke: My mom used to have me and my brother guess the price she paid for clothing. We hated it because we didn’t know; we were just 10 and 12. We’d complain, “You’re ruining our lives!” My mom would say, “Kids, what do you think I got this outfit for?” And being a wise guy, I’d go, “Eleven hundred? Nine hundred?” And she would say the price. I always knew it wasn’t the right joke. Finally, I was on stage one night, got to the point where mom said, “What do you think I got this outfit for?” And I said, “Halloween?” And that was the joke. That was the missing part of a complete joke. Underneath every joke is a better joke. And I don’t think comics hardly ever peel the tape off. Because the first one’s the zircon; the second one’s the diamond. And the third one’s the emerald—really ambitious. Also, the original question was “How much do you think I got this outfit for?” And without thinking, I changed it to, “What do you think I got this outfit for?” I allow myself to deliver the same joke differently each time. Because if you’re not different in every joke, how can you find the other joke?
What was it like playing in the 2006 Word Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas? How did you do? Are you a gambler?
Let’s be honest: I’m in show business—I’m a gambler. There are no guarantees. I got in because I lived in Vegas and someone at “Poker Stars” was a fan of mine. I’ve rarely played poker and almost never tournament poker. The problem with me is I always think I have the best hand. But I loved doing it; it was so much fun. There were 6,000 people there. I think I made it 12 hours, which I felt great about. Poker became a really cool thing for a while. I enjoyed the strategy. Coming from a large family, there’s always a strategy. And I love cards. When you’re poor, you have a deck of cards.
What was your experience hosting the TV game show, “Family Feud”?
Living in the projects sitting in our living room on the arm of the couch, dad in his “dad chair”, mom in the kitchen, “Family Feud” comes on and we played it.
When I got the offer to host, I wanted to do it! (I might not have hosted any other game show) but the “Feud”, it was a no-brainer, it gave me a chance to come full circle, for my mom, dad and me! 30 years earlier revisited, and now I’m the host, it was a honor, I was no Richard Dawson (the man they created the Feud for) but I loved giving away money to people who could use it. That was my favorite part of the show. And when they’d lose it, it was a bummer for them and me.
You play Christine Baskets, the put-upon mother of Zach Galifianakis, on the FX comedy series “Baskets”. What was your initial reaction when you were offered that part? How did you arrive at the character? How has the experience been over all?
I was working in Vegas at the Plaza Hotel. I was on my way to work and got a call from Steve Levine, my old agent. He said Louie C.K. wants your phone number. Louie calls me a short time later: “Louie, hi, it’s Louie.” “Hi, Louie.” “Hi, Louie.” Which is one of my favorite things ever because it hardly ever happens. He said I’m with Zack Galifianakis and we’re doing a sit-com and we’d like you to play a character. I said yeah! I mean, these two guys call you; are you going to say anything but yes? I mean, unless you’re crazy. They’re royalty in comedy right now, and probably forever. He said, we want you to play Zack’s mother. And I go, “Yes!!” I was excited because it was some sort of divine thing. Like you’re waiting for something but don’t know what it is, but you know it could be really good. And that’s really how it felt. I never thought it would lead to an Emmy nomination until people started mentioning it to me. Zack’s manager, Marc Gurvitz, told a friend of his that he thought I was going to win an Emmy. He also told an old manager of mine, Alex Murray, “I saw the dailies and Louie’s going to win an Emmy.” It’s weird when you hear stuff like that. How do you respond, except, “I am?” And then people started making those Emmy comments on my Twitter and Facebook pages. And people in airports would say that to me. And I said, “Are you guys voters, though?”
I’ll tell you what was so cool about it. I worked really hard with Louie and Zack and Jonathan Kreisel on making the relationship between Zack and I real. And I worked really hard to make Louie Anderson disappear on screen. And I thank my mom for that, because if you could become someone else it’s best if you know that person. I had been doing my mom in my act for a long time, and Christine Baskets is a version of my mom. And my mom had very funny mannerisms and was a very funny person in her own right. A really clever person and could find joy in a bottle of DeSante.
You have a wonderful relationship with Zack’s girlfriend on the show.
That was such a hard scene for me to do. When I had to send her home to Paris. We both cried.
No, I’m talking about Martha Kelly, the nerdy girlfriend/insurance salesperson.
Oh my god, I love Martha. I feel bad that she’s Zack’s whipping post. He really gives her a hard time, but I think he really loves her.
Was this the first time you’d worn women’s clothing for an acting role?
No. Comedian Dom Irerra did one of those specials we used to do for Showtime and HBO. They’d all have an opening comedy bit. So, Dom asked me if I would play the maid in the scene. The scene was I wake Dom up as the maid. Then after I leave, the other covers come off next to Dom and it’s Bruce Willis. And Dom goes, “Hey, didn’t that maid look like Louie Anderson?” And that was the only time I did that. I had 5 sisters and a mom, but I never really tried on any of their clothes. Wearing women’s clothes takes a little getting used to, but it’s much more comfortable in some ways than men’s clothes. Because you’re not all strapped in.
One of the three books you’ve written, Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child, is a collection of letters to your late father. What kind of relationship did you have with him? Were the letters things that you didn’t or weren’t able to communicate to him while he was alive?
I wrote the book 10 years after he died. I took a friend of mine to his father’s grave where he read a letter to him. I was very moved by it. And I knew in my heart I’d have to do that same thing someday. So, 10 years later in Milwaukee, I was on the road and started writing these letters in a journal and they just poured out of me. And they became a book. I ended up getting 10,000 letters from people who had much worse times with their dad than I did. And my dad was an abusive alcoholic. Writing the letters healed me, because I was able to forgive my dad. And I think the book helped a lot of people; I hope it did, anyway. People mention it to me quite often. It just came out on Kindle and I’m excited about that. This may sound crazy, but I’d love to do it as a stage performance where I read the letters and do the comedy part in there. I’d love to find a director who could help me make it into a stage production. Because I feel that people don’t read as much as they used to, especially books, and this is an important subject.
Another of your books, Goodbye Jumbo… Hello Cruel World, is a self-help book for those who struggle with self-esteem issues. What has been most helpful to you in dealing with self-esteem? What would you tell someone you met today who was dealing with self-esteem issues?
They have to believe they can be healed before they can start healing themselves. They have to believe they’re a good person, before they can start being nicer to themselves.
Your third book, The F Word: How to Survive Your Family, features 49 family survival tips. Could you share one of your favorites?
This is my favorite one: For every family function, arrive late and leave early. Because it’s just better. And make sure your emotional gas tank is full before you go. And it’s unlikely with the story of your family you keep replaying, that the third act is going to change. So, you should be more accepting, smile, giggle, and go, “Oh, mom!”
Louie Anderson’s favorite family survival tip: “For every family function, arrive late and leave early.”
Have you done everything on your bucket list? What other goals do you have?
I’d like to turn my book “Dear Dad” into a stage show. I’d like to write a one hour drama for TV because I’m a huge one hour drama fan. And I’d love to get to a weight that is completely healthy for me. That is really my main goal—my health. I’ve been eating sprouts and drinking wheatgrass juice. Someone told me when I was about to start drinking it that the wheatgrass juice would taste like Kool-Ade. I keep calling them. But it’s much easier after a while. And it’s so nutritious and good for you and sets your system. I look at it this way: I’ve eaten everything I need to eat.
What hobbies and other interests do you have?
I just started painting. It’s always about my family. I just took a class and painted something that was nice; I liked it. I have a lot of big underwear and thought they’d be wonderful canvases. I think it would be really funny as well as an effective canvas.
Do you have a favorite charity?
The homeless. I had a program called Hero that ran for several years in Flint, Michigan, that I started with my manager’s sister. I’m working on an infant mortality charity in Detroit, MakeYourDate.
Who do you admire in stand-up comedy? In acting?
People who really influenced me were Johnny Carson, Bob Hope—had such great patter; he really knew how to deliver a joke; Richard Pryor—his heart was so unbelievable, Jackie Vernon, Rodney Dangerfield—I loved his jokes and character, Bill Burr, John Mulaney—he is so prolific; I was so jealous. Emo Phillips—I realize what a great performer he is; his jokes are so solid. I love great solid jokes. Nick Swardson—we’re both from Minnesota. Of course, Louie C.K. And Jonathan Winters had a giant impact upon me, too, with my character stuff.
Bryan Cranston was my co-star in the “Louie” pilot, where I played a therapist. I’ve always rooted for him and I’m really proud of all his success. I love great comic actors on TV—Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Ted Knight, Carol O’Connor, Jean Stapleton. I loved Laurel & Hardy and Abbot & Costello.
The greatest thing about my life is I got to meet so many of those people. I got to work with Audrey Meadows, who told me stories about Jackie Gleason, who was so great. I loved Red Skelton. I never wanted to be a comic, which is the funniest thing. Someone just dared me. But I was going to be a politician; I wanted to be President.
Do you see yourself in a storytelling tradition, like Bill Cosby?
Bill came from an adult point of view, telling his stories. I feel like I come from the place of a son. I’m the kid whose parents are driving him nuts to this day. But Bill was a great storyteller, standup, great delivery.
What’s it like living in Las Vegas?
I’ve been in Vegas since 1984. The day after my “Tonight Show” debut I started working at the Dunes Hotel. You’ve got to stay off the Strip for the most part; you can’t live that life. I’ve had a lot of fun there. It was the greatest. I worked at Bally’s for 11 years for 6 weeks a year. I would either go in as Paul Anka was finishing. And then when I would go out, George Carlin would come in. Next time I’d come in, Dean Martin was there. Then I’d go out and Smokey Robinson would be there. I got to meet everybody. Got to see Frank Sinatra perform at the Desert Inn.
I got to open for so many acts because my agent Frank Rio at Triad Artists was Bob Hope’s agent and all the great acts’ agent. The week after my “Tonight Show” debut, I was opening for The Commodores. And then The Pointer Sisters. And then Dolly Parton. And Kenny Rogers. And Glenn Campbell. And Ray Charles. All these unbelievable acts. It was surreal. So, I got a peek in at how fame worked. And how they lived. And who was nice. The greatest thing I experienced was that the majority of stars were super nice. The bigger the star, sometimes the bigger the niceness.
Joan Rivers and Rodney Dangerfield—both people who guided and mentored me early on. They were fans. They came to Minnesota and I was lucky enough that they connected with me and gave me encouragement to get to one of the coasts.
If you could choose one person, living or dead, to have as your dinner companion for one night?
Standups? A tossup between Lenny Bruce and Groucho Marx.
Favorite music album?
Harvest, by Neil Young.
All That Jazz.
If I was on an island? I guess it would have to be Gilligan’s Island. ‘Cause I could then at least learn how to make the things.
French bread. [LAUGHS]. No, probably one food I’d have to eat forever? Well, the new Louie says wheatgrass. The old Louie says Jerry’s Fried Chicken in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was a broasted secret recipe chicken that once in a while my dad would treat us.
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This interview appeared originally in The Huffington Post.
Fat Chance featured at The Hudson Theatre during the 2018 Hollywood Fringe Heads to Edinburgh.
In Danny Lobell’s first outing as a one-man shower, the 35-year old comedian, podcast host and festival organizer, took us on an inside journey into a personal and intricate world of the short con to success and survival.
“Broke as a Joke” was an hilarious heartfelt reveal and went on to sell out houses and enthusiastic reviews at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In Lobell’s new show, “Fat Chance”, Danny once again opens up his comedy veins, spilling insightful blood while delivering huge laughs to a hungry audience.
Camp Shane became Camp Shame.
The plump yet lovable Lobell’s opening gambit is a zinger: “I wrote most of this show when I was still fat” shows us who he’s kidding and begins to explain that being fat brings you attention and that getting fat in the first place was from his parents guilting him out over starving children in Africa. While his parents sent him to “fat camp” (which Lobell’s twisted mind interpreted as a place to get fat), he ruined playground heckler’s and bully’s “your mom is so fat” jokes with encyclopedic logic. Camp Shane became “Camp Shame”. After that sweet little appetizer, Danny moves immediately to the main course.
Danny played Santa at a Peruvian Christmas party of all things, pimped out by his parents and this is just one feather of his misadventures. You see, Danny is more than a comedian. More than a fat guy. Danny is a central character. That’s what’s so fascinating about him. The world literally revolves around him, but not at his choosing. Which is the classic Medievil food. I mean fool.
Danny explains his observations of the human race around fatties:
“Everyone wants to be the cool fat kid in the cool group. But more than one fat kid and it becomes a fat group.”
Everybody Thinks Your Fat is Their Business
Someone comes up to him at a show and says: “I was gonna tell you you look like a fat Kevin Smith!” Meant as a compliment, Danny replies: “You almost said that?”
Full of Funny Fat One-Liners
“My wife got me a Fit-Bit. I put it on the dog.”
“I joined the gym because the bench press was really comfortable. I napped.”
“The treadmill shows down time. I’d put a terminally ill patient on a treadmill.”
The Machinations of Losing Weight
Weighing portions, food on scale, reading the box, and finally sitting on a steak first to order a second steak.
“The ‘lottery’ of fat people is a bad thyroid,” explains Danny. Good excuse for people, Danny says. And when you first hear that, you begin to realize that being fat is no joke for people on a day to day basis. In fact, just at this point of the show, Danny suddenly shifts to his heartfelt and painful mention of his friend the late comedian Ralphie May, himself a fat comedian who passed away last year. May took Danny under his wing (and breast and thigh) and taught him how to deal with these clowns and took him on tour as his opening act.
“Get your comedy just desserts by seeing the sweet Danny Lobell’s Fat Chance. A show filled with delicious creamy ideas is comedy comfort food at its best.” – Steven Alan Green, Larf Magazine
Danny’s basic philosophy is never to put office supplies into his body. After all, people suggested over the years: stomach staples, rubber bands, paper clips and probably even copier toner. Lobell’s poetic insight that it’s not a heart “attack,” it’s a heart “surrender”, deftly leads us to the end of the plank with “I wanted to do this show while I still had a fat chance.”
Full of charm and humanity and laughs, Danny Lobell’s new one-man show “Fat Chance” is surely to attract a comedy hungry crowd at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. Make sure you catch it. He’s got a lot for you to digest. And, it’s a free show. You won’t need to spend any of those British “Pounds”.
Fat Chance written by and starring Daniel Lobell premiers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival August 3 at “The Coffee House” 144 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1QS and runs through August 26. Shows daily, except Saturdays.
“Fat Chance” Edinburgh Preview: Five outta Five Stars