March 22, 2012

Coming Soon: David Sedaris

April brings showers, tax return deadlines, and also something decidedly more incredible. As the month winds to a close, The Paramount welcomes back an annual guest who is far more enjoyable than that yearly bout with cedar allergies. He is the incomparable humorist, the ever observant and ironic David Sedaris.

Last year I profiled him in depth, and for those curious (or merely the lazy), that write up could be found here. And this year, he's back for more. Armed with prose sharp as a scalpel, he carves through the absurdities and contradictions of our lives with the precision of a surgeon. His humor is simultaneously apparent yet subtle, often while making a statement about the human condition.

David has written numerous essays and short stories, and his collections have indulged readers with his funny observations. Nearly all based on his true life experiences, and these stories often have the distinction of being inconsequential yet profound. Even more astounding than reading Sedaris' works is to hear it, because listening to the author read his own pieces is a whole new level of entertainment.

Picking a favorite for me to share was no easy task. I combed through clips by the boatloads, and while many were hilarious ,there are very few that are free of objectionable language. Nevertheless, I returned to one that has stuck with me: part cartoon, part fable, it is also imbibed with a pinch of melancholy to give it a bittersweet flavor. In short, I find it to be a recipe for true brillance. While nearly all of David's writing leaves me in tears, this one does the same after I have laughed. No matter how many times I hear this story, it always brings a tear to my eye.

Such is the beauty of the sardonic.

There's something in that mild-mannered delivery to focus on the heft of the words. David's dry voice guides us as he shows us the funny aspects, but never pushes us towards any preconceived conclusions. Nevertheless, whenever the fable's lesson presents itself, it is apt and readily apparent.

As his popularity continues to grow by leaps and bounds, Sedaris continues to cement his place as America's favorite humorist. After seeing him in person last year, he's certainly mine. This year, it's your turn. Whether it's by way of laughter or forlorn sincerity, David is sure to leave you in tears.

But try and look at the bright side. At least it's not due to those damn cedar allergies.

David Sedaris brings his distinctive voice to the stage of The Long Center as part of The Paramount Season Series on April 23rd at 8:00 pm.

March 4, 2012

Coming Soon: Martin Short

I hate to lull the audience into letting them think that something is something. It's always fun to defy expectations."
-Martin Short

Regardless of how effortless it may appear, there is always an understated art to comedy. What is presented as guffaws often mask subtleties in the art of performance. The best comedians are astute in observing the human condition and must juggle many skills flawlessly. They have to be storytellers, have lightning fast wit and above all... be entertaining. Duh. But the difficulty lies in how subjective comedy inherently is. There is no universal standard as to what is funny. There is no comic that appeals to everyone. Yet, there are some funnymen who everyone simply loves. On the flip side, there are other comedians out there that make you wonder how the heck anyone could find them funny at all (I'm looking at you, guy with puppets).

Don't worry, here's a comedic talent you're going to love.

Yet when it comes to improvisational comedy, it's doubly hard to recognize genius levels of talent. Why? Because great improv should appear effortless; seen but unseen. Pity the poor performer who truly excels at this unscripted comedy, for most may never recognize his skill. Ah, but here comes a true legend of the craft. A diminutive comic who is one of the genuine world heavyweight champs in improvisation. Martin Short is more than just the master of improv, for he's created numerous characters and memorable roles along the path of his career.

Who was the first Martin Short fictional character you remember seeing?

For some, they may remember Short when he first began his ascent into the limelight, as a cast member of Second City Television (SCTV) in the early 80s. Amongst the midst of comedic talents such as John Candy, Catherine O'Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and Joe Flaherty, Martin nevertheless carved out a distinct niche. When he took his talent to Saturday Night Live in 1984, he also brought his SCTV character of Ed Grimley.

So who the heck is Ed Grimley? Why it's one of Short's earliest pop culture icons, I must say. This annoying yet endearing character would best be described as a cross between The Little Rascals' Alfalfa, Pee Wee Herman and a precursor to Jerri Blank. He was delightfully weird and chipper, and Grimley became so popular that he even had a Saturday morning cartoon back in the day.

For others, Short is best known for his comedic film roles. I know legions of people who loved him in the 1991 remake of Father of The Bride as Franck Eggelhoffer, the ever-so-distinctive wedding planner. It's not easy to steal the show from Steve Martin, but that's exactly what Martin did. Over the years, Short placed his stamp on movies such as Innerspace, Captain Ron, Three Fugitives, The Santa Clause 3, and Mars Attacks! But to me, he'll always be Ned Nederlander from Three Amigos!

Over the past decade, Short has embodied an alter ego known as Jiminy Glick; certainly the biggest role Martin's ever undertaken. This character (a television interviewer who is, shall we say... less than skilled) has allowed Short to showcase his off-the-cuff style of humor. He often interviews real celebrities, and the improvisational antics that follow are outrageously funny. Take for instance, this clip where Jiminy Glick interviews rapper/actor Ice Cube.

Every now and then, Martin Short also surfaces in something I am watching, and every time I am captivated. He's appeared in fare such as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Arrested Development," "How I Met Your Mother," and "Weeds." He's even dabbled in drama, receiving recognition (and an Emmy nomination) for his role in "Damages." And how about this?! He's also the voice of Dr. Suess' "The Cat in The Hat" on PBS.

For all his work on TV and film, it is on the stage where Martin got his start and still feels comfortable. Back in 1993, I was fortunate enough to have seen his performance in The Goodbye Girl with Bernadette Peters on Broadway, a role that earned him a Tony award nomination. I was more than impressed that night, and have diligently followed his career since. And why not? As you can see, Martin Short certainly shows a distinct brand of fearlessness. While other comedians may settle for scripted moments and a sheltered routine, he has never been afraid of challenging himself and pushing his talents beyond safe realms.

For that very reason, you can't allow yourself to miss his one-man performance. Spend an evening with Martin Short and see his genius gift of improv first hand. Of course, he is so deft at impromptu comedy that one may not even notice that it was unrehearsed. Whether you find him silly, charming, elfish, clever or annoyingly endearing, one thing is certain. When it comes to Martin, the laughs are never in Short supply.

Martin Short graces the stage on Friday, March 23rd at 8:00 p.m. Oh, and I hear Jiminy Glick is going to make an appearance as well. Be prepared to enjoy the unprepared.