Monday, January 19, 2004

An Open Letter to Rosie O'Donnell

Dear Rosie,

Sorry to hear about Taboo closing. That must totally suck.

Even with a financial loss that trumps what most people make in a lifetime, you are reportedly ready to saddle up the ol' Broadway horse again. As always, I genuinely admire your pluck.

But while I do enjoy theater and do appreciate all you've done for the overall health of Broadway, I can't help but wonder why you've abandoned your roots.

You made it as a sassy L.I. comedian. Not as a singing comedian and not as a dancing comedian. Not as a comedian who needed a full orchestra or a union crew. Not as a comedian with a stage manager or the need for a rehearsal space other than your bedroom.

Rather you were a very talented stand-up comedian, playing in all the rat holes comedians are forced to play in.

Your generation boomed with comedy. Back in the 80's you all had paying spots but the boom went bust and you left us with a sick and dying comedy club scene.

Now you've made your money and you've ran off and left us for the more glamorous world of tourists and turn turn kick turn, two, three, kick turn!

Have any successful comedians of your generation looked back and then taken an interest in ameliorating what is happening now?

How about our own NY treasure, Jerry Seinfeld? He, not unlike other comedy legends, is known to run into a NY comedy club bringer show, do a spot and run out. In this way he validates the clubs. Seinfeld makes the poor, exploited, and crap bringer show comics believe the club's hype: that all an inexperienced comedian needs is bought stagetime. The club lures shows full of these inexperienced comedians buying stage time because they are told it is a career trajectory. It also keeps the usually miserable but long-suffering audiences in the dark as to their involvement in the whole "bringer show" sham.

I admit that as a working comedian it's very hard every time I hear someone say, "Oh, you're a comedian? My sister-in-law's brother's wife's dental hygienist is a comedian too. She's only been doing it for a few months. Personally, I didn't think she was very funny... but we saw her perform at (insert big comedy club name here) with Jerry Seinfeld, so she's obviously doing really well. So where do you perform?"

Or what about a certain NY-based late night talk show host who once featured cutting edge acts he had an appreciation for. But this man, whom I will only refer to as "Schmettermon" hasn't physically stepped out into the NY comedy world in decades. This is why his more recent comedy acts seem to be the choice of a partially labotomized man.

You see, your generation took the money and ran.

When the comedy boom went bust you all ran as fast as you could from the shoulder pads, the skinny ties and the hair mousse. You ran to sitcoms, to talk shows, to HBO and to Broadway shows. You ran from nothing less than the rotting stink of the over-exposed stand-up comedy carcass.

I can't say I wouldn't have done exactly the same thing in your position. But at some point I would've come back to clean up after I'd cleaned up.

Speaking as another sassy comedian originally from the fetid seagull pooped on strip mall full of ignorance that is known as Lawn Giland, I know how loathe you must be to go back.

Rosie you are much more than a grumpy do-gooder producer who currently has a bad haircut: You are a comedian. If you come to terms with this I think you and your check book will be a lot happier. If you could stop faking a crush on Tom Cruise, you can stop faking being legit. Embrace the freak comedian within, for your comedy is the well spring of your talents and that from which you were sprung.

Outside of the rotten core of the comedy clubs there is amazing comedy happening all over the city. Sure it can be argued that maybe the comedy clubs are beyond saving... that maybe without the throngs of cocaine addled audiences it's a no hoper. But no! There are are ways to contribute to the health of comedy, even if you don't go whole hog like those amazing young visionaries at UCB did.

Look, Rosie, The New York Times will review you if you dance around barefoot in your loft for long enough, but they do not even give a nod to comedy outside of a theater.* What I'm getting at is that we obviously need the publicity a helluva lot more than Broadway does.

You can drop the elaborate song and dance with me. You had me at, "Where ya from?" Help us Obi Wan, you and yours are our only hope.


A. Comic

*For some reason The New York Times does review cabaret, another art form often performed in tiny sticky-floored bars and clubs. All I can think is it's because the Times has a thing for tame whimsy and all the trimmings. e.g. middle-aged people who often over dress in crushed velvet & people who usually like their publicity shots to be photographed in a coy manner using a vaseline-coated lens.