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Comedy Stray Notes April 7, 2022
On what it feels like to have a play you wrote debut with a big crowd, a sketch about Wordle, an upcoming one-man show and SO. MUCH. MORE (not that much more)
• Have you ever been nostalgic for something before it happened? Like when you stepped on a plane and already felt like your vacation was coming to a close?
That’s how I felt all last week.
For over a month, I’d been gearing up for the theatrical debut of my one-act play “Dungeons” directed by mi esposa Anna Paone and starring the talented cast made up of Manny Simmons, Akeyla Wallace and Susan Schnitzer.
In that short period of time, I saw a goofy script I wrote turn into a living, breathing thing filled with humor and fraught with tension that I couldn’t have ever imagined. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no huge theater fan but when the drama onstage is as good as it was during rehearsals, there’s nothing more visceral. And yeah, this was good. These guys gave me goosebumps like 40 times.
Manny and Akeyla got in each other’s faces and believably created an unspoken, uncomfortable history between their sibling characters. Schnitzer eased the escalating drama dunking on her fictional children.
Now, the only thing that was left was seeing the play with an audience.
Well, let’s rewind.
I sort of saw it with a crowd.
Dragonfly, the theater company that put the play up, runs a tech week for six days before the show goes up. For each of those performances, the actors and crew from the other one-acts let out nary a laugh. Although I was still confident the play would work, I’ll admit I was a bit shaken.
Friday rolled around. My mom, dad Andy Levy, brother Ben Levy, uncle Ed Levy, aunt Lisa Pearlstein and friend Russell Dolan showed.
Finally, a real crowd.
“Dungeons” closed out the five-play lineup. I was backstage for most of the night helping with props and moving furniture on and off the stage.
Then, it was our turn. Cue the “Zelda” music Anna chose.
While setting the stage, I dropped the prop dice that was supposed to go on a folding TV dinner table. We also forgot to put Akeyla’s character’s cape onstage. You gotta roll with the punches. It’s live, baby.
After the stage was set, I quickly and quietly ran to sit with my family. I’d been looking forward to this moment for eight months.
Not even a chuckle for the first few minutes.
Somehow, we started to click with the audience. Jokes landed. The air got sucked out of the room in the appropriate moments. We got real, earned laughs where we’d never imagined them before.
Then, we got close to the end.
If you haven’t seen the play, it becomes pretty emotional leading up to its finale. I don’t know how the actors keep it together because I cry often just watching it. That night, I did it again. Twice. They were happy tears though.
It worked. It really worked.
Afterwards, there was a talkback with the writers and directors. Anna and I got a few lols. After a while, my charm ran out. When you don’t work out your stand up muscle, it gets flabby.
The next night, the play somehow hit even harder than it did at the first show. I got to see it with friends Sam Zelitch (who gave the script a much-needed dramatic punch up), Max Weinbach, Nicky Weinbach and Therese Jaffe all in attendance.
Then, that wave of future nostalgia hit me again. There was just one more show.
On Sunday, I made it to the theater early for the final 3 p.m. matinee. Will Purpura, Danny Braff, John Santillana and Jon Turner generously showed.
Bittersweet is the best way to describe this last go-round.
Not our best showing but when it’s the last one it means the most.
Since it ended, a few people have asked what happens next with the play. I don’t know.
However, I do know I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything in the world.
Thank you, Catherine LaMoreaux, for allowing this script I wrote on a lark to turn into one of the most artistically satisfying experiences of my life.*
*it’s not quite as good as the time an old lady roasted me onstage at a Creek open mic in 2016 though.
• My pal Tom Scudamore is probably the future Lorne Michaels of the U.K., so I’ll do anything that the guy asks.
His most recent request was fairly reasonable. Would Anna and I act in a brilliant sketch that he wrote about Wordle?
The answer was a resounding hell yeah, bro.
So, on an early March evening, Anna and I filmed ourselves playing clueless Wordle creator Josh Wordle and his cheeky, jealous girlfriend Cathy. It took an hour, maybe two, tops. Through the wonders of modern technology, we transferred the footage overseas to Tom and he cut himself in to play our therapist who was in the same room as us.
Yeah, we were in two different continents but thanks to movie magic, it looks like we were five feet away from each other having a conversation.
Anyhow, I highly recommend you give this 2.5-minute sketch that Tom cobbled together a go. Anna’s a hoot in it; I love her delivery of “Ya dumb geek!” Really some of her best work yet.
• Tom Achilles is running his one-man show at the PIT Loft on Friday.
That’s right. There’s a Tom Achilles one-man show and it’s directed by Sam Zelitch.
Don’t know who Tom Achilles is?
He’s just one of the most offbeat, freshest voices in New York comedy stretching the mundane into the most bizarre performance art comedy I’ve seen after sitting through thousands of hours of comedy.
The fact that you could see Tom rewrite the rules of stand-up for a measly $10 is blasphemy. You should run, NAY, sprint (!) to the show. Friday. 8 p.m. BE THERE.
• It’s very late. I’m tired. Did loads of laundry tonight. However, I still feel a strange sense of obligation to tell you my thoughts about last week’s Jerrod Carmichael SNL. It’s a problem.
To keep this low-key, I’m just going to highlight everything I loved about this episode.
-Great monologue. Jerrod carefully covered “it” without ever mentioning what we all knew he was talking about.
-“Is My Brain Okay” somehow managed to get deep within all of our collective psyches asking a question we all really should ask ourselves every day (seriously, is your brain ok?).. As tired as the game show format is, I appreciate that the staff keeps reinventing the wheel.
-Pete Davidson’s “Short Ass Movies” started slow but by the time Dirt Nasty AKA Simon Rex rhymed about all the classic ‘90s Ernest movies in quick succession I was fully onboard. Then, the dig at “King of Staten Island?” That was the cherry on top.
-Shop TV started crazy slow and then stretched the limits of what you can get away with on TV. Some of the best visual gags the show’s ever done.
-The “throw a dead man off a cliff” Python-esque sketch subverted all expectations. Andrew Dismukes truly came into his own here too; his delivery of “Here comes the check!” to the distressed family members was the moment he arrived as a tour de force comic performer on the show.
-Kyle Mooney’s conversational overcompensator was so relatable it bordered on unwatchable. However, he sold the character with just the right amount of cluelessness and pathos. Plus, you gotta love the button. Heckuva button.
-The cut for time “Three Normal Goths” from “Please Don’t Destroy” was my favorite of all. Tight, weird, grounded. Simple idea, superb execution.
• There’s so much more I should have, could have and would have written about but it’ll all come soon. You’re just going to have to be patient, ya know