Sunday night I went to my friend, Paul Strickland’s one man show, Any Title Will Work. A little bit of truth to get out of the way before I discuss this GREAT play. I would not consider Paul and I great friends. I worked with him one week about 3 years ago. We went out for lunch one of those days and he’s a really good dude to hang out with it. What I remember about his standup was that his writing was really smart. A cut above most people who open for me. So when I saw that he was performing at the local Fringe Fest, I wasn’t surprised. What drew me as much as anything, though, was that I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a show like this for the past 8 years or so.
Another friend, Kevin Burke, did a one man show, as well, earlier this decade that I went to see. The show helped catapult himself to auditioning for a touring version of Defending the Caveman. He got the gig. Since then he’s been so good in this role that the company that owns the show now, moved Kevin to Vegas where he’s been doing the Caveman for a few years there. Kevin a unique guy with a bigger than life personality. He has immense confidence which is aided by his ability to project his voice like he’s the ringleader of the circus. (He did attend Barnum & Bailey clown college, so maybe that has something to do with this.) Kevin has formal acting training, which mixed with his years doing standup makes him a formidable force onstage.
So I had seen Kevin’s one man show which was inspiring enough that I had considered doing a 0ne-man show myself. I think a problem most comedians have is they get lazy and don’t push themselves to step out of their comfort zone. Look, there isn’t a lot of ways you can use your experience as a standup comic in other avenues. Standup doesn’t help you build a shelf or change the oil in your car. Writing a one-man show and doing it somewhere is something, though, that does give you a leg up versus most other people. I haven’t done it, though, so I went to Paul Strickland’s show with the hope that it would inspire me again to push myself into that direction. It did.
Paul refers to himself as a Professional Talker. Never heard that before and I love it. I’m not going to transcribe Paul’s whole show for you, but I think he has some really original elements to it. The way he uses titles to start each story reminds me of the way a really good Minister does the same in their sermon. I think the current wave of the best standup comedy features comics who are raw and thought-provoking about their own lives. Paul does that in his one man show, as he discusses the flaws he has which might be genetic or might be learned from his favorite relative, his Grandfather. What is most unlike theater I’ve seen in my life, nothing seems contrived in Paul’s show. I’m guessing this comes from the standup world of not being fake in your presentation. Next to stealing material, I can’t think of anything other comics hate more than being too theatrical on-stage. It’s great to be over the top if you are in Glee or fronting a glam-rock band, but in standup the style which other comics respect is being authentic, even if you are telling jokes that are inauthentic.
So I want to thank Paul Strickland for a great night of entertainment. His show was complex and had a lot of depth, while still being entertaining and funny to the audience. You could tell the time he spent in writing it and rewriting it. Most of us comics (even the one’s who have been pros for a long time) don’t put in the effort to do anything but write a couple extra minutes of material every 6 months or so. As you know if you are regular reader here, I love standup comedy more than any other art form, but I have tons of respect for comics who push themselves to step out of their comfort zone doing just standup. Paul Strickland and Kevin Burke are 2 people who have done this. They are very different people, but they both can be proud to say they have pushed themselves to produce something creative that few can do, the one-man show. I hope to be part of that group in the next couple years. I have a couple ideas on how to make this happen. Maybe by writing about it here it will help push myself to do it. I will keep you posted.