What a night! I know what you’re thinking: Alec Baldwin + comedy is like shooting fish in a barrel, and ok, you’re not wrong. But it was more than that – from start to finish it was an evening of hysterical stories performed, well, hysterically (hey, there’s a reason my writing isn’t read on stage).
The night kicked off on a somber note – we said goodbye to Isaiah with a moment of
silence laughter. And really, why not? Because in all seriousness that was the appropriate tribute to Isaiah. Next up, we met our new host for the season. BD Wong came out on stage and boy, are we lucky. He is everything you want in a host – charming, funny, self-deprecating, and easy on the eyes. Plus, the man is social media savvy. I don’t know about you, but how many times have you been at a show where you thought, “Why is it so hard for a host to mention someone’s twitter handle? Is that really so much to ask for?” Fear no more – BD is on the case. Here’s another example of how good BD is as host – imagine you’re about to step in front of 800 or so people to kick off a night that has been sold out for two months and you get word that the main attraction, the great Alec Baldwin, may not make it because his shooting schedule is going late. Not a pretty picture, is it? Now cut to the actual situation where BD delivered the news and the crowd reacted in rapid succession with a collective groan, laughter, and finally, cheering. That, my friends, is one neat trick.
Our stories began with Aya Cash and David Furr delivering Dorothy Parker’s “You Were Perfectly Fine.” In a story retold to this day in church basements all over the country, David played a very hungover gentleman with a good friend who “helps” him remember his drunken antics from the night before. I happen to know at least a dozen people in the audience who felt much better about their drinking habits after hearing this story. I was not one. Luckily, no time to order the Big Book because we were then introduced to comedian Michael Showalter making his Shorts debut. Michael performed “Trouble and the Shadowy Deathblow” by Patrick Somerville. It was a marathon read clocking in at almost an hour, but Michael managed to not only stay upright at the music stand, but get better and better as the story went along. My expert opinion is that any story that features a deathblow is bound to be good (just imagine if Cheever had included a deathblow into “The Swimmer” – think about it).
After intermission, Wyatt Cenac took the stage to give a pitch perfect delivery of the Simon Rich story “Unprotected.” Wyatt was perfectly suited to perform this joke heavy piece with a heart written by a former Saturday Night Live writer (you can read the story from The New Yorker here). There were times the audience was laughing so hard it was impossible to hear Wyatt’s next line. He brought the house to cheers. Not the kind of performance you’d want to follow. Luckily, the person who did was up to the task. Yep, he made it. Alec Baldwin hobbled out on stage, bad back and all, and launched into one of those magical Shorts performances that makes you sad when you realize it’s ending. Performing James Thurber’s “The Day the Dam Broke” he pulled off a high wire act of having us laugh at the stupidity of human behavior while still conveying a basic humanity we could all relate to. In a word, superb.
The next night I sat at home trying to relive all the merriment. I poured myself a large glass of wine, practiced my deathblow in the mirror and watched 30 Rock. D0- it-yourself Selected Shorts wasn’t nearly as much fun and I woke up with a headache (but kudos to Liz Lemon for finally tying the knot!). Happily I remembered that I didn’t kill anyone with my deathblow AND it’s less than 2 weeks until the guys from Radiolab take the stage to introduce their favorite stories performed by Jane Curtin, Liev Schreiber and Kyra Sedgwick. Can’t wait!
Mary Shimkin 12.3.12