Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rejection Show raves

Last September, I went to my first Rejection Show, the last one they held at The Tank. I don’t remember everything about it, but I do recall Jon talking about Weekend at Bernies and Andres du Bouchet doing some rejected SNL skits. In that last year that I’ve been going (I missed I think the May one), the show has improved by leaps and bounds, and I last night was really excellent. There was so much going on and a real camaraderie amongst the performers, something I’ve found really makes a show work, and which I suppose is unpredictable but is heartwarming to see. Cassidy Henehan of The $1 Room, a New Orleans native, did a set that was funny but also very touching, and he’s clearly been through a hellish time these last few weeks. He showed us his NOLA tattoo and made us laugh about Katrina, and it seemed like it was really cathartic for him to be up there. Jon was a really funny host, as always - he read some rejected headlines he’d sent to The Onion, and used lots of dirty words that he rarely uses onstage. Adam Cole-Kelly did these hilarious back to school fashions, like a guy wearing just shorts, bare-chested, and a ghost and was just so deadpan about it while people were coming out in the most ridiculous getups, it was awesome. Michelle Collins seems to invoke The Holocaust almost every time I see her perform, but she was awesome as always - she kindof gives the impression that she’s just talking, telling a story like you’d hear at a bar, and this time it was about her Barnard days and waiting till 4days before graduation to write her thesis (“The Chosen Won?”) while also writing a skit about a girl whose retarded parents give her a baby for Christmas, where she was aided by Gabe and Lang from The Wiener Philharmonic. Bill Plympton, who I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t really know who he was, showed the pilot for his animated sitcom Helter Shelter that was really funny - it wouldn’t be as funny if I told you about it, but it’s about three mismatched roommates. Jackie The Jokeman Martling told about having an audience member heckle him loud enough for him to hear, and even though he made it into a funny story, it was also clear that those words had stayed with him for over a decade.

I think one of the best things about the show is that while there’s not audience participation per se (usually), there’s very rarely the sense of being shouted at, or being talked to or at, that there can be at comedy shows. There’s an inclusiveness between the stage and the crowd, and it’s as much about hearing the reactions of the people around you, of seeing who gets which New Yorker cartoons, of the rustles of excitement and laughter that make their way through the crowd, and I think this is in part because of the format of the show. There’s a sense that even though the people before us are successful in their chosen field, they are not always successful–they are not perfect. They have work rejected, even if they’ve been on TV, in movies, nominated for an Oscar, etc. And to be able to laugh at that, and at themselves, while also refuting the idea that those who hold the power to reject us hold all the power, is a really wonderful thing.

The show last night just held together really well, and it was clear from the little musical interludes to various segments that it wasn’t just cobbled together, that it was both deliberately crafted but also left room for improvising and the unexpected. I was kindof coughing my way through it but was really glad I was there and encourage those of you who haven’t been to check it out, for no other reason than I think it’ll make you laugh. Where I think the show really succeeds is that it’s not just a bunch of random people getting up and doing their own individual thing, but a definite cause of the whole being much greater than the sum of its parts, and it was clear that the performers also got a lot out of each others’ contributions. Nobody is full of themself or out to prove anything at the show, but simply to share something they wrote or made that might never otherwise be seen, and that also makes it special, because I know for me, when my work gets rejected, it’s very hard not to just take that at face value, to say, “Oh, okay, it wasn’t that good anyway, let’s move onto the next thing,” rather than actually examining how it might be improved or what parts of it might still be worthy.


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