My name is Will Franken.
For lack of a better word, I am a comedian. Yet I despise stand-up comedy. I have never enjoyed the form itself--(which my wife once eloquently referred to as "glorified small talk")--and have consequently sought to reinvent it in my own personal way.
I am a firm believer in smooth and seamless transitions from piece to piece, so the structural skeletons of my shows echo the format of a Monty Python's Flying Circus episode. Since I rarely exhibit any "real" persona on stage--preferring instead to fluctuate rapidly between different settings of multiple characters of varying degrees of absurdity--the overall effect, for lack of a better word, is that of a one-man sketch comedy troupe a la the aforementioned Monty Python or Mr. Show with a little bit of the irreverence of The Kids In The Hall thrown in for good measure. The reasoning behind this is a combination of a prolonged social fear of exhibiting my true self to the outside world and the continued reliance on characters and voices as a defense mechanism as well as a belief that the performer him or herself is not "special" (as the convention of stand-up comedy implies when a comedian takes the stage and begins talking about his or her "life" or what they "hate")--Rather the creations of the performer as writer, i.e., the characters are what is truly "special", for their arcs are personal and transitory and in their minute existences--worlds of knowledge can be derived.
Motive and agenda:
The book Seriously Funny which came out a few years ago is a wonderful chronicle of the first revolution that took place in the late fifties and early sixties in the comedy scene in San Francisco. Rather than just focus on Lenny Bruce's use of the word "cocksucker" (as so many of these tales usually digress into) this book gives a thorough examination of about twenty or so pioneers in comedy and the contributions that each made in removing comedy from the Catskills nightclubs and giving it a more colloquial and theatrical expression. From Mort Sahl to Phyllis Diller to Woody Allen, a person aware of the comedy scene today can recognize almost every major archetype still existing in the clubs. Race comics, housewife comics, Jewish comics, political comics--et alia. Though progressive--indeed revolutionary--during their day, unfortunately the comedy scene of today is still living in the shadow of this first and only revolution.
Much like Jackson Pollack's drippings and the emergence of the poetry slams to bring poetry back to the streets--this first revolution initially served a noble artistic cause only to open the floodgates for anybody and their mother to lay claim to the title "comedian". The term has been de-valued over the decades.
Ideally, I would like to lead--or at least take a major part in--a mass exodus of audiences away from the comedy clubs and back into the theatre. As Lenny Bruce once quipped--"I'm so glad to see so many people leaving the church and getting back to God."
After a few years of performing in San Francisco--I know now that were a second revolution in comedy to occur--it would happen here. San Franciscans have just enough practical cynicism combined with a utopian altruism, that I couldn't have asked for better audiences anywhere else in the world. With the possible exception of England--where wit is as essential as tea.
At the same time that I am attempting to promote a return of comedy back to the theatre and an acceptance of absurdity as the truest form of subconscious innovation (a belief not shared by most Americans, which is why I hope to eventually end up in England), I also believe that modern times have suffered from a dearth of satire.
Rather than simply attack the right or the left wing (as so many "political" comedians are prone to do, thereby willingly locking themselves in time to current events which will fade from the public memory) I prefer to satirize the very concepts of these institutions themselves. In other words, I would more likely make fun of the institution of politics as an absurdism and arbitrary construct of human existence rather than pinpoint all my energies on George Bush or Dick Cheney. Similarly with religion, the media, poetry slams, new academics--and whatever else I put through the comedic filter.
If this sounds like what you're after and you're feeling lonely--call me today for some hot and squirty fun.
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Don't forget to come see me play at the Purple Onion at 140 Columbus Avenue at Pacific this Thursday, May 26th at 9pm (doors open at 8pm) for only $10Tue, May 24, 2005 - 10:51 PM permalink - 1 comment
Bridget Schwartz is featuring and Jacob Sirof is hosting.
In other news--
I was named "Best Comedian" by the SF Weekly in their "Best Of" Issue.
My wife and I have overdrafted our account.
I'm currently working on a musical with dear friend Jascha Ephraim entitled "Earthquake: The Potential" which we hope to have ready by Chri... read more