Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Baby Wants Candy

Last night, thanks to a last-minute call, I found myself at the Barrow Theater watching Baby Wants Candy.  Baby Wants Candy is an improv troupe (with a rotating cast including writers for The Colbert Report and 30 Rock and the like, so they're no pikers) whose gimmick is that they improvise an entire musical based on a title someone has yelled out.  One title out of an entire audience supplies the premise for the next 90 minutes.  As you might imagine, the stakes are high during the yell-out phase.

I saw them once before, and they actually used my title--The Littlest Vampire in Sheboygan--and did a very impressive job.  (The main founder/performer, whose name I'm sadly blanking on, is an absolute genius at comedy, lyrics, and scene management.  He brings out everyone else's best.)  

This time I thought, "Maybe I'll sit this one out.  There are 200 people in the audience, they'll all be yelling stuff, and I had my chance."  I figured I'd simply put my name in the hat (they were holding a drawing for two free Baby Wants Candy tickets and one pair of tickets to The Colbert Report) and sit quietly.  But then I came up with what I felt was a truly great title--"Serial Killer Follies of 1982"--and decided, what the hell; I'll yell.

Here's the thing: they took my title.  And the show, "Serial Killer Follies of 1982," was as hilarious as I'd hoped, since they were not only free to do New Wave and metal songs, but made tons of movie references as well (as a scene in the detention hall started looking at lot like The Breakfast Club)...and at one point, the drummer for the live band even did the drum break from "In the Air Tonight."

Disappointments?  A few mild ones.  As I told my friend Jenn, I kind of hoped one of the singers doing backup would sing "Turn around, bright eyes...,"  And no one reacted to anything by saying "Jump back!" a la Kevin Bacon.  But of course, these jokes are absurdly specific and the guys aren't psychic.  A bigger sadness lay in that they didn't have an actual synthesizer, so no traditional New Wave music was actually possible (though onstage, one of the actors played an air casio keyboard and brought down the house by announcing that she was pushing "Samba.")

Also, while there was break dancing--and there's been break dancing 2 out of 2 times in the shows I've seen, both times as a one-shot joke--they didn't do any rap, which is a shame, since 1982 was just about the last time that people could actually make money doing rap without actually having lyrics, flow, or talent of any sort.  (Listen to Run-DMC's 1985 Raising Hell some time and try to imagine what it must have been like to have a climate where a rapper could literally have a track that begins "Peter Piper picked a peck of...pickled peppers!" and not get shot for insulting the genre.)

Finally, there was only one serial killer in the show, and there were never any Follies.  I pictured something more elaborate, like John Wayne Gacy and Ed Gein saying, "Let's put on a show in the old circus tent!"  Kind of like Assassins.

But I quibble.  They were brilliant, and I got exhausted just thinking about how hard they must have been working to come up with new scenes, new jokes, new rhymes.  I had a great time.  In fact, I had the best possible time, because not only was my musical title picked, but at the after-show drawing, I won the Stephen Colbert tickets.  (Don't know when, though; they'll email me, assuming my address is legible.)

So this is my prediction: the next time I see Baby Wants Candy, it won't be quite as good.  I don't see how it could be.  For now though: childlike squee sounds of happiness.  Big thanks to Jenn for inviting me out.



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