Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm Acting As Fast As I Can

Like everyone else in the world, A Hard Day’s Night made me want to be in a rock and roll band, and I was in a succession of ‘em into my early 20s, when I actually did rock and roll professionally for a while, with a Musicians Union card and everything. The use of psychotropic drugs was epidemic in those days, and sometimes it could be tricky getting all four or five of us — whichever us was involved in a particular band — pulling in the same direction. But then, years and years later, I decided to try acting, and found that getting four ostensibly sober 40-something actors pulling in the same direction was around 14 million times harder than four drug-addled 22-year-old.

I formed a three-person troupe in LA to perform the character-driven comedy sketches I’d begun writing after reading the Playboy interview in which Robin Williams said that making a roomful of people laugh was better than sex. So far so good. I moved to San Francisco and worked with two new people as The Spandex Amazons. So far so good. But then, having written a great many new sketches and a great many songs to perform in between them, I got ambitious, and expanded the renamed (to The San Francisco Hysterical Society) troupe to five. My headaches didn’t increase five-fold, but around 5000-fold.

The Other Guy (I acted, as well as directed it) left the cast something like 10 days before the show was going to open so he could pretend to be Mick Jagger in a Rolling Stones tribute act. After endless weeks of coaxing, cajoling, importuning, imploring, and what have you, I persuaded the San Francisco Chronicle to run an item about us on the upcoming events page of its weekly arts supplement. We’d posed for the accompanying photograph weeks before. I showed up at rehearsal imagining that the rest of the cast would be tickled pink. But the lead actress so disliked the way her chin (or, more accurately, chins) looked in the photo that she sulked through the whole weekend’s rehearsals, effectively ruining them. By the time the show opened (and was hailed in the San Jose Mercury-News as pretty goddamned wonderful), she and I were speaking only on stage.

I relocated to London and staged more versions of the show, as The Ministry of Humour and Clear & Present Rangers. Horsy-faced Katy D— arrived to audition for the latter in a skirt, with an 80-year-old’s knee-high stockings, but what an actor! The problem being that she was also an insufferable prima donna, who never showed up for a rehearsal less than half an hour late. I grinned and bore it until she decided that it might be fun to show up at the last minute for actual performances too. This inspired me to issue an edict: Anyone, including me, who turned up late for a performance would forfeit his or her payment for the night. Katy’s response was to advise a key actors group that I’d sexually harassed her. 

Thoroughly sick of this sort of thing, I reverted to performing my one-man show about my experiences at Larry Flynt Publications, Wm. Floggin’ Buckley. I only occasionally kept myself waiting, and was considerably more aggrieved by the ghastly deep furrows in my once-lovely forehead than in my chin, of which I had, and have, only the one.

[In the UK, a certain kind of actor is called a lovey. You might like this track from the Do Re Mi Fa (Cough) album I made with Debbie Clarke in 2005. You almost certainly will!] 


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