Sunday, December 4, 2011

Applause! Applause! Review of Bob Smith at Catch A Rising Star by Rita Sola

This review of Bob Smith at Catch A Rising Star was written by Rita Sola and appeared in Volume I, Issue 2 (December, 1997) of Applause! Applause! published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens.

Bob Smith
Catch A Rising Star (253 West 28th Street, NYC)

Bob Smith explains why as a kid, he knew he was gay. "My boy scout survival kit had a spice rack...My tree house had a breakfast nook...The other kids brought apples. I brought my teachers Baked Pears Alicia." Although there was exuberant laughter at these and other quips, a few members of Bob's audience at Catch A Rising Star last month were visibly uncomfortable. It's okay to tell jokes like that to us, they seemed to be thinking. We get the point. But what about those tourists from Texas at the next table?

Well, what about them? The fear is that a corn-fed fundie, burping into his beer bottle (also a stereotype) will be confirmed in his homophobia. See that there, Jimmy Joe. They do have track lighting in their refrigerators. This Smith boy says so. But the hope is that anyone with an IQ higher than that of a dog biscuit will see the absurdities Bob is pointing out in his humor. During the Gulf War, comic Elayne Boosler gave her version of what might have happened if we had had a woman president at the time, one, moreover, experiencing PMS. Her message to Hussein: "How dare you invade Kuwait while I'm retaining water!" Was Boosler (an ardent feminist), ridiculing the idea of a woman president or the idiocy of believing one would make such a statement? Comics like Boosler and Smith don't just play with stereotypes, they blow them up like balloons until they burst.

Although Bob Smith uses this indirect approach to attack homophobia, he makes plenty of direct jabs. To the Church's dictum that it's OK to be homosexual, as long as you don't practice homosexuality, he answers, "I think it's OK to be Catholic, as long as you don't practice Catholicism." At this point, Bob, himself reared in the Church, related his boyhood memory of a gay priest, Father Mary Louise, whose (stereo)typical penance was "Watch The Ten Commandments three times. Wasn't Anne Baxter terrible?"

One of the highlights of Bob's show is his reading of a gay wedding announcement. "Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Douglas have reluctantly announced the engagement of their son, Timothy, to Mitchell Feldman, the son of the stunned Dr. and Mrs. Saul Feldman. A May commitment ceremony is planned with an awkward reception to follow. At the parent's request, there will be an open bar during the ceremony."

Bob ends with the show-and-tell of a booklet, intended for kindergarten children, which he wrote and illustrated while in sixth grade and which had been lovingly preserved by his mother in Saran Wrap. The story is about a young dinosaur named Ben who one day meets another dinosaur. Containing lines such as, "Hi, my name is Tom. What's your name? Want to be friends? Let's go for a walk. Boy, it's hot today. Do you want to go to the river?", the otherwise innocent dialogue written by Bob the child, takes on new and hilarious meaning when read by Bob the adult. Bob concludes that the whole story reads "like a gay Jurassic Park."

One of the strongest features of Bob Smith's act is his (pardon the expression) straight delivery. At moments he seems like a little boy who can't believe the things he's relating. If you didn't catch him at Catch last month, make it a point to see him next time he's in town. You won't be sorry!

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