Garofalo Maron Rollins: Gramercy Theatre, New York

aka the long-awaited “bitter rant fest” of April, Friday the 13th

When I first saw this show come up on the sked, I gleefully signed on. I LOVE Henry Rollins. I love Janeane Garafalo. Marc Maron makes me laugh. (Even tho’ Rollins cna be an asshole. But I love his hardcore in your face truth-telling honesty. Ever since Black Flag. He may often act like an asshole, but he’s not bullshitting you about it. He’s angry, he’s cool, and he’s more than a little goofy, when you get into it w/him.)

I’ve loved the wry, exasperated Janeane ever since she landed an inflatable raft on the restricted sands of Greenwich, CT, in a segment of the old Michael Moore TV Nation show. (All beachs in CT are private; reserved for the taxpayers of that particular town. Ya pay yr taxes; ya get the beach sticker for your car. No residency; no sticker; no parking; no way to the beach. Janeane invaded via Long Island Sound in a marine approach – a brilliant tactical move.)

Maron and Garofalo had also been on Air America, the sane and humorous anecdote to Fox’s “fair and balanced” dark side of radio.

Plus I was curious about the latest new venue in Manhattan, the refurbished Gramercy; bought by Live Nation (don’t let ’em fool ya, that’s Clear Channel the evil one) to compete with the Mercury/Bowery group’s similar-sized Bowery.

The Gramercy ain’t no Bowery. (I shouda guessed, I guess.) A more nondescript, airport-lounge-like space I cannot imagine. No visual detail mars the vast expanse of colorless plasterboard that form the walls and proscenium of this dead, dead space. I expect it will be a good venue for introducing new Microsoft design software or meetings of “the Forum.”

The stage was bare. The three performers did stand-up: a microphone stand, two speakers at their feet, and a high stool. Audience seated in folding chairs on the floor, or, in the balcony, snuggled into the single remmant to remind us this was actually once a theatre, some oddly comfy red padded seats.

janeane garofalo, gramercy theatre 4/13/07
Garofalo riffed on her hatred of obligation — the obligation to be anywhere, with or for anyone, regardles of whether or not she made the plan to begin with. She complained of that common affliction wherein one’s cell phone rings, you think, “Why the hell are these people CALLING ME!” and then suffering when no one calls you. She complained that now that she doesn’t drink, she finds no escape from the noise and no reason to go out of her apt. preferring to watch “The Rockford Files” or “Simon & Simon”. She discussed her willing suspension of disbelief and fondness for abandoning all science when dealing with expensive face cream in Sephora; complained of her stinking apt (she evidently smokes constantaly, emits particularly acrid sweat, and has two large, hairy dogs); and told some good “stealing the traffic cone” drinking stories. She referred repeatedly to the horror of the ever-present noise and dissonance, the horror of an old Backstreet Boys video in which they fly overhead, swooping down in apparent prep for tea-bagging young children, and finally, the horror of Ann Coulter, whom she asserted she often believes is Andy Kaufman’s current schtick. I liked that one; only someone sick as Andy K could or would invent Ann Coulter. She IS a man, after all. . . .I wasn’t so crazy about her performance. She looked a little fragile, sounded a little broken. I mean, I’VE made that point about the cell phone; I hate to go anywhere even when I’m the one who eagerly made the plans to begin with. She always seemed like one of my friends, but funnier, and on TV. Now she just seems like all the brown-haired, brown-eyed women with Italian last names in New York that I know. Like Flora. Like me.

henry rollins gramercy theatre 4/12/07

Henry Rollins is not like me. He is clearly not a woman; in fact, he is bedeviled with, um, let’s call ’em “situations and scenarios” in his head with them. He clearly loves them desperately, but has severe problems relating to misogyny, women, and, um, hell, anything with tits. I know that. He’s a freakin’ mess in that department. He tries really hard, but that whole area of his psyche is just dead flat opaque to him.

But he’s NOT a mess regarding politics and telling the truth EXACTLY how he sees it. Loved him since he was a monster in Black Flag and the Rollins Band. Loved him last year on public TV and this year on IFC. And LOVED him at the Gramercy.

Like Marc Maron, who followed Garofalo and preceded him – the solidly entertaining, professional corned-beef in the stand-up sandwich here – Rollins opened with a lovesong to NYC, a paean to its hot women who won’t give him the time of day (told ya), its racial, sexual, and personality diversity, and the nowhere-else-but-here thing that makes you KNOW you’re home: public urination. You’re not here till you see that old guy peeing on the street. Ahhhhh.

Rollins’s presentation was cool and white-hot and eminently GOOFY. He’s start with some jaw-dropping stuff about the bad, bad things the adminstration has done, about how freaking STUPID the stupid people are – but then spin off into a fantasy of what he’d like to do with the world; fantasy scenarios that were crazy, goofy, and weirdly compassionate. Like he’d like to make NYC a compulsory reeducation camp. Every kid in America would have to come to NYC for six weeks or months and just MEET all the people middle America is afraid of, all the people who don’t look like them, who’ve they’re all scared of. And then Rollins did a mock dialogue tween a kid who’s been to NYC and goes back to his redneck dad in Texas, and tells him how he’s going to France to fuck French women and be in a band, etc. . . and it was  funny, and angry and sweet.  And then, later, when Rollins started talking about his life growing up in the suburbs of Wash DC, I realized it was kinda like Rollins’s own life, like the storybook narrative version of it,  ‘cuz he hated his superconservative brilliant beer-guzzlin racist scientist dad.

Hmm. to quote a Rollins tag line, “Then there’s THAT.”

Rollins riffed on about the stupidity of “abstinence-only” education that allowed a friend to impregnate a buddy’s girl, when he loaned him his used condom; about creationists (he was damn funny on that); about how he dreams that George Bush will stand up at the end of his presidency and announce it was all just a test of Americans’ resolve, and all the veterans’ injuries were CGI (that one hurt); and about what it’s gonna be like when WE are in contol and what we’ll concede to the conservatives as sops to keep them happy. About racism and his liberal mom and how he got beat up everyday in kindergarten as one of four white kids in the class. About homophobia and his visit to an IFC party in a gay bar – he is very “gay positive” I’ll say that.

And finally he wound up in a brilliant, heartfelt fantasy scenario of  how great is the current wave of “predator death.” He tied the theory of Mother Earth’s retaliation to the increase in stories of lions eating joggers, of stupid Ukranians who walk into lion cages stating “God will protect me” and get eaten. How naked crackheads in Florida are getting chewed on by alligators. How reticulated pythons and boas are now loose and breeding in the swamps of Florida, how we should jsut freaking introduce alligators into NYC sewers and subways if they’re not there, to eat drunken Wall Street guys who roam the subways late at night.

He just let loose like a 10-year-old boy entranced with reptiles, as he spieled on about how romantic and doomed it would be if every day you went out and didn’t know if you’d be eaten. He sprinkled the fantasy with Latin names of venom-spitting cobras, keeping suburban dads from exiting their cars to get to the front door for dinner. And he wound up with a call to bring back the dinosaurs, to clone their bone marrow, to have ’em stomping around, giant T-rexes bellowing down the avenues of New York.  And to have them eating the freaking stupid-ass creationists.

And he talked about his recent trip to Iran, and the amazing women he met there – intelligent, funny ones, who one-upped him in conversation time and again. When he asked one, “What about your boy there, what’s the deal?” refering to the belligerent Iranian president, one woman raised an eyebrow and said “What about YOUR boy, there, what’s the deal with HIM?” About how great Iran is and how Tehran is like New York – held hostage by a leader elected by the fear-and-faith driven undereducated masses.  He  even called himself on getting way to into the fake cloak-and-dagger rush of being an American! in Iran! who can’t reveal he’s Famous! He was totally honest and totally clear.

Hell, I would go to Iran with him. I would listen to his hilarious obsession with predator death and killer reptiles. I’d argue about liner notes of punk bands in the 80s with him. I mean, who wouldn’t? But then I’d go home. As I did Friday night, cuz he is one fucked-up dude. Brilliant, creative–and beautifully, honestly, no bullshit fucked-up. We all are, in our ways, but not everyone’s honest about it.

Long live America, and all its ranters. I highly recommend the Rollins show live.

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