It's Always A Good Idea To Get Intimate With Fotis
(too much? I couldn't resist the headline, sorry.)
"I was curious to see if I could keep something alive other than my cat. Cats don't count."
An Intimate Evening With Fotis III
Mom wanted to end her Fringe with a funny show, so she could leave laughing and upbeat. And really, there's no better way to do that than to watch Mike Fotis sit at a table and tell three stories while the lovely and talented Jenn Scott backs him up with improvised musical accompaniment on her upright bass. Mom loves that Mike can get a whole room full of people laughing pretty much non-stop for an hour without resorting to a lot of foul language or bathroom humor or sex jokes. (Mike would perhaps bemoan the fact that there aren't more sex stories to be told - or maybe, even for storytellers, some things are indeed private.) At any rate, Mom marvels at the way Mike can take seemingly ordinary stories - time in the Boy Scouts, procrastination stress, and caring for a new puppy - and use them as the fodder for something extremely amusing. Just this morning she was saying to me on the phone, "I should be able to do that." Yes, Mom, we all have the raw material in our lives. But just like with the best baking - it's not the ingredients, it's the cook.
"I'm gardening because it lowers my stress, and because deep inside, I'm a 70-year-old woman."
Mike Fotis just looks at life from a different angle than the rest of us. He's able to put structure around the ridiculousness of everyday life. His comedy is not the comedy of the one-liner. His insights come in paragraph form. His jokes are built of sturdier stuff than fleeting insight or turns of phrase. Even when aiming comedy at himself, or those he loves, it's not the comedy of mockery. It could be. He knows his subjects well enough to land more pointed, mean-spirited blows. He chooses not to. There's a beating heart under all this comedy. There's a longing to do better. There's an intention to get it right next time by looking at how we cocked it up this time.
"My father put his hand on my shoulder and told me, 'You can do this.' And I was f*cked."
The procrastination stress monster story is a case in point. Fotis is writing and performing a story about how he waits until the last minute to write the stories he performs. If you think about it, it's like matter and anti-matter crashing together on the same stage. The story should disappear in a puff of circular logic. Or it should be something so self-referential that it falls into the category of "art about artists" which I tend to dislike. But it wasn't. Because Fotis sees that his art isn't separate from his life, but part of his larger existence. The devastating internal critic takes aim at not just the script but his house, his pets, his appearance, and on and on. Anybody can relate to being their own worst enemy in putting things off, and letting that nasty voice in your head take over.
(Funny as that story was, imagine what he could do if he just didn't procrastinate to begin with? If he wrote for himself like he wrote for his blog or his work at the Brave New Workshop? If he started writing something without an end audience in mind, but just for himself? What might he come up with? Of course, I'm just as guilty. Come the end of all these reviews, with no production deadline staring at me - what will I be doing?)
Sorry, Mike, I think I just became both your mother, and my own, in the space of one paragraph.
To finish that digression, I should probably be careful what I wish for. Fotis is so amazing in spurts of creativity - a constant steady output might be too much for my envious heart to bear [and Mom's].
But I am mighty glad that the Fringe lottery has been regularly throwing him a new deadline each year, so we can get more of this intelligent, hilarious storytelling. Even if your presentational style is to barrel ever forward, not letting the pace slacken, it's still hard to keep an audience laughing continuously, in waves, for the full time of a Fringe show. We laugh so much we're in danger of missing the next punchline. Mike Fotis knows how to keep an audience reeling.
And with that, Mom's Fringe adventure for 2009 was complete. Six days, 30 shows, her Ultra Pass making it all just five bucks a performance. That's a very efficient bout of theatergoing she's got under her belt.
Me, I've still got 26 performances to go. Best to get on with it.
Meantime, Fotis is, of course...
Very Highly Recommended
His website - mikefotis.com
His show page
Fringe 2009 - 10:00 Tuesday - show #30