Monday, August 03, 2020

Virtual Fringe 2020 Review - The Mystery of the Gryphon's Ears - Monster Science Productions - A Most Amusing Lecture - 5 stars

Tweet review:  #NightlyFringe outing #6 for virtual #mnfringe 2020: I realize I am super late to this party but just saw The Mystery of the Gryphon's Ears and @RevMattK is a snooty, deadpan delight; could not stop grinning, hilarious - 5 stars

(Previous overview) (for the curious)

I hesitate to even use the word "lecture" when describing Matthew Kessen's performance as Rev. Matt imparting his encyclopedic knowledge of monsters to all because lecture just makes you think "boring," and The Mystery of the Gryphon's Ears is anything but that.  (A gryphon is the creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle - and apparently the ears of a donkey, go figure.)

"Saying gryphons and horses are natural enemies is giving horses too much credit.  It's like saying a cat and a small dish of cream are natural enemies.  Gryphons eat horses is what I'm saying." 

Having seen bits and pieces of the Rev. Matt's Monster Science routine in previous showcases, I had a general idea of what to expect.  But what impressed me about the humor here is that it's not trying too hard.  The man does his research (because you can do research on mythological creatures, and some people are lazy about it, but not Kessen).  And it's because of this abundant amount of details he's collected on his subject that he's got a bigger, more complex canvas to play on.  And it's also the reason he finds so much wonderful, ridiculous source material to riff off of.  The humor is in the details, as well as his deadpan delivery.  He doesn't have to make funny stuff up, it's just sitting there in the results of his research.

"A bird, sent by the Lord, plucked out the gryphon's eyes - which is precisely what Christ would have done."

And of course there's the PowerPoint presentation that accompanies the lecture, full of photographs of ancient artifacts and illustrations from historical texts, and then the occasional pop culture reference like a picture of Yukon Cornelius from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  Or a picture of a five inch floppy disk once used with older computers, now a useless format, as an explanation of why some monster research is now lost to us.

"He said these fossils were 'too big to be noticed.'  This is, of course, not how noticing works."

You get the feeling that Rev. Matt could walk into the middle of any randomly selected episode of the TV series Supernatural and provide the Winchester brothers with the sort of background on their target that would save everybody a lot of time, and probably corpses.  He'd also probably think with all the flannel and denim and firearms floating around that the guys were underdressed and overly dramatic.

Kessen clearly enjoys playing with language as much as he does his monsters.  He's precise, because again, the humor is in the precision, so you get throwaway lines like mentioning Alexander the Great and then later referring to him as "Mr. The Great," or this sidebar about:

"...the Pre-Elomites.  They wanted to be Elomites but they knew they weren't ready, and I respect that."

Or a reference to a race of cyclops-like creatures:  "They had one eye.  Apiece.  Not to pass around."

Or Marco Polo: "...the famous explorer/swimming game."

Or St. Albert of Cologne: "...the best smelling of the saints."

Or anthropology: "...the most casual and free-wheeling of the sciences."

You get the feeling that there are another six layers of jokes underneath the jokes he's telling.  I'm a big fan of smart comedy (dumb, lazy comedy writing makes my teeth hurt) so Rev. Matt's Monster Science is more in my wheelhouse than I realized.  As I mentioned in my earlier tweet review, I could not stop grinning the whole time Rev. Matt was talking and scrolling through his PowerPoint presentation.  I enjoyed it all enormously.

Live, in-person shows are, of course, not happening at the moment, but if you missed the live performance on the Nightly Fringe schedule, you can find it on Rev. Matt's twitch account.  Past lecture videos are also there, as well as on his website, with daily updates on his facebook page.  So check him out, and throw him some electronic internet cash for the amusement while you're at it.  Because we could all use some laughs right now, and Rev. Matt's got a lot of them for you.

5 Stars - Very Highly Recommended

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