GIGGLE CITY: Martin Dockery’s Fringe hit The Surprise gets held over
If you’re recounting your latest Peruvian safari at the Explorer’s Club, you’re a raconteur.
If you tell penis jokes to drunks in a bar, you’re a stand-up comedian.
If you do this same thing in a theatre with no jokes, you’re a one-man show.
You see the problem with one-handers shows at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. What do we call them and what the heck are they doing? New York performer Martin Dockery is going with “theatrical monologue,” his latest of which, The Surprise, was such a hit at the Fringe it was selected as a Fringe holdover. It runs at the Westbury Theatre Aug 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Aug. 26 at 5:30 p.m.
Today, we adapt questions meant for stand-up comics to suit the professional Anecdotician:
Q: Have you ever done stand-up comedy?
A: Once, 15 years ago because a girl I used to go out with did it. And I thought if she can do it, I can do a stand-up routine to show her I’m worthy of her respect, which I lost when we broke up. I had this whole routine I did about the Superfriends and how they’d have to be such good friends to call themselves that. I thought it was funny when I was alone in my living room, but there’s that sensation of getting up on stage doing comedy for your first time, with a light pointed at you – and everybody else in the room was also a stand-up comedian. They were there also to just do their five minutes and then leave. Nobody laughed. Suddenly I felt quit infantile doing this routine about a cartoon I used to watch as a kid. That’s all I had. I got these pins and needles in my head and I got off and thought, God, that was a disaster. Thank God that girl wasn’t here. Thank God no one I knew was there. Then, a month later I’m at a party and a friend introduces me to these two girls and they say, ‘we recognize you from somewhere,’ and I said ‘I don’t think so.’ This goes on for half an hour. Finally they say, ‘have you ever done stand-up comedy?’ I said, ‘well, this one time.’ And they said, ‘That’s where we saw you! You were so funny, that stuff about the Superfriends!’ I was like, ‘really? You really saw that, you really think so? But no one was laughing.’ They said, ‘Yeah, that was weird, but you were really funny.’ It was like the sun coming out from clouds. Maybe I was funny after all. Finally, my friend says, ‘I can’t take it anymore. I just told them that you tried stand-up comedy and you failed at it and did this bit about Superfriends.’ And these two girls start laughing. My friend starts laughing. The girl I was going out with at the time was laughing. I got a month-delayed heckle. Everything I felt came back, the mortification, the failure. I thought, oh, my God, stand up comedy is dangerous! I am never doing this again!
Q: Is it important that your stories be true?
A: There’s something thrilling and kinetic about hearing something that actually happened to the very person who’s telling it on stage. It makes the story immediate and vibrant and real. Knowing it’s true is exciting for me. Fictional stories are great, too. But I want to know if something is true or not before I see it.
Q: Since your work is based on your life, is it a challenge coming up with fresh new material that doesn’t involve doing shows about doing shows?
A: I look for stories. I did a show called The Bike Trip last year. The psychedelic drug LSD is an important substance in my life, so I thought it would be a cool idea, both for myself and also for a show, to go to Switzerland where LSD was invented try to recreate what happened to the guy on the day he invented it way back in World War II. He invented it at work, he took it at work, then he had to ride his bicycle home. So that’s what I did, took LSD, rented a bike. And I had already booked the show about it before I did actually did it – so when I went I was aware that something cool had better happen. But as happens all the time in life, whenever you’re expecting cool things to happen, in fact nothing cool happens. The show is very much about how I’m going to be doing a show and something cool needs to happen, but nothing cool keeps happening, but as it happens, I end up having an emotional breakdown in this field thinking about this girl who I was breaking up with. It was an exciting and cool adventure, but the heart of the story turned out to be an internal emotional trip. I guess you could call it journalism of the soul.
Q: Now you’re blowing my mind. Have you ever performed under the influence of LSD?
A: Only once, with The Bike Trip.
Q: How did it go?
A: It went fantastic – in proving the idea is that the set and setting in which one does LSD will greatly influence the mood of the trip. I had a great show, sold out, and I could feel the love in the room.
Q: Did you tell anyone you were high?
A: Only my two friends in the front row. One did LSD with me, the other didn’t. They were like my control group. I think they both liked it.
Q: We know you’re not a stand-up comedian, but could you sieve out one of your jokes from The Surprise for us?
A: OK: My girlfriend and I are at this point in our relationship where we’re trying to figure out what’s supposed to happen next. I’d like to have children someday. She’s not so sure. On the other hand I know I am sure I don’t want to get married because I can’t imagine committing myself to one person forever. At least with children I know I’ll be committed. I’ll never have a moment at a playground where I look across and see some other children and think, aw, I wish I were their dad. And then I’d have to talk to my own kids: ‘Well, I’ve met other children. They’re younger than you, they’re cuter than you, they’re Asian …’