Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Thomas Wolfe and Throwing Up

First things first:

Nosedive’s Pottymouth Social is now a thing of the past, and I’m pretty pleased with the results. The band “Cars Can Be Blue” played and knocked us off our ass (I think they upstaged us, and I’m fine with that). And someone during the course of the night puked in Christopher Yustin’s bag. When I heard this, I burst out laughing. ‘Cause I’m a prick. Christopher (justifiably so) kept going, “It’s not funny! It’s NOT FUNNY!” And he’s right. It’s not. It’s not.


Not funny.

Heh. Ha.


In other words, the fundraiser went quite well—and MAN, there are a bunch of DRUNK motherfuckers in our audience and company.

Ain’t no party like a Nosedive party ‘cuz a Nosedive party don’t stop…

* * *

For anyone interested in the films of John Cassavetes, I recommend checking out George Hunka’s blog, which has some great insight to these excellent films.

And, finally, due to some last-minute troubleshooting and organizing for said Nosedive fundraiser, I was unable to go to my friend Kelly’s birthday party. I feel really bad about that. Kelly, if you’re out there in cyberspace reading this, I’m sorry. And happy bithday!

Now on with the nonsense…

* * *

There’s this great passage in Thomas Wolfe’s novel, Of Time and the River, where the hero, a young man going to Harvard and wanting to be a playwright, is taking a playwriting class. I just dug it and have decided to share it with y’all, my little cyberherd:

The members of Professor Hatcher’s class…belonged to that unnumbered horde who think that somehow, by some magic and miraculous scheme or rule or formula, “something can be done for them.” They belonged to that huge colony of the damned who buy thousands of books that are printed for their kind, telling them how to run a tea shop, how to develop a pleasing personality, how to acquire “a liberal education,” swiftly and easily and with no anguish of the soul, by fifteen minutes’ reading every day, how to perform the act of sexual intercourse in such a way that your wife will love you for it, how to have children, or to keep from having children, how to write short-stories, novels, plays, and verses which are profitably salable, how to keep from having body odor, constipation, bad breath, or tartar on the teeth, how to have good manners, know the proper fork to use for every course, and always do the proper thing—how, in short, to be beautiful, “distinguished,” “smart,” “chic,” “forceful,” and “sophisticated”—finally, how to have “a brilliant personality,” and “achieve success.”

Wait, it gets better:

Few of the people in Professor Hatcher’s class possessed this power. Few of them had anything of their own to say. Their lives seemed to have grown from a stony and a fruitless soil and, as a consequence, the plays they wrote did not reflect life, save by a curious and yet illuminating indirection.

Thus, in an extraordinary way, their plays—unreal, sterile, imitative, and derivative as most of them indubitably were—often revealed more about the lives of the people who wrote them than better and more living work could do. For, although few of the plays showed any contact with reality—with that passionate integument of blood and sweat and pain and fear and grief and joy and laughter of which this world is made—most of them did show, in one way or another, what was perhaps the basic impulse in the lives of most of these people—the impulse which had brought them here to Professor Hatcher’s class.

The impulse of the people in the class was not to embrace life and devour it, but rather to escape from it. And in one way or another most of the plays these people wrote were illustrative of this desire. For in these plays—unnatural, false, and imitative, as they were—one could discern, in however pale and feeble a design, a picture of the world not as its author had seen and lived and known it, but rather as he wished to find it, or believe in it. And, in all their several forms—whether sad, gay, comic, tragic, or fantastical—these plays gave evidence of the denial and the fear of life.

Anyway, since I’m still mildly hung-over from our fundraiser, I just thought I’d share. Next time I’ll use my own words to shit on the theatre community (although Wolfe really does it better than I ever could).

Still reeling,

James “Hair of the Dog” Comtois

September 28, 2004

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Everyone Needs a Two-by-Four Applied to the Face

“You can get what you want and still not be very happy.”

First off, thank you, Patrick, for that reading list. That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.

Now I’m ready to pull rabbits out of hats and wear cloaks with moon designs on them.

Well, the Nosedive gang is doing some last-minute writing of sketches for our “Pottymouth Social,” and apparently we’re cutting the sketch where all the guys pile up on one another in a naked heap. I can’t say I’m that upset by that editorial decision. Not that I have anything against all of us piling up on one another naked, it’s just that the last time we rehearsed it, Pete got a little, how shall we say, “frisky.”

* * *

Criterion has released a boxed set of five films by John Cassavetes (Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night). Ray Carney, a film professor and writer who is pretty much the critical authority on Cassavetes, is apparently none too pleased with this release. He and Cassavetes’s widow, Gena Rowlands, have gotten into a huge…well, let’s not mince words…pissing match over the release of certain cuts of the films and the presentation of the discs. Check out the link here for his side of the story.

Although I don’t really know Ms. Rowlands’s side of it, I realize…I don’t really care. And as impressive and wonderful as many of Carney’s theories on art and film are, I can’t help but think this is just willful sour grapes.

Having been a student of his, part of his rhetoric does stem from the bedrock principle of “Nothing of any artistic value will ever be noticed or appreciated.” In other words, everyone knows Steven Spielberg (a useless hack, let’s face it) but nobody knows John Cassavetes, and that’s the way it will always be.


Uh…people do know the work of Cassavetes. Five of his films are being released on DVD. And people are actually aware and talking about it. I really would have expected Carney to be throwing a party because of this fact.

But no.

I guess…due to a feud between these two trying to suck more blood out of a dead artistic genius…this is a mournful time.

Now, I do find it weird that Ms. Rowlands won’t allow the release of alternate (and longer) prints of Cassavetes work. That, to use the vernacular, is fucked up. And going at great lengths to take Prof. Carney off the disc…again, fucked up. But at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if this means that, now that Prof. Carney has found an alternate cut to Shadows, is the one that’s available (and has been screened IN HIS CLASS) is useless? Because the alternate print isn’t in the boxed-set, is the whole boxed-set worthless? I wonder; if ALL of Cassavetes’s films were available to the public and there was a huge demand from the populace for his films, I guess Carney would still have a reason to complain.

Shit, I think Carney and Rowlands have done amazing work in their respective fields. I guess I was just supremely pissed off at both parties taking a time for celebration (Five. Films. By Cassavetes. On DVD. I mean, people, People!) and using it as a chance to fight over who loved John more.

As Carney had written once in an essay, “Grow up, get over it.”

And on that note, hope to see people at our fundraiser.

Screaming at nobody in cyberspace,

James “AAAAAHHHH!!” Comtois

September 23, 2004

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Yeah, Eat Doritos!

“We’re a virus with shoes.”
—Bill Hicks

Well, Nosedive’s getting ready for our fundraising party/comedy show, “Nosedive’s Pottymouth Social” to a.) help raise money for our five-year anniversary as a company, and b.) have a reason to drink till we can’t feel feelings no more. The details are all over the site here, but I guess they bear repeating:

An Evening of Highbrow Toilet Humour

Saturday, September 25
at the Emerging Artist’s Theatre
432 West 42nd Street (between 9th & 10th), 4th floor

Music. Comedy. Food. Drink. Ambiance.

$20, Doors open at 11:15, show starts around 11:30

Seriously, folks. These things are damn fun and funny. And where else in New York can you spend $20 and have more or less unlimited beer?

Nowhere but Nosedive. Thaaaat’s right.


If any of you haven’t checked out Philucifer’s recent blog entry on the realm of magic, you should. I finally get why he’s such a dick to me about the subject.

Some selected conversations include:

ME: So, I’m really interested in pursuing magical realms. I think it’s time to pry open my third eye and figure out exactly what I’m getting out of life if I’m already pursuing avenues that provide me with neither money nor college girls. But still, I realize that both having money and college girls will not fulfill me intellectually or spiritually. I mean, they will for a short period of time but there really is something to be said about seeing friends who have completed their goals of financial independence and seem more dead inside than before. (Read: stop bogarting the bowl.)

PHILUCIFER: Good for you. (Silence.)


ME: I think I’m ready to test the boundaries of my imagination. I owe it to myself and to my writing to not get caught up in talking to depressed and depressing theatre people who would rather talk about dwindling audiences and subsidized grants than the actual magical nature of a theatrical experience. How’s it going for you? (Read: Do you have any advice?)

PHILUCIFER: Good. (Silence.)


ME: Can you pass the bowl? (Read: I feel my soul rotting slowly and steadily day by day yet I can’t help but continue playing this silly charade and pretending that we’re not “drowning in a cesspool of imbeciles” as Harlan Ellison once said and realizing that newspeak has robbed our civilization of any imagination or relevant discourse since whether George W. Bush served in the military or not or whether he drank in his youth or not or whether he is a steadfast character or not is completely irrelevant because when push comes to shove as an administrator virtually every decision he’s made in office is bad and I’m having a tough time integrating myself in a world that’s dismantling civil liberties to make the planet a universal nursery in where you only need the mind of a sixth-grader to function and actually succeed so can you please pass the bowl?)

PHILUCIFER: Good luck with that. (Silence.)

Okay, so maybe they’re not really like that. I like hyperbole. (Read: Just kidding, Patrick! But seriously, pass the bowl.)

George Carlin has said, “Keep your religion to yourself,” which is pretty crunkin’ good advice.

Of course, since I live for making people feel uncomfortable (more in person than with my plays), I tell everyone and anyone I can that I’ve had visions. Of them. Coming home with me.

Seriously, baby, Jesus told me it is on.

Immune to pepper spray,

James “Don Juan Messiah” Comtois

September 16, 2004

Monday, September 06, 2004

L.A. Breast and Penis

Laura Axelrod opened a huge can of worms with her blog entry, “Why the hell don’t these people care about theater?” and every theatre blogger has come out of the woodwork to respond. I’ve been writing and rewriting a response and have decided to cut to the chase and print the last page of my response.

But first: thanks for the shout-out in your very balls-on “George Bush” blog entry, Mac!


Theatre has been on a relentless and deliberate path towards irrelevancy. It’s been almost hellbent on this goal. We’ve somehow gotten it into our heads that audiences are stupid, and therefore “connecting with audiences” means the same as “pandering.” We make condescending and didactic theatre (we call it “avante-garde”) that audiences—rather than be confused—immediately see through. I still find it interesting that the only people who have been genuinely lost or confused with a Nosedive play have been theatre people (i.e., people who went to school for theatre and/or theatre-makers).

It’s also very clear that many shows are made for other theatre-makers. With very few exceptions, a vocalized desire for expanding audience bases has been made, but with no real effort to have this happen.

Often, theatre’s goal has been to be humorless, self-referential, self-important and self-righteous. Hmm. I wonder why it’s so tough to get people outside our support group to go see plays.

Again, I find it vaguely amusing that Larry Kramer was surprised that yet another somber and Serious (with a capital “S”) play about AIDS didn’t bring in the people by the boatload. Did he really think that people outside the Public Theatre’s mailing list would go, “Honey? Cancel dinner reservations. I know what we’re doing tonight?” And did he believe that the reason why that didn’t happen was because people are stupid?

I’ve written this before and I’ll write it again, because it bears repeating: if an art form isn't garnering audiences it’s because it’s not connecting with people.

I was in a bar recently with a few actors and directors, and the Outkast song “Hey Ya” played on the overhead speakers. Virtually everyone in the bar responded in some way (some started dancing, some started mouthing the words, and some simply smiled and bobbed their heads to the beat).

Everyone, that is, except us theatre people.

We’ve gotten it into our heads that we’re above it all. We pretend not to be affected by an infectious pop song. We pretend that we’ve never heard of Burger King. We act like we’d never be caught dead watching an episode of “Punk’d.” And we know it’s not true. This acting above unenlightened day-to-day living just alienates us from any potential audience member outside our self-made coterie. We look like out-of-touch idiots rather than elitist snobs. And, it often comes across in our work.

There have been a number of plays I’ve been to see where I’ve just thought, “Did these people think that this would be intriguing or appealing to ANYONE outside of their mailing list? More to the point, did they think this would be interesting to their peers who are obligated to support them?”

Maybe, rather than wonder whether the theatre scene should be centered in New York or Austin, we just need to ask ourselves this question before helming a project.

To be continued (I’m sure),

James “Talkin’ Out His Ass” Comtois

September 6, 2004

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