Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dylan Moran

Dylan Moran, last name pronounced “More - en”, performed in Minneapolis at the mysterious Women’s Club at Loring Park on October 18, 2013. Moran is an Irish stand-up comedian, known, if at all, in this country, for his performances in “Shaun of the Dead” and Simon Pegg’s “Run, Fat Boy, Run” -- in BBC-country, he has some renown as the star of a three-year series, “Black Books”, a sit-com about a perpetually disgruntled Irish proprietor of a shabby Bloomsbury bookstore. The Minneapolis Women’s Club is an Italianate palazzo located on the south side of Loring Park, a building that seems to have built a hundred years ago and part of an ensemble of strangely authoritarian structures that rise over the lake and pavilions in the small tract of wooded land under the escarpment of the city. The club overlooks the limpid pool of the lake in the park and the cloister-like columns hovering over the park are lit by invisible bulbs, illumined by a pumpkin-yellow tint that suffuses the limestone façade of the building. Jack and Angelica and I were an hour early to this place and, after finding a parking place on the boulevard, we hiked across Hennepin Avenue, surmounting the famous and elegant bridge over that street, to wander in the twilight gloom of the sculpture garden on the lawn of the Walker Art Center. A wedding was underway at the Walker Art Center and elegant-looking couples in black suits and dresses were wandering among the great monoliths and vast Cor-ten iron palisades of the sculpture garden and guests were taking pictures in front of the monumental cherry on the spoon by Claes Oldenburg, that sculpture poised in the center of its little dim lake, a clouded cornea at the base of the city, the art-work glowing with a strange phosphorescent light in the cold dusk. Turned away from the wedding receptions at the WAC (and the screening of Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” with Geoff Dyer in attendance), we went back over the bridge and strolled around the park until it was time to queue-up at the Women’s Club to see Dylan Moran. The moon was pasted between two skyscrapers, tawdry and yellow as cheese, a brilliant full-moon casting its light down on Loring Park and oddly official-looking buildings looming over the park. Who could possibly know that a big auditorium is located next to the park? It seems improbable. The whole thing is an enigma -- a Venetian palace hovering over the cold groves and the dim lake with its Victorian pavilions on the edge of murky waters. When we come to the auditorium, a ticket-taker tells us to go to another door and we reach that place and rap on the entry and, it seems, that Moran is just beyond the door, leaning against the window, disheveled hair, half-drunk, talking to a couple of girls who are both ushers and security at this place, Valkyries defending this entrance against our arrival. We are directed back to the crowded auditorium -- the show is sold-out, 500 people] crammed into the gloomy hall. In the seventies, I sometimes attended modern dance programs -- the audience members all seemed to be dancers themselves, with leotards peeping out of their purses and backpacks. Similarly, this audience has a familiar feel, a gathering of cognoscenti, a group of comedy writers, kids in shapeless sweaters and horn-rimmed glasses with their homely girlfriends everyone dressed in funereal black, people who seem to be insiders, guys who write for Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show”, aficiondos of the stand-up comedy scene. Moran's stand-up is funny, highly articulate, and, more or less, predictable. He takes the stage, insults the crowd for awhile and, then, riffs on the standard subjects of stand-up comics -- pets, dogs, vegetarian food, vegans, the difference between men and women. Moran blinks at the audience, threatens them and delivers a series of droll and complex observations about the characteristics of various nations -he has toured in Serbia and Russia and Poland and Berlin. He is a gifted mimic, expert at imitating blandly self-entitled and smug American accents and the deformed speech of Russians and Germans venturing to speak in English. It’s all humorous and amusing enough, but not laugh-out-loud funny, clever comments about current events delivered in a musical Irish brogue. Everything is pretty predictable, but Moran is clever and his remarks are well-phrased and the audience is enthusiastic. Moran is on tour and has come from Milwaukee and Kansas and he makes sardonic remarks about those places and the Minneapolis crowd, tutored to think itself superior to those other venues, roars with laughter. Moran has a bad smoker’s cough and his discourse is frequently interrupted by hacking gasps for air -- at one point, Moran asks: ”Is there a doctor in the house?” and when audience members reply in the affirmative, he says: “Stay away from me. I hate you fuckers!” After about 45 minutes, Moran takes a break, indicating that he is ”just beginning” and only at the start of “repairing “ the ignorance of the audience. After about twenty minutes, Moran returns to the bare stage, palpably more intoxicated -- he is sipping red wine from a big goblet. I can’t tell if he is really drunk or feigning intoxication for the crowd. He staggers around, leaning on the slender reed of the microphone stanchion. Moran is more philosophical and less vehement in the second half of the show and his words display a certain wisdom. The crowd gives him a standing ovation and Moran says that he is working this Friday -- that's the night of this show -- and that the crowd’s approbation is not necessarily pleasing to him since it just means that he has to work longer and has to delay the additional drinks that he hope to consume after he knocks off. He ends the show after a brief commentary about men and women and about children -- he has several kids -- and there is another standing ovation. Moran is very accomplished and his quips are well-phrased and when you smile at what he says you don't feel exploited or mean-spirited, but, in the end, unless you are a fan, it is a bit of an ordeal -- the show is too long by about a half hour, but Moran clearly feels that he needs to deliver good value for the admission price and so he labors dutifully to fill the time and the crowd is obviously enthusiastic and there is another standing ovation as he departs. Moran has made comments on the National Rifle Association, gay marriage, and the dysfunction in Washington, D. C. When he remarks that American English has seized control of the world, someone in the crowd shouts “Sorry!” Moran responds: “You liberal leftist Minnesota assholes can fuck yourself!” In the second half of the show, Moran (whose show is notably chaste) reads from an erotic blockbuster that he imagines to be modeled on “Fifty Shades of Grey”. He recites from that text: “No” he said, his voice cruel and stern and his face impassive like the face of an Easter Island idol caught in a traffic jam.” For some reason, this seems very funny to me. Moran’s wit, I think, is equivalent to the aristocratic disdain that Oscar Wilde displayed when he toured America in the late Victorian era -- periodically, we Americans need to be reminded as to our peasant origins and our lack of culture and this is, I suppose, salutary.

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