Last night the Mad Marchioness and myself had ourselves a double header. The first leg was the book launch event for Kevin Fitzpatrick’s new tome The Algonquin Round Table New York: A Historical Guide. Kevin’s the head of the Dorothy Parker Society, the author of several books (including this and this), and was the prime mover of the galactic phenomenon known as Marxfest. I’m told “my copy is in the mail”. Rest assured I’ll report back on the contents once it’s in my hot little hands. The party was held — where else? — at the Algonquin.
Also present were WFUV’s Michael Haar (who said he was dressed down, but we couldn’t tell), the Illustrious (and Illustrated) Dandy Dillinger, Bob Tevis (one of my cohorts from the Fields Fest committee — stay tuned!) and of course the aforementioned Mad Marchioness. Someone took a pic of us together — as soon as it gets posted I’ll add it here. Buy Kevin’s book here.
From thence we hied us southward to Nat Towsen’s Downtown Variety Hour at UCB East. We’ve been hearing the praises of this monthly show for what seems like a year or two now — sung principally by the lad’s father John Towsen, author of the seminal book Clowns, a rich resource I first discovered when I was about 19 years old. It was definitely an important source for my book Chain of Fools.
The younger Towsen, the host, is a droll, Woody-like presence, a unique combination of Nerd and fashion-plate. We were drawn to last night’s edition of his show by the big marquee names, starting with the beautiful and brilliant Janeane Garofolo, once the poster-girl for anarchism (not to say anarchy – -or maybe it’s the other way ’round) on the stand-up stage, but now as welcome and comforting a sight to this old slacker as, I dunno, a Janeane Garofolo movie. I was once on a bill at Caroline’s with Garofolo about 20 years ago. Or rather, was I just near the stage? Or maybe I just watched her on television? Nah, through some fluke we performed in the same room. Anyway, this would seem like a knife in her heart (I don’t mean it to), but I had a lot of ’90s nostaligia watching her last night, and for me that’s an entirely new emotion. In this room of hipsters half our age, Garofolo came off as a wizened, grizzled veteran, which she is, and that’s kind of a cool role to get to play in life and show biz, I think! Anyway, Two Boots (adjacent the UCB East Space) just named a pizza after her, that was the touchstone of her routine, and so there was a lot of Lower East Side love in the room, and that also took me back.
Then a young gent named Matthew Katz did a sort of slideshow wherein he waxed rhapsodic about key NYC landmarks like the Apollo Theatre and Warhol’s Factory. It was at such an introductory level that it made me fear for the future of America. If young, nightlifey New York adults — presumably the sophisticates among the sophisticates — need a second grade primer about these legendary New York institutions, then we all ought to be very afraid. And they do, I guess, so go ahead and be very afraid. I know I am.
The headliner was Michael Che, a new SNL cast member who reads the jokes on their ancient, ossified “Weekend Update” relic. The gist of his routine, that he is too busy playing video games to care about anything, was…ironic I guess? What it was not, was hilarious.
Ironically, the greatest comedian in the room, I am certain, was sitting to my right. Hilary Chaplain came by with a posse of her clown buddies to take in the show. I’d have paid another $6 to see them perform! (That’s what we call a Scottish compliment).