A quick, incestuous post about Noah Diamond’s performance as Groucho last night at the Jewish Museum. Well, it is and it isn’t (incestuous, that is). All things remaining the same, if he had sucked, I think we all know I’d have buttoned my lip! And I’d also have written this same post if he were a stranger.
By now, I’d naturally long since known that Noah could nail Groucho the performer, the guy in all those movies. I also knew that he’d internalized Groucho’s entire life story in detail. But what he did last night was quite a bit different, and more.
First, he actually did a slightly different character. The Groucho he performed was Groucho as we saw him in later years, on television, as HIMSELF telling his real life anecdotes. Noah studied THAT, and, Jesus, it was flippin’ uncanny. It really was like he put this act together with a Ouija board and with the contractual participation of Satan. This was as good as it’s ever gonna get on this earth. The audience, which couldn’t have loved him more, for the most part I’m sure had no idea how good this was. On top of that, he was prepared, to an insane, obsessive degree with Groucho’s actual retorts and ripostes, and had them ready in his brain to present as apparent improvisations to questions from the presenters and the audience. ALSO uncanny and quite terrifying.
And then lastly in one sense it was better than having Groucho there, because Noah brought to the table a level of biographical knowledge and HONESTY that Groucho himself wouldn’t have brought. Old men forget things, even about themselves, and they also lie and exaggerate. (An example from last night, Noah’s Groucho admitted to having performed at a benefit for San Francisco Earthquake victims in 1906. The real life Groucho hedged and lied about that performance so people wouldn’t know how old he was).
And then, there was value added. The moderator, Jenns Hoffman, the Jewish Museum’s Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Public Programs couldn’t have been more sincere, nice, or apparently uncomprehending…making him an ideal foil for Groucho, sort of a mix between George Fenneman and a You Bet Your Life contestant. He also had a thick accent which added to the (good-natured) mirth. I especially liked when he referred to the once and future Marx Brothers show as “I Will Say That She Is”.
Another old friend popped up, and he, too was his excellent self (and by that I mean, somebody else):
When it was over, the SRO audience was so disappointed they went “awwwwwwww!” And right afterwards a strange man started raving about the show to me — as I was urinating in the men’s room! My last word on the subject, “Yeah, yeah, it was terrific, but you’re making me a little uncomfortable, sir!”