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Thursday
Mar032011

INSIDE WITH: DAVID MOGOLOV OF 'THERE IS NO GOOD NEWS'

David Mogolov | Photo: Daniel van AckereBy: Meghan O'Keefe

It’s hard enough trying to figure out how to live in a world filled with bullwhips, meth addicts, hurricane victims and a collapsed economy, but how do you raise a child in one? These are the questions writer and performer David Mogolov faces in his one-man show, "There Is No Good News." The show is a dizzying monologue that integrates personal stories and philosophical quandaries with hilarious results. I spoke with Mogolov about the show, currently playing this weekend at The Red Room.

What inspired the show?
I started with the first line of the show. I knew that I wanted to talk about these bullwhips my brothers and I had when we were kids: It seemed to be a parable for almost anything, especially as my wife and I were expecting our own first child.

I initially tied it to the then-unfolding financial crisis, sort of a Lord of the Flies scenario, and I got really far down that path before growing really tired of the topic. I was almost too angry to be funny. I knew I'd hate any comedian who subjected me to what I was writing, and so I stripped it back to the basics and focused on almost everything but the financial stuff.

Once I relaxed, and started writing from experience, it was fun. It was a blast pulling together these stories and jokes, and all of a sudden a little tiny piece of Wall Street came back into the script and it worked so perfectly with the new direction. So that early effort wasn't wasted. I don't think I'd have been able to pull the pieces together without it. But I'm so glad it isn't a show about money.

Has becoming a father changed your comedic voice in other ways?
It probably has. It's hard to know what's the result of parenthood and what's just the result of more accumulated experience and sort of a hardening of perspective. It's hard to make a strong impression when you don't have some certainty to speak from.

 

When I first started doing comedy, I wasn't certain of much, and my humor was pretty frivolous. I'm not anti-frivolity, but I think this show is much more "seriously funny" than what I did before. It's the first time I'm deliberately trying to make a point while chasing as many laughs as I can grab. Fatherhood is surely a component in that.

How did you pick your personal anecdotes to use in the show? Were there any interesting ones that were lost in early drafts?
In the earliest drafts, the top of the file was a huge running list of stories I was thinking I might include. There were a few that I absolutely knew I was going to use pretty early on, and the sort of formed the backbone of the show. The rest were on the list because they all had some thematic tie to one of those core stories. Somewhere around the sixth draft, I finally deleted that list, but I was still adding and cutting huge chunks of the show.

Until pretty late in the process I was sure I was going to tell a story about trying not to vomit on Seal. Ultimately, as much as I love the story and the physical comedy of the scene, it just didn't fit anymore.

You've also written and performed sketch comedy. How does your experience in sketch inform how you approach a one-man show like this one?
Well, I suppose just at the most basic level, writing a lot of sketch comedy has made me comfortable with bad first drafts. And terrible second drafts. And really lousy third drafts. Sometimes you just have to torture a premise to make it talk. I did 18 drafts of There Is No Good News.

Also, sketch comedy can read as pretty funny on paper and fall really flat once its up on its feet, and vice versa. I've spent so much time looking at sketch scripts with my ears as well as my eyes that I can't help doing the same with this monologue.

Who are your comedic influences and do you think their work inspired any part of your approach to this material?
I grew up watching stand up and sketch comedy constantly. My dad watched pretty much every comedy special that came on TV, and so I thought stand up was one of the cornerstones of the human experience. And this was during the '80s comedy boom.

I was always particularly taken with George Carlin as a kid, and as I got older and kept watching him, the admiration never wore off. He was so precise with his words, and he had this momentum and cadence that made you think he was having a conversation, not delivering a monologue. I don't think many people can touch him.

But I love so many comics and performers. I think Eddie Izzard changed the way a lot of people handle transitions and digressions. They're not comedians, but storytellers: Spalding Gray and Mike Daisey gave me permission to sit down. For the style of show I'm doing, I really like working from a table or desk, and I don't think I'd have felt comfortable risking that if I hadn't seen it done so well. I hate to be imitative, but there you are: in that regard, I am. They made it OK to just sit for a long while.

I noticed that you keep a very thick script on stage with you during the entire show. Have you ever done a word count?
I hadn't, but I just did. It's about 8,500 words. Google tells me that's 10% of "Persuasion" by Jane Austen or "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera, both of which also feature meth addicts, I believe.

  • THE PLUG: Don't miss "There Is No Good News," part of the Frigid Festival, happening TONIGHT @ 8PM and SAT, MARCH 5 @ 5PM and SUN, MARCH 6 @ 6:30PM | Tickets

 hard enough trying to figure out how to live in a world filled with bullwhips, meth addicts, hurricane victims and a collapsed economy, but how do you raise a child in such a world? These are the questions writer and performer David Mogolov faces in his one-man show, There Is No Good News. The show is a dizzying monologue that integrates personal stories and philosophical quandaries with hilarious results. I spoke with Mogolov about the show, which is playing this weekend at The Red Room.

 

Can you describe what inspired the show?

 

I started with the first line of the show. I knew that I wanted to talk about these bullwhips my brothers and I had when we were kids: it seemed to be a parable for almost anything, especially as my wife and I were expecting our own first child. I initially tied it to the then-unfolding financial crisis, sort of a Lord of the Flies scenario, and I got really far down that path before growing really tired of the topic. I was almost too angry to be funny. I knew I'd hate any comedian who subjected me to what I was writing, and so I stripped it back to the basics and focused on almost everything BUT the financial stuff.

 

Once I relaxed, and started writing from experience, it was fun. It was a blast pulling together these stories and jokes, and all of a sudden a little tiny piece of Wall Street came back into the script and it worked so perfectly with the new direction. So that early effort wasn't wasted. I don't think I'd have been able to pull the pieces together without it. But I'm soooo glad it isn't a show about money.

 

 

In the show you grapple with the idea of becoming a parent for the first time. Do you think that becoming a father has changed your comedic voice in other ways?

 

It probably has. It's hard to know what's the result of parenthood and what's just the result of more accumulated experience and sort of a hardening of perspective. It's hard to make a strong impression when you don't have some certainty to speak from. When I first started doing comedy, I wasn't certain of much, and my humor was pretty frivolous. I'm not anti-frivolity, but I think this show is much more "seriously funny" than what I did before. It's the first time I'm deliberately trying to make a point while chasing as many laughs as I can grab. Fatherhood is surely a component in that.

 

 

How did you pick which personal anecdotes to use in the show and were there any interesting ones that were lost in early drafts?

 

In the earliest drafts, the top of the file was a huge running list of stories I was thinking I might include. There were a few that I absolutely knew I was going to use pretty early on, and the sort of formed the backbone of the show. The rest were on the list because they all had some thematic tie to one of those core stories. Somewhere around the 6th draft, I finally deleted that list, but I was still adding and cutting huge chunks of the show. 

 

Until pretty late in the process I was sure I was going to tell a story about trying not to vomit on Seal. Ultimately, as much as I love the story and the physical comedy of the scene, it just didn't fit anymore. 

 

 

You've also written and performed sketch comedy. How does your experience in sketch inform how you approach a one-man show like this one?

 

Well, I suppose just at the most basic level, writing a lot of sketch comedy has made me comfortable with bad first drafts. And terrible second drafts. And really lousy third drafts. Sometimes you just have to torture a premise to make it talk. I did 18 drafts of There Is No Good News

 

Also, sketch comedy can read as pretty funny on paper and fall really flat once its up on its feet, and vice versa. I've spent so much time looking at sketch scripts with my ears as well as my eyes that I can't help doing the same with this monologue. 

 

Who are your comedic influences and do you think their work inspired any part of your approach to this material?

 

I grew up watching stand up and sketch comedy constantly. My dad watched pretty much every comedy special that came on TV, and so I thought stand up was one of the cornerstones of the human experience. And this was during the 80s comedy boom. I was always particularly taken with George Carlin as a kid, and as I got older and kept watching him, the admiration never wore off. He was so precise with his words, and he had this momentum and cadence that made you think he was having a conversation, not delivering a monologue. I don't think many people can touch him. 

 

But I love so many comics and performers. I think Eddie Izzard changed the way a lot of people handle transitions and digressions. They're not comedians, but storytellers: Spalding Gray and Mike Daisey gave me permission to sit down. For the style of show I'm doing, I really like working from a table or desk, and I don't think I'd have felt comfortable risking that if I hadn't seen it done so well. I hate to be imitative, but there you are: in that regard, I am. They made it OK to just sit for a long while.

 

I noticed that you keep a very thick script on stage with you during the entire show. Have you ever done a word count?

 

I hadn't, but I just did. It's about 8,500 words. Google tells me that's 10% ofPersuasion by Jane Austen or The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, both of which also feature meth addicts, I believe.

 

You can see There Is No Good News as a part of the Frigid Festival at the Red Room. Showtimes: Friday, March 4 at 8pm, Saturday, March 5 at 5pm and Sunday, March 6 at 6:30pm. Tickets are available at https://www.smarttix.com/show.aspx?showcode=THE115&pcode=FRIG4

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