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February 22, 1979 - Image 7

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-02-22

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Second City:

The Michigan Daily-Thursday, February 22, 1979-Page 7
First-rate irreverence

By OWEN GLEIBERMAN
When The National Lampoon Show
passed through Ann Arbor three years
ago - featuring a then-unknown named
Meatloaf - it drew a decidedly eccen-
tric audience at Power Center. The
auditorium was barely one-third full,
and a paucity of preppie-types was
sprinkled amidst the geeks, the weir-
dos, and a spate of curious onlookers.
Times have changed. National Lam-
poon is now making blockbuster
movies, the geeks appear in smaller
herds daily, and comedy is the word -
anytime, anywhere.
Second City, the Chicago-based im-
prov troupe, has gotten its share of
media coverage of late, largely through
its having given basic training to
Saturday Night Live regulars Bill
Murray, Gilda Radner, John Belushi,
and Dan Ackroyd. Still, with almost no
regular national exposure (their
television show, was only recently ad-
ded to the line-up of Detroit's PBS
station), and a frugal publicity cam-
paign for their Tuesday night ap-
pearance at Power, it was a sur-
prisingly large and enthusiastic
audience that greeted the group.
AND COMPARED to that National
Lampoon assemblage of only a few
years ago, this was a crowd of a dif-
ferent color: Gone were the comic
derelicts pining for a fix of "sick
humor." Looking around at the audien-
ce, comprised of clean-cut students,
faculty members, and assorted
representatives of Ann Arbor's local
jet-set (if it can be called that), one
might have thought he had wandered
into a performance of the National
Kabuki Theatre, or something
smacking of a bit more "tradition."
Perhaps comedy, however, has
become our new tradition. And for

was comedy of no redeeming social
value whatsoever, and much of it was
hilarious.
IN A NIGHT-CLUB singer routine
recalling Bill Murray's spasmodic im-
pressions, a performer sang a number
about breaking up with his old
girlfriend entitled "It Was Your Fault,"
delivering every caustic innuendo with
the suave arrogance of Martin Mull.
+ One skit, a song-and-dance hymn-of-
praise to those wonderful short-order
cooks at Denny's who serve up our
cherished tuna melts, was a beautiful
tidbit of off-the-wall inanity.
In a performance with no props and a
tinkling piano for atmosphere, material
often lives or dies on the strength of the
performers' personalities. Of the six
actors in this touring company, three
- the nightclub singer, the Denny's
chef (a burly, Paul Bunyanish fellow),
and a woman whose sniveling nursery
school teacher might have been Lisa
Leubner's aunt - had a certain charm
and charisma that sometimes trium-
phed over the weaker material. Their
three compatriots were all versatile
and talented performers, but oc-
casionally they missed the mark. One
actor's performance as a hyper-active,
nerdy teenager was so unfortunately
unfunny that his frenetic energy began
to make one wince.
BUT THERE was also some inspired
lunacy: An S-M country-and-western
song called "Too Much Sex and Violen-
ce On TV, and Not Enough at Home";
two brothers downing whiskey at a New
York bar and screaming about how "a
degree in English lit doesn't mean
shit"; and a Chicago quarterback doing
an emotional commercial for Harlequin
Romance novels. By the end, when
Seals and Crofts came out to sing
"Diamond Girl," only to have their lip-

synch tape change to "Help" and "Torn
Between Two Lovers," the audience
was ready forranything, and that's
exactly what they got.
Second City is apparently capable of
reaching the tasteless heights of
Michael O'Donoghue or Frank Zappa.
The troupe's most appealing quality,
however, is a refreshing irreverence
that doesn't hold enough venom to
ballast jokes about death camps or
enemas, favorite subjects of the sickie
set.
In one sketch, a meeting of the Ann
Arbor School Board on the topic of sex
education in the schools, a Neanderthal
trucker argued from the audience that
he had a beautiful 16-year-old daughter,
and that he didn't "want some young
punk spreading her creamy white
thighs and violating her flowering
pubescence." In another context, a joke
like that would be nothing if not crude;
on a program featuring songs about
short-order cooks, it was simply in-
spired silliness. And in this age of Mork
and Mindy, inspired silliness is a'
valuable commodity.

MANN THEATRES
Starts Friday, February 23rd
1 0 - MAPLE VIRAGE SHOPPING (ENTER
"THE DEERHUNTER"
Starring ROBERT DENIRO
PGJ UmtudArst
Showtimes
MON.-FRI. SAT. & SUN.
6:30, 9:00 :45 6:30
3:45 9:00

Ends Tursaday,
February 22nd
YOU'LL BELIEVE
A MAN CAN FLY
SUPERMAN
MAROON BANDNO
9EEHAKA

SHQWTIME
MON.-FR
7:00, 9:45
Tickets on sale3
prior to shoe

"MARL"ON'"RAD
RELEASED BY WARNER EROG&0 [FPI
S SAT.& SUN.
I. 1:30 7:00
5 4:15 9:45
30 minutes
wtlme

~vvtlme

__

PETER COOK'& DUDLEY MOORE in

1967 }

Daily Photo by ANDY FREEBERG
A member of Second City clowns around during the troupe's Tuesday night
performance in Power Center.

BEDAZZLED
Would you sell your soul to the devil for seven chances at Raquel Welch?
Cook & Moore come from "beyond the fringe" to grace this stimulating
comedy. Usual stylish direction by Stanley Donen, whose films include
Charade and Singin' in the Rain. The original not ready for prime time
player, Moore made a reappearance in the Chevy Chase vehicle, Foul
Play-as a killer dwarf.
FRI: THE PHILADELPHIA STORY
SAT: Schrader's BLUE COLLAR

those looking to become a part of it,
Second City's high-energy performance
was an aptly amusing initiation.
Second City's sketches fall
somewhere between Saturday Night
Live at its most acidic and the inspired
wackiness of The Carol Burnett Show.
The six performers (there were no

programs, and I didn't catch any of
their names), were adept at timely
social satire, offering inspired bits like
Dr. Cheryl Kinsey, telling women how.
to fake better orgasms ("Lay back and
moan, 'Ohhh, I've got the music in
me!' "). But the ensemble's forte'was
their longer, rambling material. This

CINEMA GUILD

TONIGHT AT
8:30 only

OLD ARCH. AUD.
$1.50

Poet offers 'tribal' reading

The Ann Arbor Film Cooperative presents at Nat. Sc.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22
DUEL
8:30 & 10:00-NAT. SCI.
This superb suspense film directed by Steven (JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS,
SUGARLAND EXPRESS) Spielberg brings the nightmare of every driver-to the
screen: being mysteriously pursued by a trucker in a huge rig, with no pos-
sible'means of escape. Dennis Weaver plays a salesman on the California
backroads who becomes caught in a highway game of death. This was Spiel-
berg's first feature-length film, and the one which shot him to auteur super-
stardom.
Tomorrow: Annie Hall & Woody Allen Retrospective

BY CAROL WIERZBICKI
To the Seneca Indian, a good song or
poem, whether it exists to ward off
demons or simply as a proper fanfare
for the animals, requires a cracking
voice and a good stamping foot to keep
the rhythm. Poet Jerome Rothenberg,
rattling and chanting his way through
his Tuesday night Benzinger poetry
series reading, showed that he under-
stands all of this and more. He led off
with an upbeat, exciting chant, "The
animals are coming," repeating this
line over and over; sometimes he
stressed different vowels, sometimes
he would sling his voice upward one or
two steps, then plhmmet it back down
to complete the vowel sound.
One of the reasons why Rothenberg
understands tribal poetry so well is that
he spent three months in 1968 living
with the Seneca Indians. During this
time, he listened to stories of the elders,
and became acquainted with the
folklore, geography, and mythology of
the Senecas. With the help of inter-
preters, he translated their songs,
stories, and chants into English - not
an easy task given our language, which
is not "vowelish" or gutteral like tribal
languages. Just the same, Rothenberg
recreates the same feeling with his
songs. When he begins his rattling and
howling, the room seems to grow
larger, and from somewhere, a wind
stirs ...
Another reason why Rothenberg is
able to deal with his poetry on a
primitive and emotional level, yet also
on a level that is complex and brillian-
tly psychological, is that he is acutely

sensitive to his own ethnic roots. A Jew
of Polish ancestry, Rothenberg ex-
plores the world of his past in
Poland/1931, a book based on Hasidic
folklore. Filled with obsessions, super-
stitions, and Ginsberg-like incan-
tations, it is a strange, mystical book,
where what is not said is as important
as what is. One feels that he is not so
much reading poetry as that a peasant
is telling his or her story, punctuating
the silences with emotional outbursts
and eloquent waves of the hand.
Part of this effect is due to Rothen-
berg's style of recitation. I didn't truly
understand the poems in Poland/1931
until he read a few out loud. The strong,
rhythmic drive of the short-cropped
phrases, the sparseness of the
language, the obsessions with repeating
words, all come forth with Rothen-
berg's straightforward, earthy

delivery. His voice seems to resonate
upward from somewhere around his
feet, and whether he's invoking the
spirits of the Seneca or the ghosts of his
past, it's always a forceful poetry of the
body - rattle-shaking, foot-tapping
wholeness.
The physicality of the poems them-
selves demands such a performance.
But underneath the enumerations of
peasant artifacts and earthy sexual
imagery, there always lurks the
spiritual and the demonic:
my mind is stuffed with tablecloths
& rings but mymind
is dreaming of poland stuffed with holand
brought in the imagination,
to a black wedding
a naked bridegroom hovering above
his naked bride mad poland
how terrible thy jews at weddings ...
A kind of sacredness, strangeness, and
"otherness", as Rothenberg says,
comes from total self-immersion into
the poem or song. Sometimes, as with
the Indian chants, vowels of words have
to be changed to achieve this feeling of
mystery.
A perfect blending of the humorous
world of material concerns, and the
psychological world which transcends
space and time, occurs in "Cokboy,"
the last poem in Poland/1931, in which a
Jew finds himself in a strange land
with . . . Indians! Bewildered, the anti-
hero describes the Indians as "deez
pipple mit strange eyes" and calls him-
self "Cokboy," not "cowboy." The
poem contains the inevitable cycles of
birth and death, Indian wars and
progress, all mixed up in bizarre In-
dian-Slavic-Jewish imagery:
a hundred fifty different shadows
Jews &genatiles
who bring the law to Wilderness
(he says) this man
is me mgrandather
& other men-of-letters
mn with letters carring the nail
lithituan ian ponyv-express riders
the financially crazed Buffalo Bill
still riding in the lead
hours before avenging the death of Custer
Here he counters ritualistic prayer
with offbeat language. On the western
frontier, where all cultures converge,

we see Biblical stodginess butting up
against modern cynicism, politics, and
industrial progress.
And yet, Jerome Rothenberg is able
to reconcile the two cultures, if not in
content, in style. The Jew in "Cokboy"
remains relentlessly European, the In-
dians retain their basically American
resentment toward the exploitation that
swallows up their land. But in the poem,
Jew and Indian marry and with the
marriage comes a tangible reason for
their unity.
So it is with Rothenberg's language.
Shrouded in that somber Polish over-
coat is an exuberance, a controlled joy
at living, something that wants to shout
and shake a rattle. From his deep ex-
ploration of the ethnic dimensions of
poetry, and his careful melding of
sound and meaning, Rothenberg brings
the spiritual and material together in a
continual reassertion of man in contact
with miracles.
Jerome Rothenberg has authored
several books, among them A Seneca
Journal, Shaking the Pumpkin, and
Technicians of the Sacred, a collection
of tribal poetry from around the world.
A former University graduate student,
he now teaches in San Diego.

TODA Y-4:Opm

2225A ANHall

Faye Harrison
Chairperson,
Youth Parole and Review Board
State of Michigan
Speaking on
"The Juvenile Offender and
the State of Michigan System"
Mediatrics presents:
.0. WINGS
(William Wellman, 1929) Two World War I Air Corps pilots are
in love with the same woman, Clara Bow. Their rivalry turns
into respect, then into friendship. Winner of the first Academy
Award for Best Picture of the Year.
Thurs., Feb. 22 Assembly Hall, Mich. Union 6:45, 9:30

w.

SUMMER JOBS
CAMP TAMARACK
Brighton and Ortonville, Michigan
Interviewing, February 27
Summer Placement Office
CALL 763-4117 for appointment

Join
the
Arts
Page

m

-

The Classified Alternative,
BUSINESSMEN..
, ~You have the means to tap the IN4TEREST t
S of a very selective and consumptive audience.S
MICHIGAN DAILY CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING
s the method to effectively and affordably
. reach YOUR MARKET.
IT IS T H E K EY T0:

Noon Luncheon
Soup & Sandwiches 75C
Fri., Feb. 23
Phyllis Ocker,
Associate Director, Womens Athletics, U of M:
"THE STATE OF WOMEN'S
ATHLETICS AT THE U OFM"
GUILD HOUSE, 802 Monroe

BAHIA
A robust, merry and musical panorama involving the lives,
loves and folk religion of shantytown inhabitants is pre-
sented in "Bahia," the diverting new work by Marcel Camus,
who directed the' prize-winning "Black Orpheus" 20 years ago.
Fri., Feb. 23 Nat. Sci. Aud. 7:00,9:00
DRIVE-IN
(Rod Amateau, 1978) A fun movie that is likeable, fast-moving
entertainment. It's a movie-within-a-movie, DISASTER 1976,
showing at the Alama Theatre on the wildest Friday night of
the year. While a mid-air collision, a tidal wave, a blazing
skyscraper and a beserk shark compete for attention on the
big-screen, there's even more fun and action in the audience.
Sat., Feb. 24 Nat. Sci. Aud. 7:00, 8:30, 10:00
PARANOIA IS H EALTHY
WHEN THE FBI1S ON CAMPUS
Protect Your Rights
"Student's Rights and the FBI"
Barb Kessler, Molly Reno
Attorneys, Student Legal Services
"On Organizing Against Harassment"
Kate Rubin
Vice President, Michigan Student Assembly

(* .-"
4-

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