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February 07, 1986 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1986-02-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

From Russia,

with laughs

Escape into art

By Alan Paul
{Y AKOV SMIRNOFF is serious.
The Russian comedian, who has
recently appeared in Lite beer com-
mercials making anti-Soviet jokes,
loves America.
Smirnoff, who came to America
eight years ago, began performing
publicly at age 15. After his release
from the Soviet army he found a job
working on a cruise ship. Through his
contact with American passengers
Smirnoff developed a desire to
emigrate. Among other things, he
was frustrated by a lack of artistic
"You're not allowed to tell sexual or
political jokes in Russia," Smirnoff,
who will appear Sunday, February 8
at 8:00 at the Power Center, ex-
plained. "The setup line of the win-
ning joke in the Russian Comedian's
Competition was, 'How many
Russians does it take to screw
Poland?' The comic didn't have a
punch line but the Russian gover-
nment gave him 20 years to think of
Smirnoff's routine is made up of
jokes playing on American
stereotypes of Russian life and humor
about being a naive American im-
migrant. He also has a question and
answer session with the crowd.
"About halfway through the show, I
open the floor for people to ask
questions. In Russia the floor opens

after somebody asks a question,"
Smirnoff deadpanned.
Smirnoff's Russian humor has been
a big American success. He has ap-
peared in three movies, Moscow on
the Hudson, The Adventures of
Buckaroo Banzai, and Brewster's
Millions, the Tonight and Merv Griffin
shows, and regularly plays the
lucrative Las Vegas and Atlantic City
venues as well as comedy clubs
across the nation. He also tours
college campuses extensively.
"I like playing campuses," the 34-
year old comedian said. "The
audience is bright and young and it's a
pleasure to be with sharp people."
Smirnoff attributes his success to
dedication and hard work, as well as
his unique status of being the only
Russian stand-up comic in America.
His Lite commercials recently have
immeasurably helped spread his
name, he said.
"All of a sudden, people all across
the country know my name," Smir-.
noff said. "A lot of people who don't
watch Johnny Carson or go to comedy
clubs, do watch football."
Perhaps surprisingly, Smirnoff
considers himself a staunch
Republican, though he is not an
American citizen and can't vote. He
says that the highlight of his career
came recently when he fulfilled a

... comedy that digs deep
dream and performed for President
"It was at the National Conser-
vative Party Convention. There were
two thousand people there and I sat at
the head table with the president and
we talked for two hours," Smirnoff
said. "After I performed, I got a
standing ovation."
"I am definitely a Republican. Not
that I have anything against the
Democrats but I've lived on the other
side and I think the Republicans have
a much more realistic attitude.
There's no question in my mind."
But Yakov, what about Reagan's
"Evil Empire" talk? Surely,

Russians are ordinary people just like
"Reagan's absolutely right. It's not
the Russian people, it's the gover-
nment. They're not hiding it. It's the
policy. I went to school there. From
day one, they teach you that Com-
munism should spread throughout the
Okay, that may be true, but there
must be a normal life in Russia.
Everyone couldn't be unhappy.
"Happiness is a relative term,"
Smirnoff said. "People in Russia
don't know what they're missing.
There's no real concept of America or
the Western world - it's very vague.
It's like people who live in Cleveland
all their lives."
Hillel is sponsoring Smirnoff's Ann
Arbor appearance so being Jewish
must be a big part of his act, right?
"You won't see any indications of
my religion," Smirnoff stated.
"When I grew up, being Jewish meant
only one thing - getting hurt, and
that's really all it meant. I didn't get
to associate anything good with
Judaism and it still hurts to talk about
"Jews face everyday harassment,
both mental and physical, in Russia,"
Smirnoff continued. "They are a
scapegoat for the general population,
which very badly needs an outlet for
frustration and aggression."
"I'm just very happy to be here, I
love America and I got out of Russia
the best way - alive."

By Lisa Leavitt
YOU need a break from
your books? Is studying
driving you insane? I have
discovered the perfect panacea.
Plan an escape into a place where
you can let your mind wander and
your senses embrace an endless
daydream. Forget your worries
and go to a gallery. One place to
escape to is the annual Member-
ship Show at the Ann Arbor Art
Association. They are exhibiting
the artistic talents of their mem-
bers in a wide-ranging show. The
vast array of subject matter, use of
color, texture, and line in a variety
of media provides for never-ending
possibilities of interpretations and
delight for the viewer.
The Best of Show award went to
Linda Heckenkamp for "Searching
for a Safe Place." In a rapid scrib-
ble, a figure is sketched ascending
a steep diagonal line longing for a
distant home. The sharpness of the
geometrical lines suggest a cold
and unfeeling environment in
which the not completely whole
and scribbled figure characterizes
an insecurity in this vast desert of
lines. Visually, she has expressed
the loneliness of being isolated
within nothingness.
In especially vibrant watercolor,
Donna Zagotta, produces "Light
Patterns." The scene is mundane
and essentially a still life. I say
essentially because the objects

seem to come alive and be in
motion rather than be still. The
source of their dynamism is the
surge of light streaming in through
the window cascading onto the
brilliant green plant and the easy
chair. The light cast on the objects
create shadows on the floor in an
array of textured patterns. The
viewer can sense the plant coming
to life and growing before their
eyes from the nourishment the
light brings it.
"Mother and Child" by John
Rocus is a beautifully sculptured
pair of sharks in smooth and
polished wood. The grain of the
wood echoes the sensuous curves
of the sharks as they glide through
the continuous rippling of the
waves of an imaginary ocean. The
mother, bigger and stronger,
protects the child curved under her
in safety and as they seem to ride
the same serene wave.
A scantily dressed woman
looking semi-distorted haunts the
canvas in Mary Louton's "Yester-
day, I . . ." Her long, thin neck,
gaunt face, and dark eyes present
an emaciated figure emerging
from a mysterious and foreboding
background. Her eyes tell the
story, however. Bold, sad, and
tired, they express deep despair.
As though about to confess, she
crosses her arms in front of her to
show her defensiveness as well as
her despair.


. D. Q.

T1 I _1

By Rebecca Chung
THIS EVENING at the Michigan
Theater, even those "who like
music but don't know why" will have
an opportunity to laugh at classical
music's greatest failure, for the
dedicated and courageous Professor
Peter Schickele, the world's foremost
(and, thankfully, only) expert on
P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742)?, will be
presenting a concert of his works.
P.D.Q. Bach, for the uninitiated,
was the twenty-first child of the
Baroque master Johan Sebastian
Bach. P.D.Q 's music is infamous for
its lack of musical originality
(although many other kinds of
creativity are plentiful). He has been
called "a musical blight," "a one-
man plague," and "a pimple on the
face of music." Yet, Prof. Schickele,
tenured at, but on "a sort of per-
manent leave of absence" from the
University of Southern North Dakota
(at Hoople), has continued to impose
this lack of talent upon audiences
everywhere, much to their delight.
Speaking with this vigilant crusader
in his hotel room, I learned a little
about what it is like to champion such
a nonentity.
Michigan Daily: Why have you
become so persistent in exposing
P.D.Q. Bach to the suffering yet
delighted ears of your audience?
Prof. Schickele: The therapeutic
value of P.D.Q. Bach is that, instead
of making us feel insignificant, as
many of us do when we listen to the
beauty of J.S. Bach or Mozart, we feel
as if we could do that well ourselves,
which probably accounts for all of us
laughing when we leave.
MD: Someone once said to me, "I
consider myself musically ignorant.
Thanks to P.D.Q. Bach, nothing has
changed." Is this a fair-
Support the
March of Dimes

J - acn:"
PS: Well, it depends on how you
look at it. It certainly has been said
that P.D.Q. Bach has set us back 200
years, but it's also been noticed that
the more one knows about music, the
more one gets out of it. A P.D.Q. Bach
concert has a lot of different things
going on, from slapstick visual humor
to quite subtle musical humor, so that
the concerts are often enjoyed by
people who don't know much about
classical music, but the more you
know, the more you pick up those bits
of musical humor.
MD: P.D.Q. Bach's complete lack
of musical talent is amazing to
behold; yet, I have heard from
musicians that the pieces actually
require effort to perform properly.
Can you explain this apparent con-
PS: In the first place, P.D.Q. asks
things of musicians that they didn't
study in music school. For instance,

ri classical gas

he often asks oboists to play on their
reeds without the rest of the in-
strument attached . . . Also, on the
serious side, people often assume that
if something is funny, it is easy to do.
But the better played it is, the funnier
it is. So, as your musical friends have
indicated, people who attend a P.D.Q.
Bach rehearsal are sometimes im-
pressed with how hard we're working.
MD: What is it like to be the only
driving force behind P.D.Q. Bach's
PS: A lot of nice things have come
indirectly from P.D.Q. Bach. For in-
stance, the arranging and composing
I did for Joan Baez in the late sixties
came about because, at that time, we
were on the same record label, and a
lot of the commissions I get for
serious pieces are from musicians
I've met through P.D.Q. Bach. But,
as you know, P.D.Q. Bach is the only
dead composer who can still be com-
missioned . . . I get a lot of

* s..o*...e...s.. COUPON *O*e@OSOO@ee@@e
with this entire ad $1.00 off adult eve.
SO F F= admission. 1 or 2 tickets. Good
TuesSeniors and Late Shows.

"discovery" commissions, from in-
dividuals to the Boston Pops, who
commissioned the 1712 Overture . .
I'd also like to mention that in a
couple of weeks, P.D.Q. Bach's only
full-length opera (3 acts), The Abduc-
tion of Figaro, will be available on
videocassette. It remains to be seen
whether or not excerpts will be shown
on MTV.
Featured on the program will be the
Concerto for Bassoon vs. Orchestra
(S.8'), the Hindenberg Concerto (of-
ten called "the original Hindenberg
disaster"), Watchet Arf or "Sleeping
Dogs Awake" (S.K9), which features
soloist Dietrich Fischer Bauau ("he's
very touching; there won't be a dry
seat in the house"), and, "in the way
of relief", Haydn's Andante Cantabile
from his String Quartet op. 3 No. 5.
For tickets, call the Ann Arbor Cham-
ber Orchestra at 996-0066, or the
Michigan Theater at 668-8397.


leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee eeeee"e e e e eee
Cali for show times.



A Black History Month Presentation
S .I. S .T. E.R. Fashion Show

Appropriate Attire
Admission Free

Sunday, February 9, 6:00 p.m.
Blue Lounge, Stockwell Hall



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or the RHA office
at 763.3497
or contact your
RHA rep.

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