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March 11, 1992 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1992-03-11

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Page 8-The Michigan Daily- Wednesday, March 11, 1992
Black humor balances wit with education

Laughfest '92
Mendelssohn Theatre
March 9, 1992
According to most people, com-
edy is a light-hearted form of enter-
tainment designed to make a vast
majority of the audience laugh. For
Mark Reedy and the Ebony Mel-
pomones, the purpose of comedy is
not only to entertain but also to
educate.
"Comedy is my way of commu-
nicating to the people," claims the
29 year-old Chicago based per-
P preview
former. "We educate people and
make them laugh so they can take it.
We can do it in such a way that
sometimes people don't even realize
they are being educated."
The Ebony Melpomones are
comprised of veteran comics and
newcomers from all over the United
States. Sixteen comedians tour the
college circuit in groups of four to
present Laughfest, a multi-act stand-
up show which addresses issues and
ideas through comic voice.
Reedy, along with director Daran
Howard, stage manager Rodney
Pate, Comedy Channel finalist Shay
Shay, and headliner George V. Will-
born, performed their version of
Laughfest Tuesday night at the Ly-
dia Mendelssohn Theatre. The event,
which was sponsored by Kuumba,
drew a crowd of close to 150 people.

Among other issues, the Ebony
Melpomones discuss racism, sex, re-
ligion and politics from an African-
American perspective. Each come-
dian in this all-Black group has a
unique manner of expressing them-
selves and addressing some of these
concerns. "Black humor is different
because what we as comedians ob-
serve is different," Reedy states.
Willborn agrees, stating he is not
afraid to talk about poverty, sex, or
even roach-infested homes.
"I consider myself a truly honest
comedian because I deal with every-
thing people really go through,"
Willborn explains. "If I do risky
material and insult someone, then
I'm sorry they can't take a joke."
If encouraging the males in the
audience to have sex with them-
selves because it's safer and more
accessible is a risky idea, then
Willborn's self-evaluation is accu-
rate. Not only does he make obscene
gestures with the microphone stand,
but he also entices members of the
audience to challenge him on his
outlandish claims of masculinity.
His hilarious tone and gesticulation
can only be greeted with an uproari-
ous applause analogous to the fan-
fare of Arsenio Hall or Johnny
Carson.
Willborn's greatest strength is his
ability to communicate with the au-
dience on an informal level. At one
point during the show, he ap-
proached a man in the audience who

had been talking during the perfor-
mance and said, "Excuse me. How
rude of us to hold a show during
your conversation." His frank but
extremely hysterical disposition is
communicated through such interac-
tions.,
A good Repertoire with the audi-
ence is important to every comedian,
but it is essential when they are try-
ing to send a serious message.

across the nation. The disproportion-
ate egos and condescending attitudes
that have made other entertainers so
unappealing have not tainted the
Melpomones comedy. As long as
their observational honesty contin-
ues, those attitudes never will.
There is a fine line between com-
edy that provokes and comedy that
offends. As comics with a desire to
express and view ideas from a per-

'I consider myself a truly honest comedian
because I deal with everything people really go
through ... If I do risky material and insult
someone, then I'm sorry they can't take a joker
- George V. Wiliborn
comedian

Ivo Pogorelich may be a sensitive pianist, but he's also got a dangerous
Clint Eastwood glint in his eyes. Go ahead Frederic, make my day.
Pogo's piano is perfect

Willborn, Shay Shay, Reedy, and
Howard can successfully educate
through their performances by inter-
spersing serious topics like safe sex
and respect for women with out-
landish gestures and jokes.
Unlike some other comedians,
The Ebony Melpomones are never
phony in their presentation in order
to please the audience. This honesty
is a refreshing rarity that makes
these comedians seem like ordinary
average guys just having a good time
when they are actually renowned
performers on the HBO comedy spe-
cial, the Comedy Channel, the
"Half-Hour Comedy Hour," and
countless other clubs and networks

spective which has been historically
ridiculed, the Melpomones acknowl-
edge that line and make individual
decisions whether to cross it.
According to comedian Horace
Sanders, a third year student and
member of Kuumba, humor is a
good way to get across what things
need to be done tochange our lives.
Like the Melpomones, he takes
comedy very seriously because lie
knows jokes are not just about
laughter.
"It's okay to tell a joke, just don't
be a joke," Sanders emphasizes,
"We have been jokes for too long."
- Rona Kobell,

by Valerie Shuman

You know you're good when a judge resigns because you lose a piano
competition.
Nvo Pogorelich did so well at the 1980 International Chopin Compe-
tition in Warsaw that he "burst onto the [music] scene," despite being
eliminated before the final rounds, said Arthur Greene, assistant profes-
sor of Piano at the University School of Music. Greene heard Pogorelich
play in New York's Carnegie Hall several years ago and commented that,
"He has a great sparkling technique ... He can draw fabulous colors
from the piano."
While he has a fairly standard repertoire, Pogorelich is no traditional
piano player. "He's a musical iconoclast." said Greene, "He loves to
shock people with the way he interprets the music." Greene cites as an
example Pogorelich's performance of the final movement in the last
Beethoven piano sonata. "The piece is marked in the score to be like a
song, simple and direct. He played like it was shrouded in mist, like a
distant memory from the far past."
Not everyone appreciates this sort of interpretation. Greene says, "If
you went thinking it had to be like the score, you would have been disap-
pointed. But he is ... always interesting. He plays traditional things un-
traditionally."
This habit has led to Pogorelich being titled the 'Bad Boy' of classical
music. He is also one of the best-selling classical recording artists
around, so it doesn't seem like anybody minds his departures from norm
all that much.
When he's not recording or performing, Pogorelich spends his time
helping others. He founded the Young Musicians' Fellowship in his na-
tive Yugoslavia to help future artists get started, and has played benefit
concerts for several charity causes, such as the International Red Cross,
and Multiple Sclerosis. Pogorelich was also named Ambassador of
Goodwill at UNESCO, in recognition of his work for young people.
In his recital this evening, Pogorelich will be playing Ravel's Valses
nobles et sentimentales, Rachmaninoff's Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor,
and Chopin's Three Nocturnes and Sonata No. 3.
IVO POGORELICH will perform tonight in Hill Auditorium at 8 p.m.
Rush tickets are available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today at the University
Musical Society in Burton Tower for $5. Call 764-2538 for more info.
wh hat erewen

Rocky and
zits don't
reall iiiiux'~
Gladiator I
dir. Rowdy Herrington g
by Michelle Phillip

Gladiator is a movie everyone
should see, but only if you can sneak
past those goons at Showcase after
you've seen Wayne's World (i.e. a
good movie). The film was made for
the target audience of an MTV
commercial - you know, the kind
who eats a lot of Doritos, drinks a
lot of Dr. Pepper and wears ungodly
amounts of Clearasil. Depending on
your frame of mind (or how drunk
you are), you may or may not act as
a part of this pubescent crowd.
Columbia Pictures is living dan-
gerously with Rowdy Herrington's
(Road House) story of a white mid-
dle-class kid who finds himself on
the wrong side of the tracks in the
South Side of Chicago.
Tommy Riley (James Marshall of
Twin Peaks) gets involved in under-
ground (and highly illegal) boxing
with anything-goes tactics in order
to pay off his father's gambling
debts. There he befriends Lincoln
(Cuba Gooding, Jr. of Boyz N the
Hood).
Together, the two battle against
Horn (Brian Dennehy), an evil pro-
moter who exploits racial tension for
profits. Tommy is the noble hero
who refuses to compromise his prin-
ciples for a buck. This poses a prob-

*1

Riley (James Marshall) and Lincoln (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) get sweaty and look hard at each other. Drama at its finest.

lem for Horn, who quickly rectifies
the situation by threatening to hurt
Tommy's father and girlfriend.
Gladiator is a feel-good movie
constructed to rouse your sympa-
thies for the underdog and make you
cheer. For the most part, you will
cheer.
Tak Fujimoto's (Silence of the
Lambs) cinematography includes
crash zooms, distorting lens effects
and swirling camera movement that
adds intensity and gives Gladiator
the impact it needs. The majority of
the gratuitous camera work is lim-
ited to the fight segments, so the
scenes remain effective without be-
ing overdone.
But the most disturbing aspect of
Gladiator is the treatment of racial

issues. In one of the best scenes in
the movie, Tommy has to fight a
tremendous asshole, Black Death,
who, as you might have guessed, is
Black.
The scene is constructed so we
have to cheer for Tommy, and there
was an overwhelming audience re-
sponse to it. There is no problem
with this scene, except there is a si-
milar one for Lincoln, yet he isn't
given the same positive treatment
that Tommy was.
Thematically, the film tries to be
even-handed in showing that whites
aren't the only bigots: Tommy has to
defend himself against some Blacks
at school who don't like him be-
cause of his skin color.
Visually, Gladiator buys into all

the stereotypes that most films do.
During the pre-fight warm-ups, the
Hispanic, Ramon (John Sedai
dances to "Rico Suave," the Blacks
do their thing to "U Can't Touch
This" and "Mama Said Knock You
Out," and the whites get the ever-
cool Warrant's "We Will Rock
You." The racial presentations are
ambiguous at best, and at times, they 9
are laughable and sad.
For those of you who think this is
the last of the Teenage Rocky mo-
vies, hold on to your seats - this i
just the beginning. Gladiator's
screenwriter, Robert Mark, has writ-
ten Power of One, which is just like
Gladiator, only set in South Africa.
GLADIATOR is playing at Show,
case. r" a

Do you have angst? Every time
someone says "Did you," do you
hear "Jew?" Is Ingmar Bergman
your favorite director? Then you're
probably a Woody Allen fan, and
you've got a chance to see a free ad-
vance screening of his brand new
and long-delayed film, Shadows and

Fog. It's Kafkaesque, it's black and
white, and it stars Woody ... and a
whole bunch of other folks. To win
tickets, send or drop off a postcard
with the name of one big star who's
in the film to Daily Arts Woody
Contest, 420 Maynard, Ann Arbor
48109. (If you have absolutely no
idea who's in the film, be creative
- we might be merciful.) The
screening is Monday night at Briar-
wood at 7:30.
If you can't wait until Monday
for a masterpiece, check out Henri-
Georges Clouzot's The Wages of
Fear at the Detroit Film Theater
this weekend. Clouzot's film has
been called "The Greatest Thriller
Ever Made" by L.A. Weekly and "A
must-see movie in any decade" by
the legendary Andrew Sarris. First
released in 1953, the DIA will be
showing a brand new print of the re-
stored version, which includes 45
minutes that have never been seen in
American before. Check it out at 7 &
9:45 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Call
833-2323 for info.

A Man Jumps Out of an
Airplane
Barry Yourgrau
Clarkson Potter/Publishers
The back cover of Yourgrau's
newly reissued collection calls his
ultrashort pieces "flash fiction." Wi-
thout that prompt, you might not
know what to call them. Sometimes
they resemble Charles Simic's prose
poems, and at other times they feel
like Raymond Carver's minimalistic
short stories, though never as good
as either.
What makes Yourgrau's work
radically different is the surrealistic,
dreamy, often hilarious quality and
logic of these flash fictions, usually
no longer than a page, that illuminate
"reality" with novel colors and nu-
ances.
In the first piece, "Milk," a man
successfully climbs into a cow on a
bet. Outside, the men who dared him
join "their harsh voices into a col-
lective shriek of protest - protest
from the world of sanity and reality."
u. I.

Describing a weird, twisted re-en-
trance into the womb, this piece an-
nounces what is to come: incessant
arguments against "logical reality."
Yourgrau disregards your expec-
tations without first attempting to
evoke them, forcing you to accept
what he presents on his own terms.
The natural world comes alive in
a Whitmanesque way. Animals are
personified, and many people are re-
duced to animalistic (and familiar)
behavior. "In the Meadow" describes
a group of women chatting and strol-
ling in a crowd of bulls, provoking
them to rage, and running and shrie-
king delightedly when the bulls fi-
nally charge.
"Zoology" reveals the same kind

of motives in the opposite sex: mi-
niature men ride on the backs of na-
ked women, crawling on all fours, in
front of a whorehouse. Yourgrau's
subjects often revolve around the po-
wer struggle sex wages, and he
freshly illuminates them by taking
the metaphors more traditional fic-
tion might use and making them re-
ality.
Though "literary" themes reside
in these pieces, occasionally they are
merely built on great starting lines,
like, "A man comes home and finds
his wife in bed with a squirrel," or,
"I have the last pack of cigarettes in
the world; but no matches." And, af-
ter a while, the nameless characters
become a blur; each piece is popu-

lated by "a man," or "a woman," and
often this becomes a little too vague
and emotionally detached.
Fortunately, Yourgrau usually
wins back your appreciation. In "The
Shipwreck," five people are afloat in
a lifeboat when "[a] shoal of
drowned men drifts by, the little floW
werpots of their souls resting on
their milky, tattooed chests. The
captain blesses them in the language
of sailors."
This book earns itself in lines likO
these, and makes a strong case for
more economic language in fiction,
Read A Man Jumps a piece at a time
just before you go to bed. It's a kind
of dream handbook.
- Roger M. Valade III
Society.
While Crimes is easily eclipsed
by the clever wit of Wayne's World
and the goofy humor of the Naked
Gun series, the fun cast produced
some welcomed laughs in a good-
spirited romp.

CRIME
Continued from page 5
happens.
These two couples, along with
the local womanizer (Hamilton) and
a good-hearted gambling addict
(Candy), must disentangle them-
selves from the crazy circumstances
SPIRES

that implicate them in the murder.
The other actors deserve mention
as well: Lewis is endearing, Young
is her quirky self, Candy revels in
his recurring role of the buffoon
(Planes, Trains & Automobiles,
Who's Harry Crumb) and the
eternally crisp Hamilton is a walking
billboard for the American Cancer

ONCE UPON At
at Showcase.

CRIME is playing

Wellesley College.

ems for a fourth book," Spires said"

I

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