The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 4, 1994 - 9
Ginsberg looks ahead to the '90s
The renowned poet expounds on his work and the Beat Generation
Jeff Dunham's cute, but we prefer the fuzzy guy on the far left.
Dunham and his dummies
By MARNI RAITT
Stand up comedy is hitting hard times. TV and film stars are stealing the
headlines making it difficult for stage comics to compete. Enter comedian/
ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. "If you add something new and exciting to a show,
it draws people in," the performing veteran stated.
But this 31-year-old Texas native doesn't keep all the laughs for himself.
He shares them equally with his four stage partners: the street-wise Peanut;
cynical, middle-aged Walter; the silly hot pepper Jose Jalapeno (on a stick);
and finally Bubba, just a few months old and about to make his Detroit debut.
"Bubba continues to grow," said Dunham. "He's obviously not as strong as the
other three - they're six years old - but he's coming along nicely. His
personality is really starting to expand."
Dunham became interested in ventriloquism when one Christmas he
received a toy Mortimer Snerd (the character made famous by the renowned
ventriloquistEdgar Bergen, who was Dunham's inspiration). "I practiced with
Mortimer constantly and eventually taught myself to throw my voice around,"
said Dunham, "And it stuck."
Soon, Dunham was using his new friend to earn A's on book reports and
cash at birthday parties. "By the fourth grade, I knew I had a definite talent,"
he declared. "This was what I wanted to do with my life."
Dunham's family was always very supportive of his dummy endeavors.
"I'm not one of those hard luck performers," he maintained. "I have a super
family, I grew up in middle America. That always helped me keep things in
Through college, Dunham used a typical wooden dummy. "He was funny
but the same as everybody else's. I was constantly searching for something
To invent his characters, Dunham drew from personal experiences. Each
unique personality adds something significant to the show's overall appeal.
Peanut draws the younger, hipper crowd. Walter appeals to middle-aged
people, "especially women, because they're all married to him," laughed
Dunham. "And Bubba, well, he's like many guys I grew up with. Just goofy
Dunham has no plans to go solo, sans his alter egos: "It's much more fun
to perform with them. They set me apart from other comedians."
Dunham's show is popular because he is constantly bringing in new ideas.
He said, "I concentrate on the technical aspect to a point, but after a few
minutes the novelty of throwing my voice wears off. People want to be
entertained. So I focus on new jokes and material to keep the show updated."
He. admitted that trying new material is one of his biggest fears as a
performer, but asserted, "I've got to take risks to keep me on my toes and the
show from getting stale."
Among Dunham's proudest achievements are five guest appearances on
"The Tonight Show" and being named twice as Ventriloquistof the Year, a feat
none of his peers has been able to duplicate. Despite his success, however,
Dunham has no specific plans for the future. "If you move up fast, you fall
fast," he claimed. "I'm moving up at a nice, steady pace; it's a way of staying
longer. I'm just happy to be doing a little better each year."
Dunham is a perfect example of perseverance paying off. "Just a handful
of people can wake up each morning looking forward to their job. I'm one of
those lucky ones," he said.
"If you really want to be successful in any field, you can't think of anything
else. I'm not married. It's tough to carry on relationships. (Performing) comes
first. It's almost an obsession. Anyone with that vision, dream, push, can
definitely make it happen."
JEFF DUNHAM will perform at the Michigan Theater on Saturday at 8
p.m. Tickets are $16. Call 668-8397.
By RONA KOBELL
Allen Ginsberg says he's never
done anything crazy.
Since 1950, Ginsberg has traveled
from Kansas to Kuai, reading poetry,
recording music, and chanting man-
tra with other seminal figures in
American literature. He's been ar-
rested, tear gassed and institutional-
ized. By his own admission, he's
dropped acid, smoked pot, sucked
cock, milked cows and fed goats.
But he claims he's never done
"Half the college students in
America have tried psychedelic drugs.
All the ambassadors travel abroad,"
Ginsberg said. "A lot of people do
exciting things-but they're not writ-
ers so they don't write about it,.
For 40 years, Ginsberg has written
about what he and his contemporaries
call the "nature of consciousness,"
which calls for "an expansion of
awareness through meditation and
Eastern thought." He has explored
everything from America's fascina-
tion with denial to celebrations of
homosexuality to the obsession with
hyper-technical destruction of the
planet. His scathing commentaries and
acute insights pulled a generation out
of its catatonia and cultivated a liter-
ary tradition known as The Beat Gen-
Ginsberg says he's hardly solely
responsible for launching the Beat-
niks. He had a lot of help from his
friends - Jack Kerouac, Neal
Cassady, William Burroughs, Peter
Orlovsky, Gary Snyder and Gregory
Corso, to name a few.
"I wouldn't say Iam the Founding
Father of the Beat Generation, but
maybe I'm the old auntie," Ginsberg
chuckled. "I was happy to consider
myself part of a whole company of
writers, like the Beatles or something,
that looks like it'll remain a perma-
nent part of world literature."
The Beat Generation is often re-
membered as an era of experimenta-
tion and indulgences in sex, psyche-
delic drugs and political activism. Yet
Ginsberg claims that the Beat genera-
tion was distinguished by its un-
abashed sense of honesty.
"We were in a position to be can-
did. We didn't have any kind of job or
politics we had to defend. We weren't
communists, so we didn't have to
follow a party line. We didn't have to
behave as if we never sucked cock or
anything. We weren't running for of-
inhale," he said.
Ginsberg has been chastised for
his candor by the neo-conservatives
since 1957 when he wrote "Howl,"
now a classic epic poem. He thought
his poem would be "a little delicate
lavender volume of verse that nobody
But Collector of Customs Chester
MacPhee was reading. So were the
San Francisco Vice Squad and the
city police officers. They didn't see
anything lavender about Ginsberg's
verse; in fact, they found it obscene
and unsuitable for children. MacPhee
and his allies confiscated the poem
and attempted to have it banned.
Ginsberg was in Tangiers during
the Howl trial, which set a literary
precedent by allowing the testimony
of professors to "prove" a work's
literary merit. He won the case and
benefited from the controversy as
"Howl"'s sales skyrocketed.
"Howl" is dedicated to Ginsberg's
good friend Carl Solomon (with whom
'I wouldn't say I am the
Founding Father of the
Beat Generation, but
maybe I'm the old
-A lien Ginsberg
20th anniversary celebration this July
at the Naropa Institute (the Jack
Kerouac school for Disembodied Po-
etics), the first accredited Buddhist
university in the United States. He.
just released a four-CD box set which
includes erotic duets with Bob Dylan
and a jam session with the Clash. In
addition, he recently published "Snap-
shot Poetics," a collection of candid
photos of his fellow Beat poets. He
will be releasing a new collection of
poetry, "Cosmopolitan Greetings,"
But even with all this activity,
ALLEN GINSBERG will readfrom
"Howl" and "Cosmopolitan
Greetings" tonight at Hill Audito-
rium at 8:00. Tickets are $5-$1.
could pedestrian life in the '90s com-
pare to the excitement of being on the
road with Jack Kerouac? For
Ginsberg, not that much has changed.
"I still call up [William] Burroughs
after a party to tell him the gossip,just
like in the old days," Ginsberg said. "I
think life is just as interesting now as
before. The whole point is, life is
interesting if you are interested."
he spent some time in "the bughouse")
and is silently dedicated to his mother,
who was also institutionalized. Crit-
ics have claimed this poem is about
anger, dissension and retaliation.
Ginsberg disagrees, claiming that
while "Howl" is one of his most fa-
mous works, it is also one of his most
misunderstood. "The whole point of
the poem is to not be afraid to feel. I
thought that was a rather positive state-
He divides the poem into four
parts: the first emphasizes the "list of
fuck-ups, catastrophes, tragedies and
nervous freak-outs." The second part
contains the poem's climax with the
line "Moloch, whose name is the
mind," stating that the evil in the
world is localized within our own
souls. The third part is about com-
radeship and humanity. The conclu-
sion is an affirmation of our universal
Ginsberg only reads "Howl" on
sacramental occasions, lest it "be-
come an act." He read it in Dublin,
Madrid and Athens for the first time
this year. He will also be performing
"Howl" in Ann Arbor tonight in his
benefit for Jewel Heart-the Tibetan
Meditation group with which
Ginsberg is affiliated. Jewel Heart is
fundraising to bring the Dalai Lama
to Ann Arbor on April 25.
When he's not performing,
Ginsberg keeps busy teaching classes
at Brooklyn College on the Beat Gen-
Does Allen Ginsberg look like a man who's never done anything crazy?
eration. He's also preparing for
A humorously biting play -1
by George Bernard Shaw
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Stravinsky, Debussy, 4
* $5 student discount
good for Thursday &
University of Michigan
School of Music
Friday-Sunday, February 4-6
In the Spirit of Diaghilev
University Dance Company, accompanied by the University
Symphony Orchestra, David Tang conducting
" Debussy: Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (recreation of
Nijinsky's original choreography)
" Stravinsky: Fireworks; Firebird Suite
" Works by Satie, Webern, Banfield, and Ravel
Tickets: $14, $10; students $6 (764-0450)
Power Center, 2 p.m.
Sunday, February 6
Stearns/Virginia Martin Howard Lecture Series
Artis Wodehouse speaks on Gershwin and player pianos
Recital Hall, 2 p.m., free
Monday, February 7
Campus Symphony & Philharmonia Orchestras
Ricardo Averbach, David Tang, Vincent Danner, conductors;
Daphne Wang, violin (Bossart Concerto Competition winner);
Livonia Franklin and Milan High School choirs
" Saint-Saens: Violin Concerto No. 3
" Tchaikovsky: Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture
" Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture
" Beethoven: Choral Fantasy
Hill Auditorium, 8 p.m., free
Recital Hall, School of Music, 8 p.m., free
Wednesday, February 9
Jonathan Hirsh, conductor; Louis Nagel, pianist; choirs from
Livonia Franklin, Livonia Stevenson, Milan, Monroe, Northville,
and Ypsilanti High Schools
* Beethoven: Choral Fantasy
Hill Auditorium, 8 p.m., free
$6 with ID
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