Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger
by Edgar Governo
There are a lot of facts in Senior Fandom Correspondent Sharilyn Johnson's solo memoir at Venue 17 (The Fighting 17th!) about her personal and professional admiration for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Even as a regular viewer of both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (enough of one to make all the references you'll see in this review, at any rate), I couldn't possibly better know a comedian than she does.
This approach reflects Johnson's journalistic background, but it lacks in something rather important for a theatre piece: theatricality. As I pictured the written script in my mind, it felt like it would make a great feature in The New Yorker--I was much more informed on this topic at the end of the show than I was before, filled as it was with details about where and how those two series are made, the history of their devoted fan base, and the particulars of erotic Jon/Stephen slash fiction. (I can only imagine how that genre of fan fiction defines the 'Colbert Bump'.) However, Johnson's performance and the direction of Laura Anne Harris give off the vibe of a lecture or a TED Talk instead of a series of deeply personal confessions, and the heart of the show comes out more when those are the focus.
(Oddly enough, given the subject matter, the comic timing in the show is also a bit off, lingering too long or adding an extra facial expression where just trusting a solid joke to land would be more effective.)
Johnson spent a long time coming to terms with being a comedy nerd during a very specific period in the 90s--before the Internet gradually made a community of such people possible, and long before you could load up countless comedy podcasts like Comedy Bang! Bang! or The Nerdist or WTF with the secure knowledge that you have many kindred spirits out there. Although I probably enjoyed her discussions of comedic theory and philosophy more than many patrons, the monologue came alive emotionally when she went into her days as a lonely teenage comedy fan in Winnipeg or the 'permanent shame' of a Gawker hatchet job showing up as a top search engine result for her own name, and the show would benefit from concentrating more on that than on who the head writer of The Daily Show was in 2008.
I'm sure all the facts have been thoroughly checked, but Johnson still buried the lede--I was always more interested in her own truthiness.
To June 27