Under the Radar: I Stole Your Dad
Noted humorist John Hodgman offers his observations on a world not obliterated by the Mayan apocalypse to the Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival.
Hodgman's uproarious solo show, part of the Public's Under the Radar festival, is a rambling monologue about midlife crisis by way of a stand-up act. The only set pieces to speak of are a barstool on which he rarely sits, a microphone stand he promptly knocks over, and a magical tote bag, the contents of which are a surprise until the very end. He's dressed in a style easily classifiable as unibomber chic: ripped blue jeans, wornout beige wingtips, and a "zippy thing" below a gray hoodie below a windbreaker.
Those outergarments are what he sweetly refers to as his favorite swag from appearances, and he's about to get rid of them because, after all, you can't take it with you. Off comes the Bored to Death jacket, the Daily Show hoodie, the Indecision 2010/Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear "zippy thing." Off go the shoes, a gift he procured in the gifting suite (where already-wealthy celebrities receive free expensive presents) at the Emmy Awards. He's left in a blue polo shirt he bought at a Florida surf shop and the torn jeans (also a gift from the Emmys, but he keeps them on for obvious reasons).
From there, Hodgman starts his stories, and boy, are they funny. The mustachioed Hodgman riffs on subjects including his children, whom he affectionately refers to as cats — because kids saying the darndest things is just "transcription," while cats saying silly stuff is absurdly hilarious; his life-altering realization that Downton Abbey, which he watches with said cat children, is more or less a retread of the series Upstairs/Downstairs; his delivery of a Mark Twain Lecture at a university, despite knowing only that Mark Twain wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and that Twain is frequently portrayed by Hal Holbrook; and his sudden predilection for marijuana since he entered his 40s.
As theatrical monologue, I Stole Your Dad (the title of which comes from his tale of reuniting a man and his best friend after one nearly dumps the other in favor of his own son), generally lacks the sharper edge that Hodgman promises at the mortality-confronting beginning. As an evening of stand-up, I Stole Your Dad is laugh-till-your-belly-hurts funny, provided you find Hodgman's brand of intelligent and earnestly cynical observations humorous (though if you don't, you probably won't be seeing it anyway). Either way, he's a captivating storyteller who holds the audience's attention for the full duration of the 90-minute piece.
The show ends with Hodgman's most inspired section of the evening, playing the author Ayn Rand circa the 1980s, if Rand in the '80s wrote observations for Parade magazine. It doesn't gel with the preceding 80 minutes, but it's smart, funny, and certainly a sight to behold.