Durst Case Scenario
In early summer 2016, Will Durst -- political comedian extraordinaire and a San Francisco Treat if there were ever one – took The Marsh stage by storm in a one-person show entitled Elect to Laugh in which he skewered one-by-one all the many, many candidates then running for president in both parties. Even then, the missteps, lies, and hair of Donald Trump dominated his jabbing monologue as he opined, “How can you parody a parody?” Well, 235 (and counting) days after the inauguration that was the largest ever in attendance (according to Donald but not in line with actual photographs), Will Durst is back at The Marsh in his newest show, Durst Case Scenario. He is still using that same line about Trump being a parody; but he is now adding that for him as a political comedian, “He’s pure gold, fool’s gold.” “He’s done for political comedy what medical marijuana did for Cheetos.”
During his forty or so years in the comic clubs of San Francisco and beyond, Will Durst has remained consistently animated in his hand-waving approach, bombastic in his sudden bursts, loyal to his use of an overhead projector, and willing to lambast any and all members of the political arena – no matter the party or the politics. However, Donald Trump is clearly a whole new game for Will (“I feel like a jackal feeding on the carcass of democracy”). For Durst Case Scenario, the comedian has taken off his customary jacket and tie in order engage his audience in mere street clothes. With renewed vigor, vehemence, and immense lung power, he blasts through the crazy, bizarre, and altogether scary daily (hourly?) screw-ups and mess-ups of this newest president, the 45th.
His observations, mimics, overhead slides, and rants keep the audience howling in laughter with little time to pause for breath (his or theirs). As he always says to a San Francisco audience, “You are my target audience; you are people who read, or you know someone who reads.” But even though we are all laughing at his rapid-fire of quips and jokes about Trump and his White House troop of mostly white people with lots of money, he admits an issue about his current jokes, “Republicans don’t think they’re funny; and Democrats don’t think they’re jokes.”
For anyone at last summer’s show, there are a number of jokes and too many of his overhead slides that are repeats; and some events that took place way back then are related as if no one would have heard of them yet (like Trump’s making fun of a disabled reporter, which occurred in last year’s campaign). His announced focus on Trump deviates often as he fills in with everything from a few “dirty jokes” to re-visiting some of the primaries of last year (again, mostly re-treads from his 2016 show).
Still, even for any of us seeing both shows, he is correct when he says of this current show, “People need this ... They’re seeking community ... “I’m shepherding people through their PTSD.” And by the sound of the roaring guffaws, it is clear he has provided the pabulum this audience so desperately needs at this moment in time.
But there is an underlying, darker tone this year in this rants and raves with a more ominous feel to it than there was fifteen months ago. He is speaking for more than just himself when he says we are all working our way through a new version of Kübler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grieving. He is voicing for many in this very blue-state audience as he notes we have moved through the first four stages of “Denial, Denial, Denial, and Denial” to the final stage, “Fucked.” With that, he goes into a final funny but telling tirade of “I don’t care anymore.”
Fortunately after admitting such things as “every meal I now order extra gluten” and “I now go swimming forty minutes after eating ... I don’t even wait an hour,” he does provide a serious coda to the evening. In a number of final charges, he urges the audience to “Resist” – daily and in every way possible. After all, he is the self-pronounced canary in the mine; and this comedian who has spent his entire career in a running commentary about the politics around him is now most definitely worried.
Rating: 4 E
Durst Case Scenario continues in an extended run through November 21, 2017, Tuesdays, 8 p.m. at The Marsh, San Francisco, main stage, 1062 Valencia Street. Tickets are available at http://themarsh.org or by calling 415-282-3055 Monday – Friday, 1 – 4 p.m.
Photo by Pat Johnson