One Reed Tries To Interview Anand Rajarm
‘I figured you guys were going to be assholes,’ he says. Or maybe he uses a different word.
‘But why?’ says Frank. I am thinking that the interview is going really well at this point.
‘I don’t know,’ he shrugs, ‘I just assumed it. No good reason.’
We were interviewing Anand Rajaram. He’d been forty minutes late trying to get an OAC grant in; Megan had arrived just after him. It was an early Friday evening. While we had been waiting and drinking beer Frank and I had compiled a list of questions that even we found obnoxious:
‘How does /Communist Till Payday/ reflect the essential achievement of the classless society envisioned by Marx?’
‘And do you play ukulele in this show?’
He might, actually, but it makes for a short answer.
‘Can you laugh at yourself?’
‘In that case, is your solo show more of an Eric Bogosian rip-off or a Spalding Grey rip-off?’ It seemed more charming when we wrote it down.
‘Its more of a Carrot-Top rip off’, he replies.
We are running out of steam. And we haven’t figured out what we’re doing yet.
Anand suggests that we take a cue from our own show and make the interview a period piece set in the future. We agree that it’s a good idea but the potential verb tense disagreements are already making me catatonic. Instead, we decide to all do our own thing: Megan writes things down but keeps ‘ending up with Virginia Woolf’. Frank takes out his computer to record our talk in garage band but the patio is so loud that it keeps peaking every thirty seconds, he gives up and orders a beer. We decide to take a screenshot of the levels to serve as a graphical representation of the interview. I decide to use my mind-powers to remember and then write things down later. Possibly I share this decision, possibly I don’t, but it seems to be everyone’s unspoken plan. I don’t know what Anand was thinking to do, but he seemed confident.
We’ve had a drink now, and we’re talking about this show, and we’re pretty sure that either his Carrot-Top quip isn’t true or that we should give Carrot-Top a second chance – a third chance in Frank’s case. Anand is funny, really funny, but He’s using the laughs to get the audience somewhere, he says. He won’t tell us where, he might not know.
‘Is there a direct through line of any sort drawing together the discrete moments and theatrical experiments – is it a sketch show?’
‘It is but I am very wary of calling it sketch comedy. The comedy in the show is a means, not an end.’
‘So the thing that ties together what you’re doing is that you’ve decided to put them all next to each other in a theatre as part of one show, that’s enough. And they are, in some way or other, all about you. So it’s a show about you? About your personality?’
‘Yeah, I guess so.’
There’s a pause. He says it like it’s a discovery. The answer’s a good one to us – we’ve all become a bit enamored with his personality.
‘So are you improvising?’
‘I was thinking about it but I don’t think I will. In a way it is because everything is new and fresh so its like improvising ‘cause its first time out of the gate. And there’s things I’m doing with the audience where there’s no way to plan. Like I can set a structure, but…’
Then Anand swears us to secrecy about the show, the parts of it that are done and he could talk about. But expect audience involvement – and not of the cringe-inducing variety – that is, expect to want to be involved. Anand is whip smart. His work sounds detailed and conceptually subtle, but he seems fearlessly committed to big gestures in performance.
‘And what are the big gestures in service of?’
‘Attention: the point is to call attention to what’s actually happening,’ he says. ‘Like in a Chaplin film, he keeps your attention with the jokes, and then you’re rewarded. With Chaplin it’s the sad moments that you’re rewarded with, but there can be other rewards, too.’ Or he says something like this.
‘What about thinking?’
‘There are times when I tell them to think, when I have them “think this it too slow or this isn’t funny or something’s gone wrong”, but I’m in control. People shouldn’t be thinking during the show. Thinking isn’t ever what’s actually happening.’
‘Because the show moves faster than your ability to think about?’
Anyway, we all want to see his show now.
And Anand meets One Reed to interview them:
Well, so I thought they’d be a bunch of jerks. I don’t know why. Maybe because of the name. What the hell is One Reed? I don’t know anything about them. Nothing, not even what their Summerworks show is about. Not even the name of the show for chrissake. When I meet them I feel guilty because actually they are not jerks at all. They are nice, self-effacing, laid-back, and maybe they take their work seriously, but don’t take the fact that they take it seriously, seriously. You know what I mean? Not jerks. I am still coming off mushrooms I took to help me finish two grant apps and I’m really late. But, they are happy to sit and drink on the patio and even though they are working together so closely like ensembles do, they don’t seem like they are sick of each other or wanna kill each other, like ensembles do. I don’t wanna plug my show. Just because. They are kind of the same, but they do get excited and tell me stuff when I ask specifics. The show is created with theatre legend Paul Thompson and it is set in 2003. It’s about how they felt that year that that would be the end of the world. Because of all the crazy shit that was going down, like the invasion of Iraq and the still fresh terror of the possibility that planes could fly out of nowhere into buildings. That feeling that anything could happen at any time. 911 marked the beginning of a new world order and 2003 would mark the terrible twos of infancy. Or some shit like that. Those are my words not theirs. They would say something cooler and with less effort. I dunno. I think if you are reading this to learn about their show, you won’t really, but you should go because I think it’ll be really interesting and smart. And if you are reading this to decide if you should see it, just go for god’s sake. It’s an hour and it’s ten bucks. And not, “Oh man, why did I commit an hour and ten bucks to this friggin show?”, but more like, “I’m glad I took a chance to go and see something philosophical and smart and maybe a little bit funny.” But, if you are not sure, I can understand that ‘cos for no reason, I thought they were a bunch of jerks. But, they aren’t at all. And I still don’t really know or get what their show is about, but I really like them and I am gonna go see it. So you can take the chance and go, or you can write them and ask to meet with them and get convinced to go when you see how charming and smart they are, or you can not go and then feel stupid when everyone else is saying great shit about them. So what you gonna do, be a jerk about it or what? Seriously, don’t.