By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Also, a small theater there responded the most enthusiastically to the raft of letters she sent out seeking internships, which may have had something to do with the inclinations of the company’s director. She tells a story of the time she was housesitting for the married director and noticed a desk drawer bound shut with electrical tape. After some deliberation, she said, “Fuck it,” and took off the tape. “The entire drawer was filled with threesome pornos,” she tells me. “Everything was like You, Me and Her, or She, She and Me, and this big bag of Cheetos.”
“Was that bag open?”
“Yeah, and just covered with cum. I ate the whole bag.”
From that inauspicious beginning, Weedman’s career as a solo performer and comedic anthropologist of her own life was born. It’s a career we’re playing catch-up to in Los Angeles. By contrast, they been knowing about her, as the kids say, up in Seattle for a long time. George Lugg, who is the associate director at REDCAT, and who was instrumental in bringing Bust there, held a similar position back in those days at On the Boards, a contemporary performance center in Seattle. He remembers the first time he saw Weedman.
“She auditioned for On the Boards and did a 12-minute piece that was in the vein of these very funny, fairly autobiographical, but clearly ramped-up versions of her experience,” says Lugg. “It was just completely memorable and there was this sense that, ah, here’s someone who’s going to take this work to a really interesting place.”
The vignette Weedman auditioned evolved into a full-length show called Homecoming, which chronicled her search for her biological parents. The show toured for a year with the Seattle Repertory Theatre and eventually made it to off-Broadway. (The New York Times compared her performance in Homecoming to “Bob Newhart in his early stand-up routines.”)
Weedman has since debuted most of her major theatrical works, including Amsterdam (about her time in Amsterdam); the twisted holiday fable If Ornaments Had Lips; Rash (about, among other things, her ill-fated experiences as a correspondent on The Daily Show); and her divorce-reckoning show, Wreckage, in Seattle.
In Seattle, she is loved. Reviewing Rash, a writer for The Stranger penned a letter to God thanking him or her or it for Weedman. The letter begins, “Dear Lord, I know bombs are about to drop” and goes on to thank the almighty for “the richness of the human creatures Weedman manifests,” and most of all “that there is a reason to be alive, Lord, and that is to see the brilliance of Lauren Weedman, the funniest woman alive.”
Keep in mind this writer seemed to be in the grips of some, as history has clearly shown, completely uncalled for despair regarding the pending war in Iraq, but still, I understand. Weedman does things to you that only true artists can, among them making you feel life is worth living. Another follower of Weedman’s career, former Seattle Weekly and current Seattle Metropolitan magazine arts editor Steve Wiecking, was equally taken aback.
“The solo-show thing seems so tired until you see her and you realize this must be how people felt when they saw Lily Tomlin for the first time,” Wiecking told me. “She’s just one of those [performers] who people would take someone to go see and you’d be talking about the stuff for the rest of the week. Some stuff hits you as funny at the time and some stuff you remember a week later on the bus and you’re like, ‘Oh, my god.’ It’s the little things that get you as much as the big things.”
Of course, the little things are often the personal things, and in Weedman’s hands the personal things, like a self-defeating desire for reassurance, and a self-fulfilling prophecy of unworthiness, often have a horrifying resonance.
For example, in Seattle Weedman landed what everyone seems to acknowledge was a prize catch — a rugged, sexy, sensitive boyfriend. She got married, and the tumult of that relationship, lots of which she’ll ascribe to her own insecurities, forms another of Wreckage’s narrative themes. There’s a scene in the play — and I think it is unjust to call her solo shows anything but plays — in which Weedman stops by the bar where her husband is bartending and stares in through the window to observe him in action. On the other side of the window, she sees a man, confident, smiling, surrounded by adoring women — younger? hotter? — hanging on his every word. He’s king in this court and she doesn’t recognize him as her own. She ventures insecurely inside, and a change comes over him. He seems less alive than he did just a minute ago. But, yes, he’s so glad she came by. Only there’s that devil inside her that refuses to believe it. She sits down and has a few too many drinks and sets upon him with a form of verbal Chinese water torture that’s excruciating for him, her and the audience. She doesn’t let up until she forces him to confess that he would indeed prefer it if she, who is by now killing everybody’s buzz, left. The scene is funny, painful and all too familiar — who among us hasn’t engaged in this sort of dark-hearted self-betrayal?