By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
“I like living in a house,” she says. “I like the suburbs. Sometimes I stand in my living room and talk to my imaginary children.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?” I ask.
“No, I’m dating,” she says. “I’m good at dating, but it’s hard to meet people. It was easier when I first came out here — 13 years ago, whatever. It was easy to meet people in the comedy scene, which was happening everywhere, three shows every night at different coffeehouses and bars. It’s different now. Why?” she asks. “You want to set me up with somebody?”
“I know this great guy who’s a coke dealer.”
“Awesome! Does he need any money?”
The first thing you notice about Rajskub is her frowning glare, a blend of shyness and aggression, as though she wants to stare at the floor, but somebody told her she really needs to look at the audience, which she does, reluctantly.
“I’m shy,” she explains. “I’ve always been scared, especially in social situations.”
This raises the question why someone like that would then volunteer to tell stories to a crowd, as she’s been doing at comedy clubs in San Francisco and L.A. since the early ’90s.
Perhaps, as Weedman’s saga demonstrated, the need for attention is the actor’s curse. Yet those who feel ambivalent about the attention, rather than wallow in it, make better thespians. Actors, however, get to hide behind a character, whereas a comedian’s mask is translucent. That’s why the best ones often look scared, their eyes darting furtively — like Weedman, Jon Stewart, Robin Williams, Sarah Silverman and Rajskub.
The night I see her show, Rajskub rides the patron’s comment about not talking like Chloe into a rant about some folks at an earlier performance who walked out for that very reason, demanding their money back — “like they were so robbed that they were entitled to their 20 bucks back. Hey, I’ve had it hard too.”
Then she goes on a tongue-in-cheek tirade about how difficult it is to be Mary Lynn Rajskub, to be identified as Chloe rather than herself, the agony of celebrity parties, like after the Independent Spirit Awards (“I’m an independent spirit too!”), the fakery, the “spiral of shame.” Like a handball, her act ricochets off a wall into different eras of her life, stream-of-consciousness riffs on artist boyfriends who refused to get jobs, to her stint as a waitress at the Hard Rock Cafe, where she found herself serving John Corbett (hunky Chris Stevens on Northern Exposure at the time) and Corbett’s date, “who’s stretched out in a corner like a skeleton.” She remembers standing starstruck in front of the actor and trying to smile through her terror while staring at the floor, all the while making stupid faces.
“Being a waitress, I was forever making too many faces. People would be like, ‘Are you okay?’ ”
When she finally settled down, Corbett asked her if she had Down syndrome.
“I wanted to please him, so I said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
Next, a thematic flashback to a male friend in Michigan whom she didn’t particularly like but agreed to date because she wanted to please, and then whom she agreed to marry because she wanted to please. They’re on a flight to Florida, to meet his parents, and he starts throwing up into a barf bag.
“I know I was supposed to put my arm around him and provide comfort, but all I could think of was, Oh my God, what a pussy!”
Just before their wedding, he suggested a ménage à trois with a female co-worker.
“Of course, the idea disgusted me, but I said, ‘Sure, yeah, that would be hot.’ ”
Rajskub is not just funny. Her show is a brilliant, evolving portrait of a woman with a hole in her heart trying to operate in a world with a hole in its heart. It’s a maniacal scramble through the looking glass in search of meaning, where everything is its opposite.
The anti-terrorism panel in Washington was also attended by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
“He’s really friendly,” Rajskub claims in her show.
She pushes it further, insisting Thomas asked her about her art background, eliciting the following exchange.
“My art is like that of a retarded child,” she said.
“Oh, don’t say that about yourself,” he replied.
“No, that’s a good thing.”
There’s that twinkle in Rajskub’s eye. Is any of this for real?
According to TheWashington Post, the panel discussion indeed took place, on Friday, June 23, 2006. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was one of the panelists, and Thomas sat in the front row. It was titled “24 and America’s Image in Fighting Terrorism: Fact, Fiction or Does It Matter?”
That title bore itself out for Rajskub well before she started including the experience in her comedy routine, when the photo of Limbaugh kissing her on the lips began littering the Internet. Message boards and blogs lit up with reactions that ran the gamut from disgust to disdain. Here are some examples: