Thursday, May 30, 2013

A year ago I created a dustup about the All Things D conference. I pointed out that they had Tim Cook in public for questioning at the height of Apple's labor situation and instead gave him a sloppy kiss. Journalists were pissed that I, OF ALL PEOPLE (they love saying that) would DARE to say anything. They didn't mention that none of them were saying fuck all—even the ones who agreed with me were at All Things D, covering the event, making "news" out of press releases.

Despite the pissing and moaning both Poynter and the NYT agreed that I made a solid case that essential questions were softballed. Given how much journalists hate hearing from me, I thought that was quite a victory.

I felt bad, though...because I can be a softie. And I had called Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher hacks. Harsh! I really do give people a lot of rope, especially journalists, which I still believe is a calling that some of our best storytellers answer.

Anyway, it's one year later, and Kara and Walt did the same thing again. They had Tim Cook on and fellated him for an hour. Apple failed to meet its own FLA targets, and they simply buried it. This time they figure the pressure is down enough that they can just skip those actual questions and spend more time obsessing over bullshit.

So, for what it's worth, and it ain't worth much: every day I realize a lot of journalists can go fuck themselves. And should.
Is There Any Value to Be Found in the Intentionally Offensive Comedy of Andrew "Dice" Clay? | Splitsider:

The album was called The Day the Laughter Died and it's simply a brutal assault on the audience. At a certain point, the listener must pause to reflect on what it is they're listening to. Is it a comedy show or a punk rock piece of aggressive performance art? Dice is confrontational toward audience members, walking out many in the room and gleefully so. At the end of the album, he goes on a bizarre rant that is practically Kaufmanesque in its obliqueness.

It's an album recorded as a defiant answer to the critics who claimed that he was not a real standup comic. It's raw, unrehearsed and downright uncomfortable. It shows Andrew “Dice” Clay as a young comic at the height of his success purposely burning it all down in front of us. For those who gravitate towards standup comedy, it is this willful self-destruction that is part of standup’s appeal. The ability to get up on stage and be a raw nerve of emotion and destroy everything and slowly build it back up is a powerful and alluring skill to have in life and in art and it is something that Andrew Dice Clay has been doing for decades.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Monday, May 27, 2013


So, that's it. All over. A LOT of work and yes, to be honest, a LOT of heartache. But moments of pure bliss were tucked in there, more than a few. So, like childbirth, hopefully Scott & I will forget the pain and will only remember hearing and seeing our songs being brought to life by some of the greatest actors and actresses we could ever hope to work with.

Which brings up one final thing I never understood, which is...where were the prima donna costume designers, nerdy orchestrators, crazy professor set designers? Where were the things, so absent on SMASH, that are the things you most get when you walk into a rehearsal of a musical: laughter and joy? Damn, everyone on the show was so miserable!

Well, it wasn't like that on the set when we were filming a number or in the recording studio making music. We had a great time.

Last week I performed a one-night only event in Portland of a new monologue called JOURNALISM. A few observations on the nature of journalism taken from the experience of being an unusual figure doing an unusual show:

Journalists are not the mainstream. We announced the show exactly two weeks before it happened, on a Tuesday night, with no publicity beyond the announcement, mailing lists, and social media. We sold out our entire floor, and had well over four hundred people turn out for this one night event. There was a standing ovation and such, and I only mention it because from the reviews you would think the show was performed in dour silence while people threw objects at me.

This doesn't mean that these people are "idiots" who don't know about my scandal—it means they know, they read my apologies, they decided how they felt about it, and they are coming to hear a story. And there are a lot of them.

Journalists create quotes when it serves a purpose. This piece by Ramona DeNies opens with a quote from the show—but it isn't accurate. It's paraphrased, poorly. I've seen this for years—because the work is extemporaneous, journalists want to quote, but they paraphrase, then they put the words in quotes because it fits their style. It's appalling, but it happens to me constantly. What's interesting here is that it even happens when I do a show about the nature of journalism—you'd think they might be really careful about such things in that case, but not always.

Journalists, like storytellers everywhere, love a straw man argument. Later in DeNies piece she starts a bit of repartee with:

"For a performer who belittles nitpicky factuality in favor of “larger truths”…

Except I don't. I didn't "belittle" that on my TAL appearances—in fact, I agreed with Ira that they are important. I didn't belittle them in the performance last Tuesday in the least—in fact, I went on at some length about their importance. But Ms. DeNies knows this—she's just setting up a corollary so she can say that I *do* care about coverage of myself, which she then proves with another quote that vaguely resembles what I said onstage, but isn't actually at all what I said.

Journalists, very predictably, like gossip. DeNies brings up my Wilamette Week interview, where Rebecca Jacobson spent a big chunk of her available space relating my response to responding on the Portland Mercury blog. Even as I was doing that interview, I knew as we were speaking about it that there was a 100% chance it would be in the piece—and, predictably, that's how it closes. DeNies is even more predictable and goes back to the well again, talking about how I talked about my interviews before the performance:

"Notably absent from this rundown: a rancorous Portland Mercury chat thread fueled by Daisey's own participation—for which he later blamed NyQuil."

Except, of course it is not "notably absent"—I very specifically talked about the interview as a kind of performance, with its own rules, and then spoke about three interviews I did for the show they are seeing that evening. Why the fuck I would talk about online chat threads with anonymous commentators? I was talking about journalists…and for the record, I didn't "blame" Nyquil. I think Nyquil was a contributing element, though not as much as the two lines of coke I did to balance out my buzz before diving into the thread.

Journalists love and hate being part of the story. Rebecca Jacobson had the experience of being implicated in the show as I dissected the slant and creative choices in her framing of our Q&A. She responds to this by getting huffy about how I didn't know she was the theater critic, which I never cared about, but then wondering:

"Two, Daisey said, I have never seen him live. This fact he got right—but why it would predict a dreadful interview, I’m unsure."

As I said in the show—it doesn't predict a terrible interview, but it is not a good sign. In the same way that book authors are not terribly excited about speaking with journalists who have never read their books, or musicians don't enjoy interviews with people who have never actually spent any time with their music, it's not fun to speak with someone about your work who has never experienced your work in a city like Portland, where I have been coming regularly since 2005. I would normally never reveal this feeling, as it would be gauche, but that's why I had that feeling.

She did state that my account of our exchange was "mostly accurate"—but tellingly, she doesn't actually reveal to the reader what issues I highlighted and underlined from her original Q&A, and appropriates my own joke about weasels and otters. She is a good journalist—she sacrifices not an inch of her narrative authority. That's fine, of course—but if you read the first Q&A, and then saw the show, and then read this, it's transparent how she's working the text.

Journalists like to project. Jacobson ends with:

"Yet Daisey clearly felt a sense of ownership over the interview, and maybe even some sense of gratitude for the material it had provided him."

What's happening here is pure projection. Jacobson is naturally unused to anyone contesting her ownership of a story in any way; in her world, and the world of many storytellers, they own the story and the subject and are unused to being confronted. And interview is a conversation between two people, and belongs to both those people.

And for gratitude…well, I don't think it'll ever be performed again, but sure. Though to be clear—I'm the monologist. I could have talked about all sorts of things. The arts journalist is actually the one covering the artist—they feel like arbiters, but they are the ones looking for material.

Ms. Jacobson, you're welcome.

Some journalists are conflicted and can't tell the story they feel. Winston Ross turned in a notably jangly and disjointed piece to the Daily Beast on the evening, during which PICA staff members claim he was using his laptop in his seat during the performance to take notes (!) and getting into a disagreement with them in the hallway about re-admittance. While it's true that Mr. Ross doesn't normally cover theater, that's a pretty strange account to hear about any journalist.

The next day we got in touch via Twitter, and I then received a long email with the subject "What I Didn't Write", which goes into some length about his feelings about me, about investigative journalism, and a number of other things. It was heartfelt, open, and in almost every way superior to the article he turned in—which makes one wonder what kind of frameworks the Daily Beast wants in their stories, or the ones any journalists sets up as they tell stories.

Mr. Ross wrote me about a number of things I had actually brought up directly the night before. Like a lot of things in life, he may not have been willing to hear them in one context, and as the performance settled in him they come back. Others are legitimate beefs. It was good to see that it touched him, and gave me some hope.

Some journalists get it. I spoke with a journalist after the show who has been in the business his entire life, who thanked me for the piece and felt like parts of it struck home. Another former editor and reporter turned in this review, reflecting on their time in the business—it's far more interesting than the rest of the writing.

I'm beginning to suspect a kind of generational gap—Johnson and DeNies are young, and many of the journalists responding most to the piece from its first flight are much older and more secure in what hierarchy there is. Ross is older than they are. All the journalists older than Ross came down in a very different place…though most of them haven't been public about it, which is telling.

I think the first performance of JOURNALISM was less a theatrical show and more of an event; I knew going out there that what would happen would be for that night alone, and whatever happens to this piece will grow from this beginning. It was incredibly moving for me to see PICA and so many men and women in Portland come out and really support this first gesture—thank you very much for your generosity of spirit and your time.

Onward and upward,


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

World premiere of JOURNALISM by Mike Daisey comes to Portland for one night on May 21 | portland theatre scene:

Portland was also one of the first cities to see THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF STEVE JOBS, a show which went on to cause an enormous media spin cycle (technical term: “shit storm”) when Ira Glass of This American Life revealed that some details of the expose were fabricated. This was after Glass did a full show on AGONY. He then devoted a second show to unmasking the tale. The two Daisey episodes remain the most popular in TAL history.

Subsequent to that speed bump, Daisey regrouped and has moved on at a heightened pace of urgency. And if his new show AMERICAN UTOPIAS (one of 10 new monologues to emerge from Daisey’s secret underground lair in Brooklyn in the last year) last weekend at Seattle Rep is any indicator, this sharp and unpredictable talent is at the peak of his powers. Here’s a review from Crosscut.

Living as he does at the intersection of theatre, politics, activism, and documentary, Daisey is an important American cultural critic. He is also a rare thing in the theatre world – an owner (though unlike the all-owning corporations often under the Daisey microscope, he sometimes gives his intellectual property away for free). As a sole proprietor and producer of his own work, Daisey has a unique ability to go direct to the audience, bypassing some of the creaky channels of the ossified mainstream theatre establishment detailed in his ferocious broadside, HOW THEATER FAILED AMERICA.

Daisey believes in the power of theatre to truly change and challenge. As he quips in AMERICAN UTOPIAS, the theatre is one of the last public spaces where large gatherings of citizens are still tolerated in America. Because nothing dangerous can happen there. Right?

Come put the danger back in theatre – where it belongs.

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Sunday Morning News | Slog:

I'm a little surprised there is so little mention of Mike Daisey's current shows on SLOG.

The "American Utopias" show was powerful. He weaves in some comedy and absurdist imagery about Disney, Burning Man, and Zucotti Park into a meditation on the nature of public/private spaces, the nature of corporations in modern America, the idea of assembly, and the ideas of genuine versus manufactured experiences.

The themes of the show are very relevant to what's going on now, including what happened on Capitol Hill last week. It seems bizarre to me that the entire SLOG staff apparently missed this show.

Looking forward to Fucking Fucking Fucking Ayn Rand next week.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Being Walt Disney: Lucas Hnath and the Theater of Celebrity - The Brooklyn Rail:

These experiments with language are in the tradition of writers who are dear to Hnath—Caryl Churchill, Gertrude Stein, and Maria Irene Fornes. He also once spent a road trip listening to Mike Daisey monologues, which “seeped in,” inspiring some of the repetition, the whirling back over key ideas to build a kind of incantatory poetry. These influences—with the added fodder of growing up in a charismatic church where congregants spoke in tongues—creates a unique Hnathian vocabulary that demands exceptional dexterity from his actors.
Fortunately, this play is in expert hands.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Times Square Blues | The Nation:

We enter the antiseptic, overlit warren (I say its “much smaller,” but the place is actually still pretty gigantic). Except for the clerk and one other customer, we are the only ones there. It is one of the most surreal things I’ve experienced in my life. Somehow, its survival feels like it says something about the simultaneous resilience and strangeness of the human spirit. Though I couldn’t have quite told you yet what that something was.

Once upon a time, Show World patrons visited enclosed booths where they pumped tokens into a slot to open up a partition, revealing a “LIVE NUDE GIRL,” behind glass, for precisely forty-four seconds, after which the partition closed. (This article recalls the gross old days. “You had to start out as a mop man…”) No longer. A sign, blunt, yellow, bold, reads: “To Our Patrons: Since July 26 1998 We have had NO LIVE GIRLS. Sorry for the Disappointment. Management.” In place of human beings are video screens; insert token, and the screens flash to life for that same forty-four seconds. A forty-four second YouTube video, for twenty-five cents. You can see why Show World’s commercial appeal was now limited. You can see my incredulity that this place still exists.