The reason I do characters in all the shows is they can say things I can’t.
When Playhouse at Westport Plaza brought Bob Dubac’s one-man show, The Book of Moron, to St. Louis, it was a risk. For a city that loves larger than life spectacles, a one-man show could have went unnoticed. Fortunately for Playhouse, Dubac brought the funny, and the show was a hit with critics and fans.
Dubac is a cerebral tour de force—he keeps you laughing while expanding your mind. He makes you look at your own prejudices, your own thought processes, your own preconceived notions about life from another perspective. While his shows have the obvious comical elements to make you slap your knees, he also sneaks in nuggets of truth to give you something to gnaw on during the ride home.
The run of The Book of Moron did so well Playhouse is bringing Dubac back with another one of his shows, The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron. I got the chance to speak to Dubac—during a snowstorm!—about his upcoming show and his experience while in St. Louis.
Jim Ryan: You recently played St. Louis with your one-man show, The Book Of Moron. Was this the first time you played St. Louis?
Bob Dubac: It was! For some reason, I have never been through there. It’s been difficult until the Playhouse at Westport Plaza has been bringing these shows back in. But there have been several areas in the Midwest I haven’t visited. Hopefully that will change.
What was your experience like visiting St. Louis for the first time?
BD: Where the Playhouse is, that’s the suburbs, isn’t it? I didn’t get a chance to go in the city. It wasn’t challenging for me in any way. With both shows, I’ve done them in rural areas. If you start out the shows in a simple format, then you are able to—without them realizing it—bring it up a level or two. You can’t come out of the box hitting them with real smart crafty stuff or they will tune out right away.
I understand what you mean. St. Louis is one of those towns that can go either way.
BD: When I am workshopping these things and trying to get them to work, it’s not as smooth. But you have to do that in order to find out where the weaknesses are. The show I’m doing next is kind of a bulletproof show. It doesn’t matter what you believe in or what sex you are; it just hits home with everybody.
You keep people laughing while making them think. What is the craziest interaction you have ever had with an audience member?
BD: Both shows are different. The Book of Moron is kind of a critical thought, and it will make people testy sometimes. But I really haven’t gotten many real negative responses. I’ve had people get up and walk out, but that’s as close as it’s been. That’s more from reaction from the thought, instead of reaction from the language. But it’s crafted in a way that you can usually get away with it. If I get into a real conservative area, language wise, I just take it out. There’s no point in going there with the audience.
Has there ever been a time when you were playing a city and thought to yourself, “Uh oh, I’ve crossed a line”?
BD: No, not really after the shows have been rolled out. In workshopping it, oh yeah, it happens all the time. I usually workshop them in kind of a safe space where if it falls flat I know then they are going to get pissed off and want to shoot me. I just know, and they are not going to laugh.
What made you choose the super stable, ultra-lucrative field of show business?
BD: (Laughs.) It kind of chose me after a while. I was doing a lot of standup and a lot of acting. I was actually studying with a pretty famous acting coach. But I thought that was what I was going to do, and I wrote The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron in my mid-to-late 30s, and it took off so it was kind of like, well let’s follow this bus. It ended up a better genre for me, and it’s been pretty fulfilling. There’s an advantage of it being a solo show where I can write it, produce it, direct it, and you don’t have to listen to anybody. Disagreements with yourself are the only thing you have to worry about.
How does living on the road affect your personal/social life?
BD: Oh yeah, my wife and I just had our 21st wedding anniversary. Now, we don’t have children so maybe that is an easier way of accomplishing this thing. Not having children has kept us younger. She comes to places that are fun. Let me tell you, time apart is advantageous. Sometimes she just encourages me to go on the road. She looks at me and says, “Aren’t you going on the road soon?”
Now, you are bringing “The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron” to St. Louis. What can people expect from this show? Does it examine the differences between men and women or does it just bash on men?
BD: The title sounds like we are bashing on men so we can lure the women in. (Laughs) We bash both sexes pretty equally. It’s smart like The Book of Moron, but it still elevates the whole experience where the audience says, “I get to laugh at you, you get to laugh at me,” and they don’t go away hating each other; they go away learning about each other. We really try to have them have a nice experience. It’s another one of those shows where you just don’t stop laughing. What’s interesting about humor is when you can link humor with an emotion you learn something more; it will anchor.
Both shows utilize your brilliant ability to showcase a number of different characters. How do you keep them all straight?
BD: The reason I do characters in all the shows is they can say things I can’t. When there are times some people get pissed off or they might get offended if it comes from a different character, not from me, it’s easier to slide that in, and then I get to comment afterward. So I can actually act like I’m offended. So the audience, they will agree with me. They don’t realize this is the schmuck who wrote the thing in the first place. It’s different personalities to make you think a little louder but as a device it seems to work pretty well.
Do you have any other shows in your arsenal?
BD: For some reason, these things take a long time for me. The new show I’m working on is called Stand Up Jesus, which is going to be tough in the Midwest. Jesus comes back and takes over his dad’s business and tries to explain to people they all got it wrong.
I think if you bring it here to St. Louis, we might surprise you. I think the St. Louis theatre-goers are way more open minded than the rest of our state.
BD: I agree with you. When I first did The Book of Moron, there were these pockets of areas that put their own positive spin on things. The antagonist in Stand Up Jesus is television. It’s a way to make people feel very complacent. It is really interesting in television and movies where you can do some of the most ridiculously offensive language, but because it is two-dimensional and there is a screen blocking you from it, you are more accepting of it than you are with three-dimensional and you have to listen to people and actually interact with it.
Do you write these shows by yourself or do you have a writing team?
BD: Well, I write them pretty much completely by myself. I have a couple of guys that help me punch up the shows. These guys are good friends of mine. I just lost one of my best friends, Garry Shandling, who actually helped direct The Book of Moron. That is about as superstar as you can get in the comedy world. There are others that are maybe not as famous but just as good. It’s nice because it is a little collaborative but not in the aspect of starting from ground zero. Now, I did just finish helping a friend of mine write a show that we are trying to bring to the Playhouse at Westport next year. But it’s a show where nobody talks. It’s like Blue Man Group meets The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
You have to have some crazy behind-the-scenes stories. Can you share just one juicy one with us?
BD: Juicy? I don’t know about that, but I’ve had people have heart attacks in the middle of the show since they were laughing so hard. I remember doing a show in Chicago—The Male Intellect—and this guy fell out of his chair and laid on the floor, and he just turned pale white. Everyone in the theatre thinks it’s staged so nobody believes it. It’s hard to say, “Call the ambulance” when he’s still laughing. They put him on the gurney and carry him out and people think it is part of the show. I guess when you say ‘you killed,’ you really did.
Where can people find out more information about you and buy your merchandise?
BD: There is the website which is my name—robertdubac.com, same thing with Facebook and Twitter—everything is on there. There’s not a lot of merchandise, but there are a couple of DVDs. I would rather people just see the show and talk about the shows. These are word of mouth shows. That’s why when I come to St. Louis this time, I am staying for two weeks. I hope people talk about this show as much. | Jim Ryan
The Male Intellect: An Oxymoron runs at Playhouse at Westport Plaza March 14-26. You can purchase tickets at http://www.metrotix.com/events/detail/robert-dubacs-the-male-intellect-an-oxymoron or by calling 314-534-1111. For show times and more information, please visit www.westportstl.com/play/playhouse. PLAYBACK:stl readers can get their tickets half price with the promo code PLAZA.