Satiristas in San Francisco

The third leg of our book tour was back in the Bay Area for a hometown (mine) celebration. Paul has spent a lot of time here as well- I saw him in the lead in Steve Martin’s Picasso at the Lapine Agile in the nineties another woman and a universe ago. How could I have known that the same debonair thespian onstage then would someday tongue-kiss me in the middle of the Soho House in New York as an animated deterrent to some shit-faced woman by pretending we were queer. He’s that kind of friend.

Comedians Mark Pitta and Paul Provenza at the Throckmorton in Mill Valley celebrating ¡Satiristas!

Tuesday was perhaps the best show out of the four. Not taking away anything from the comics in our other ones, but this one epitomized what ¡Satiristas! is about. Comic Mark Pitta has built a fantastic following for his weekly show at the Throckmorton in Mill Valley, and we decided to jolt their NPR/Whole Foods/ Yoga-matted world with a massive assholistic dose of Doug Stanhope.

There’s a through line in the book about “preaching to the converted”- questioning if there is there any effect of satire on a crowd of like-minded people. Well, nobody is like-minded when it comes to Stanhope, and he had the sold-out, well-heeled crowed alternately howling with laughter and some with outrage. His chunk about Susan Boyle is nothing short of brilliant.

Comedian Doug Stanhope at the Throckmorton in Mill Valley celebrating ¡Satiristas!

But it wasn’t just Stanhope’s set that set this show apart. A surprise drop-in by Don Novello was the perfect contrast to what was to come with Stanhope and Jamie Kilstein. Novello is so gentle and kind in both style and substance- he’s the tickly feather of comedy compared to the sledgehammer rants of the other two. Rick Overton came up for the show, providing a delicious mix of insight and absurdity, and not-in-the-book but smart and subtle Myq Kaplan was in keeping with our charge of exposing people to new, intelligent voices. Many thanks to Pitta and the Mercer family for making the Throckmorton show such a success, and for helping us sell a ton of books.

Comedian Don Novello at the Throckmorton in Mill Valley celebrating ¡Satiristas!

In the audience was Kelly Carlin, who came up from LA to support the show, lending a post-mortem presence of the great one. In the back of the theater was none other than the legendaryt Mort Sahl, newly transplanted to Marin County after his third or fourth marriage collapsed. He’s a cranky old man, but at 83, he has nothing to prove, I guess. He turned down our request for an interview years ago, claiming “I’m not good in groups,” but which I’ve learned means if the book isn’t about him specifically, he’s not going to contribute. But we included his portrait within Paul’s introduction anyway, since he’s such a giant within the art form. He hates to have his photo taken offstage, and had refused me about fifteen years ago when I asked, but five years ago he let me shoot him before a show at The Purple Onion. That time he was amiable and talkative. THIS time was different.

At intermission I reintroduced myself to him and asked if he liked his photo. His reply: “No, now that you asked, I DON’T! And I don’t like the book, either!”

I looked at him and gave him my best Hollywood smile, “That’s great, Mort! So nice to hear! Thanks!”  If he was going to dick with me, I was going to dick right back.

Later, about halfway through the set, Doug walks Mort. I was outside when it happened and as the Godfather of political satire doddered back to his car I overheard him say to his handler “They have the FREEDOM to, but…”

Wednesday we were at The Booksmith in the Haight, which is essentially my neighborhood. Paul and I have become much better at this than the first time, which is good because it was all captured and broadcast on The audience included fine-art photographer, author, and co-burner Michael Light, as well as comic, agitator, and former producing partner Harmon Leon.

Comedian Will Durst at The Punch Line in San Francisco celebrating ¡Satiristas!

Thursday was our show at the Punch Line, which was packed for the event, and featured book sales by Green Apple, Jamie, headliner Will Durst, and an proper set by Paul, which couldn’t have gone better. We’d kind of piggy-backed on to a show that was already booked, but the fact that Durst was there that weekend was perfect synchronicity. He’s been one of my favorite comics since I dove into the local stand-up scene at 14 (Will once asked me from stage if I’d ever been kissed), and I ended up working for him at The Holy City Zoo when he and Deb bought it in 1992. I’ve probably seen 30 full Durst sets in my life, and each one had a huge chunk of amazing new material. I don’t think there’s a more prolific political satirist on the planet, really.  Robin Williams came down for the show, as he seems to be making room under his wing for Jamie, much like he did for Eddie Izzard years ago. The Punch is my home club, with forty of my portraits lining the walls, so the night for me was a triumph of sorts.

We also had two killer interviews while Paul and I were together in SF, with Rick Kleffel’s Agony Column on  Bookotron and   Robert Pollie’ 7th Avenue Project on KUSP. If you’re a glutton for all things ¡Satiristas! these are essential listening.

Will Durst, Paul Provenza, Jamie Kilstein, and Robin Williams at The Punch Line in San Francisco Celebrating ¡Satiristas!

Friday we were back in Marin at Book Passage, one of the most author-friendly bookstores in the country. They have readings virtually every night, and this was our best-attended store event, with about 50 people spilling out amongst the chairs and bookshelves. Maybe it’s all the Terry Gross these North Bayers listen to, but theirs was also the best Q&A session.

And then the whirlwind was over. Three weeks of great comedy, interviews, and support. Now it’s up to Paul and me to push this book without a HarperCollins-funded tour. The next post will cover the Montreal Just for Laughs festival; stay tuned for future shows in the works for Miami, Chicago, and Vancouver.

¡Viva Las Satiristas!

Dan Dion

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Read more.. Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Satiristas in New York

Authors Dan Dion and Paul Provenza at Gotham in New York celebrating ¡Satiristas!

Week two of the ¡Satiristas! tour had us going to New York for a couple of events as well as some national media. The day I left was horrible, for so many reasons. First off, my laptop crashed, with an unfixable logic board. Thankfully, no data lost, and the repair wasn’t outrageous, thanks to the Christ-like qualities of the guys at the Apple Genius Bar, who have saviored my ass several times. But it wouldn’t be fixed in time for the trip. Props to Union Square Computer Repair for getting my data out within hours. Those guys rule.

Next challenge? Lisa drops her keys down the door gap and down an elevator shaft. Taxi home for my keys, back to car, pick up Parker, drop at school, pulled over by the po-po. He said he could have cited me for reckless driving and towed my car, but instead ticketed me because I didn’t have my seatbelt on, even though I was literally putting it on when he was pulling me over. I’ll fight this one, and SFPD never show up to testify in this kind of infraction (another bonus to living in SF- in Marin I’d be toast and insurance companies look down on the no-seatbelt thing.)

I was taking the red-eye, and before my flight Lisa and I went to the memorial celebration for legendary music photographer Jim Marshall. I’ll write a separate tribute post to him here someday, as he was a very close friend and if I can be said to have a mentor with my portraiture, he was definitely it. Held at the gorgeous Great American Music Hall, it was both rough and cathartic, with a performance by Joan Baez, and a very moving speech by his gal Friday Amelia Davis. Great to be with friends like Gaynell and Roy Rogers, whom we hadn’t seen since the memorials to Norton Buffalo, so these reasons for seeing each other must stop. I can’t seem to ever bring my camera to memorial shows. There’s something… I dunno… tacky and slightly ghoulish about it.

The open bar and emotional wrenching had me in not a good place, and the 90-minute delay of my flight to New York sent me right to the cocktail lounge, which I closed. 45 minutes later, I awoke at the gate as the plane was almost boarded, and immediately realized I couldn’t find my phone. Frantically searching for it, in the end my Sophie’s Choice was to catch the plane and leave the phone somewhere in the international terminal, which of course would never show up in lost and found. Fuck that day. In the ass. No lube.

Tuesday had to be better, and was. Much. Gotham is the Manhattan’s classiest comedy club, and for almost ten years now has had my photos exclusively up on the walls. Owner Chris “Midas” Mazzilli has always been a huge supporter, and agreed to have me to swap out my 80 portraits downstairs to include only photos from the book, twice as many as my new exhibition at UCB in LA.

Comedian Eddie Brill at Gotham in New York celebrating ¡Satiristas!

That evening was our reading and signing at Border’s Books in Columbus Circle, and it was very cool to see the window and register displays they put up for us. The event went well, it seemed, and a crew of us went to Coliseum for an after-thing. Finally got to face-to-face meet a colleague who also specializes in shooting comics- Seth Olenick. A talented shooter with great taste in comedy. Check out his blog here- he’s way more conceptual than I am, so our work is actually pretty complimentary. One of these years I think we’ll do an exhibition together.

Comedian Colin Quinn at Gotham in New York celebrating ¡Satiristas!

Wednesday was our show and signing at Gotham. It was a killer night, with some fantastic talent from the book showing up to support. Colin Quinn (taking time off from his Seinfeld-directed off-broadway show Long Story Short) , Lizz Winstead, Lee Camp, Eddie Brill, and the perpetually satiristical Jamie Kilstein did sets, as well as one from good friend and San Franciscan W. Kamau Bell, who has stepped up his game in a big way in the last few years, was in New York for his one-man show Ending Racism in About an Hour, and whom we’ve promised will be in the next volume.

Comedian Lizz Winstead at Gotham in New York celebrating ¡Satiristas!

Wed. Paul and I were on the Joy Behar Show on CNN’s Headline News Network. We both really like Joy for her spitfire personality and say-what-she-wants modus operandi. We’re still trying to get the producers to post our segment online, but if it hasn’t happened yet, it might not. We also did a love-in radio show with Danny Lobell and Comical Radio, which can be heard here.

Paul was booked to do the show Red Eye on Fox News. He wanted to bail, but I pushed him on. If I’d known what it was going to be like I would have agreed with him. The show is quite honestly ridiculous, a train-wreck of allegedly comedic commentary by mostly right-leaning pundits, complete with pompous bashing of progressives, dumb-ass video clips, and – yes- a “talking” New York Times puppet that they use as a straw-man when the comedy gets shallow- and believe me it never gets that deep. The talking points that they gave him with quips and comebacks could only be described as limp and sophomoric, and Paul ignored every one. That said, the staff and on-air talent were very nice and professional. I just don’t happen to agree with them on much- ok, any- thing. Plus Guttfield’s book is going to outsell ours by 100 times, so he doesn’t exactly need our approval.

The best thing, however, was Paul’s panel-mate Ann Coulter. You’ll have to see the segment to get the full effect, but the two of them didn’t exactly hit it off, and Paul nailed her when she claimed not once but twice that England wasn’t part of the EU. Another Fox show aired a clip just to discuss the body language between the two of them. After a commercial break Ann had switched seats with another guest ostensibly to get away from Paul, but in reality everyone discussed that it would be amusing to switch and not acknowledge it, going so far as to misidentify the new seating order. Paul was later voted the second worst guest by a Red-Eye fanatic-site and everyone was congratulating Coulter for having the courage to change seats, but the reality is everyone thought it would be kinda funny.

I hadn’t brought my camera, so had to borrow someone’s cel phone to snap the shot of Paul, Ann, and a copy of the book. She is freakishly thin and avian in person, but indulged us for the photo. What she didn’t happen to notice that on the back jacket was a quote from Robin Williams- “I think they’re using Ann Coultur’s pap smear for anti-venom now.”

Paul Provenza and Ann Coulter on the Set of Red Eye with ¡SATIRISTAS!
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Read more.. Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Satiristas in Los Angeles

May 11th

Provenz and I kicked off our book tour in Los Angeles on May 11th at the Diesel Bookstore in Brentwood. It was a beautiful day and the store had us set up outside to do our reading, which doesn’t work so well with a projector before dark, but we made do. We had a decent turn-out and the staff seemed happy. It worked as a kind of dress rehearsal for future readings. Nice to have the first one out of the way, with a very casual vibe all around.

Paul Provenza at UCB for SATIRISTAS show
Paul Provenza at UCB for SATIRISTAS show

I had an automatic slideshow running and we had a very cool moment. Someone had asked who I’d photographed that meant the most to me, and as soon as I said George Carlin, his photo appeared on the screen. He’s one out of 100 images in the slideshow, so the chances of that happening are like, what? One in a thousand? Or one in ten? Dunno. Not so good at math.

And it so happened that in attendance was Kelly Carlin, George’s daughter and a big supporter of everything Paul and I are trying to do. We all piled in to Provenz’ car and we made our way to the The Steve Allen Theater at The Center for Inquiry, trying but failing to catch any of satirista Jamie Kilstein’s LA enflaming set.

The theater still had the stench of agent, as Kilstein was drawing a lot of industry attention, but that was offset by the likes of Rick Overton, who I think sees in Jamie a bit of himself as a lad, and seems have his mentor up when it comes to Kilstein.

Jamie Kilstein at the UCB for a SATIRISTAS show
Jamie Kilstein at the UCB for a SATIRISTAS show
Rick Overton at UCB for a SATIRISTAS show

May 12

The next day was a bit surreal for me, in large part due to the aforementioned Kelly Carlin. May 12th was George’s Birthday, and not to allow a ghoulish marketing opportunity to pass, The Laugh Factory decided to have a birthday show for George, complete with VIP passes, etc. Problem? Didn’t even invite or ask permission of Carlin’s family. Some scumbag publicist who worked with George for a very short time decided he was the guy to bring together such Carlin-esque comics as Tom Arnold, Judy Tenuta, and Tom Green. (Where is Arj Barker’s “sarcastica” font when I need it?)

In far more of a good karma happening, we were invited to Kelly’s house to give a toast to the man on his birthday. Once there, it was very joyful and celebratory, and Kelly led the toast. I’d brought down a very fine bottle of wine, a 1998 Kenwood London Ranch Cab that I’d been saving for our publication, and it was tre delicious. In attendance were satiristas Lee Camp, Jamie Kilstein, and Roseanne Barr, in addition to several members of George’s family and friends.

Lee Camp at UCB for a SATIRISTAS show

Now for the surreal part for me. Over ten years ago I picked up the phone and on the other line was George Carlin. I’d given him a print of a portrait I’d taken of him at Davies Symphony Hall, and he was asking about buying another copy for his daughter. Now, in the world of celebrity there’s this ass-backwards phenomenon where the richer someone is, the more they expect to get for free. George made a strident point that he absolutely insisted on paying me for it, which is a good indicator of what kind of man he was offstage. As a photographer of the famous and talented, sometimes a personal experience with someone you admired as an artist will forever sour you on that person’s work. Then there’s times like these that only reinforce your admiration of someone.

Three weeks before he died George told Paul that my photo was the one he “wanted to be remembered by” which I consider to be the greatest compliment of my career. This night, a day after my book dedicated to him is published, his daughter tells me that it was the “sweetest” photo ever taken of him. I knew that George had given it to her, and coming over to her house I was expecting it to be in a place of prominence among a plethora of George memorabilia, but on her wall of family photos, mine was the sole representative of her dad, which moved me incredibly. Fuck the Laugh Factory and their exploitative “celebration,” — I was riding a wave of validation for the years it took to create the book– with the people George loved most. Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, Paul Rodriguez does another cucaracha joke.

May 13

Our first post-publication ¡SATIRISTAS! show, and it was at LA’s best venue, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. I’d approached Upright Citizen Matt Besser a while ago about putting up some work there, and he was very into it, paving the way for my newest LA exhibition– 40 prints of Satiristas lining the hallway into the showroom. UCB just has the perfect simpatico with the book, and the idea of artists owning and running the venue is fantastic. The exhibition is ongoing, and after the book comes out in paperback, we’re going to switch the show out to showcase UCB alum instead- in a year or so.

Marc Maron at UCB for a SATIRISTAS show

We were sandwiched in between two shows, so we had to be really tight, and with the people involved my real accomplishment was not that I created this show, but rather that I was able to bring it in only fifteen minutes over. The line-up was amazing, and full of dudes that go long, so we wisely did the book signing first. But really, how’s this for a killer line-up- Provenz, Lee Camp, David Feldman, Greg Proops, Rick Shapiro, Rick Overton, Jamie Kilstein, and Marc Maron. An epic night of amazing talent, doing fearless comedy to an appreciative audience. Big thank you to the comics and certainly to the staff of UCB.

All our pimping and publicizing seems to have paid off, as we made the LA Times both as a piece in their Op-Ed section as well as the bestseller list for nonfiction.

Stay tuned for accounts of Satiristas in New York and San Francisco, as well as our upcoming Montreal event.

Rick Shapiro at UCB for a Satiristas show.
Greg Proops at UCB for a SATIRISTAS show.
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Read more.. Monday, July 5th, 2010