Had a marvellous time working with some great comics in Germany, and Isabelle was a joy to chat with. Hope to return soon!
Click to read it on the NPR site (with a great pic taken by Steve Best) OR read below. I’m micro managing.
Sticks And Stones: Scott Capurro Splits Sides In Berlin
By ISABELLE ROSS
San Fransisco based actor and comedian Scott Capurro, who recently performed in Berlin.
SCOTT CAPURRO / SCOTTCAPURRO.COM
There were no walk-outs at Scott Capurro’s Saturday night show at Comedy Café Berlin the last week of April (surprising, given his track record). Talking about the Koran, sex, marriage, white trash, racism, and his family during his week in Berlin, for him, equality meant everyone gets to be a target.
Capurro is so charming you want to like him. He also doesn’t care if you think he should be more sensitive. By not acknowledging the boundaries or “ownership” of identity issues, Capurro’s jokes are pointedly invasive and disrespectful. He isn’t cathartic either; the conviction behind his statements is too nebulous, and he doesn’t admit any faux pas when crossing lines. “I don’t ever want the audience to know what side I’m on. I’ve got no sides,” he wrote in a Time Out piece. And he’s often so flippant that even the harshest comments seem non-threatening, until you catch on to what he actually said.
Capurro shows the tension in a society that both officially accepts gayness and is home to conservative religious groups (both Christianity and Islam get a whacking). He breaks the taboo of white comics’ Muslim bashing, and affirms gay stereotypes of overt sexuality while totally disregarding intersectionality. Talking about living down the street from the biggest mosque in London, he said, “I’m not complaining – all those hot guys with their asses in the air? But they’ve been putting up all these flyers in my neighborhood: ‘Make East London a gay-free zone. Get the gays out.’ I’m out enough.” With jokes like these, Capurro affirms and twists stereotypes while allowing the audience to condone them by laughing – if they choose.
While talking about Muslims definitely put the crowd on edge, other sensitive targets weren’t avoided. Talking about a corporate gig in Shanghai, “There were millions of people, and millions of cars, but no accidents. I think it’s because they kill all their girl babies.” When the audience clamped up, he feigned confusion at where he was: “Is this…oh, it is…comedy??” At another point he said, “Relax! It’s a joke. These are all jokes. I made it all up. I’m not even actually gay, I just say that to keep the lesbians quiet.”
“At the time there, weren’t as many Americans and almost no openly gay comedians,” Capurro said of the climate in the 90s. Despite the fact that much of his material could neatly be labeled as “gay comedy,” he does not want to be pigeon-holed: “I want to change the way people think about gay men.” And he does play on the audience’s preconceptions. His comedy is almost an act of defiance, playing on the gay man prop while proving that gay guys can be as terrible and un-PC as anyone else. But this was often at the expense of a deeper exploration of the issues he brought up.
Capurro talks about acutely personal subjects with no vulnerability (bonus: no gooey sentimentality). From his husband not coming out to his family, he moves to his relationship with his own mom, and glibly throws in the story of his mother’s ex having sex with him “when queers were illegal – hotter!”
In light of all the above, during our interview, Capurro’s stance on political correctness came as a surprise. “Don’t b___ about PC college campuses,” he said about comedians like Seinfeld who have complained about audience sensitivity. “Comedians complain about political correctness, but they need to learn how people are actually talking. You sound like their dad or granddad or dirty uncle… It’s not that they’re too sensitive, it’s that you’re too old!” Capurro is also very aware of the immediate consequences of his material, having been threatened after shows by people insulted at his more jolting bits. “One time someone said from the back: ‘I’ll kill you.’” And at a show in San Francisco, “some lesbians threw ice cubes at me, and they hit me in the head. So I flipped their table.”
Despite some predictable moments, Capurro is sharp and entertaining. Beneath his self-confident veneer is an unpredictable streak that makes the dynamic he builds between him and his audience more exciting, especially because you don’t know what he really thinks. With his assurance and refusal to apologize or second-guess himself, Capurro is addressing relevant issues in his own abrasive way. But in the aftermath, what stuck out was that when he dismisses hurt and offense in the name of “comedy,” he can only go so deep.
© 2016 NPR