Sat Aug 24, 9 pm
The first time a friend explained Portland's Famous Mysterious Actor Players to me, he said, "It's improv comedy... but it's funny." The fact that he felt compelled to disclaim an act of "comedy" as "funny" illustrates the sorry state of live comedic art as we know it. Or maybe it's just the sad state of the world; that we don't often relate to/laugh at anyone who isn't doing something completely fucked up and absurd. Either way, the friend was right: The Famous Mysterious Actor Players realize that it takes a special edge for the contemporary cynic to laugh and yes, because of that, they're funny.
And not only are they just performance-arty freakypantses; the FMAP are funny because they have a strong, totally developed premise, in which the greatest entertainer in the world, The Famous Mysterious Actor, is surrounded by his admirers. They are: John Schmitt (Good), who met FMA in a Dresden urinal and was immediately taken with his talent; sweet young Cutter, a handsome, beer-swilling heartbreaker who speaks in some weird combination between French, German, and television English (the only thing he says sans accent is "It's Cool!" with a thumbs-up sign); and Denny, a silent bodyguard whose duty is to protect FMA and occasionally perform this really hilarious monkey dance.
The Famous Mysterious Actor has bushy black hair, wears a large padding of clothing, and talks like a six-year-old... breathy, and attention deficient. And, like a six-year-old, his charm inspires an empathy, which is a perfect comedic set-up for when he says something bizarre.
When I interviewed them, they of course arrived in full character (whether there is a time when they're not in full character is questionable), and displayed all the weird hilarity they show in their live performance. For instance:
FMA: "I hate skeletons because when you die, then you are put in the ground... I'll talk about it!"
John Schmitt: "You can't talk about that, it gives you bad nightmares."
FMA: "I just have to tell Julianne... Juli-Ham... Juli-Ham... Hamburguesa... Hey, John Schmitt! Do you know that I know what that means cause I lived in Mexico City. Hey Hamburger, when you die, and when you are put into the ground, all of the bugs eat your skin and your brains and your guts, and then after they ate all of the guts all that's left, do you know what is left, then?"
FMA: "Your SKELETON." (Pronounced "skele-tawn.") "And then you are a skeleton and you know what you do then?"
FMA: (in spooky, song-like voice): "You invaaade your neighborrr's dreeeams!"
Or this, explaining a trick the FMA does called the East German frankfurter-ace-of-spades:
FMA: " ...and then I ask you if this one is it, and then I ask you if this one is it, and then after a lotta different cards, we go, and then I follow you to the frankfurter stand, and you order a frankfurter, and underneath the mustard and the kraut is your card, and then I say, 'Is this your card?'
And then you devote your life to me."
This card trick is one of the ways the FMA gathers such a following; now, those who have devoted their life to him are key elements in helping him battle evil characters, such as Evil John Schmitt (the evil doppelganger of John Schmitt (Good)), The Phantom Mullet, and the Soul Sorcerer.
The Famous Mysterious Actor Players' steez is so developed that when I interviewed them, they even got the employees of the restaurant where we met in on the performance. They served John Schmitt a "cheese-neck," which was a plate of Swiss cheese that Schmitt then attached to his neck, and they gave FMA a tortilla with cheese spelling: "FMA #1." Later, when they walked me to my house, THEY HAD AN ACTUAL KEY TO THE FRONT DOOR. I have no clue how they knew where I lived, or how they got a key (they gave it back to me after they opened the door). Even though that is a little creepy, it's also a testament to how far these guys will go to make you laugh.