September 25, 2017
Literati Comedy: A night of comedians pretending they’re the worst kind of literary fiction authors
by Peter Clark
Readings can be clusterfucks of human awkwardness. We’ve all seen it happen: you sit in a room of appreciative bibliophiles, slowly turning on a once-adored writer because they won’t put their mouth near the microphone so people can hear. Or we’ve sighed—sometimes audibly—as an author interrupts their own reading to share an anecdote not mentioned in the text, so that by the time they return to the book everyone is completely lost. There are also those authors who’ve perfected a universal, unintelligible dialect best described as a sub-groan, making them about as articulate as a double-tongued tuba. In short, there are a lot of bad reading tics that should be avoided… unless you want to make a hilarious parody.
Literati Comedy, a monthly series developed by New York improv comedians Michael Wolf and Colin O’Brien, shines a floodlight on all of the things that can make an author reading unbearable. Wolf and O’Brien, also the hosts, invite comics to adopt blowhard author personas and deliver readings from their imaginary tomes. In ten-minute readings, the comedians mock any number of literary tropes, veiled in the caricature of a wacky authors. In their own words:
“Literati is a night of comedians in character performing hilarious readings. Sophisticated, satirical, and sometimes wigs. Do you ever leave a comedy show saying ‘Hmm that was pretty funny but not enough reading.’ Well then this is the show for you!”
While the concept alone sounds a little thin, the show ultimately is carried by the preparation and craft that good authors actually possess. The writing is good. Too good, maybe. In its pursuit of terrible, it swings itself right around to the other side, not unlike the movie Demolition Man or the complete discography of Vengaboys.
Currently, Literati Comedy hangs its hat at Union Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn, along with a sister show called How to Write a Book: The Play at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in Chelsea. They also recently performed at the Brooklyn Book Festival.
Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.