Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Jonathan Katz: One Man, Many Games at ImprovBoston

Jonathan Katz returns to ImprovBoston tomorrow with a new show, One Man: Many Games. Katz calls it “kind of a work in progress,” an adaptation of his podcast from with a few games added in to round things out. The show will run the next two Thursdays, then take a break for Passover on April 9, and come back for one more show April 16.

So what about the “games” in the title? You’ll have to see the show to find out more specifically, but Katz did tell me about one game called “Don’t Die.”

“When I was 16, I was going out on my first date and my grandfather pointed out that my shoelaces were filthy,” said Katz. “So I changed my shoelaces and he came in and I modeled them and he said, ‘New laces make a big difference.’ And then he keeled over and died. It was the end of my grandfather but the beginning of the game, ‘Don’t Die.’”

“If you say something that’s really hanging there, or if you’re wife said something to you like, ‘Don’t forget to…’ or something really mundane, you could say to her, ‘Don’t die.’ You wouldn’t want to tell her family that those were her last words. That’s how that works. It’s a great game. All you have to do is play it once and you’re hooked.”

Just like the podcast, the show should be all-new material, a prospect that excites Katz. “My wife says to me, ‘I hope you’re not planning on doing everything brand new,’” he said. “And I kind of want to do it brand new. I want to do something I haven’t done before onstage.”

Katz has worked with ImprovBoston, performing a show at the Central Square venue last year. It’s a convenient place for the Newton resident to work, and it’s also easy for Katz, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1997, to access.

“I like them for a couple of reasons,” he says. “One is they’re in Central Square. The other is that the theater is accessible, not only for the audience but for the performers, as well. And there aren’t a lot of places like that around here. It’s so easy for me to get in and out of it.”

ImprovBoston has been presenting more non-improv shows, like its Thursday night “10 Slot” stand-up and storytelling show. One Man fits better with those shows than the theaters traditional improv fair. “I’m one of the least spontaneous performers I know,” says Katz. “And that show in particular is so perfectly timed and planned. It’s just me generating audio from my computer. Whatever dialogue there is I’ve timed out on my computer to sound like a natural conversation on the phone.”

Eventually, Katz would like to take the show to a bigger venue and perhaps film it, although he is still working on how to present that. “It’s not visually very intriguing, I’m just a guy pretending to be on the radio,” he says. “But I guess it worked for Howard Stern on TV. He also had a lot of naked women walking around behind him.”

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