Last Friday at Deaf West Theater, I had the pleasure to watch two excellent performers in Jon Savage & Douglas Ridloff, and I also had the good fortune to work with them for their next performances on Saturday and Sunday. They hail from opposite sides of the US: San Diego for Savage, and New York City for Ridloff, and their material quite aptly represented their stomping grounds. Savage waxed on hilarious & poignant tales from his childhood, whereas Ridloff channeled Lenny Bruce in which he was spontaneous, frank, and improvisational.
Savage’s chief attribute was an elastic face that rivals Jim Carrey. He can morph his face and look years younger, or stretch it into a grimace that mimics a snooty upper-crust old lady, and is flexible enough to pull off a reasonable imitation of Michael Jackson’s early dances. Savage’s strongest trait is his storytelling ability that covers his school years and family life: all funny, but more importantly, valuable lessons.
Since Savage uses a lot of classifiers in establishing his stories, the pace often slows down, and this is sometimes an effective technique in order to build anticipation or drama, but personally I felt he went to the well too often. Also, since there was zero audience participation, this made him unwittingly dependent upon the audience’s energy level. when a clueless member dozed off in the front row, that affected Savage’s focus a bit. He had every right to have the offending zombie removed, but I think he was too polite. Most importantly, he was also professional enough to continue unabated.
Ridloff’s material was electrifying with unbridled vulgarity, & more importantly, refreshingly original. Wait till you see what the FF jar is about. He pulls no punches in speaking his mind, especially if the audience fails to respond, as evidenced last Saturday. His use of fingerspelling the alphabet & numbers in storytelling is unique. It is refreshing to see a blue comedian using ASL, and I hope he continues down this path.
Soon, I suspect Ridloff may move on to free association where he simply walks on stage and riffs whatever goes through his head: nothing censored, nothing mediated, nothing choreographed – (yes, that means no powerpoint) – till he becomes an avatar of mind shattering blue humor that’s a combination of recall, prophecy, and lewd jokes. Ridloff could become the first automatic signer in which his hands outrun his mind and say things he never planned to say, and end up surprising himself along w the rest of us – as if he becomes a spectator of his own performance.
I’m ecstatic to witness new talent on the stage, and I hope they continue to perform – thus inspiring us all and teach us a deeper appreciation of Deaf culture.