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Comedy Reveiw : Foremen Better Than Clever at Using Wordplay to Poke Fun

June 11, 1994|LAWRENCE CHRISTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Did anyone ever really sing "Kumbaya" and mean it? Or, for that matter, "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore"?

The Foremen are on hand to tell us that yes, we did, and they know we'd like to kill them for reminding us. We wore Nehru jackets and bell bottoms too, and murmured the righteous mantras of peace and love as we got high with a little help from our friends. Hide this stuff from the kids. How could we ever have been so dumb?

Blame it on folk music, that dewy-eyed, troubadour-pluckin', flower child strummin' canon of earnestness that started, lead singer Kenny Rhodes tells us, with the beginning of time and ended in 1974. And it keeps threatening to come back, despite the concerted efforts of scientists to head it off as the repository of all our ills. Our naive sentimentality, our retro idealism. Whales? Forget 'em. Women need perfume. Men need to kill. Did you know whale blubber tastes like chicken? Ever drink milk and honey? It tastes like . . . chicken.

Long before Doug Whitney comes up with that line late in the show at LunaPark, you begin to settle into the rare comfort of realizing that the Foremen are better than clever. They've taken a form that sounds like something leaking out of a time capsule--evocations of Vaughn Monroe, the Limeliters, the Kingston Trio, with Beach Boy and reggae licks thrown in--and retooled it into the only survival mode it could possibly have in the you-get-yours-and-I'll-get-mine '90s; that is, as satire.

Lyricist Roy Zimmerman plays guitar and banjo, the deadpan earnest Andy Corwin plays bass, Whitney plays guitar and Rhodes plays drum, toy saxophone and boat whistle, among other things. They have a young Republican '50s look--dark suits, glasses, skinny ties--and they're excellent musicians (satire without dexterity is mere derision).

The sensitized '90s man, Ollie North, Bill Clinton, Dan Rostenkowski and hard-charging MBAs are among their many targets skewered with considerable wordplay. After a while, you realize their ridicule of the folk genre is offered as an irony--we can't really be healthy if we can't laugh at the way we were. And they suggest that if we weren't really good at loving then, we're very good at hating now.

* The Foremen perform Sunday at 5 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., and June 19 at 5 p.m. 665 N. Robertson, West Hollywood, (310) 652-0611.

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