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Kovacs-Style Nuttiness Takes the Stand

Comedy review: Alan Glasser, a pro-tem judge by day, has a wigged-out zaniness that recalls the '50s comic great.


SANTA ANA — You can't make a living as a poet, which is one reason Wallace Stevens spent his days in an insurance office. You also can't make a living being a complete nut, which is one reason Alan Glasser spends his days in his law office and as a pro-tem judge for the Los Angeles Superior Court.

But on selected nights (including tonight) at the Orange County Crazies Theatre in Santa Ana, Glasser takes off his lawyer-judge togs and dons one loopy costume after another for his nearly uncategorizable show, "An Evening With Mondo Fax."

Glasser is a former musician who made perhaps his biggest mark as the writer of the Rick Dees' radio song hit "Eat My Shorts." "Mondo Fax" is basically a stand-up variety show, supported by methodically produced taped music and occasional appearances by Glasser's tap-dancing mother, Helen Diamond (also a lawyer).

At one point, Glasser does a baroque version of Tom Lehrer's classic "Vatican Rag"; Lehrer's biting song satires are a big influence on Glasser's act. But his total wigged-out nuttiness stems from a comic genius from the '50s, Ernie Kovacs.

Kovacs always ignored the old show-biz dictum "never let 'em see you sweat," and so does Glasser, who huffs and puffs his way from one routine to another, whether it's Mark Fuhrman in a KKK outfit or folkie Joan Suez singing "Iraqi Mountain High." (It will be interesting to see how much this bit changes for tonight's performance, given the recent Iraqi flare-up.)

After especially arduous numbers, Glasser isn't afraid of letting out a spontaneous "oh, boy." But since he maintains Kovacs' taste for extreme clowning, we share in his work, instead of just staring at it slack-jawed.


But unlike Kovacs, whose comedy on TV was corralled by censors, Glasser is freely ribald. His ditty honoring gay marriage is introduced by a question to straight couples in the audience: "How many of you will divorce once gays marry?" He cleverly lampoons his own profession with a skit on the U.S. Supreme Court (Justice Antonin Scalia gets hit especially hard) combined with a wacky musical updating of George Carlin's routine about the seven dirty words you can't speak on the airwaves. Glasser couldn't do this with Rick Dees.

Of course, you need the right audience for this kind of show, and the audience for the performance attended by this reviewer was reluctant to go down Glasser's particular rabbit hole. With a wilder crowd, it's unimaginable how crazy "Mondo Fax" could get.

Yet another lawyer, Peter Seidenberg, opens the evening with a rather tepid stand-up act that hardly warms you up for the insanity to follow. When Seidenberg's idea of "news" is mentioning "Striptease," we know we're dealing with thin material that even stronger timing and delivery couldn't pump up.

* "An Evening With Mondo Fax," written and directed (and with music and costumes) by Alan Glasser, is being presented tonight and Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. at the Orange County Crazies Theatre, 115 E. Santa Ana Blvd., Santa Ana. $5, plus a suggested donation of $10 in canned food to benefit the Necessities of Life store and program. (714) 550-9900. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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