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Comedy for the New Depression

“Now, we’re on this plane with a lobster, and the lobster falls off the plane and the plane spins,” says Pat Ferri, attempting to explain one of the scenes in his upcoming show Comedy for the New Depression. “I fall through the wing and the propeller falls off and we have to try and get the thing started . . .”

Ferri, an acrobat from Austerlitz, is one half of physical-comedy team Those Two Guys, along with Dave Cox, a juggler and equilibrist from Troy. After almost 20 years of busking and performing their individual slapstick routines at street fairs, theater festivals and on late-night TV, the two finally took an audience member’s suggestion to do a show in tandem.

“It’s like silent film but without the ‘silent’ and without the ‘film,’” says Ferri. “No jokes. All gags. In most of the bits you see the guys thinking. You don’t always see that in stand-up or in theater, but you always see it in silent films.” Ferri’s idol has always been Buster Keaton, the stone-faced silent-film star, but he says the show with Cox has a lot more to do with the work of Laurel and Hardy, or thrill comic Harold Lloyd, who was known for his cringe-inducing building-climbing and girder-walking stunts. “These guys are always trying to do the right thing, but their thinking goes crazy.

“There’s a bit where we’re out a window, changing a lightbulb,” Ferri says, describing another cartoony gag. “He’s hanging on to my belt, so when I fall out the window, he falls out the window. We end up putting a big plank on a sawhorse, but need to counterbalance and the sawhorse collapses. . . .”

The show is broken into four scenes of physical theatrics, punctuated by music, voiceovers and the duo’s athletic pratfalls. Like a film, there is a narrative arc, but the fun comes in watching the two make mistake after mistake as they attempt to navigate the task at hand in each vignette. It’s a brand of nonverbal theater that has remained popular to a degree in Europe but that most Americans associate with the ’20s and ’30s.

Hence the title Comedy for the New Depression. “I coined that phrase for my own stuff about two years ago,” he says, right when the American economy started to nosedive. The hope, it seems, is that this vintage brand of entertainment will help alleviate some of the stress of our current economic situation the same way it did nearly a century ago. “I think the last depression wasn’t so bad,” Ferri continues. “I think we could use a good one to let people know they’re neighbors again. The Greatest Generation came out of that. Instead of all this me-me-me, people are going to get together and help one another again.” At the very least, watching two guys bumble their way through absurd scenarios, laughing everytime they get hurt, should provide some much-needed diversion.

Those Two Guys will perform Comedy for the New Depression on Saturday (Dec. 11) at 7 PM at the Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany). Greg Aidala will serve as host. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and $12 for kids 12 and under. Call 465-5233 ext. 4. for tickets and more information.

—Josh Potter


Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainright has followed his muse pretty much wherever it has led him, which has resulted in an astonishingly diverse and rewarding body of work—and has also, necessarily, divided both his fans and the critics. He comes to the Egg tonight in the wake of his latest album, the ambitious, controversial piano-and-voice song cycle All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.

The first part of the evening will be songs from this work, which, in part, reflects the difficult period of his mother’s (Kate McGarrigle) illness and death. The Vancouver Sun described this part of a recent performance as featuring “strong, devastatingly sad mood pieces, expertly played and sung. . . .” The second part of the show will feature songs from his earlier albums.

His half-sister, Lucy Wainwright Roche, will open. (FYI: Her mom, Suzzy Roche, was just in town for the Roches’ Christmas show.) She just released her first full-length album, Lucy, and you can expect to hear a healthy selection of tunes from it.

Rufus Wainwright will perform tonight (Thursday, Dec. 9) at 7:30 PM at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany). Tickets are $39.50 and $34.50. For more info, call 473-1845.

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