Monday, March 30, 2009


I thought we’d do some features that talk about past shows the Factory has done here in Chicago.  I can’t believe that the Factory has been around for nearly 17 years, but we have, and it is a true testament to all the tremendously talented people that have cared and kept it going throughout the 90s and 00s (or aughts).  It’s crazy to think about all the talent that has passed through these doors.  So this kind of feature will address past Factory favorites.  Hopefully you'll find them interesting, and if you don't -- well, this blog doesn't cost you anything.

From the very beginning, the Factory had put out its fair share of well-received shows, like SNAFU, Reefer Madness and Attack of the Killer B’s.  But the Factory really took off like a shot in 1993 and 1994, with shows like Bitches, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, Hooray!, Alive, and….Man Card.  We’ll hopefully talk about all those shows in due time, but today the subject is Man Card.

Man Card was conceived and written by Kirk Pynchon and Jesse Dienstag, two company members who now both reside in LA.  It premiered at the Factory’s space on 1257 W. Loyola Ave., and from the get-go it was an immediate smash.  Chris Jones called it one of the “best late night parodies out there.”  Sid Smith, writing for the Tribune at the time, said it was “hilarious” and a “sterling icon of 90s manhood.”  The crowds came out immediately, though the larger production-value Bitches seemed to get all the glory at the time. 

I stage managed Man Card during its time at Loyola Ave., and I have always thought that Man Card tackled a familiar topic – the travails of the straight white dude – in a style that was ahead of its time.  A show like that can very easily veer into “Defending The Caveman” territory.  But Pynchon & Dienstag made it seem very fresh and new.  Yes, they were frat-type dudes, and they loved beer, sports, broads and the Spin Doctors.  If a chick turned down their advances they would say to each other, “Fuck her, she’s fat.”

But they were also both likable performers, and I always thought the material showed a real self-awareness that nobody else was doing at the time.  They had a sketch called “Man to English, English to Man” Dictionary, which allowed anyone to translate the sayings of two typical dudes.  Here’s an excerpt (and it’s been 15 years, so I’m paraphrasing):

GUY #1: Dude, what the fuck?

GUY#2: Dude, whatever!  What the fuck’s up with YOU?

GUY#1: Yeah, well I usually like a little kiss before I get fucked!

GUY #2: Yeah, well I like a reach-around before I get fucked!

GUY #1:  Fuck you!

GUY #2:  Fuck you!

(Guy #1 faces the audience.)

GUY #1:  Now, using the “Man-to-English, English-to-Man” Dictionary, let’s translate:

(They turn back to each other.)

GUY #1: You hurt me.  I’m angry with you.

GUY #2: I, too, am in great pain and feel that my needs have been overlooked yet again.

GUY #1: Your anger hits me like a ton of bricks.

GUY #2: Your insensitivity wounds me.

GUY #1: I love you.

GUY #2:  I love you.

The sketches throughout smartly picked up on the whole “metrosexual” thing long before there was even a name for it.  The highlight of the show was a sketch that probably seems the most dated today, and it concerns two guys going out to see The Crying Game without knowing the plot.  The lights come up on the two sitting in the theatre watching the movie, and saying stuff like, “The black chick is fucking hot!”  and “Shh!  She’s gonna show some trim.”

Their reaction to the infamous “reveal” in the movie, where we learn that Jaye Davidson’s character is in fact a “he”, was an Instant Classic.  Their reaction to the movie’s reveal was performed in slow-motion.  Their transformation went from lustful expectation to out-and-out horror and revulsion to seeking involuntary comfort in each other’s arms.  They were brilliant at the slo-mo.  Sometimes, memory can make my recollection of events seem bigger than they really were, but I’m pretty sure that particular bit never once failed to get huge, huge laughs and often applause.

And, of course, the show ended with an interpretive dance set to “A Whole New World”, from the movie Aladdin.  No explanation given – just an ending dance and lipsync.  The audiences ate it up.  They moved on from the Factory to the old Body Politic, and then the Bailiwick, and finally Los Angeles.  The show got big responses and great reviews every time.

“Alive” and “Bitches” get all the love when people talk about the Factory’s early days, but “Man Card” was right there – and just as excellent.

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