The Yard Theatre sits quietly in the L.A.C.C. zone. Unaffiliated, but in the exact same space as The Fake Gallery, founded by experimental comedian Paul Koslowsky.
Founded by busy actor and former acting coach John Ennis, The Yard specializes in off the normal experimental comedy presented by under-the-radar-to-the-public comedians. You’re not gonna find – let’s say – Anthony Jeselnik doing a show there, but he may pop in. Who knows. What you will find is something not so familiar with comedy audiences. New ideas presented by not quite famous comic minds. The Yard is like if you took underground university humor and fused it with the great unheralded outside the industry exploratoriums like Largo and UnCabaret. A little pre-war East Berlin thrown in and you may begin to approach the vibe of The Yard Theatre. The theatre seats just 65, which is ironic, considering this review is about a veteran comic of same age.
Now, by way of transparency, this review is in fact being written by the person being reviewed. Notwithstanding experience (Steven wrote comedy reviews for The Jewish Journal for 8 years until he was summarily fired for one not so flattering review of apparently someone who had inside influence), this review will be fair and objective. It has to be. You see, I am Nigel Arrisson, Crypto-Capitalist, Para-Not-Normalist, and Theatre Critical for The London Fog. I’ve been accused of being Steven’s alter-ego and I can assure you that’s not the case. You see, I am in fact all of Steven’s ego. Steven has none. He pawned it decades ago. And, now? On with the review…
The Yard Theater is an emerging bright horizontal shiny-object emerging blip on the Los Angeles comedy scene as an alternative forum for out of the box cutting edge comedy.
Steven Alan Green is no spring chicken. A 41 year veteran on the world comedy stage, both here and across the pond, this man has accomplished a lot and seen even more. From his early salad days as a “comedy slave” (his description of himself) working as a “Paid Regular” comedian, an emcee, even as a doorman and telephone guy, Green tells the tale of his early rise at The Comedy Store in its heyday – a story which is often as rocky and scary as a lifeboat lost in an imperfect mental storm – to his eventual mantra and bromide: That every show from now on will be his last. A brilliant showbiz gimmick! But, how does it work? And how to build a career on the premise you are leaving said career? The answers are red meat to anyone in any business, to anyone who has a boring job they hate and an ignorant boss they loath. This show isn’t just an artistic journey, it also is as TMZ as it can get. That time Steven was asked by the late Louie Anderson to look after his young nephew and keep him away from Sam Kinison and crew because of reported heavy drug use. And when Steven came to the rescue – literally to save the young man’s life, it cost him his Comedy Store tenure. We also hear the story of how Green was “banned from the Improv” (the competing comedy club) “for life” because of a little sidewalk stunt – making fun of himself to get the attention of his ten pal Chris Albrecht, the man who put HBO on the comedy map.
Entering The Yard Theater and finding my seat, I hear music. And there he is, Steven Alan Green, sat on stage, strumming his guitar and beautifully singing Beatle and other romantic songs.
Then the stage goes dark and the announcer announces: “Welcome to The Yard Theater and its presentation of The Rising Fool. Please welcome Steven Alan Green….” The same guy who was warming up the room with music announces he’s leaving showbiz and that this is his last show. But he does it all with a hidden wink, signaling this is all an inside joke and the audience is invited to join in the fantasy. Steven takes us through his childhood in Beverly Hills in the Sixties – with former Munchkin actors working the local soda fountain and the only black kid in the entire school being the son of the founder of Motown. Leaping forward twenty years or so, he’s now a former rock drummer, sadly strumming for tips at coffee houses, when someone recognizes his humor and suggests he audition at The Comedy Store. A place he never even heard of. Cut to: All the above. But wait – there’s more….
In the 1990’s, Steven’s mother, a young movie star who never got her chance, sells her vocational school for $10,000,000, and showbiz moms being showbiz moms, Steven is financed to leave America behind and set up comedy shop across the pond in London, England, where he is quickly riding high on the wave of their comedy boom. From headlining every club, being paid richly, being represented by the management company that represents John Oliver and another one repping Jimmy Carr, Steven is suddenly taken seriously. As a comedian. Which is the biggest dichotomy one can imagine. He tells the tale of reaching such great unexpected heights in the UK (after hosting Comedy Central UK) that he decided to create a big production called High On Laughter, that fused his being “addicted to comedy” with people with drug addictions, all benefitting a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana. And we’re talking big. At a thousand seater, then the following year, at a 3,000 seater, then finally, at the world famous London Palladium, where the Beatles played for the Queen and where Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello played and where Judy Garland last performed. Filming it for British television meant he needed a world-class comedy star. Spinal Tap turned him down. Roseanne led him back and forth on a string. Mike Myers almost did it. Nobody seemed to fit the bill. Enter nearly forgotten comedy legend Jerry Lewis.
The “Jerry Lewis story” is just the centerpiece. An emblematic living metaphor for what all comedians go through. Much more concise is when Steven tells the true tale of roasting Jean-Claude Van Damme‘s Belgium butt in front of 300 onlookers or the greatest stand-up story of all time (according to Steven himself) about Eric Douglas (son of Kirk) who was laughed offstage in London.
The content and details of dealing with the mastermind of comedy and chaos is not only intricate, but also harrowing. Everything from Lewis’s well known violent mood swings to Steven realizing he must rescue that sad clown hero from his childhood, even if nobody in the UK even knew who Jerry Lewis was anymore. It’s the stuff of great story-making and story-telling and indeed Steven does the job excellently, with never before seen video clips of the show itself, as well as Steven making his famous announcement from the Palladium stage which made international news, that Jerry Lewis was taken to hospital. Pray for Jerry.
“Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant were in the audience that incredible night. Not yet “The Office” famous yet. I had drinks with Ricky in London and tea with Eddie Izzard over all this.”
LIGHTS! CAMERA! INSANITY!
And if that weren’t enough entertaining information, Steven also takes us on the horrifying journey of him subsequently losing his home (and thus careers) in London, much due to the inordinate bill Jerry’s expenses piled up and the show production costs put on him and how Jerry’s fall made international news and now Oscar winning producers, big stars and Hollywood directors came a calling. Julian Krainin wanted to make a movie based on Steven’s life! Krainin (best known for Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford and starring Ray Fiennes, Rob Morrow, and John Tuturro) saw Steven’s one-man show “I Eat People Like YOU for Breakfast!” – eponymously named after what Lewis once screamed down the phone at Steven. Steven tells the tale after the London tale of the unexpected ups and incredible downs of trying to develop a movie. Based on your own life! Jack Black was gonna play Green! The late Philip Seymour Hoffman was number one choice to play Lewis. Mark Rydell (The Rose and On Golden Pond) was attached to direct. At one point, they were focused on Adam Sandler to play both Steven and Jerry! An epic double-role and all was moving along swimmingly until Sandler’s agent was fired from Terry Crews MeToo accusation just four days after the paperwork to read their screenplay came through. Green tells the story of how he became accused by the comedy community of non-stop talking about Jerry Lewis. Green explains:
“I got invited to Lisa Colburn’s Christmas party. Lisa, the daughter of the late James Coburn, is a lovely person. So, she calls me up and says: ‘Steven. I want you to come to my Christmas party, but I want you to leave Jerry at home.’ What? Lisa explains Steven’s reputation preceding him, that he is a broken Jerry Lewis did this did that to me record.
“Actually, to be fair (says Steven), there were two parts to this. One, yes. Literally for years and years, whether it was back home in London, or when I’d come back to New York or L.A., comedians, comedy club owners, agents, managers, you name it. They all wanted to know the same thing: Did Jerry Lewis fake his collapse on my stage on 8 September 2002. It was a question I could never answer.”
“They all wanted to know the same thing: Did Jerry Lewis fake his collapse on my stage on 8 September 2002. It was a question I could never answer.”
Steven – lips sealed with crazy glue – gets to Lisa’s Christmas party and is immediately bombarded by Jerry Lewis. Two comics talking about him. Steven gets up and goes to the video room where Jerry Lee Lewis was playing (the London press confused The Killer with The Nutty Professor), he exits and there’s Lisa Glucksman, whose father the late Ernie Glucksman directed Jerry. Shouting from across the room: “Steven! I want to tell you what Jerry Lewis did to my father!” Steven leaves the party after 5 minutes. The other part of this is that Steven tells me, well let’s let him tell you directly:
“Every time we’d make progress on the movie, I wanted the people who were letting me sleep on their couch, or who fed me, or drove me somewhere, or even just talked with me on the phone as I was being torn apart. I wanted to tell them ‘the good news’ about who was now involved with the film. Because it meant potential big money. That’s why the poster of The Rising Fool is a classic Medieval fool being pulled up into the sky by a rope, and yet weighted down into hell by an anvil.”
Enter Roseanne Barr
Suicidal thoughts enters the picture in 2009 after he came back to a cold Hollywood who shut all the doors on him. Told by his home club: “You’re over 30 and not famous.” Stuck in a 20 story building, after his car was taken away by the city for unpaid parking tickets, a very a tall building similar to the one his cousin jumped from in 1973, Steven reaches out to his old Beverly Hills therapist who summarily sends Steven an unpaid bill. That’s when Steven knew he was in deep deep trouble. Steven soon rescues himself with the aid of his family and friends, when his family finds him a brilliant twice a week therapist intern for 10 bucks a shot, who happened to be British and gives him an old bicycle he peddles in the rain. He forms The Laughter Foundation, an entity set up to help comedians in trouble. Soon enough, with the aid of Roseanne Barr (who contacted Steven after having a public battle with Jerry Lewis) Steven secures a production date at The Hollywood Bowl. April 1, 2011. Hmmm… April Fools Day. All the stars lined up, but alas financing was the issue. Without money, no show.
Jerry Lewis publicly said “Women aren’t funny. Especially Roseanne!”
There were two interesting moments from The Rising Fool. One, where towards the end, Steven gets choked up when emphasizing how important therapy was for him and could be for other comedians. The self-destruction rate of comedians is almost as high as it is for dentists. The other moment – which I think is the best moment of the show, is when Steven steps forward a little bit, kind of puts the frenetic energy of the story-line on hold for a second and says to the crowd: “I may have been banned from The Improv for life, and I may have been fired by The Comedy Store, but I created and produced an international television show at arguably the greatest theatre in the world, brought over dozens of American comedians, to benefit a drug and alcohol charity launched by Princess Diana AND got it broadcast on British television. I did that!” Steven stands there and soon enough, the audience picks up their cue and applauds. What a showman.
“Therapy literally helped save my life.” – Steven Alan Green
It all ends with a delightful reprise of his very popular comedy song: The Fuck You Song. A sing-a-long with everyone in the audience chanting in four part harmony:
“Fuck you….fuck you….Go fuck yourself….Go to hell…”
There’s renewed interest in the film script. Being read in the UK and Hollywood. Now titled “You Kill Me”, it’s a comedy, of course.
“Steven Alan Green is a rare comedic performer with an even more rare story he tells so well. As he reminds us at the end: “It’s not a matter of success. Financial or fame. It’s all about the adventure one has in life.” – Nigel Arrisson, fictional character created by Steven Alan Green
It’s a great story that even captured the attention of Quentin Tarantino, who heard the tale first hand.
And for that, and all Steven has been through, done and survived, the Hollywood Dog gives Steven Alan Green’s new show “The Rising Fool” four paws and a wagging tail. (as opposed to an Amber Turd) After all, wouldn’t we all like to both quit our jobs and become rich and famous? Who could resist such a proposition. Certainly not our hero of the evening. Steven Alan Green. Remember that name. Jerry Lewis certainly did.
For The Hollywood Dog,
Nigel Arrisson, Theatre Critical