With ‘Quiet Desperation,’ comedy show, album, it turns out life is a reality sitcom
Life and art in the local comedy and music scene are chasing around imitating each other in such a tight, fierce circle that you can expect a tornado to tear through town any day now.
It could be blamed on, or credited to, Robby Roadsteamer, the comic rocker incapable of taking the stage without giving an inevitably self-lacerating peek into his private life — anything from an Adderal habit to a barbecue with 80 confirmed guests but four who show up — between snippets of his darkly funny songs.
At the free comedy show he co-hosts each Monday in Central Square, visitors have been getting even more reality comedy. Frequently Chris Coxen will be on stage as emcee, Roadsteamer at the back and Ryan Douglass at the soundboard, surrounding the audience as they call out suggestions, insults, rejoinders and recollections to the others. Roadsteamer will ride Coxen for ducking responsibilities at a party to go “finger” a girl; Douglass will express outrage that Coxen doesn’t know who James Baldwin is; Roadsteamer will make fun of Douglass for his outrage, more fitting for someone on the front lines at Selma than a young, white comic in a Sox cap (if Coxen is Kermit the Frog and Roadsteamer is a more articulate Animal, Douglass is Scooter); and Coxen will bring up Roadsteamer’s failed barbecue — laughing.
The audience is left to parse which parts of the debate are true, and which of those are serious, and a kind of comic soap opera falls bit by bit into place.
You go even deeper through the looking glass by watching “Quiet Desperation,” the reality sitcom Roadsteamer spearheads, starring as himself alongside a multitude of other area comics and musicians, most also playing themselves and all exhibiting and exaggerating some aspect of their lives for comic effect. Coxen is even there as alter ego Renaldo, fingering comic singer Niki Luparelli on an arcade game.
Things get crazy: Mehran in a loud and agonizing experiment with straight sex, his traumatized bi boyfriend on hand as coach, is a hilarious highlight; Sarah Haagen introduces Nicotine Pete, the hand puppet who teaches kids “about the benefits of smoking”; Shaun Bedgood shows far too much interest in house pets; Tom Dustin gets hot during sex chanting “I am back in the womb. I am back in the womb.”
Parse this and there’s again reality through a funhouse mirror, bits of real life mutated into outrageous comedy — Mehran’s exasperation over a bi tease, for instance, which also shows up in his standup material. But the show is mainly the ongoing history of Super Time Pilot, the band Roadsteamer formed with Nikki Dessingue. When they fight, it’s in “Quiet Desperation,” and when they’re good together and making music, that’s also in “Quiet Desperation” as soundtrack as well as script.
This means you could alternate Mondays at the Sleepover comedy show, viewings of “Quiet Desperation” online and listens to the banter by Roadsteamer and Dessingue throughout the excellent Super Time Pilot album and become a bit player in a unique experiment in theater in the round — and in the square, and across the river and wherever else the stars happen to stop, work, argue or make out.
The Greater Boston Alternative Comedy Sleepover runs every Monday from 8 to 10 p.m. at the Cantab Lounge, 738 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square, Cambridge. Call (617) 354-2685 or go to club-bohemia.com. “Quiet Desperation” is at quietd.com and roadsteamer.com/qd.html. Super Time Pilot’s album, “Did We Happen to Begin,” is available at Newbury Comics.