Housing is hopeless, fatherhood daunting, but at least there’s ‘No Good News’
“There Is No Good News: A Comedy” was pitched to ImprovBoston comedy club as being about the U.S. financial crisis. Then writer and monologist David Mogolov found out his wife was pregnant.
The show and the baby had “the same gestation period,” and both changed quite a bit from their conception, Mogolov said.
Now the show is described as “a collection of stories seeking to answer ‘How can an idiot like me raise a child?’”
“It became much more about me sort of grappling with how I could possibly raise a kid when I don’t have any good lessons to teach a kid because my own childhood was fairly idiotic and my adulthood doesn’t seem to be developing in a different direction than that,” said Mogolov in his standard rush of verbiage — a sort of stealth rant in which the listener winds up surprised, much later, to find out how much was said and how long it went on during what seemed to be fairly casual conversation.
Probably a good skill for a monologist to have. But it’s a challenge to punctuate.
From the outside, Mogolov’s life seems to be proceeding in a traditional and generally hard to criticize fashion: He has married and birthed a child, and he has moved from Harvard Square to Arlington to Natick, and he has been fairly well employed as a writer, including stints at Fidelity, in publishing and now as a copywriter. He was head writer at ImprovBoston for two years, until January, and his creative work is well regarded; Boston magazine said he has “a born raconteur’s gift of blab and an easy narrative tone.”
But what slips out in his torrent of words is an acute consciousness of failings or potential failings, in him and in society. He uses it — along with a willingness to listen to his wife, Lisa, director Steve Kleinedler and others — to hone his work. This macro and micro skepticism is why a monologue called “Our Housing Crisis” evolved into “There Is No Good News.”
“I didn’t want to be negative. The titles both come off as very negative, but I don’t particularly like to come off as, you know, a pessimist or a Chicken Little. And focusing really intently on just the housing crisis I think definitely would have gone that way, so as I broadened it more and brought in other stories I was able to both bring to the work not only what I’m thinking about in my life but also avoid that trap of becoming a bunch of gripes. I don’t like to go to a show where it’s just someone kvetching for an hour,” he said.
(Exempted from that is a favorite of his, George Carlin, and comedians such as Lewis Black, who share “an animating idea … a real positive vision of how things ought to be.” By his own description as a realist who seeks a silver lining, Mogolov could group himself with Carlin and Black, but he’s too modest — or neurotic — to do so.)
Time to emerge
So “No Good News” is more than a bitchfest. As Anna grew in the belly of his wife, gaining weight, size, limbs, organs, a heartbeat and a bit of will, the show sprouted tales and themes that, when first experienced, might also need some time to emerge fully formed.
“My wife described it best. When she looked at a draft of the show that was very close to the final version, her comment was, ‘I read the first three-quarters laughing, enjoying it, but having no idea where this was going.’ The way I talk in real life tends to be the way things come out on stage sometimes, too. My friend makes fun of me because I’ve actually said in the middle of a long, winding story, ‘Remember this. This will be important later.’ There’s that kind of thought of circling back … of finding connections. This show starts with some stories about my childhood, some observations about the financial crisis, eventually a story about how I benefited from a bomb threat in London, a story about something that happened on a business trip in Texas in 2005 — you know, all these things that don’t seem to come together, but thematically there are connections, segues from story to story,” he said, endlessly but entertainingly, bringing in an unlikely “Pitfall” video game simile of swinging Tarzanlike from vine to vine that “seems like at the moment just a way of moving forward, of keeping on going, but as the show progresses you start to see the themes emerge and the connections merge and the show really does come together and it actually did logically build in a way, but it never seemed that way, it seemed like an act of grabbing the next vine all along.”
Yes, one can imagine.
Suffice to say that the monologue, crafted through what Mogolov describes as “a weird combination of serendipity and careful planning,” doesn’t just come together in a structurally satisfying way, but as emotionally satisfying as well.
“I discover reasons for optimism,” he said.
Each week’s performance features a second, 10- to 15-minute show, also called “There Is No Good News,” by a different actor and comedian. Mogolov directs the companion pieces, which were created by Mogolov giving “insanely vague” direction — basically the title and time limit — to seven people whose work he likes. One even turned out to be a three-person play.
Six performances of “There Is No Good News: A Comedy” remain, all Saturdays at 7 p.m. through Aug. 28 in the studio theater at ImprovBoston, 40 Prospect St., Central Square, Cambridge. Tickets are $10 general admission, $7 for students and seniors. For reservations, click here. For information, call (617) 576-1253.