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"I have certain responsibilities as a human being to my community," Becker adds. "So I do things like teach poetry to little kids, I go to Amnesty International--I do service. I think it's possible to simultaneously have hope and still be in a state of despair."
And there's nothing more hopeful than writing a play to address your despair. Becker's new effort is divided into two "parts" (as opposed to "acts"). The first, called "Decorum," concerns the election of a radically stupid man, Ford Landers, as president of the United States. He's a media manipulator and religious bully who glories in his power and wants nothing more than to push the button. He's into bondage, profanity and extreme Christian fundamentalism.
"The driving force behind 'Decorum' was that I remembered that LBJ was known to be a vulgar man in private and swore up a blue streak," says Becker. "I also remembered reading that in Washington, D.C., there's a big demand for bondage and dominance among the Capitol Hill types because of all the power issues in bondage and dominance.
"The other thing is, I haven't had a TV for most of my adult life, but I just got a TV and VCR, and everybody told me to watch Seinfeld. So I watched it, and it was just a string of cheap little sex jokes. I was appalled. So I looked around at other TV shows, and it was all cheap sex jokes. What I couldn't figure out is how we went from Victorian restraint to postmodern decadence without ever going through healthy sexuality. In my standup, I always avoided blue material because I thought it was in bad taste, but after watching Seinfeld, I thought, 'Well, I'm going to tell a sex joke--but it's going to be a big, in-your-face sex joke that's going to make people squirm.' And I think the sex is more real in 'Decorum' than it is on Seinfeld--people don't talk in that cutesy way. Men are crass and crude."
In Part Two of the play, titled "The Comet," Becker takes the sitcom format to extremes. The protagonist is Charles Horse, the father of a loving but crazed family. Charlie's a man of faith who's deranged but turns out to be a prophet. Mad as he is, he is a hero in Becker's worldview because he's a good father who knows that God does not hate mankind.
That kind of pure faith is something to which Becker aspires. So far, though, he says he hasn't made it. "I think you have to be born again every moment," he says. "For so many people, they think they accepted Christ and then their lives got easy. But for me, it got harder. I am a shabby, undeveloped Christian, and I find that I am so aware of my hypocrisies--I smoke, I occasionally drink or do drugs, I lie, I'm lazy--I don't pick up my cross and follow. I waste a lot of time. My faith is incredibly weak. So much of the time, I am in fear. And I don't do a good job of loving. For Charlie Horse, love is real--and it's more real for him than it is for me.
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