Nearly four decades after he first made his name as a political satirist, comedian Will Durst is taking on a new topic — getting old — in BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG. “The last of the Boomer generation turned first last year,” says Durst over the phone as he strolls through his Sunset Beach neighborhood in San Francisco (he ran for mayor there once – he came in fourth and only spent $1,200). “The leading edge of the Boom turned seventy last year.”
That’s 76 million people turning cranky and stiff. They need a laugh, and Durst feels their pain. “It’s a topic that gets more compelling the older I get,” he jokes. He likes to recast the clichés of aging, terming it “extreme adulthood,” and talking about what happens “when acid flashbacks meet dementia.”
To date, Durst has worked on stages in seventeen countries, appeared on TV more than 800 times, helmed two one-man shows, published three books, and released five CDs (these last were shiny discs that held sound recordings, evidently). Durst and fellow comedy vets Johnny Steele and Larry “Bubbles” Brown were at the center of 3 Still Standing, last year’s documentary about survival through standup comedy’s booms and busts by Robert Campos and Donna LoCicero. And despite his jokes about technophobia, he incorporated online work and podcasting into his media strategy early on.
Not that it’s been all beer and Skittles. Durst's publicity materials announce, with a kind a perverse pride, that he’s been fired by PBS three times and the San Francisco Examiner twice. (And he lost his buddy Rudy Reber $218,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? once. No blood was shed.)
BoomeRaging is a much more personal show for the veteran observer of the political scene, but Durst says he finds solo theatrical presentations more congenial to his style now. “I have to do theaters, I’m too old to do comedy clubs,” he quips. Anyway, he has an... overhead projector? Yes, the primeval communication device will be in use throughout the evening. “I have some transparencies,” Durst says coyly. “We work through some things.”
Comic truths about the passing of the years have a much longer shelf-life than the latest scandal, Durst notes: ”With the political stuff, it was sometimes one step forward, two steps back. He praises the work of TV satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who raised the awareness and appetite for political humor, but says the massive staffs and resources such shows possess make satire a big, instant-feedback business. In comparison, Durst says, he's “a small boutique in SoHo, hand-stitching garments.”
Still, if anyone deserves to be in the spotlight these days, it’s Durst. His hyperintelligent material is underpinned by a warm, welcoming approach. He may not be a household name, but he's a craftsman of impeccable skill, the archetype of the hardworking comedy pro, perpetually transforming himself and pushing out in new directions.
And BoomeRaging could be his magnum opus. “After two and a half, three years of performing this show, it’s really tight,” Durst says. “This one has kind of an arc to it. It’s changed a lot since I started it. The process is so much fun – this one is permanent, and I can play with it as much as I want. It’s like I’m juggling five balls all at once, and it’s okay.”
Will Durst will present his one-man show, BoomerRaging: From LSD to OMG, at 8 p.m. June 12 and June 13 at Lannie’s Clocktower Cabaret, 1601 Arapahoe Street. For more information and tickets,visit lannies.com.
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