First Nighter: Dena Blizzard's 'One Funny Mother,' Neal Brennan's '3 Mics'

It's been a while since Roseanne Barr flaunted her domestic-goddess self before the public. Therefore, room should exist for Dena Blizzard, as Miss New Jersey of 1995, no less, who's now cracking wise about her post-beauty-pageant home life in One Funny Mother, at New World Stages.

A Philadelphia working mother and wife, she could be labeled a stand-up comic, except she only stands up from time to time on the set Megan Peti designed to pass for Blizzard's living room and kitchen. Instead, she tells most of her jokes while sitting on a couch folding laundry that she pulls from a plastic basket or picks up from the floor. Occasionally, she wanders over to a kitchen table loaded with tchotchkes and extracts from a few of them bottles for swigging. She also puts away a fair amount of wine as she cracks wise.

Looking only slightly haggard from her daily household routines--and sporting a not inexpensive-looking hairdo--she talks about her three kids and husband Jim as representing the married/motherhood life for which no one ever prepared her. She gets around to post-honeymoon sex, the need for sympathetic friends, women's biological concerns (including complaining about over-sized breasts in contrast with over-sized penises) and other related subjects.

Because Blizzard is so direct and extremely natural when going about her 60-minute-plus tirade, she's appealing throughout. During a brief exchange she has with the audience, she's amusingly quick on the laugh-getting ad lib. You can hear friends saying over the years, "You're good enough to be on stage." They were right, and so now she's facing audiences--with Carl Andress, who knows how to advise funny ladies (or the funny ladies Charles Busch plays), consulting with her on how to go about it.


Neal Brennan calls his show--which I took at first to be nothing more nor less than a stand-up routine--3 Mics. And sure enough he has three of them on the otherwise bare stage at the Lynn Redgrave. And that's his set-up for something that rather quickly establishes his intention as going beyond a typical comic's presentation. With the three mics, he actually ventures into what might be called deconstruction of the comedian's constitution.

When you're looking his way as he begins, he's at at the left mic reading one-liners that presumably he's recently scribbled. When he's delivered a handful, the lights go black. When they come up, he's at the mic on the right. He goes into a stand-up routine for 10 or 15 minutes. When the lights go to black then and come up again, he's at the middle mic, talking about his life-long depressions.

A reedy fellow in glasses and black shirt and trousers, he repeats the mic order three times, spouting extremely deft one-liners, extremely deft stand-up material and then offering thoroughly honest descriptions of his life as a depressive--part of his black moods, as he explains, the result of being raised by a father who admitted never loving him or his nine siblings.

There's no need to quote any of the jokes he tells while covering topics like politics today, dating, you-name-it. What's more pertinent is the overall effect of the unusual outing. As he does his three-way process, he's really sketching in a comic's existence. First, there's the comic putting his routines together by jotting down gags and then working them into his routines. Then--in what he calls his "emotional stuff"--there's who he is when he's off-stage simply being himself.

It's no news that many, if not most, comics are depressed and that their humor is a defense mechanism. And incidentally, it may not be a defense mechanism that ultimately works. For some comedians the material doesn't succeed in pulling them from their severe blues, which can have the effect of only depressing them further.

With 3 Mics, which is directed by Drew Barr, Brennan, whose resumé includes co-creating Chapelle's Show, is not just being the life of the party. He's making a bold gesture. He's confessing that a comic's fun very possibly emanates from a much darker place. If the best comedy is comedy based on truth about the human condition, Brennan is up there with the best. (Closed.)