Thursday, April 19, 2012

Frost / Manship

A funny thing happened on my way across the countryI got (f)amous

And hell if I wasn't even around for it. 

Yes, while my work left the station last summer (that pun is worth $10), my co-conspirators ((f)amous in their own right) basked in the spotlight of the New England media.  They were working hard and are immensely talented; they deserved the attention. 

Ten months later, it's happening again.  My co-conspirators, Jeff and Melissa, will be appearing on WGBH next Thursday, April 26, to talk about "T."   I can't be there, and I'm calling, "bullshit." 

Come on, world!  The only reason I became a writer / performer in the first place is so that someday James Lipton will ask me about myself in front of hundreds of captive wannabes.  Just because I was off the grid for a month doesn't mean I couldn't have done an interview!  Just because I've now moved to Chicago doesn't mean I can't appear on local media in Boston!  Where's my face time!

Wait, why did I move to a city where no one's heard of me?  Well, if you expect me to start being accountable for my choices now, then good luck to you.  I digress. 

Wait again.  Here's someone who's heard of me.  A Mr Immadeup just walked into my office.*  What does he want?  Oh.  An interview!  Yippee!  Now?  O!K!

I'll transcribe it myself if you don't mind.

Mr Immadeup (MI): No, I don't mind.

Manship: Great, because we just started.  What's your first question?

(Audience laughs and applauds at Manship's coy humor.)

MI: Tell me about your show.

Manship:  Oh.  Great first question.  Well, it's a satirical look at the T that has some fun with Boston stereotypes along the way, but it's also a story.  Melissa and I worked very hard to keep the show about characters going on a journey, and Jeff and the cast have been true to that vision.  We don't want to create humor purely based on recognition, ala the asides in Family Guy.  We want people to be engaged in the fate of our protagonists, and I think the show, at least in the past, has succeeded in that way.  Here's hoping it does as well in two acts.

MI: There are two acts now?

Manship:  Yes, yes.  Two acts and two new songs.  The second act opener's going to blow the roof off of Oberon.  People will love it.

MI: What's that called?

Manship:  The People on the T.  You'd have to ask Melissa about it.

MI: Where is she?

Manship:  Oh, she's in Boston actually doing work on the show. 

MI: While you bask in the glory and attention of this interview?

Manship:  You got it.  Ask me some more stuff.

MI: Tell me what else is different about this version of the show.

Manship: We've ironed out some kinks since last summer.  Any script is always growing and changing, and I know I learned a lot from seeing the show on its feet the first time around, stuff that worked and stuff that didn't.  We kept stuff that worked.  I cut some stuff that didn't.  I added some stuff that probably won't work this time.  Melissa added stuff that will work, because that's what she does.  She gets it right the first time more often than I do.

MI: Maybe I should--

Manship:  No!  You're interviewing me!  Me!  Me!

(There is an awkward silence.  The crowd applauds.)

MI: I was going to say that maybe I should go see the show.

Manship:  Oh.  You should.  You should.  Opening Friday, June 8 at Oberon in Harvard Square.  10:30 pm.

MI: Tell me what else you've been up to.  Are you working on another musical?

Manship:  No, no.  Not yet.  Melissa and I have talked about it--you know, writing something more universal that we can do anywhere?  But right now this beast of burden is all we can handle.

MI: So you're not working on anything.

Manship:  On the contrary!  I've got a new play in the works, and I'm about 20,000 words into the first draft of Off Track, which is the working title of the book about my drive across the country.  I drove on vegetable oil, and I didn't shop at any chain stores or take any major highways or --

MI: Yes, yes.  That's all very nice. 

Manship:  It was glorious.  I almost got in a car and did it all over again today.

MI: What stopped you?

Manship:  It wasn't my car.

(Polite laughter from the audience.)

Manship:  I mean, I didn't have a key! 


MI: Is there anything else you would like me to ask you?

Manship: Oh, I think this entry is long en-- do the survey.

MI:  The . . . oh, that.

Manship: My favorite word right now is chthonic.  It means "related to the underworld."  But what a cool word.  I mean, "chth?"  You never see that.  It's my favorite word, and I can't even pronounce it.  I also like "bawcock," which doesn't mean what you think it means. 

MI: Fine.  What is your least favorite--

Manship:  Still "panties."  So degrading.  I mean, men don't wear "panties."  Not even boys wear "panties."

MI: Fine.  What sound or noise do you love?

Manship:  Live music, especially if it's informal.  When I was driving across the country, there was a man playing guitar at a campsite near me in New York.  He asked me at one point if he was disturbing me.  I told him that he certainly wasn't.  He was playing Johnny Cash's Hurt, but I didn't know what it was called at the time. 

MI: Wow.  That book sounds really interesting.  When is it due out?

Manship:  I was aiming for 12/12/12, but that's unlikely.  Let's hope though! 

MI:  I will!

Manship: My cousin, who is amazing and did the book layout for Cambridge Street, is having a baby.  That could delay things quite a bit.  Also, I haven't paid him yet for his work on my first book.  Or finished the second book.  That could --

MI: Fine.  What sound or noise do you hate?

Manship:  Uh, right now, a sigh.  A sigh comes from a place of sadness, defeat, and desperation.  It's the whimper of the soul.  I hate it, especially when it comes from my own mouth. 

MI: Fine.  What turns you on?

Manship: Nature.  Also, slightly nerdy girls.  Silliness.  Passion.  Fearlessness.  Definitely.  Courage.  My phone number is --

MI: Fine.  What turns you off?

Manship:  Ugh.  Greed.  Ego.  The man I saw today who catcalled a runner as she went past him.  The man who stood up my friend--

MI: Fine.  What is your favorite swear word?

Manship: I wish I had one.  I like the expression "shut the front door!"  Jeff says it all the time.

MI: Fine.  What career other than the arts would you like to undertake?

Manship:  Language.  I love language.  I'd love to be a language teacher who travels all over the world studying language.

MI: Fine.  What career other than the arts would you under no circumstances like to undertake?

Manship:  Anything that involves crawling through small spaces for an extended period of time.

MI: Fine.  That's not an answer.  Fine.  If heaven exists, what do you want to hear St Peter say to you when you reach the Pearly Gates?

Manship:  Uh . . . you got it all.  You did everything you could have.  You dug as deep as you could go.  You didn't leave one stone unturned, and you emptied every bit of yourself that you could into the world before you shuffled off.  I think that would be nice.

MI: Fine.


* I don't have an office.  


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


This is to all my "hate"-rs out there:

If you've never read my blog, I feel bad for you, son
I got 99 "like"-rs, but you ain't one!

I'm helpin' wheels to roll on a musical
Foes wanna make sure that sh*t gets closed
My critics, they say he's "Books, Scripts, Shows"
I'll be Famous soon, stupid, what type of facts are those?
If you grew up with too much in ya cerebro,
You'd be celebrating the minute you was lettin' 'em go,
You think critics even heard of me?  No!
That's why I got to borrow someone else's flow
Or else stay forever just another John Doe
They don't buy my book, I don't give a shit, SO
College mags try and push my white ass
So alumni can give 'em more cash for grads, FU-ckers
I don't know what you take me as,
Or understand the tools that Johnny-Z has
I'm from the suburbs of Raleigh, b*tches, I ain't done
I got 99 "like"-rs, but you ain't one
Like me!

You're crazy for this one, Rick.
It's you, boy.

Whatever that sh*t means.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Begging For It

What is the opposite of Fame?  Many people might imagine an anonymous beggar on the street.  She is poor; she smells bad; no one knows or cares what she does with her life so long as she doesn't bother them.  (Wow.  What a cruel world we live in.)

Guess what, "like"-rs?  Like love and hate, like anti-gay Republicans and gay people, like the NRA and the ACLU, Fame and begging are not opposite ends of the spectrum, but rather tangential points on a giant circle of fate.*  Don't believe me?  Well, I'm begging you to consider my point of view.

Last June, almost 1,000 people poured into ImprovBoston to see T: An MBTA Musical.  Twelve straight shows sold out, and "T" became the best-selling musical in ImprovBoston history.  Then, this January, the show was officially declared's "Best Musical, Small / Fringe Theater" of 2011.  We're on the rise!  Where does that leave us?


On Friday night, June 8, "T" will reopen, this time at Club Oberon in Harvard Square.  There will be new props, new scenes, new songs, a few new actors, some new dance moves.  The show is now in two acts, and I can tell you that we are all very excited. We're going to do our best to continue to dazzle and delight you, but in order to do so to the best of our ability, we're going to need your help.

There are all kinds of incentives on our indiegogo site, including advance-sale tickets.  Take a gander, won't you please, sir?  Please?  Please?

We promise: when we're all Famous, we won't ask again.


* What?

Thursday, April 5, 2012


Theo Epstein once tried to sneak out of Fenway Park in a gorilla suit.  Everything Theo does, I do.  Everything I do, Theo does. On an unrelated note, here is a big cat with three friends:

What  is that big cat doing!?  It looks like that big cat is at prom!

What is that small cat doing?  It looks like that small cat is in a basket!

If you saw this big cat (not the small cat) singing "Memory" on the streets of Andersonville last Friday night, know that it was certainly not my doing.

On another unrelated note, The Tree House no-kill cat shelter met its goal of adopting out 26 cats in 26 hours last weekend.

And still I rise . . .

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Ole College Try

In college, I learned to think for myself.  I began to separate what was really my opinion from the ideas that had been unfairly thrust upon me during my socialization and indoctrination as a young person.  In turn, I began to respect and appreciate others' opinions, to recognize my own ignorance, and to treasure everyone's intellectual journey as unique.  I began to write long, fancy sentences that sounded smart.

In return for this gift of an expanded cerebrus (and made-up vocabulary), my parents, the trustees, the federal government, the South Carolina Student Loan Corporation, the Daughters of the American Revolution, St John's Baptist Church, and I paid Furman University about $135,000.  Now, Furman University is giving back.  Take a gander at page 25 from this winter's issue of Furman Magazine:

See it?  See it?  Okay, so maybe you don't.  But again, if there's anything I learned during that same college education, it's that multiple opinions can be simultaneously valid, that through confirmation bias we so often see what we want to see, not what is actually right in front of us.  Still, take another look. 


Look, you really need to consider my perspective on this page.  Try again.


Fine.  Let me shove your face in it.  Here's what I see when I look at page 25:

And that is the right thing to see.  Period.

I'm so glad I went to college.

Now if only I could sell 120 books a day.  I could start to pay off that student loan debt . . .

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thank You and Goodbye


It is with a not-too-heavy heart that I announce today, the first of April, the end of both my path to fame and, more significantly, my blog.  There will be no more omens.  No more inspiring words.  No more fun competitions.  The feud with George Clooney is dead. 

"Why, oh, why?" you ask.  "In so many ways, we were just getting started!*"  My truthful answer: the path became too rough, the light too dim, while on the other side of the fence, my "regular" life has become an absolute gem.

Why struggle upstream, I've come to ask myself, when there is so much for me in the "regular" world?  So many bars to be visited for the sake of getting laid.  So many nights to be passed with endless email checking and badly-written television!  So many naps to take, so much money to earn in my sleep?^

Maybe that's not reason enough for you, though.  Maybe you find the "regular" life I'm describing somewhat vacant and unfulfilling.  In that case, I've got more.  Why, I ask you "like"-rs, should I aspire to create noteworthy work when there is already so much to be seen in the world?  A man could travel his entire life, going museum to museum, library to library, theater to theater, and never see all there is to see.  We have 800 cable channels in our living rooms.  Why add more to the world when it is already so full that none of us can keep up, anyway?  I'm only cluttering the scene at this point. 

And if that's still not enough for you truly dedicated "like"-rs, I offer my final out.  Becoming Famous is hard.  (Becoming famous wasn't so bad.)  Do you have any idea what it's like to try every day to look inside yourself, to leave your heart vulnerable to the world, to feel things?  I'm exhausted.  This search-for-self bullshit that accompanies artistry is an absolute drag, and I do not see other soon-to-be-famous and famous people doing it.  Not fair.  I want out.  

And so, "like"-rs, you won't find me on the internet anymore, nor in your local bookstore, at for $3.99 on e-book, or in your local theater.  I'm off the map.  I'm done.  I quit.

Today, April 1, 2012, it all comes to an end.  It's been a wild ride.  Thanks for playing along.

John Michael Manship, "regular"

* "Your book just became available locally in Chicago at Quimby's in Wicker Park!

^ I own two shares of Apple stock.