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Harvey Pekar
October 8, 1939 - July 12, 2010

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Ode to Harvey Pekar

by Tara Seibel

About two and half years ago, I started working with Harvey Pekar. I named our collaborations RockCity (Terminally Ill). Rock City meaning (Cleveland) and "Terminally ill" was a tongue and cheek way of saying "we're suffering it out here, and it makes us even more creative" and I put Cleveland's Terminal Tower in the logo. Some of our first strips that came out were "Hey, Emily"(Austin Chronicle) about a friend of Harvey's who lost her job at the bank because she wouldn't push credit card applications on people who had very little money in their accounts. Another story we did was called "Bathtub Movers"(FunnyTimes) about one of the guys working on Harvey's bathroom renovation project. He said something really funny and Harvey got inspired to write about it. He encouraged me to learn how to write. Until I learned how to write myself, I would tell him a funny story and if he liked it, he'd write it down in his story board script style and then I would illustrate it. One good example of that would be the story entitled, "Sex and the City"(Chicago NewCity) about my dating days living in Chicago before I met my husband Aaron. And then other times he just felt like writing something like maybe "Agonized"(My blog ) And we both had a lot of fun doing that for a while and I still have my Rock CIty strip going. We also had other collaborative projects like the painting I did of him protesting the day after the Kent State Shootings at Case Western Reserve campus for Manifest Equality Campaign held in a gallery in Hollywood, CA.

In the spring of 2008, He had a speaking engagement in Columbus, Ohio. He met cool cats down there and one of them was Rick Brown. When Harvey came back he gave me Rick's info and asked me to give him a call to see if maybe we could put our RockCity(Terminally Ill) strip in Naked Sunfish. When I met Rick over the phone i felt like it was an instant click.

So we ran a few strips online before we signed a contract with another online venture. But I still try and get other stuff in Naked Sunfish when
I can. The one in this issue is near and dear to my heart called Lake View Cemetery. I took Harvey down to Lake View Cemetery. It was only about a half mile down from his home. I asked him if I could interview him. He said sure. So we walked around the cemetery and I asked him questions. Then I went home and turned it into a comic strip. It's bittersweet now that he is being laid to rest there. He was an amazing friend and mentor. I feel lucky to have known and worked with him. He is missed.

On an upnote, through Naked Sunfish I was also fortunate enough to meet Dan Eley. Who has also become one of my friends and colleagues. It doesn't surprise me that NS is now on it's sixty first issue! Congrats to everyone contributing!!

Nightmare at shadowbox live
Easton Town Center
Columbus, Ohio

by Rick Brown

Shadowbox live appears to have had an epiphany…a major one. There is a different name (all lower case)…new trendy abstract logo…reformatted website…and what I sense is a new attitude…a more confident swagger. Hell…they even have a new theme song! Maybe with all the accolades for Back to the Garden…working with raw immature comedy troupes with their Sketch Comedy Festival…the sight of over 3500 people attending Back to the Garden in Schiller Park…or the fact that the Columbus theater community and critics finally seem to have embraced them as one of their own…shadowbox live certainly has a new spring in their step.

Nightmare at shadowbox live…structurally at least…has a lot of the elements that are familiar to their audience. But I noticed immediately on opening night that the sometimes in your face, vulgarity had been turned down a notch…or two…while creativity and risk taking have been turned up one or two. I can only speculate…but I assume the folks at shadowbox live LIKE being taken seriously as theater. And well they should.

Beginning with the new theme song (sung on this night by bandleader Jennifer Hahn) much of the goofy acknowledgement of say…bachelorette parties…has been replaced by respectful “this is who we are” attitude, instead of an arm waving ode to the menu. This is not to say the fun has been taken away. There is still cursing and mayhem and madness. But in tempering it, when the funniest meteorologist in Central Ohio throws out an expletive at the end of the show…its impact is that much funnier.

The sketches are well written. Although opening skit “Dr. Phil vs. the Mummy” could use a little tweaking. David Whitehouse seemed to be laboring for a laugh occasionally. And “Campfire Boys – Nightmare”, while endearing, might be a little long. But these are opening night foibles really. In “Dream Team”, a deliciously derived sketch about the people in our subconscious who make up our crazy dreams, the visuals (costuming is excellent) speak louder than the humor. But the vignette is so well crafted and characterization so nuanced that it doesn’t matter.

The same holds true for “A Casey Kasem Carol”. Outrageous enough that a parody of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol is included in a Halloween show, the laughs take a back seat to the acting. Yet no one cares because Jimmy Mak’s Kasem is extraordinary. Amy Lay’s portrayal of Michael Jackson is uncanny. Andy Ankrom’s Wolfman Jack is super. And JT Walker III’s performance as John Lennon is eerily accurate in showing Lennon’s acerbic wit while letting his gentle peacenik nature shine through. This is theater.

“The Werewolf Whisperer”, a rave up of TV’s “The Dog Whisperer” is also a gem because of the fabulous writing and stage skills of Julie Klein, David Whitehouse, Mr. Walker III, Billy DePetro and Nikki Fagin. Sillier but always genuinely funny, is “Vinnie’s Dreamhouse”. Jimmy Mak is always superb as the notorious mobster/kid’s TV host Vinnie. And the cast of shadowbox live traditionally have portrayed children hilariously.

As usual, house band BillWho? tears up the joint with the music. Surprisingly, there are two Beatles songs in the show. “Blackbird” is sung by an ensemble and is quite good. Better still is “Paperback Writer” sung by Stephanie Shull. Julie Klein is terrific fronting the band on U2’s “Sunday, Bloody Sunday”.

Alanis Morrisdette’s “Uninvited” closes the first act. Noelle Grandison’s powerful vocals are great. But what strikes me more with tunes accompanied by dancers stage left, is that Katy Psenicka’s choreography has evolved to the point where it’s not like a band is over there and dancers are on the other side. The entire stage is utilized, making the presentation all encompassing. Both stages merge into one dynamic visual/aural experience.

Stev Guyer and JT Walker III are wonderful on Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb”. As is Amy Lay handling vocals on the Eagle’s “Hotel California”. But the guitar tandem of Matthew Hahn…with his inherent blues soul…and Dante Wehe with his seemingly second nature rock sensibilities…weave a musical tapestry that gives the ear pure pleasure. Another musical treat in Nightmare at shadowbox live is Nikki Fagin’s torrid take on “The Kill” (30 Seconds to Mars).

As most times, I highly recommend Nightmare at shadowbox live. This production will only get better and better. I plan to return…with as big a group of people as I can assemble. And I cannot wait until shadowbox live moves to new digs downtown. I mean…downtown is where theater should be right?

Nightmare at shadowbox live runs through November 13th at Easton Town Center. For more information please go to: www.shadowboxlive.org 

Hmmm # 13
by Rick Brown

My pastor told me
God the Dad,
Jesus the kid,
and their ghost pal
are all the same.
So how come
Pops always gets
top billing?

Hmmm # 14
by Rick Brown

A dishrag at best
might be a washcloth
for dishes.
So a washcloth
at the very least
is a dishrag
for humans.

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Just a Mystery
Morris Jackson

Directional Color Dimensions
of the Maya

C. Mehrl Bennett

C Mehrl Bennett'sbook "This is Visual Poetry" is available at:
This is visual poetry


Of Hope and Fear
by Dennis Toth

Hope is a gift
So rarely given,
Mostly hoarded
Like money kept
By proverbial misers
Stuffed beneath a moth eaten
Mattress, turning into
Crumbling remnants of
Dead presidents, smiling
With their inky green
Faces encrusted by
History's lost pages
Where they slowly learned
Each secret handshake
In sullen observance
Of bogus brotherhood
Ruled by its unblinking eye
Floating across the dollar bill and
Filling checkbooks with dim sums
(Dim ditties diddle-dim)
Each figure glaring
Like the tuneless melody
Of St. Anthony's fire
Blazed in a single mind.

Fear is a gift
Freely delivered
Like an invite to a tea party
Behind old Bedlam's walls
Where the end of history
Led to a minor pause
Next to the edge of reason
And the cliff-jumping lads
Took to zip-lining
Across the land
Leaving only a faint trace
Like a human face etched
In the sand
Till high tide
Worked its way.
Just another day at the whaling station
Before the Pequod sailed.

Visit Dennis' Blog at:


by Cyndi O'Leary & Jessy Kendell

Hmmm # 15
by Rick Brown

I realize that it
“takes all kinds”
But does there have
to be so many
of that kind?

by Sue Lense

Click Here

The Non-Fiction Theater of the Truly Mundane

proudly presents:

Time Is On My Side

by Rick Brown

Scene:  The corner of a large Victorian living room in the house where Rick’s grandmother is a live in housekeeper. It is October 1964. There is a large television circa 1955 facing the audience. Around it is slightly worn overstuffed furniture: chairs and a sofa. Stage left there is a large brick fireplace. A 12-year-old Rick is sitting on the floor directly in front of the T.V. with his cousin of a similar age, Geoff. Their younger siblings (Geoff’s 3 sisters and Rick’s 2 brothers and sister) are scattered around the room sitting on the furniture. The “Ed Sullivan Show” is being broadcast. The children are mesmerized.

Ed Sullivan (coming from the television) – And now. For the very firsshhht time on our shhhtage…The ROLLING STONES!!

Rick and Geoff are visibly excited.

The song “Time Is On My Side” is heard coming from the T.V.

Uncle Dave strolls into the room from stage left.

Uncle Dave – Who are those ASSHOLES?

Geoff (turning to his father and with utter disdain) – Those assholes make more money than you’ll ever make.

Mick Jagger (from the T.V.) – Tie Iyee yee IME is on my side…yes it is!

Aunt Carol wanders into the room stage left and stands next to her husband.

Aunt Carol (putting her hands to her face in dismay) – Oh MY! What will they do when they get OLD?



Rick – his 12 year old self
Geoff – his 12 year old self
Brothers and sisters- themselves
Uncle Dave – himself
Aunt Carol – herself
Rolling Stones – their younger “richer than Uncle Dave” selves


Raconteur Theater Company
Columbus Civic Theater
August 14, 2010

by Rick Brown

I have always enjoyed the performances of Raconteur Theater. This troupe might be small in numbers but their dedication and commitment always shines through. Arborophobia is their best show so far. That’s not to say there is no room for improvement. A play about a woman being in love with a poplar tree…and a female poplar tree at that…presented obvious problems. Yet Raconteur soared when it came to the obvious staging challenges…and on a few occasions fell a little short on chemistry between characters.

Playwright Jacob M. Appel’s script wickedly satirizes social attitudes concerning cross-cultural personal relationships. Of course the love affair between Laurel Gage (Alexis Moberger) and the uh…tree…serves both as central theme and metaphor for her Democratic sister Lily’s  (Mary – Ailee St. Cyr) romantic entanglement with Republican Fairmont Fythe (Dale DeWood). Their mother Judge Gwendolyn Gage (Krista Threadgill), apparently a liberal leaning judge, vehemently opposes Lily and Fairmont’s love…perhaps even more than younger daughter Laurel’s devotion to the…uh…tree. Dame Lucretia Bankmore Vandervelt (Anne Grove) is Fairmont’s ruthless boss who is determined to fell the poplar to make way for…of all things…a quarry. Jimmy Duckfoot (Rudy Frias), who is head over heels for Laurel, thus creating a farcical love triangle of boy-girl-tree, owns the plant store on the property next to Dame Vandervelt. Are you following? 

Because Mr. Appel’s word play is so riveting, and the direction of Danielle Mari is both freewheeling and succinct, somehow we the audience bought the premise. Really…we did. And there are so many metaphors and clever turns of a phrase that the dialogue is entertaining in and of itself.

The onstage chemistry between Mr. DeWood’s Fairmont (whose performance stole the show until the…uh…tree awakened) and Ms. St. Cyr’s Lily was wonderful and genuine. The love triangle of Ms. Moberger’s Laurel, the…uh…tree…and Rudy Frias’ Jimmy was not so much. Yet in Act 2 Laurel speaks to Jimmy concerning the difference between a “stalker” and a “lurker”. This scene…and especially Ms. Moberger’s demonstrative description, was nothing short of brilliant.

Krista Threadgill was good as the Judge-mental mother, although her wardrobe could have been more judge-like. Anne Grove’s villain was believably evil but suffered a bit with a subtle shyness that seemingly slipped into her portrayal.

But I’m nitpicking really.

Once the uh…tree…which looked more like a fancy silk kind of curtain for most of the show, came to life things onstage jelled. Amazingly, Jill Ceneskie sat hunched (and I mean hunched) at the base of this for what seemed almost an hour, silently, without moving an inch, undercover. Once spawned from the “trunk” of the …uh…tree…Ms. Ceneskie swooped and swayed…acrobatically dangling and climbing and dancing in mid air. Having feelings for a…uh…poplar tree…no longer seemed absurd. Her performance was both exhilarating in its visual execution and drew Aborophilia  to a satisfying close as a spectacular sum of all its parts.

I also have to comment on the Columbus Civic Theater. The venue is perfect for a troupe like Raconteur. The place is unpretentious, cozy and comfortable. It is a delightful addition to the Clintonville community.  And there was a nice sized crowd there. All the place needs is beer and wine to make it the live theater version of Studio 35, the charming, historic, craft beer serving movie house just down the street.



The Shadowbox Sketch Comedy Festival

July 20-21, 2010
Easton Town Center
Columbus, Ohio

by Rick Brown

Shadowbox’s 2nd annual sketch comedy festival certainly smoothed out some of last year’s virgin…uh…version’s wrinkles. The setup was a little different with audience members voting on their favorite skits on night one. The following evening troupes performed the winning sketches after having them “tweaked” under the guidance of veteran Shadowbox personnel. So on night two we were instructed to vote for the “best troupe” while portions of the current “Best of…” show was featured. This made things a lot less herky jerky than last year’s festival and made for a more entertaining show.

Returning as judges for 2010 was Saturday Night Live alumnus Garrett Morris as well as in-house diva/comedienne extraordinaire Julie Klein. But unlike the previous contest featuring DJ Jerry Elliot there was the odd inclusion of NBC4’s Mindy Drayer. The fact that the judges did not decide the winner made Ms. Drayer’s presence less “fish out of water”. And to her credit, she did soldier on through the contest. Yet witnessing her try to jokingly comment on “Stuff-It”, a video produced by Dependable Felons promoting a product to combat spousal snoring that involved stuffing a big dildo in their mouth, was…at best…more than a tad awkward.

Mr. Morris and Ms. Klein stood out as confident, fair, and helpful judges. Stev Guyer (or is it Stev Guye?) proved a more than adequate emcee. But with his comments at times eclipsing those of the other judges I wondered if perhaps he should be at the judges’ table and leave the emceeing in the capable hands of David Whitehouse.

Three troupes also returned from last year’s contest: Cleveland’s Laughter League, The Indicators from Brooklyn, N.Y. and Ashville, North Carolina’s Feral Chihuahuas. Rounding out the competition was Columbus’ troupes Sketch by Number and Wild Goose Comedy Cabaret, as well as New Jersey’s Fantastic Genius. All of these groups displayed a wide range of talent. I was especially impressed with Fantastic Genius. The troupe consists of one couple. Their command of the stage was super. All the 2nd evening’s “winning” skits were enjoyable and funny…nicely streamlined from the night before. And realistically the audience, especially those who had been there both nights, is not going to vote for the “best troupe”. In the age of American Idol (and people being people) the vote is going to favor the night’s best sketch…at least in the eyes of the crowd. I am not going to mention the winner here because I do not believe any of these comedy groups are losers in Shadowbox’s Festival. It’s a win-win for everyone involved really.

Like last year there were some dark moments. While the 1st festival wallowed in endless pussy fart jokes and sexual vulgarity, this year’s faux pas were more distressing. A video making fun of old people suffering from Parkinson’s disease was more than distasteful. I am always disheartened by our culture’s acceptance of mocking the elderly. The winning sketch portrayed seniors engaged in an Olympic arguing contest. Fair enough. The characters had some depth and a genuine fire in their bellies. Old folks can be like that. But to laugh at the expense of someone’s disease…c’mon…it’s just because they are old. No one (hopefully) would make jokes about children dying of a disease. Why is it okay with the elderly? Tom Cardinal’s superb portrayal of Superman in the Rest Home…well this video was not even in that ballpark…not even the parking lot. Listen to Garrett Morris. He knows comedy…and he is in his 70’s…and he brought the house down singing “Hoochie Coochie Man” did he not?

And the sketch about sex offenders? Sigh. And the brilliant…best of the festival I thought…skit about lampooning Where’s Waldo? Is it necessary that out of all the types of criminal activity in this world you guys made him a rapist? Sure…perhaps it’s too absurd to take seriously. Most of the troupes were exclusively men and could benefit having a woman member.

I’m not talking censorship. I’m merely stating that the talent in these comedy troupes is too deep to bank on cheap shots. And for the most part the final night proved that across the board. Obviously this annual sketch comedy festival is going to have some growing pains. It is incredibly interesting to watch the process involved.  The obvious guidance Shadowbox, along with Mr. Morris, provides for these young troupes will only make future festivals even funnier and more satisfying. A good foundation has been laid by Shadowbox.

Hmmm # 16
by Rick Brown

is overrated.
Then again
so is
losing it.

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Issue 1 - January 2002