Critique of the Week – Runner Runner Runner Runner Up

Just had to include this one in this week’s cache COW because of the absolute obliviousness perpetrated by the reviewer. Mike, dude, sorry, but yes, you are “totally clueless”.

Mike Skogmo – LifeInLA

You don’t see many one-man shows anymore. Further, most people born this side of 1975 don’t really know what a one-man show is. It’s just one guy on stage talking to the audience? And it’s not standup comedy?

We’re not totally clueless—we’re aware that once upon a time, people used to get up on stage and tell stories and things, and that this used to be called entertainment. But this is 2013. We’ve moved on to bigger and better (well, different at least). It is not even something people think of anymore. In fact, try to picture an aspiring actor or comedian in his mid-twenties telling people that he’s planning on doing a one-man show. His friends would think he was making an absurd joke.

In the digital age, funny people want to do Internet comedy and digital series, maybe TV if they’re clinging to the past. But if TV is becoming old-school in the comedy world (and it is), then one-man shows are elderly. They’re geriatric.

Either unaware of or (more likely) undeterred by the fact that it’s a dying art, comedian Tom Rubin opened his new one-man show Tom Rubin: Success Guru at the Santa Monica Playhouse last Friday.

As the curtain drew back, Rubin came out not as Tom Rubin the comedian, but as a character that he created: Tom Rubin the negative motivational speaker. He appeared on stage all smiles and positive energy. He did the obligatory asking of the crowd if they were feeling good, to which they replied with an enthusiastic “yea!”—it almost felt like a real seminar. The gag came quickly, though, as Rubin soon urged the crowd to join him in shouting out his motto, “Failure is an option.”

The entire show is a tongue-in-cheek parody of motivational speakers and success gurus. Rubin never breaks character and takes on the persona of a man who seriously believes in spreading his message of apathy.

The concept—the anti-Tony Robbins who’ll let you know just how average you are—is a funny one, but could it be sustained throughout an entire hour-long show? The shtick was good at first—he was pointing out how things like achievement are overrated—but it seemed to get a bit stale after the first few minutes; it felt a little like a standup comedian who just refused to move on to the next bit.

But little by little the crowd seemed to warm to the whole idea. Rubin settled in and the jokes got funnier—and dirtier. What appeared at first to be a clean show geared toward old folks slowly turned into an expletive-laden display that had the middle-aged audience hooting and hollering.

Throughout the performance, Rubin found ways to incorporate more than a dozen impressions into the show. He did several ethnic accents and celebrity impressions, and although it was a bit of a stretch to incorporate people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Joe Pesci into the success seminar theme, the impressions were generally pretty well received.

By the end of the show, Rubin had beaten many of the typical success guru euphemisms into the ground, both to his comedic advantage and at times to his detriment, but he had supplied enough laughs to keep the house entertained throughout.

Tom Rubin: Success Guru is running Friday nights at 8 PM through February 22nd at the Santa Monica Playhouse, located at 1211 4th Street, 90401. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at It’s a fun alternative for theatre-goers, and besides, you never know how many chances you have left to go see a real live one-man show.

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Colin Mitchell About the Author: COLIN MITCHELL: Actor/Writer/Director/Producer/Father, award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Broadway veteran, Marvel comics scribe, Van Morrison disciple, Zen-Catholic, a proud U.S. Army Brat conceived in Scotland and born in Frankfurt, Germany, currently living in Los Angeles and doing his best to piss off as many people as possible.

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