The Lowbrow Reader of Lowbrow Comedy
Lowbrow: not highly intellectual or cultured. I suppose that meaning fits. This zine alternates between slapstick and smart wit with the turn of a page, from rambling anecdotes to the odd, part academic, part fanboy essay on comedy.
A short story, “The Making of Project Achhh,” features two bickering friends who shoot a film to save their friendship. Both attempts fail, but at least the story is entertaining. Writer Jay Ruttenberg is talented at painting the scene, often sounding out the pronunciation of his idiosyncratic characters for maximum comedic effect. “Fat Chance, New Mexico” has this same observational humour, but writer Neil Hagerty’s tone is slightly more mean-spirited. Needless to say, I wasn’t so impressed with his remorseless character, who reports his neighbour for smuggling a girlfriend’s mother into the
U.S. Ruttenberg rounds out the zine with an admiring editorial about Gene Wilder and his unsung film, Young Frankenstein. (Personally, I never understood why the farting round the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles was so lauded when you’ve got Frau Blucher forcing Ovaltine on unsuspecting visitors in Young Frankenstein.)
But, it’s the storytelling that makes this zine live up to its name. By featuring personal stories that showcase a writer’s amusing personality, Lowbrow delivers some real sitting-by-yourself-reading-this-zine-alone chuckles. Comedy writing seems especially difficult, and something most writers are probably incapable of. One has to contend with the reader’s own voice and ensure the rhythm of the words is just so to elicit a smile or laugh at the right spot. And even if the poor writer succeeds, she will likely never see or hear that response, unlike most stage comedians who reap instant rewards from a live audience. Considering that Lowbrow pulls off the gag, and well, it deserves some accolades. (Laura Trethewey)
zine, editor: Jay Ruttenberg, #5, US$3, 243 West 15th St. #3 RW, New York, NY 10011, USA, lowbrowreader.com