rick reynolds

'Only the Truth Is Funny'

By Ed Kaufman

Someone once said that "the truth will set you free." If that's the case, then one-time stand-up comedian Rick Reynolds must be one of the most free artists on planet Earth.

Any doubters can sit in on the 100 minutes of uninterrupted Reynolds rap of "Only the Truth Is Funny" at the Canon Theatre, where the comic monologuist manages to blend comedy and personal tragedy in a unique act that's part ego and part ethos, part Franz Kafka and part Frank Capra. And all of it is absolutely terrific, thought-provoking—and, at times, a bit terrifying.

Whether he's "free" from the ghosts that haunt him is a moot question. Reynolds is exorcising a lot of early demons onstage: The drowning of his father when Rick was 6 months old; an alcoholic, manic? depressive mother; a religious fanatic brother; a loving and sensitive stepfather who turned out to be a bank robber; his own attempted suicide while a student at Oregon's Portland State, etc.

As the cliché would have it, Reynolds simply "lets it all hang out," and the show is something like a vertical analysis as the tall, engaging Reynolds paces about, telling his angst-ridden, stark story that is full of self-contempt and self-flagellation, and with more twists and turns than Highway 101.

All starts quietly enough. His dirge-like opening postulates an overview of existence (after all, he was a philosophy major at Portland State) and segues to self-disclosure: He's 39, 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighs 195 pounds, has had a hair transplant (he's vain about growing bald), is something of a romantic, has a collection of over 40,000 old records, lives in Petaluma, Calif., with his wife and infant son, loves sex, has an anal fixation about lists, is vain, opinionated, brash and an atheist.

Self-disclosure is a vital element of Reynolds' act: he wants his audiences simply to trust him as he deftly and expertly switches from the sacred to the profane, the general to the personal. Always at the center of things is Reynolds, the traditional comic wise man who know the age-old dictum that great comedy is help for all of our collective pain.

When it's all over, Reynolds has managed to cover just about all the comic bases in the moments of his life: growing up with his alcoholic and sometimes brutal mother, college, the first of his 23 women as a bachelor, meeting his wife Lisa, marriage, his infant son Cooper, scrambling for success as a stand-up comic in San Francisco, etc.

All of this can be pretty heavy stuff, but Reynolds has the uncanny ability of undercutting the lurid with the comic. Soon we're laughing at the ghost-ridden pain as Reynolds elevates it to the heights of comedy, when humor becomes a defense mechanism for the pain of existence.

As for the essence of life, Reynolds finds it in those precious moments between birth and death: The extra 10 minutes of warm and cozy sleep in the morning, of loving well —and a bowl full of creamy chocolate fudge.

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