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This Too Shall Suck @ the Soho Playhouse

Matt GrahamThis was the first play that I’d been to in a long time and I was excited to get some “culture.” The playhouse was small and quaint and I was looking forward to seeing this one-man act, This Too Shall Suck. I like personal stories and relating people, so I thought this would be super interesting and endearing. I was wrong. It was the exact opposite, and it did, indeed, suck.

Matt Graham is a comedian, former TV writer, and a self-professed loser. He’s nearing 50, single, jobless and his most significant relationship was with a cat (the love of his life). He’ll tell this story to anyone who wants (or pays) to listen. That’s his gig. That’s what he’s selling. And it was a value.

The show begins as he sits on a stool upon the small stage at the downstairs bar of the playhouse that serves as a small theater. It’s an intimate setting for an intimate show. I’m intrigued, then he begins to speak. My first thought is that this feels very much like a therapy session for him and we’re the unexpecting and reluctant therapist(s). I’m not sure why this struck me so soon, but it felt like an avenue for him to vocalize his inadequacies to supposedly sympathetic ears rather than share his story. It felt so insincere and it was immediately clear how unsympathetic I was going to be to his story, which is unfortunate.

Everyone (except for myself and my companion) seemed to be having a great time and were clearly enjoying his humor, but I could hardly muster a smile. I don’t like it when a comedian feels the need to explain their jokes to me post-punchline as if I’m not perceptive enough to catch on. It’s insulting and he did it consistently. That was the theme of the show: I’m egotistic and know I’m smart, but I’m going to try to woo you and elicit sympathy via tortured anecdotes about bad choices. It was a big pity party and we’re supposed to sympathize with him. I don’t understand the juxtaposition of telling a story about not making the college basketball team, despite all of the hours you spent on your jump shot at the neighborhood playground (and that you really put in all that time, unlike other people who merely say they did), while constantly peppering your story with jabs about how much better you are than the coach and that’s the real reason you didn’t make the team–because he was jealous of you. This is supposed to elicit sympathy from your audience? And it went on and on and I couldn’t take it. I started to check my phone at around the 45 minute minute mark, then an hour, than an hour and fifteen minutes. And so on. We had to sit there and listen to his scripted self-loathing until he felt that he’d spent enough time exercising his demons.

There’s too many examples to list, so to summarize: I didn’t believe his story. I think it was most likely factually accurate, but it was emotionally dishonest. It was the story of a man with considerable skill and intellect reflecting on how the world somehow wronged him. He didn’t take responsibility for his poor choices and his “weirdness” and “loserness” were contrived and pedestrian. His run-of-the-mill eccentricity was bland and transparent, and the problem is that there’s never enough time for people like Graham, because what’s more important than learning and acceptance is the confirmation of his own narrative. And it sucked.

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