Placid Dick

Matt Besser kicks against the pricks in his new comedy show

By Josh Herman

Matt Besser pulls out one of those black-and-white camouflaged “composition notebooks,” only this one has “FUCK YOU” written in red ink across the cover. inside are clippings from newspapers, all of which illustrate dick-like behavior on either his part or in others. The title of this new comedy show at the Improv Olympic West is also the plea that comedian Besser delivers to the audience: Don’t Be A Dick. But thank god so many of us are (hi, all those people that honk at me the second the light turns green), or Besser wouldn’t be able to bring the audience to tears and embarrassed nods every Wednesday night.

“I’m trying to show we’re all dicks,” the brillo-haired Besser says, “you just have to admit it. i don’t think a dick sets off to be a dick, but their natural personality takes them that way. Whatever that checking mechanism makes not say something–as my mom used to say, ‘Think before you speak,’–I lost that at some point. I’m sure there’s a lot of other people out there that lost it too, and would like to join the dick army.”

Examples include a woman who wrote to a newspaper complaining about the poor quality of its children’s poetry. Besser sings another from a porn magazine as a hymnal. the act is also peppered with a potpourri of other personal provacations: curing cancer in lab rats instead of people, fortune cookies that compare him to a wilting flower and people who say “You look tired!” when what they really mean is, “You look ugley!”

Besser is probably best known for his television series Upright Citizens Brigade. In Comedy Central’s tradition of canceling innovative shows (T.V. Funhouse) and letting others carry on longer than a 12:30 SNL skit (South Park), the channel axedUCB after three seasons. On the series, Besser and his cohorts created all sorts of chaos–much of which could have led someone to declare Don’t Be A Dick!

In his present act, however, Besser repeatedly shows what could only be referred to as the opposite of a dick–a nice guy. Searching for lost puppies, anti-hunting and political activism are all woven through his show. He does this, he says, in order to show that “we’re all dick,” even those who believe we do altruistic acts. Besser claims that his “reaction” to the dickdom is just his way of getting back at fate. “Instead of being nice, which most people would say, you have to get your licks in. If you’re going to get smacked by the karma wheel, you have to smakc back.”

A few years ago, Besser was K.O.d by the Karma Wheel when he began receiving a plethora (12-20 a day) of calls at this apartment in New York for what people believed was a Tech Support line. After attempting to resolve the problem with the companies involved (it didn’t work), Besser decided to pretend that he was indeed Tech Support and recorded the riotous results. he plays these as an “encore” toDon’t Be A Dick, and they’re also available on his CD, May I Help You (Dumbass)?

Calling someone and “fucking with them” is not inherently funny to Besser, because most of the time the people on the other end don’t deserve it. Further, of the prank calls he’s heard, most are “an innocent guy being screwed with by some guy doing a foreign voice.” Besser’s “prank calls” were what he describes as “wrong numbers of stupidity.”

“It was people refusing to admit that you put a ‘1’ before an area code. it’s just idiotic. If there’s a parenthesis around an area code, the ‘1’s’ implied. What kind of education does that take?” Callers to Tech Support were greeted by Björk, Jimmy Stewart or Besser pretending he was an automated response, telling the dialer to “press 1 for 2 and press 2 for 1.” Besser strung callers along anywhere from 40 seconds to nearly six minutes, telling one gravely serious man that he couldn’t help him because he hacked into his computer and found lesbian pornography and another that the the problem was that he didn’t enter is CR, or “cock-ring” number. besser calls pranks “a cherry on top of scenes” and as the dessert to his show, it leaves the audience not satiated, but hungry for more.

Another penis-themed shows, Puppetry Of The Penis is currently playing against Besser. Why should one choose his show? “See Don’t Be A Dick if you like comedy. See Puppetry of the Penis if you like to see some guy play with his dick,” he quips.

Campus Circle Sept 18 – Oct 1, 2002