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Secrets of Their Success

'80s-'90s generation comics share their most embarrassing juvenile thoughts in "Mortified" show.

“Mortified,” another long-running themed comedy show akin to “Worst Laid Plans,” (see review, 12/5/09), recently appeared in New York at 92Y Tribeca Dec. 17. Unlike “Plans,” “Mortified” has a constantly changing cast, with creators Anne Altman and Julia Wright taking applications and choosing different performers for each performance based on the strength of their story or material.

This edition featured many women performing, aside from two gay male performers, and many of the women tended to turn to journals for embarrassing recollections to match the theme of the show. It’s possible that other editions have had more straight men in the mix, but I’d doubt their material came from teenage diaries, and so this edition got a little “girl’s diary”-centric (if that makes any sense).

Some pieces fared better than others, and a few of the better ones had that typical mercurial teenage girl’s changing whims -- namely Anne Altman’s frenetic reading about which boy liked her or suddenly didn’t, or which she liked, or suddenly didn’t; and Kristina Wong’s oddly baseball-obsessed entries, sparked with sudden fits of anger at various classmates she immediately deemed “stupid.” Erin Griffith also had some charming moments pulled from her diary at age 13, about being boy crazy and very naïve about sex all at once.

The performers who really stuck out in the show were those who presented something other than diaries as fodder -- namely Emlyn Morinelli, who recounted her dialogues with the tooth fairy and Santa Claus through letters, the other side of which were obviously authored by her mom and were just odd enough to make one wonder about her parents more than her. Kyle Supley also took a novel approach -- having unearthed old home VHS video, no less, of his 10- or 11-year-old self showing off his collection of cuckoo clocks in his parents basement rec room.

Still others on the bill -- nine performers all together, making for a show of nearly 90 minutes -- unearthed juvenilia in the form of school projects rather than diaries. Shawn Hollenbach breathed a lot of life and energy into his school paper on the Gettysburg Address, rife with a lot of vague inaccuracies that he seemed well aware of as he read them out.

“Mortified” trains a comic eye -- most if not all the performers on the bill are seasoned sketch comedians or stand-ups -- on many facets of youth, especially the mercurial impact of hormones on a teenage personality, or the mercurial nature of being a teenager in and of itself. The show is not often in New York, and is definitely worth seeing when it is.

“Mortified” creators have published two collections of performers' pieces in book form:

 

   

     

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