If you’ve met Dan Shapiro, you remember. It’s like 9/11 or the JFK assassination. His figure is impeccable (think Carl Weathers in Predator) and at 7’4” he’s hard not to notice. If you turn to leave the conversation too fast, your elbow might accidentally brush against Shapiro’s bulky washboard abs, creating among the ten most heavenly sounds to be heard outside of the pearly gates. He’s all manners and pleasantries and a cretin in Chicago comedy writing.
If you live in Chicago, Dan Shapiro or that awful awful man Mason Johnson have probably tried to get you to go to their entirely ageist reading series, P. Fanatics (which, not even remotely sadly, ended this month). P. Fanatics took place at the Logan Square butthole Cole’s bar and was mostly composed of Chicago writers getting just a little bit too drunk and reading things that make you uncomfortable. (Not that I would know, because Cole’s would never let me in because they love crushing the dreams of innocent 19 year olds who just want to see their friends make asses of themselves.)
If you still live in Chicago, Dan Shapiro wants you to come see his new reading series. Which seems to me will end up gathering the same type of crowd and promising the same type of show.
Dan Shapiro’s first Rigged Open Mic will take place at Cole’s on September 9th (all information on the facebook page). To really get people talking, Dan and I sat down in Oprah Winfrey’s abandoned Harpo Studios last week to talk about the life of a true artist and scholar.
CG: Dan it is a delight to have you in the studio today. So, the Dan Shapiro open mic night was originally a P. Fanatics reading theme. For those familiar with P. Fanatics, how would you say it will be different/the same? Less Mason Johnson? (We can only hope.)
DS: Thanks for having me, Cassandra. Might I add that you look just darling in your pink leotard and tutu with matching S and M mask and cape. This is all just the product of Mason Johnson bossing me around. He's like, "Do this. Do that." And I'm like, "Okay." P. Fanatics was a good opportunity for Mason and me to showcase our talented friends as well as our own work every month. Whereas Dan Shapiro's Rigged Open-Mic will be more of an opportunity to showcase my "Home Improvement" fan fiction. There'll be an open mic too probably. But it'll mostly be a showcase of my fiction in which Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor continues to bumble in the world amatuer carpentry in a post 9-11 environment.
CG: What exactly is a rigged open mic?
DS: It's like any other open mic only more so. I'm honest about it. I'll say it. If you're good you get to go before everyone else and perform as long as you want. Hours if you want. As long as it doesn't cut in to my three hours of "Home Improvement" fan fiction.
CG: Do you have any plans to use a big hook to drag bad acts from the stage?
DS: That's definitely something I've thought about. I know that if someone sucks I'll walk out in front of them and start dancing. No music. Just me dancing.
CG: Will there be body contact or will you give them space? I definitely know what I'd like to see.
DS: Every performer is encouraged to rub one of my breasts for luck before they perform. In fact I kind of insist. No squeezing.
CG: Tell me more about your Home Improvement fan fiction. What kind of fic are we talking? Romance, erotica, slash... Is there a Home Improvement OTP?
DS: I don't know. I think I've said too much already. My "Home Improvement" fan fiction is hardcore. It will probably get me shot. I put my "Home Improvement" fan fiction online, and the government "strongly suggested" that I take it down. I sat back and meditated to the words they said. Skipped town for a month and grew some dreads. Had a friend tell my family I was dead. I'm sorry. Those last few sentences were by Killah Priest from the GZA song Beneath the Surface. I have a disease where I suddenly burst into Wu-Tang lyrics.
CG: Will this disease affect your ability to be a good open mic host?
DS: I have a plethora of diseases that would affect my ability to be a good open mic host. Sometimes when I'm onstage in mid sentence I'll just stop and yell, "Shut up! Shut up!" at no one in particular. That's because the voices in my head are heckling me. Stuff like that. It's fun. I've deliberately stopped taking my pills in the lead up to the show. It should be fun.
CG: Who are your hosting influences?
DS: I saw a collection of Ed Sullivan clips, and he was like, "Congratulations for being on the show." He was congratulating someone for getting to appear on his show. That was pretty pimp. Other than that Kermit the Frog and Chuck Barris from the Gong Show.
CG: Dan, you are very mysterious. Could you tell me a little bit more about your childhood? Open up?
DS: I was a wild animal. When I was five and six I had my hand down my pants all the time. In kindergarden I was bigger than the other kids, so I was a bully. Then I was the class clown. I was always getting in trouble. When I was seven I molested my uncle. Other than that it was the typical American childhood.
CG: Beautiful, Dan. One last thing: If you had to say one final thing to get people to come to your new series, what would it be?
DS: That's a good question. I have no idea what the answer is. You've stumped me. Damn it. You're good. [laughs maniacally] You! I knew you'd get me.
CG: Thanks again for joining me in the studio. I'm sorry we had to break in here. I didn't mean to get my blood all over you when I smashed that security camera.
Cassandra Gillig can do more push-ups than your mother and has a blog.