Since his last “Garfield At Large” column in May, Bob Garfield has been quite busy. In addition to his ongoing role as co-host of WNYC’s “On The Media,” and a fellowship at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Garfield is host and co-executive producer of “The Genius Dialogues” on Audible. He will also kick off the tour of his new one-man show, “Ruggedly Jewish,” which begins September 15 at the Philadelphia Theater Company.
MediaPost: It’s been a while since your last MediaPost column and some readers might be surprised to learn your next act is a national tour of a one-man show, an evening with Bob Garfield entitled “Ruggedly Jewish,” which kicks off the Philadelphia Theater Company’s 2017-18 season on a couple of weeks. What can attendees expect?
Bob Garfield: Excellent question. It may be a 62-year-old man, who hasn't been in a stage show since he was 13, standing for 90 minutes in a puddle of his own urine. Or it would be a multimedia spectacle weaving various unlikely threads together on the general theme of "identity." Or, you know, both... all kinds of disparate elements along the path of understanding self. The individual self. The American self. The neo-Nazi self. And my personal Jewish self.
MediaPost: Funny title. Is it a comedy?
Garfield: Yes. Also no. Lots of laugh-out-loud moments, but also quite a few gasps and furrowed brows. And, I hope, a lot of audience introspection. There will also be some singing and (tasteful) nudity.
MediaPost: Do you have to be Jewish to love it?
Garfield: I would say that "Ruggedly Jewish" will offer a different experience for Jews in the audience than for non-Jews. However, there is not a single joke or passage in the show that will be lost on anyone based on religion, culture, race, gender or national origin. I don't want to do any spoilers, but the show is quite an odyssey, filled with deer, country music, cats (living and dead), mayonnaise, kidnappers, artichokes, worms, canned soup, a plush moose head and two U.S. presidents. It's like Levy's rye bread. You don't have to be Jewish....
MediaPost: During your MediaPost stint you wrote about a half-dozen columns referencing Jewishness. Why is it relevant to the advertising and media business?
Garfield: I did? You'd have to show me the columns. I have no idea. Makes me wonder if something has been percolating inside of me. In fact, something has indeed been percolating inside of me, because "Ruggedly Jewish" is the culmination of a lifelong journey -- and where it leaves me will turn out to be the chewy chocolate center of the show.
MediaPost: Are you concerned anti-Semitism is on the rise with the recent surge in Nazi, KKK and white supremacist activism, and if so, do you think there will be any backlash for the role Jews play in media?
Garfield: No. I do not think anti-Semitism is on the rise. I think, because of our historical moment, the public expression of anti-Semitism is on the rise. But the bigotry, suspicion, resentment, hatred and general stupidity are always there, in a certain segment of the population, all the time. Events have simply converged to unleash unspoken or whispered hatreds. As Chris Rock once put it, "That train is never late."