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Sun, Apr. 4th, 2004, 08:38 pm
What a Comic Reads: Around the World With Mark Twain, by Robert Cooper

Around the World With Mark Twain, by Robert Cooper


Samuel Clemens is the inventor of the standup comedy genre. Robert Cooper retraces Clemens' trip around the world on his book tour.


Clemens dresses as Twain, acts as Twain, answers as Twain. Becomes his pseudonym character. Embodies the voice he created to perform his work onstage. Becomes the man he invented to separate himself from the puritanical hypocritical punishment of writing what he wanted to write.


Ticket receipts and book sales snowballed as people wanted the portable and the live experience of this entertaining contrived character that Clemens played every moment in public. This is what standup comedy does to many character-driven performers: induces a love-hate relationship with the stage character, who, let's face it, is more popular than the creator.


Clemens talks about the deadpan style - "The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it." Clemens drops punch lines in a "casual and indifferent way, with the pretense that he does not know it is a (punchline)." Reporter at a live show said the whole act, Clemens was "solemn all the time as a wart on an undertaker's horse."


He was praised for going on tour to pay his debts during a depression. Note to self: Name for the next tour is the "Debt Consolidaiton Tour."


"Let us endeavor to live, that when we die, even the undertaker will be sorry." - Samuel Clemens, Pudd'nhead Wilson