Groening and Lynda Barry at the Schnitzer
the funny pages to life
cheap seats in Portland's awesome Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
start filling up pretty early for Matt Groening and Lynda Barry,
towering giants in the world of the funny pages.
This is no Phish concert or new Star Wars movie (more
on that later), but let's just say that our "twin hams"
are already pretty tired of their general admission seats by the
time the two take the stage at 7:30.
A pair of wing chairs is quickly swept aside by the headliners,
quashing for a while our hopes of an intimate fireside chat with
the pair, as they swagger onto the stage Groening all in
black with floppy hair and Barry in casual jeans and white blouse.
Barry is up first, sweating and pacing, forthright in nervousness.
She is likely best known for her preternaturally in-touch-with-the-young-mind
Ernie Pook's Comeek and the adolescent character Marlys, but she
is clearly dwarfed by Groening's stature. This is not an issue to
either of the longtime friends (a friendship stretching back to
their time at ultra-liberal Evergreen College in Washington), which
allows us to relax into Barry's witty, well-thought-out presentation.
Barry's thesis of the need for "play" in our lives is
nothing much new, though she frames "play" as "creative
concentration" for adults. With a smattering of funny stories
from her life and plenty of room-shaking laughs she makes a number
of points about how people can and indeed already do
engage in creative play daily, most notably as we endlessly create
dialogues in our heads of those "things we should have said."
in the middle: do just a little bit every day. [photo by www.darryl.com]
Barry's other main point do just a little bit every day
is well taken. Hopefully we can all live up to such simple
advice and avoid the stress we seem to need to feel.
Something many folks in the audience likely do daily is watch "The
Simpsons" seemingly in 24-hour-a-day reruns. If not,
Groening gives us our dose tonight.
Yes, we have to give Barry the significant edge in Public Speaking,
as Groening rests on his considerable laurels with rather unenlightening
lists of concerts he's seen, crowd-pleasing mentions of local landmarks
(Groening was born and raised in Portland) and, most importantly,
17 minutes of Simpsons clips that had the crowd laughing uproariously.
in the family: Groening and his clan. [photo by Aaron Mayes]
It is Simpsons-fan nirvana when Groening cues up a preview of an
upcoming, never-before-seen episode that skewers George Lucas and
the Star Wars franchise. One of the things we take from Groening's
talk is his delight in a continued ability to kick his masters (including
Fox, notably and repeatedly) in the shorts and get away with it.
Doubtless no one feels ripped off, but a nearly hour-long Q&A
session that severely tests our hams truly gives us our money's
worth. Barry graciously reads plenty of questions directed at Groening,
while fielding a healthy number herself. The esteem that the two
have for each other is revealed, and the esteem they have for their
fans is, too.
For starters, Groening definitively answers the ultimate question:
In what state is The Simpsons' fictional Springfield located? I
won't reveal the contents of Groening's stage-whisper, because the
real Springfield is in our hearts, isn't it? The night's capper
(literally and figuratively) is Barry's bizarre closed-mouth rendition
of "You Are My Sunshine."
Lynda and Matt, you are our sunshine as well.