Interview with Playwright John Gaspard
An interview with Dating Your Mom playwright John Gaspard
1. What first inspired you to adapt Ian Frazier’s writing?
The short answer is, I’ve always been a big fan.
The longer answer is, well, longer.
The first Ian Frazier piece I remember reading was “A Good Explanation,” which is about a major blackout in the New York area. I read it in the summer of 1977, when it was published in The New Yorker. I was so delighted by it that I tore it out and kept it – I’ve moved eight times since then, and I’ve brought it with me every time. It still makes me laugh.
The next time I remember encountering the work of Ian Frazier was when a friend gave me a copy of “Coyote vs. ACME.” I remember crying while reading it, I was laughing so hard.
Years later, a co-worker posted Frazier’s “Lamentations of the Father” on the refrigerator in the Break Room. More laughter, more tears from laughter. Rinse, repeat.
When my wife and I moved in together, we discovered that we each owned two copies of Frazier’s book, Coyote vs. ACME. That’s when we realized we were destined to be together.
Over the years I would read aloud from his books to her while she exercised (a perfect division of labor, by the way) and she suggested that some of them would make a fun evening of theater. I agreed and fortunately so did Ian Frazier.
2. Dating Your Mom is a series of short vignettes, rather like an evening of SNL. Is there any one theme (besides humor) that’s tying them all together for you?
Someone somewhere once said that laughter is the sound of recognition, and I think that’s what ties all these disparate pieces together: It’s the shared recognition of the often absurd world that we live in. Whether it’s the host on a cooking show who’s having a really bad day … an older gentlemen recognizing that his brain can no longer properly sort all the pop culture icons surrounding him … or a young man who realizes that he’ll never find a better date than the one who gave birth to him. All the scenes take a well-known reality and give it a slight, unique twist. That’s the brilliance of Ian Frazier.
3. What do you think Wile Coyote’s chances are of winning his court case?
The odds are not good. He has an excellent attorney, but deep down I think Mr. Coyote is a willing participant in his own calamities. Personally, I would recommend therapy.
4. How would you describe the humor of your play, and what sort of laugh (big belly, snicker, chuckle) are you hoping to get from your audience?
Any sized laugh is welcome. I will not discriminate.
5. How is this piece similar to, or different from, other theater work you’d done in the past?
This is the first time I’ve worked on something that is brand, spanking new – these pieces have never been presented in this way before. I’ve been laughing at them for nearly 35 years (wow!), but now it’s time to see if anyone else agrees with me. The audience always plays an important role in live theater, but they’re especially important here, as they’ll be telling us what’s funny and what isn’t. Preferable it will be more of the former.
6. Are you planning on bringing your mother to the production?
Sadly she’s no longer with us. But if she were, I know she’d be first in line to see this show. Unless there was something better on TV.
7. How is writing a piece for theater different from the work you’ve done on films?
Theater is all about immediate reaction. We’ll rehearse for a few days and put it in front of an audience and we’ll know immediately what’s working. With film, there’s a longer lag time between conception and reaction – sometimes years. And after all that time, you may have forgotten what sort of reaction you were hoping for.
8. Coke or Pepsi?
Coke, definitely. Vanilla Coke when I can find it, but that’s getting harder and harder.