One of the most memorable lines from Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks’s “2,000-Year-Old-Man” act of the 1960s was a little quip about the origins of comedy: Things were tragic if the person telling a story stubbed one’s toe or fell in a hole. They became comic as soon as the tragedy occurred to someone else.
P. J. Walsh, who brings his unique comedy act involving the pathos and scary absurdity of life in actual wartime to the Bearsville Theater on Wednesday, December 28, mixes the stuff of such ancient rules of comedy and tragedy. He works from his own experience as a screwed-up kid entering the armed services in 1990, thinking that he’ll never see combat, only to discover the wonders of the first Iraq War. Later, he joins the regressive Blue Collar Comedy tours of the early Bush years – only to end up back in Iraq eventually, touring military bases and shifting his view of war in general, and where we stand as a nation and culture these days.
In the midst of all this, Walsh studied acting in New York City, began appearing in avant-garde-oriented fringe festivals around the continent, did a stint working as a dentist at the White House and started working to help raise funds for a new lower Dutchess County arts center.
This past October, he even undertook a wild tour of 30 one-hour stand-up comedy shows throughout his new home region here in the Hudson Valley, performing in American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, schools and community centers, with help along the way from friends at WDST Radio Woodstock.
“My experiences over the past few years entertaining our service members overseas had me feeling that I might have experienced more in my life than just jokes,” he has said of his new act and overall gestalt. “My show is really spontaneous…I’m very improv-ish, so I try to make those magical moments happen that are only going to happen in that 45 minutes. You put a little signature on it. It keeps me on my toes.”
Opening for Walsh will be Woodstock novelist Patrick Carlin, brother of the late stand-up legend George and a fine comedian in his own right. Showtime is at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, December 28 at the Bearsville Theater, located on Route 212 just west of the hamlet of Woodstock. For further information call (845) 679-4406 or visit www.bearsvilletheater.com.