Quick: What do a pretentious and atrocious slam poet, a pissed off fat
man, a pot dealer, a sorry Papa Johns manager, and a redneck obsessed
with movies about little people all have in common? If you guessed
nothing, then most sane people would say you were right. However, all
these characters occupy You’re Welcome for What You’re About to See’s
modest, low-tech stage, at least when writer/performer/UCB alum Charlie
Sanders brings each to life.

This one-man show needs some concentrated fine-tuning before audiences
can be expected to leave the American Theater with thankfulness on their
lips and chortles from their belly. Sanders’ performance and writing is
mostly notable because of its unevenness, which sacrifices some bits for
the sake of others. Only a few of his five characters are interesting
and of those only one is outright comic gold, while the other fills a
slightly funny, but mostly sad and fascinating role in the piece, a
definite oddity.

One part that the actor gets right is the character of Charlie Sanders.
Amidst recorded trumpets, he descends upon us lowly mortal — arms
outstretched, Christ-like — already reciprocating our predetermined
thanks. The shitheel, self-conscious grandiosity of a perfect
asshole/artist wafts through the venue as Sanders, with baritone
importance, asks us questions like “What is theatre, art, magic?” and
tells us that the characters he is about to inhabit inform his every
action, not the other way around. The irony is almost blinding in its
thickness. It immediately establishes the tone, and gives off pleasant
airs of hope for the rest of this hour-long show.

Problems emerge, however. His drug dealer is simply the clichéd pothead
that comics have been milking since time immemorial: all misplaced
thoughts and pointless stories. His slam poet — who rips up his poem in
an “artistic gesture” and then forgets what he wrote — is simply not
that entertaining. The redneck who proposes movies about Ewoks and
Hobbit Napoleons is more memorable, and his idea of shooting Willow out
of cannon is certainly commendable, but he still lacks that
laugh-to-laugh quality a good bit must have.

Rising to that challenge is Sanders’ strongest (laugh-wise) character,
Charles Potamus. When his rival for World’s Fattest Man says that only a
tornado can move him from his couch, and Potamus replies that only the
combined efforts of “a tornado, a hurricane, and a crane operated by God
Himself could lift me from my La-Z-Boy,” it’s clear that, yes, Sanders’
writing can be pretty damn funny.

Finally, there’s the Papa Johns manager. His bits aren’t hilarious, but
as a pathetic character Sanders hits the mark. There’s a sadness in some
of the imagery the character describes that’s actually quite touching,
and his place in the show — at least until the fatally comic finale — is
one of stark contrast to the others’ general level of silliness.

There are some real nice bits in Sanders’ work, as well as a few
hackneyed ones. If he adapts his mediocre stuff to the level of the
Potamus piece and the Papa Johns, he may have solid — if odd — show of
laughs and pathos.

Until then, we should hold off on our thanks.

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