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    Har Har

    Manic digression

    Harburg Harrisbrandt is a shiny-headed, goateed dynamo with a guitar, attention deficit disorder, and a sincere determination to overcome all obstacles and entertain you in the warm and funny "Har Har."


    Harburg Harrisbrandt is the last guy you'd want to sit next to on the subway but the perfect guy to put on stage, wind up and watch him go. Created by Joseph Langham, Har Har (his mother's nickname for him) is a would-be singer-songwriter with a guitar, attention deficit disorder, low self-esteem, a relentlessly upbeat personality and the vocal endurance of an auctioneer.

    Full title: Har Har: An Evening with Harburg Harrisbrand.
    Written and performed by: Joseph Langham.
    Directed by: Richard Hinojosa.
    Under St. Marks Theater
    94 St. Marks Pl. near 1st Ave.
    March 7-30, 2002

    In any two minutes of rapid-fire, free-associative patter, the shiny-headed, goateed Harburg (Joseph Langham) careens from subject to subject but drops morsels of what begin to add up into a portrait of his life. Always assumed to be retarded, he was later found to have a colossally high IQ but a microscopically short attention span. This knowledge does little to help him lead a normal life but it does explain what makes him such an interesting and yet hapless character — and why he's written 400 songs in his life but it takes a major effort just to get the guitar out of the case and start playing. Every thought reminds him of a tangential one.

    Just an one sample of his many wild extrapolations comes as he ponders an offhand comment by his one female friend, whom he seems to secretly love but not know how to woo:

    You don't think she thinks I'm a girl do you? No. Probably not. What a stupid question. Sometimes things pop into my head and I know they are stupid, but I say 'em anyway. I know that she knows I am a guy. I mean, I don't really have any hair. I have some that grows in the back, but, I shave it real close. I don't like the way I look when it grows out. It makes me look really old. I'm not all that old. I'm only 30. John says you get your hair genes from your mom. But, I don't think he's right. Dad was bald, but mom has plenty. Or, she did. Before she died. I wonder if mom would've come to the show tonight to hear my songs. Oh shit! I'm really sorry! I just got to talking and forgot the whole reason we're here, I'm gonna play some songs I wrote. I really wish I had remembered to bring my list. (goes for the guitar, but stops short) See, that's my problem. I just kinda have to go where it takes me.

    Where it takes him is all over the place, which explains his obsession with post-it notes. Like the lead character from "Memento" — only without the tattoos and guns and killing and the story going backwards — he has to leave himself a note to remember anything. Then he has to remember where he put the note.

    "Har Har" is mostly a lark — a playful blast of words and personality quirks that's just plain fun to take in. But underlying it is not just a quick wit but a perfect sense of character, pacing and performance. Parts are quite sobering, as Harburg touches on his complicated mother, his best childhood friend, his wide-ranging thoughts and narrowly constricted life. It's a show that could be maudlin or mocking but isn't — it leaves you with a warm feeling toward this irrepressible character and the writer-actor who created him.

    MARCH 21, 2002

    Reader comments on Har Har:

  • HAR HAR ROCKS   from Clint, Mar 27, 2002
  • Very nice   from Tom Poston, Mar 28, 2002

  • Post a comment on "Har Har"