Even while the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay draws huge crowds to the greater Tacoma, Washington, area, the city's Broadway Center for the Performing Arts downtown will offer a different type of entertainment—the perfect afternoon or date night choice for golfers and non-golfers alike. Whether you call it stand-up comedy, or call it a play, the one-man show titled Defending the Caveman must certainly be called a sensational success. It has delighted audiences in 45 countries, has been translated into 18 languages, and is currently playing in 150 cities around the world. Luckily, Tacoma will become one of them on June 18, 2015, when it opens at Theatre on the Square, one of four theaters at the Broadway Center. It will run Thursday, June 18, through Sunday, June 21, with a total of five performances.*
Comedian Rob Becker wrote this show after three years of research into not only prehistory, but also psychology, anthropology, sociology, and mythology. What he learned from studying all those “...ologies,” combined with life experience, added up to a hilarious look at the dramatic and undeniable differences between men and women and the consequential misunderstandings that affect their relationships. Defending the Caveman now ranks as the longest-running solo play on Broadway. After a quarter of a century, there is no sign of the laughter dying down.
It takes a whole tribe of cavemen to keep a show playing worldwide. One of six currently performing this role in the United States is actor and funny guy John Venable, who will be “The Caveman” for Tacoma audiences during the upcoming run. This native of Dallas, Texas, who now lives in Los Angeles, was recently performing in this role in Las Vegas, which is where he was when Good Life Northwest connected with him by telephone for this interview.
John Venable, starring in "Defending the Caveman" Photo provided by Broadway Center for the Performing Arts
Candace Brown, for Good Life Northwest: The U.S. Open will certainly be well attended here in the Northwest, but for those who don’t have tickets or prefer something else, how is this show a nice alternative to the golf tournament?
John Venable: I guarantee that you don’t have to be quiet and you don’t have to do a polite golfers’ clap. You can laugh as loud as you want!
GLN: What can people expect from a show called Defending the Caveman?
Venable: The show is a lot about how we have changed but, then again, really haven’t changed. It’s about how our wiring dates all the way back to the cave times, how we’ve evolved to be completely different from from one another. Nowadays, we can’t understand one another.
People come to the show with a certain expectation—and I’m not really sure what that is from person to person—but they leave with something different than what they expected. A lot of women will come thinking, “This is going to be a show where they’re bashing women the entire time,” and it’s not that at all. It actually is a very balanced look at men and women. Both leave with a better understanding of the opposite sex.
GLN: Do you think this show could actually help relationships?
Venable: Absolutely! It’s akin to marriage counseling, but you come in and you get to laugh! Whether you are a husband and wife, or a boyfriend and girlfriend, or just somebody who is considering getting into a relationship—maybe you’re dating somebody and it’s going that way—you’re going to come away with a better understanding of maybe how to act or how to react to things that your significant other does, things that you might not understand because of the way you’re wired.
GLN: Do you agree that there is nothing funnier than real life?
Venable: Yeah. If we can stand back and look objectively at stuff that causes problems in relationships, and actually laugh at it, that can help improve understanding more than sitting someone down and talking in a serious way. Instead of saying, “Here’s why your relationship isn’t working,” you can get that information in a different format. You don’t even realize you’re getting that information. If you’re just sitting back and listening to a guy telling you a story, hey, all the better.
Beyond just being a funny and entertaining show, it can potentially help you out. We’re not marriage counselors, by any stretch of the imagination, but people come out of it at the end having more of an appreciation for their spouse or significant other than they did when they went in.
GLN: That must be rewarding.
Venable: Yeah, it’s really cool. After the show, I’ll go stand out front, regardless of where the show is playing, and shake hands with people and talk to them on their way out. Every time, several people will say, “You nailed so many things right on the head! It’s like you’ve had cameras in our house and you’ve been watching us. It’s crazy how much that parallels our lives.” They say, “Now I get why he does those things.” and “Now I get why she does those things.”
|John Venable, starring in "Defending the Caveman" Photo provided by Broadway Center for the Performing Arts|
GLN: It’s almost like men and women are people from different countries. If we could apply those principles to world peace we might have some hope
Venable: That’s one of the things I come out and say. Instead of us thinking of men being this one thing, how about if we just think of them as being different. In fact, how about if we think of men and women as being two completely different cultures, with different customs, different histories, and different languages?
GLN: Does it follow a strict script? Is there room to ad-lib?
Venable: Yes and yes. It absolutely follows a strict script. Well, I wouldn’t say "strict.” There are six of us who do the show, and everyone has their own little nuances, maybe just a little turn of a phrase on a joke that’s already there, and you figure out a way to make it work better for you as an actor or just for you as the person you are on stage. None of us are exactly like Rob or exactly like one another. We’re given the freedom to put our own little spin on things. As much as it is stand up comedy and written by a standup comic, it’s also pretty much a play. It’s kind of a blend of the two.
As far as ad-libbing goes, this is the type of show where we invite people to say things to us. I’ll ask questions of the audience and expect a response. Because we set that kind of precedence, people will sometimes just yell things out. You can’t ignore that, especially when you think, “Here’s a good opportunity for a joke.”
GLN: Why would this make the perfect date night? Obviously there’s the aspect of gaining understanding and appreciation for each other, but are there other reasons?
Venable: Men in general are not theatergoers as much as women are. A lot of times, when men come to the theater it’s because their wife has insisted that they go. But this is a show men actually like! Guys who are not fans of the theater at all, will come away saying, “Man, that was a good one!”
I think that’s probably because it plays more like standup comedy and because it’s so relatable. That’s why the show has lasted as long as it has. Next year is the 25th anniversary of the show. It has the longevity because people see themselves in what we’re talking about. I guarantee that you will have something to grab onto, that you will see yourself and your relationship in some part of what I’m talking about. They are just universal truths.
|John Venable, starring in "Defending the Caveman." Photo provided by Broadway Center for the Performing Arts|
GLN: That brings me to my most important question. No kidding. Do you talk about men “channel surfing” when they watch TV?
Venable: Absolutely! That’s definitely one of the key differences, the way we handle the TV remote. I don’t want to give it away, but that’s one of the sections that give you women credit.
GLN: I can’t wait to see it. Have you ever been to Tacoma before?
Venable: No. I’m very excited to come to Washington. I’ve never been in Washington or Oregon. I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
GLN: It certainly is!
*Performances times for this June 2015 production of Defending the Caveman, at Theatre on the Square in Tacoma, Washington, are:
Thursday, June 18 — 7:30 p.m
Friday, June 19 — 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 20 — 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 21 — 3 p.m.
Tickets are priced at $19, $36, and $49 and are on sale now. For tickets, please call (253) 591-5894 or (toll free) 1-800-291-7593. You can also order tickets online through this link. Don't delay!
The theatre is located at 901 Broadway, Tacoma, WA, USA, 98402
Link to map, directions and parking information is here.