Mike Daisey hurls laughs like a Tesla coil

Tallahassee Democrat

By Mark Hinson

So, Nikola Tesla, Thomas Edison, Robert Moses, Bill Gates and a cast of sickly rabbits all walk into a bar ....

Who wouldn't stick around to hear the end of that joke? Right?

That mixed bag of egomaniacs, moguls, millionaires and rattled rodents kept wafting in and out of a wildly hilarious, high-wire narrative called "Monopoly!" It was presented with relish by New York monologist Mike Daisey on Thursday night as part of Seven Days of Opening Nights arts festival.

Daisey's set-up was as simple as it gets. He sat in a chair behind a long, wooden desk on the stage of Fred W. Turner Auditorium at Tallahassee Community College and talked. And talked some more. His only props were a glass of water and a few pages of notes.

"Monopoly!" was part American history lesson, part sit-down comedy act and part autobiography.

"(I'm from Maine) where we have winter 11 months a year and one month of fly season," Daisey said.

Other than one appearance at the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C., in 2005, the Seven Days show was only the second time Daisey had performed in the South. No worries. His sharp-tongued, f-bomb-tossing humor translated perfectly well outside of Downtown Manhattan. The Seven Days crowd loved it.

One of the highlights of "Monopoly!" came with Daisey's recounting of landing an acting gig in a Microsoft industrial film while he was living in Seattle in the '90s. Daisey — who looks like a hybrid of comedian Patton Oswalt, actor Wallace Shawn and the singer Meatloaf — was cast as "The Fat Geek." He ended up shooting his scene with Gates, who was not exactly Robert De Niro when the cameras rolled.

"He's like the black hole of acting," Daisey said. "And his bad acting swallowed up all the other acting that was going on around him. He just sucked it all in."

Daisey is the heir apparent to fellow Maine writer and actor Spalding Gray, the troubled monologist who committed suicide in 2004. Ironically, Gray was twice scheduled to appear at Seven Days in 2003 and 2004 but never made it.

In a way, Daisey made up for those missed chances.