By Jeff Walsh, Oasis Editor
The first time I saw Scott Capurro perform was at a comedy club in San Francisco. The comedy club is located near the touristy Fisherman's Wharf area of town, and Capurro was pushing the queer edge with the visiting tourists. His material was not toned down for the predominately straight crowd in attendance, which most gay comics do. He was going full-tilt, bringing out an equal amount of uncomfortable laughter and belly laughs.
At one point, he looks down at a table in the front of the club, and there is a couple with their young teenaged son in tow. Capurro seemed to shift his mood to one of concern for the parents and their young son seeing a very queer comic on their vacation to San Francisco. But he quickly said that generally the teenaged boys aren't in the crowd, but rather in his dressing room, naked, with a line of cocaine snaking up their backs. By the time the next comic was introduced, the family had left the club.
Capurro has brought his humorously acid tongue to paper with the recent publication of his first book, Fowl Play. The book is a hilarious story of a closeted comic which is not quite in the same vein as much of the HRC-approved fiction that is being produced today, which feature love stories with cute chiseled couples, stories of adopting kids into their monogamous gay lives, and no mention of drugs or anonymous sex. Of course, it's important to note that a gay world where those things solely exist is fictional, so I guess it's in the proper section of the bookstore.
Currently, Fowl Play is only available in the UK, as Capurro is seeking a stateside publisher. The book has been well-reviewed by conservative newspapers and magazines throughout the UK, but it is still available only as an import here.
"I wasn't expecting that there would be any problem getting the book published in the US because the publisher in Britain, Headline, is a very distinguished publishing company," Capurro said in a recent in-person interview with Oasis in San Francisco's Castro district on a sunny weekend afternoon. "The book looks nice, it's sold well. But we haven't heard anything.
Capurro onstage and offstage is pretty much the same experience. Most of his dialogue is of two voices. First he says something seemingly normal, and then under his breath, but loud enough so you can hear it, he adds the sarcasm and punchlines. Throughout our entire interview, he constantly drifts between being serious and funny, usually in the same breath. His book is filled out with as many interesting moments as laugh-out-loud surprises.
"My British publisher didn't want to put it out here because they feel we only buy self-help books, which is pretty much true," he said. "Although books are becoming trendy now, I've been told by bookstore owners. That doesn't mean people read them, but they buy them."
I asked whether he was more interested in his work being read than simply bought and unopened.
"I don't give a shit, I just want to them to buy it," he said. "They can use it for a doorstop for all I care. That's what I do."
Capurro thinks the problem of bringing Fowl Play to North America is that it doesn't fit the mold of a gay novel, and that creates marketing problems. ("It's gay, it's self-hating, nasty, what do we do with it?" he says, voicing his assumed reaction to Fowl Play by a publisher's marketing department).
But Capurro quickly reminds himself that his book is getting the same reaction that his stand-up comedy gets.
"I always forget that some people consider my work to be subversive, or too mean, or too angry, or 'why is this faggot so bitter?' Even faggot comics say that to me," he said. "A friend of mine called me after seeing my act and said, 'Why are you so fucking bitter? You have no reason to be bitter. Why are you like that?' So, my act is an extension of my writing, and vice versa... even though Fowl Play is slightly autobiographical, of course, some of the fiction lies in fact.
"The weird thing about writing is that you don't get an immediate response. With stand-up, at least you know how people feel about it," he said. "But with writing, you're just sitting there in a room doing something by yourself and then you send it out and hope people like it. So far, I've been lucky."
The book has actually sold out everywhere it's been on sale in the United States, and the import house that brought them in to the US can't even get any more. So, Capurro isn't just filled with delusions of grandeur, four shipments of his book have been sent to one gay bookstore. Every time, it sells out when it is put on the shelves. So, when the book is in stores, people buy it, but he can't get a state-side publisher to put it in stores. So, Capurro has a valid case to be frustrated.
"Anywhere they put them, it does well. If success were based on what the audience actually wants, the films, radio, and TV would be a lot different," he says. "But it's not even about talent. It's about what promoters and producers think people are going to be comfortable with. And in a lot of respects, I'm dealing with old faggots who are either closeted or repressed fuckers, and I'm not talking about just men. And that's what I'm dealing with."
He pauses for a minute. He realizes that he sounds bitter, angry even. Without prompting, he starts talking about how he has no plans to change the way he performs, writes, or talks.
"My agent and my manager in London keep waiting for me to calm down a little," he said. "But the fact is, this is my transformation. It's time for everyone else to catch up. I was a closeted comic for a long time. I made my metamorphosis. This is it. So, if they're waiting for me to get nice...Everyone tells me to tone down my work, and people feel obligated to give me notes... public, private. I cross too many lines."
To illustrate his point, he tells me about a recent audience member at one of his shows. The guy was 25, totally hot, and just got out of prison days earlier. At one point, the guy lifted up his T-shirt to show Capurro the letters SWP tattooed across his belly, for Supremacist White Party.
"The white faggots in the crowd all judged, and I was like 'You cocksuckers are in a fantasy. How many black friends to you have?' If we were all in jail when we were 18, we would have done the same thing," Capurro said. "He said he joined the Skinheads because they protected him from being gang-raped. We would have all done the same thing. And he said, in prison, it's all black versus white, but it's not that different out of prison, either."
Capurro kept talking to the guy, challenging him, making fun of him, while Capurro's friend off to the side of the stage was signaling him to stop, because he was making the audience uncomfortable. Capurro said he loves moments like that in his live shows.
"To me, it is a blessing to have that. I want to make the audience uncomfortable," he said. "I don't give a fuck if people like it. I don't care if they ever come back. It's not up to me to determine their comfort level. And, anyway, the show isn't about them. It's about me. If they don't know that, they might as well leave the room. This is 'me' time. They've come to listen to 'me' talk and 'me' say things. It's taken me a lot of years to accept the egocentricism that sort of opinion necessitated, but it's true. If I stopped to think for one moment onstage, 'Wow, how weird is this? These people really find me interesting.' The assumption is that. The foreplay is over. They do assume I'm interesting, let's move on.
"And now I'm telling you that this country is full of racism, and black women are ignored, and I'm sick of fat people bitching, it's just stuff like that. I made a comment on the radio yesterday that all gay men shave their testicles, and we got calls. But you know what? We're not talking about you, or your boyfriend, or your boring life. It's a joke. If I had to monitor everything I think for these PC, fucking overeducated, white people in this city, I'd never get onstage. The gay movement is so anti-everything. It's fattist, it's ageist, it's racist, it's misogynist."
To bring his story to a close, Capurro also noted that his ex-con also had the happy-sad drama masks tattooed on his arm while in prison, and they even talked more after the show. Well, more than talked...
"I had three cosmopolitans with him and was making out with him at the bar with everyone coveting and hating me at the same time," he said. "Which is exactly how white people feel toward black people. This country is all about coveting the black race and wanting what they have and judging them at the same time. I just think that what I do scares people. I've been told I'm terrifying."
You may already be familiar with some of Capurro's less-terrifying moments. In the movie "Mrs. Doubtfire," he played Harvey Fierstein's lover who helps Robin Williams become a woman.
"I really liked that. It was my first film and I was on the set for a week with those two and we had a lot of fun," he said. "But I would like to play a part more like me at some point, something without faggy, silky clothing. I'd rather play something like me, because that's all most film actors play anyway."
He also appeared in a small role in the Robert Downey Jr. movie, "Heart and Souls." But his most-recent, and largest movie with which he's been involved is definitely "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Capurro did voice-over work as one of the two-headed pod race announcers. Capurro explains simply: "The casting agent was looking for loudmouth Americans, and I was in England."
But even with this minor voiceover gig, he said he receives fan letters from the obsessed Star Wars fans. "I get fan letters from the nerdiest people you can imagine. I'm sure they're lovely, but things like 'The Star Wars Trilogy changed my life. I determine every choice I make by...' Actually, it's worse than that."
But, despite his current publishing woes, Capurro has already written his second book, which is a spoof on the making of Rent. The book is about a straight character who moves to New York City and writes a musical about AIDS, called Runt. As the musical is about to open, the gay community is planning to picket the show because it was written by a straight writer.
"So, he has to come out as a gay man with AIDS, even though he's not. He dumps his girlfriend and moves in with a drag queen and has to live the life in New York."
Thankfully, it doesn't seem like there will ever be a lack of sacred cows for Capurro to keep tipping for us all. And that's a good thing.
Scott's Web site, which contains movies of his stand-up routine, and an interesting use of Macromedia Flash, can be found at http://www.scottcapurro.com/
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