'Yams Alive!' It's Paul Skotarski's absurdist humor

January 03, 1991|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Evening Sun Staff

The original comedy and songs of local performer, Paul Skotarski, will be presented in his first one-man show, "Yams Alive!," at 9 p.m. Jan. 11 at the BAUhouse, 1713 N. Charles St.

A character actor of high caliber, Skotarski, 27, describes his brand of absurdist comedy as "strictly for laughs, the belly laugh," although at times he does make a social or political statement.

The actor-writer says his work is more European than mainstream American humor. "A combination of Monty Python and Samuel Beckett. Only not as depressing as Beckett.

"I think it is off-the-wall enough for children to appreciate the craziness and cerebral enough for adults. I don't beat people in the head with profanity or sexual humor. Hopefully, it leaves the audience wondering while they laugh," he says.

The title "Yams Alive!" stems from Skotarski's bizarre affiliation with the yellow vegetable. "I always found the word 'yams' funny," he says. "I even wrote a raffle sketch once where the winner becomes the Grand Yam and receives a copy of Yam Magazine."

A member of the comedy troupe, Contents Under Pressure, which plays at 8 and 11:30 p.m. Saturdays at Baxter's in Ellicott City, the young comedian got his start in plays at Dundalk High School and at the Spotlighters Theatre. Locally he has played, to critical acclaim, major character and musical roles for most of the community theaters and dinner theater circuit.

In his new solo show he will enact a variety of madcap characters.

These include those most familiar to Baltimore little theatergoers -- the Yiddish Bible spouting Laban Schmull, Geppetto, a beatnik who speaks in broken German, and the most popular one of all, Worm, a slow-witted innocent whose best friend is his log.

"It's made of wood, you see," Skotarski says. "This was long before David Lynch created his log lady for 'Twin Peaks,'" he laughs. "Worm is a lot like the character Peter Sellers played in 'Being There.'

"He appears in my show only to do his log dance then he flies off to Madrid where he hangs out with people who used to hang out with Hemingway and Alice B. Toklas. Celebrities are drawn to Worm because they misinterpret him."

The actor opens his show as Geppetto performing an absurdist monologue in fractured German on the making of doughnuts. "Schmull tells a lot of Biblical stories, all authentic," he says, "exaggerating the humorous side.

"This is the first show I will be appearing as Paul Skotarski for more than a few minutes," he adds. "I will render most of my songs as Paul, such as 'Strange Customs Around the World,' and do a little stand-up in between."

Skotarski plans to sing over a taped background of his own voice in a performance of the MTA song, which covers the bus riding experience from the sarcastic viewpoint of the driver.

Another number, the Wim Wam song, addresses the stress of daily situations. "Did you know the most annoying invention of mankind is the alarm clock?" asks Skotarski. "It is a destroyer of peace."

To allow time for his wild costume changes the actor has pretaped a series of zany radio commercials to fill in the gaps. "There is the sheep robbery," he says with a straight face. "The first recorded drugstore holdup committed by two sheep and a horse."

Skotarski started writing his own comedy sketches when people told him he was a natural comedian. "I find writing as exciting as performing," he says. As an actor, writer and director with the Childrens' Theater Association from 1986 to 1990, Skotarski wrote and directed his own version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" for which he created original lyrics and music.

"Working with CTA was a learning experience," he says. "There I developed my improvisational skills. With this company you would perform on a stage as large as Montana one day and the next on the flat floor of a classroom. I learned to adapt."

For reservations and more information on the Jan. 11 "Yams Alive!" show, call The BAUhouse at 659-5443.

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