Talking Art With Lauren Gomez
Michael Wolf: Espousing The Dramtic And The Comedic Through Sound
Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Lauren Gomez: Dear Mike Wolf, what's your craft?
Mike Wolf: Primarily, it would have to be comedy. All my life I've tried my hand at different things — writing, drawing, playing guitar, and most recently poetry and song. But the only thing I've practiced on a day-to-day basis is comedy. I didn't always recognize it, though.
LG: What changed?
MW: When I came to Boston College I joined My Mother's Fleabag, which gave me the chance to perform. I had participated in theater in the past, but it had never really done it for me. Improv is organic; its free-flowing, it's fun.
LG: How did you become interested in singing?
MW: Last year I became inspired by my friend Rich Hoyt. I used to over-think things a lot by trying to create a structure that I couldn't really accomplish.
LG: How did it progress?
MW: I used to play a lot of folksy stuff with guitar; acoustics, simple and slow. But then I started playing a different kind of sound with my friends, which was fast and loud. My friend Alex Gilman, A&S '11, plays the guitar and Ryan McDaid, A&S '10, sings. For a while I was just making percussion because I didn't know what to say.
LG: And then?
MW: One time we played for a full two hours and it was awesome. We had interactive story arches and recurring themes, and after a while we stopped and talked about it and realized that we were pretty much just screaming and I realized how extremely freeing this was, because the judgment by the other listeners was gone.
LG: Do you still play with them today?
MW: Yeah, and it's all improvised. We've gotten a lot better. We feed off of each other really well. Similar to improv comedy, you learn how to pick up cues from other people; when it's going to get quiet, when it's going to get loud, and when there's going to be a change in tone.
LG: Are you ever surprised by the words you sing?
MW: Yes, that is what I love about improv. You operate from a point that is completely both within you and without you. It's what happens when you're not thinking with your mind; you're coming from somewhere else.
LG: What do you mean by that?
MW: It's as though you're putting your hand in a river that you cannot see and trying to describe that river to somebody else. That river, I think, could very well be collective consciousness. It plays on human experiences. A lot of the characters in improv, and in our songs, are real people. No one is truly made up; it's all a collage of people we've known, seen, heard about, or who we've felt the impact of through other people.
LG: How does your musical performance intersect with or diverge from the performance of poetry?
MW: Like in My Mother's Fleabag, there are all these different characters and stories and you weave them together. So we'll often have spoken word. It can be based on real life, or totally fantastical, or based on someone else's life. Much like improv comedy, this is something that will never be seen again.
LG: Is this good or bad?
MW: Well, it's something I love about Fleabag, but that can be a little bit devastating. Some of the best and most amazing scenes happen during practice and will never be seen again. It's really helped me to appreciate the moment and learn to let it go, because that's how life is. A lot of things happen and then just disappear.
LG: How do you respond to people who think that comedy arises from insecurities?
MW: I mean, yeah, yes it does. Things happen in your life and you're either going to cry about them or laugh about them. I think comedy is a really good way to deal with these issues. I guess the big accusation is ‘you use comedy because you can't deal with your problems' but look at the people who are on stage. It takes a lot of security to do that.
LG: What, for you, is the connection between the dramatic and the comedic?
MW: It's funny. It's kind of known that most people in comedy are extremely depressed. I think that sometimes the only thing that changes is the setting or the tone. A lot of the scenes we do are fucking sad. We throw in elements of the surreal and that allows people to laugh at it. Comedy allows us to poke fun at things that we don't understand or that we don't agree with; things that we would not be able to talk about otherwise.
LG: So, comedy can function as a sort of protest?
MW:Yes, absolutely. Look at the rise of Jewish comedians and black comedians who can point out flaws within society that we wouldn't be able to see otherwise. When you turn a critique into a joke, it reaches the audiences that it actually impacts.
LG: Which do you think is more challenging, the formulation of music or the formulation of comedy?
MW: For me, songs are a lot harder. Comedy is something that I practice every day. I absolutely love it. It's just the way I see the world.
LG: How so?
MW: It's a way that I can relate to people. Often we're in class and I look at the students around me. They look foreign and alien to me, and then I see them smile (not a see-you-in-the-hallway smile) but a genuine smile and their whole face lights up and suddenly they're someone with a story to tell, someone who's interesting, and fun to be around. I love to bring that out in people if I can.
LG: Which is the most cathartic medium for you: song, poetry, or comedy?
MW: I think song and poetry are most cathartic because they are a different way of viewing things. Not every story is meant to be funny.
LG: When do you draw?
MW: I doodle in class. I usually like to keep a notebook around for when I'm on a train or on the T; traveling always brings stuff out in me.
LG: Have you ever exposed your visual art as you have your poetry and your comedy?
MW: I'm doing drawings for "Experiments in the Reproduction of Reality" which is going to be showcased on November 21 in The O'Connell House. With art, for me anyway, I don't think I'm very talented, but I think I'm able to channel a lot of the feelings around me.