That Mortified has been selling out shows for the past decade shouldn’t surprise me. What should is that this year was my first time getting to find out why. It was Sketchfest 2016’s final weekend (Saturday, 1/23, to be exact), and while I had booked myself back-to-back shows for the evening, I wasn’t concerned since both were taking place in the same venue (Swedish American Hall). The only minor caveat was that I got so excited about this fact (and that I have been to the former venue next door so many times I know the area well), that I forgot to take what a bitch it is to find parking in the neighborhood. Making matters worse, I stood in a line of people wanting to buy tickets for at least five minutes before I realized I could bypass them all and go find a spot in what was now standing-room-only. And yet, it was absolutely worth it! (The only thing I’d do differently is give myself an exorbitant amount of time for parking next time…)
I walked in, skipped the bar and found a place to stand near the back while Darryl Jones was already in mid-share. As I said, I’ve never experienced a Mortified show in the past, but the premise is easy to understand: it’s people who are willing to share the embarrassment of their youth via letters and journals doing just that, on stage in front of a room full of strangers, with an embarrassing photo of them on the screen behind to make it even more fun. Between each performer, improv hip-hop band The Freeze does a hilarious riff on some of the most memorable lines and moments of the preceding mortification. While the sheer level of admission is admirable, and utterly relatable, the entr’acte band is so skilled and wonderful at what they do, this event wouldn’t be the same without them. So, Darryl…this was a series of diaries of a teenage virgin: “What could I write about that could be provocative?” Wow, this was a precocious kid, I’m thinking. This particular entry went on to answer its own question, by the way: “getting a blow job! When the time comes, I mean… I’m getting a boner just thinking about it…” Other highlights included something about “Katya’s boobs,” the phrase “packing heat in a woman’s meat,” and how excited young Darryl was to interact with the hot Megan (who he’d “love to score with”) by dropping slushie into her mouth (and all over her face, apparently) from a straw two feet above her… “Score.” While sadly, I had missed quite a bit about Darryl’s love affair with a girl named Molly, I caught enough to appreciate the closing piece, “Eulogy for Molly” (finally). Though he loved her, Molly had changed. There had been “not a whim of a romantic relationship,” and she had “never known the depth of thoughts I’ve put into her,” but “Molly is dead. The Molly I fell in love with is gone, and will remain gone. Goodbye, Molly.” Someone remind me why I never kept the journals I wrote when I was this age?
This was the point in the show where I got my first taste of The Freeze, who are Olive Mitra, Lauren Nagel, Brendan Hill, Andrew Bancroft, and Carl Barone. My guess is they were compiling a little info as the performers were speaking, and then whoever had something jumped on to sing or rap off the cuff, wowing me (and the whole room, I’d venture to guess) every time. Next up was Leslie McLean, who described her younger self as a “militant virgin and compulsive masturbator” who attended a Presbyterian church in Ukiah. “I touch others, but only Jesus touches me.” Highlights from Leslie’s diary includes the declaration: “I will be eighteen soon. I must rape the little ones… Perhaps I will briefly indulge,” something about her “current mate, and his very fuckable freshman little brother,” and an adventurous tale of a walk in the rain where young Leslie discovered her “secret grove,” where she proceeded to disrobe and lay “breast down in the wet grass,” where she thought “about boys and the Indians of ancient times…and I came.” Perhaps most memorably was the entry that declared, “I satisfy my sexual needs with chocolate. Maybe I should stick a chocolate bar inside my warm, moist vagina?! It would melt, and then I would die.” How do you top that, Leslie? I’ll tell you how: by revealing that you regularly partook in being finger-fucked in a hot tub while others are present: “I indulge while other people continue chatting in celibacy!” And finally came the story about the “visiting Mormon acid dealer” and how they “made love again and again, uniting our bodies and souls and minds,” which she called “so powerful and moving… and that’s how I lost my virginity.” Wow. What have you to be mortified about, Ms. McLean? I’m quite impressed with your candor and willingness to share. That was fantastic, as was The Freeze’s musical interpretation that followed!
Next up was Lindsay Adams, who grew up in a small town in New Jersey. “I was fat, I had acne, I experienced puberty waaaaaayyyyy before the rest.” Apparently, she was a girl who found comfort in “drawing the faces of NSync on balloons and then trying to make out with them.” Because who didn’t? Naturally, she dreamed of being the “captain of the cheerleading squad of life,” but the only attention she got from boys was on the internet. Eventually, though, she “dropped 20 pounds, became an actual cheerleader, and became best friends with people who all hated each other.” On the day of her first kiss, nothing happened between Lindsay and her date at the movies. But at Party City? That’s where things got exciting…first with a hug, which was rudely interrupted by a store employee (“not in the Halloween section, guys”), but undaunted, the couple simply moved to another part of the store and proceeded to make out. “If he doesn’t ask me out very soon, there’s gonna be some ass-kicking!” I hope she did kick his ass, since he ended up asking out someone else instead. Before long, Lindsay had turned to partying, first with Bacardi Silver and sharing her first joint, and the next thing you know, she’s admitting she “spent the night at Mike’s and got drunk and stupid,” and that she regretted so much the stuff they’ve done: “more than Kenny, which was 69 and that’s like, ewww.” Fast forward to the time Lindsay recalled having her “upper lip all cut up from sucking Mike’s dick too much,” which made her “pissed as hell,” as she “partied all the way to rehab by the age of fifteen.” Somewhere along the way, she turned to hero Margaret Cho, though she worried that being happy and cured might “make me a lesbian,” but eventually decided that maybe “I knew more than I gave myself credit for.” In Lindsay’s commandments, there were several gems as she wrapped up her confessions: “Thou shalt not be a whore. Thou shalt not give into hard times. Thou shalt never show this to anyone.” Well, two outta three ain’t bad, right? The Freeze’s post-Lindsay song was particularly epic, with the hook “aint no sex in the Halloween section” repeating over and over until it ended with “trick or treat!”
Next up was Kevin Wofsy, whose photo showed him on the beach, in the sand with his pet rabbit. “We used to go for walks on the beach. It’s no surprise that I came out at seventeen almost immediately after graduation.” This statement was met by a flurry of whistles from the crowd, to which Kevin asked, “where were you then?” Just after high school, Kevin experienced a “summer in San Francisco feeling out and gay and fabulous,” but when it was over, he found himself headed to a conservative English boarding school for which he’d signed up before graduation; he chose simply to go “back into the closet” for the occasion. “My outlet for my pent-up gayness and the Jane Austen movie I found myself trapped in was writing my one gay friend, Chandler, who worked at a porn store in the Castro, and was having a different experience,” to say the least. It didn’t take Kevin long to discover the blond “angel boy” who sat across from him in chapel, who he hoped was cruising him. “If I don’t get to feel his heart beat against mine before I leave there is no justice.” To his delight, Angel Boy did eventually speak to him, saying “hey Kevin, how are you?” and then leaving. “Mixed messages!” But Kevin’s persistence paid off, and eventually he became close with “desire incarnate, the definition of cute,” Angel Boy himself, who told Kevin he was one of his best mates. “I love him, and even better, he loves me. Even though he doesn’t know it.” Eventually, the whole English private school experience left him feeling decidedly “more Cosmopolitan,” for which he decided, “I deserve a reward.” But as it came time to decide what might be next, Kevin declared, “I want to do something gay, like work in a bookstore or an ice cream parlor!” More importantly, though, was just that he wanted “to meet people without having to seedy bars and flaunt my asshole.” Ultimately, he just needed “to meet some boys who already know they’re gay,” and what’s wrong with that?
After another Freeze performance, it was up to Geordie Martinez to close the show. He began by admitting that he’d forgotten to take the SAT or ACT in high school. “Halfway through senior year, my friends are getting accepted, I hadn’t applied…” Because there wasn’t much where he grew up and he had a 2.2 GPA, he chose to enlist in the military in what he called a “baby nuclear power program.” Mostly this choice was because he desperately wanted out of New Mexico, but he also wanted to travel and money for college would be helpful. By boot camp, though, he had decided he’d made a “horrible mistake.” Pressing he on, he aimed to learn a new word every day, so he’d be “smarter when he got to college,” imagining all the novels he might read on the ocean. In reality, he found himself “floating in a giant tin can with other men,” saying how being away from women made them all incredibly horny, which they had to appease by “swapping porn.” Once Geordie was caught literally sleeping on the job, for which he was brought to a disciplinary review board. Three different officers told him that it was “legal to shoot a guy if he falls asleep during wartime,” which is why he was lucky as hell that the Gulf War hadn’t yet officially begun. Another time, Geordie did “the unspeakable: I purchased a whore.” Because he couldn’t remember he name, he took to calling her “Consuela,” and admitted that his name for his penis is Dow, because it “goes up and down like the stock market!” Because Consuela began their tryst by peeing standing up into a bucket and then “wiping back to front” before asking him “you need to pee-pee?”, Dow had time to soften and couldn’t get back to attention. “I was half hard, we tried, and then quit.” Oh, and then there was the time he got head from what he later realized was, in fact, a man. At first he was utterly mortified, as you might expect, and teased by all the other men onboard. Eventually, though, it also happened to the man who was most responsible for Geordie’s being teased…and then also to several captains. And that’s why they let Geordie wrap: because who could possibly top that?
The evening concluded with a final performance by The Freeze, which used lines like “I’m in the navy, got a blow job from a chap, not that there’s anything wrong with that” and was a perfect icing to a delightful humiliation cake. I already can’t wait to see another performance of Mortified; I totally get why this show is sold out all the time. It’s really great to hear other’s embarrassment because somehow, it makes us all a little more human, and I’m all for that.
(Author’s note: special thanks to host and producer Scott Lifton for his help with getting last names of all the performers, etc! Much appreciated!)