Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 49 / 7 December 2017
 

Wit

Calendare

Comic Eddie Sarfaty pens memoir, stays funny


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Taking a European vacation with elderly parents. Teaching a "Comedy 101" class to complete amateurs. Dinner with an ex-boyfriend who was a total skinflint idiot. Bartending a smoky "gentlemen's bar" full of Manhattan drunks.

Comic and first-time author Eddie Sarfaty confronts these and other potentially unbearable situations with candor and insight in his warm-hearted and touching memoir, Mental: Funny in the Head (Kensington $15).

He'll also be performing August 24 at The Rrazz Room with Scott Nevins and Connie Champagne at a fundraiser for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, and Tuesday, August 25 at Harvey's Tuesday night comedy show.

In our phone interview from his home in New York City, Sarfaty said that reactions to his book, a collection of autobiographical moments in his life, have surprised people who only know him for his comic shows.

"People have an idea about standup comics," Sarfaty said. "In normal conversation, when you're meeting someone, people say, 'You don't seem like you're funny,' as if, were you an accountant, they would expect you to crunch numbers in front of them."

A founding member of Funny Gay Males (along with Bob Smith and Jaffe Cohen), Sarfaty has appeared on The Today Show, Comedy Central's Premium Blend, Logo's Wisecrack, and in the documentary Laughing Matters...The Men. He's also done gigs at sea on RSVP and Atlantic cruises.

And yet, for his years of stand-up work, he said, "I hate comics who are always on. It's exhausting. I don't like to do things that are exhausting."

The tall, dark and handsome performer does bring a bit of neurotic urban Jewish  sensibility to his work, even when critiquing his own.

"The cover of the book is a little misleading," he said. "It's very eye-catching. The most important thing about a book on a shelf is that the cover makes you pick it up, which is great. But I think the primary colors are a bit misleading."

True, while books by comics are often collections of witticisms, Sarfaty instead presents momentous chunks of his life with plenty of wit, but more sympathetic self-deprecating humanity.

"In comedy, things are heightened when you're making a comedic point. But there are many tender moments. I always think that if I'm writing it and feel touched by it, it might work. There are some things you think are smart or clever. Some things will make me laugh out loud, and chances are it's a really good joke. I think it's true with the other emotions. I started to tear up, writing some parts, so I felt I was writing with authenticity."



Family Ties

But with much of his comic material involving his family's eccentricities, including his father's dementia, how far does he go with such revelations?

"I don't think I wrote anything bad about my family," said Sarfaty. "The only person I think would maybe have been a little taken would be my mom, because in one story, I make her a bit unbearable. But in the story with my parents in Europe, she was sometimes unbearable, but she's more sympathetic. So, it's a well-balanced picture of a woman taking a trip of a lifetime with the man in her life who is half the person he was."

Asked how his mother reacted to the stories being published, Sarfaty said, "She's totally great about it. The only thing she objected to was my including a family friend. My mother was very upset that she would read this. She's 80s years old now and legally blind. I said, 'She's never gonna read my book.' Then, later, my mom called and said, 'The woman wants to know when it's coming out on tape.'"

Sarfaty had an amusing experience with an elderly freelance proofreader whom he hired to work on his manuscript. "We would debate semi-colons versus commas for hours. I warned her about the of

f-color language in the story 'Can I Tell You Something?' where comic Danny McWilliams swears a lot ... I mean, a lot! She seemed okay, but one day, she said, in going over her edits, 'I think that twatfister should be hyphenated.'"

Along with confrontations with ex-boyfriends, family conflicts, and his job managing a horrific road show production of The Phantom of the Opera – not the successful Broadway version – Sarfaty also breathes new life into the oft-covered online hook-up subgenre, in which he regales his misadventures on the fictional www.Beef4beef.com with its iconic blue screen.

"I wasn't allowed to say Manhunt for legal reasons," Sarfaty said, while joking about what he called the gay male hook-up Web site's "mesmeric attraction." Sarfaty, who came out in his late 20s, and only recently delved into online dating, said that a friend once warned, "Don't look into the blue screen! It will steal your soul!"

Just before his San Francisco visit, Sarfaty will be in Portland, then afterward, Seattle, for the kickoff for his book tour, which includes a series of fundraisers around the country for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

His book stems from writing a short story published in the acclaimed illustrated anthology When I Knew, in which dozens of writers, performers and celebrities reveal when they, or their families, knew they were gay or lesbian.

"Other than my stand-up routines, I hadn't written anything since college," said Sarfaty. Bob Smith was asked to submit something and he gave [editor] Robert Tractenberg my name. At first, I was not into it. After I sent it, I didn't even realize that my story is not really on point. It's not about coming out, but Robert liked it and they put it in the book. I got such a nice response.

"Later, Bob and I were called in to write a comedy movie for the director Bob Giraldi (Dinner Rush, Michael Jackson's "Beat It" music video). We hit it off with him, but that script didn't happen. But he had read my grandma story among our samples, and decided to make a short film. We got Kathleen Chalfant to play the grandmother. It's played festivals around the country and Europe." Second Guessing Grandma can viewed on this YouTube link.

Sarfaty then continued writing, collected the stories and synopses for others, and Kensington picked it for publication.

"The whole thing leading up to this book has been like a story book," said Sarfaty. "I couldn't have really asked more for a better experience."

Eddie Sarfaty performs at Comedy Kabaret at The Rrazz Room, Monday, August 24, with comic Scott Nevins and chanteuse Connie Champagne in an intimate benefit show for the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation.  $35-$50. Hotel Nikko, lobby, 222 Mason St. 273-1620. www.helpisontheway.org

Eddie Sarfaty also stops by Funny Tuesdays (August 25) at Harvey's, where Ronn Vigh and Nick Leonard host the weekly LGBT and gay-friendly comedy night. Free. One-drink minimum. 9pm. 500 Castro St. at 18th. 431-HARV. www.harveyssf.com  

For more about Eddie Sarfaty, including his tour schedule, visit www.keeplaughing.com






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