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Will Durst
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The fellowship of the Durst
August 23, 2007
By Jean Bartlett, Managing Editor

Roots in Milwaukee, claimed by San Francisco, embraced by New York – television appearances on: CNN; Fox News; “The Late Show With David Letterman;” Comedy Central; “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno;” “Crossfire;” C-SPAN – a syndicated columnist; a radio talk show host which includes NPR and XM Satellite Radio, a frequent radio guest, an audible.com commentator, a comedy club headliner, a political standup maverick – just how many people does it take to inspire such a run-on fragment?  Unbelievably the answer is just one and it’s the fellowship of the Durst.

Raised in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, Will Durst claims he moved to San Francisco because: “I was under the mistaken impression that parking spots were available.  I didn’t know that ‘The Streets of San Francisco’ was a science fiction show.  Mike Stone would pull right over into a legal spot, all the time.  I also ended up in San Francisco because comedy was illegal in Milwaukee.”

Durst met his wife comic Debi Durst at the infamous San Francisco comedy club, The Punch Line. “Debi and I have been married almost 27 years,” said Durst. “Six of the happiest years of my life!  No two weeks contiguous.”  Durst who proudly claims to have clawed his way to the middle, credits his wife Debi and his ability to do what he loves to do, comedy for a living (credits in that order) – to be: “All the ingredients for a truly lucky life.”

Durst is in New York right now making them think and “laugh out loud on purpose against their will” with his one man show: The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing.  The show a: “90 minute political comedy for people who are sick of politics as usual” was inspired by those whom Durst calls his: “Best-joke writers in the business.”  And that would be: “A president, two houses of Congress and an endless parade of presidential hopefuls making daily punch lines out of headlines.”

Directed and produced by “genius” Eric Krebs, featuring a production design by Peter Feuchtwanger and presented by Hanging Chad Productions, Jennifer Sachs and Allen Spivak, The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing is an open-ended off-Broadway engagement at New World Stages (340 West 50th Street).  With critical voices such as The New York Times, The Epoch Times and BACKSTAGE.COM busting out of their seats with big-penned applause, it is no wonder a week into show time, the run has been extended through September.

Following an early morning interview on WQXR New York 96.3 FM, Durst takes more than a few moments to chat with this San Francisco caller.

Q.  So, you’re in New York.  What the hell are you doing there?

A.  Taking up space apparently.  But I got my little one man show and it’s been doing okay.

Q.  Any comments on the New York Times singing your praises? 

A.  I think the guy went to the wrong show but he printed the correct picture so that’s all that matters.  We’ve gotten a couple of really, really good reviews.   In fact a couple of reviews that I couldn’t have written even if I phoned the review in myself.  I actually knew a guy who did that at a Fringe Festival.  He gave himself 5 stars.  There was also a reviewer who complained. He said it was: ‘Too much like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert; the ticket price was too high for something you can see for free on TV; and that I had a bemused and eloquent outrage.’  Pretty good for a ‘bad’ review.

Q.  How’s the crowd at New World Stages?

A.  The crowd has been growing. Last night we were two-thirds full, which on a Wednesday night ain’t bad.  The great thing about doing this show in a theater is I don’t have to follow someone who has just done something incredibly gross involving bodily effluviums.  ‘And now, HERE’S WILL DURST!’

Q.  Any differences you see from where you came from (Milwaukee) and where you’re at right now (New York)?

A.  Well, let’s talk about the similarities. I think they’re about the same latitude.

Q.  Does Milwaukee welcome you as a native son?

A.  I still have family there.  I still go back and perform every Thanksgiving.  I think they’re glad to see me.

Q.  Besides your show and publicity and all the rest which goes with doing something that has put you on the cover of “Playbill,” what else are you doing? Have you found that perfect cheeseburger?

A.  Somebody actually sent me the name of the best cheeseburger place in New York; but it’s in the suburbs. In between riding the subway and taking the bus around town and doing a lot of press, I don’t think I have time to make it out there. Plus while I’m here, I’m working on a book. A little press in Berkeley wants to do a book of all my columns; Ulysses Press. Now I got another deadline!

Q.  What’s Debi up to while her man is in New York?

A.  She just left.  She came for the opening and then she went home because the Giants were in town.  I had to schedule the opening of my show based on the Giants being on a road trip!  Now that we got extended, she’ll come back out.

Q.  So, being married to comic Debi Durst does that make for a shy and retiring life?

A. (Laughing.)  It’s great because she performs and I perform and sometimes we perform together.  She’s the funny one; I’m the organized one.

Q.  You sit down with George Bush at Denny’s; what are you going to say?

A.  ‘You want a beer?  Can I buy you a beer?’  I’ll buy him a beer and find out what in the hell is going through his tiny little mind.

Q.  Over the years of your political punch commentary, how has the government of this country evolved?

A.  In the last 27 years we’ve changed and I’ve been there for all of it.  We’re losing our liberties and our rights; one at a time.  When the price of freedom becomes freedom it is time to start shopping at a new mini mart.

Q.  What’s the biggest gripe that you’d like Congress to pay attention to?

A.  I would think helping the least fortunate instead of the most fortunate.  Switch their priorities; less oil company subsidies and more winter heating subsidies.

Q.  Is there any kind of job you’d like to see the members of Congress perform in order for them to get back into being the people and representing the people?

A.  Maybe they should do summer intern jobs in the real world; like pick some apples.  Pick some fruit for a couple of weeks.  The whole idea was they were going to be the representatives of us and now you’ve got to be a millionaire or billionaire to run.  I’m not sure that’s what ‘the people’ had in mind.

Q.  What’s the first comment that should be ringing out of every ‘voting’ American’s alarm every morning?

A.  Just: vote, Vote, VOOOOOOTE.  We got people defying death to go to the polls in Iraq.  Over here, a light drizzle effects turnout.

Q.  Somebody gives you 200 million to run for President.  Are you going to do it and if so, what’s your platform?

A.  Yes and ‘A De Lorean in every garage!’

Q.  I’m sure you’ve met a few celebrities in your time; anyone a complete surprise?

A.  I did get hissed on opening night by Olympia Dukakis.  I did a Hillary Clinton joke and she hissed me and then later she came backstage.  ‘I like Hillary,’ she said.  I got hissed by an Oscar winner!  (But she did enjoy the show.)

Q.  When are you coming back to San Francisco?

A.  I’m going to fly back to San Francisco for Comedy Day on September 30 in Golden Gate Park.  It’s a lot of fun; 40 comics, 5-hour show and it’s free!

Q.  When are you going to retire?

A.  I retired when I was 25 to 45.  Now I’ve got some work to do.

Will Durst – worth a read, a listen and a see: http://www.willdurst.com/