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One of the many reasons I like hanging out with comedians more than actors is this: When I’m hanging out with comedians, it’s a pretty safe bet that none of them will suddenly declare: “Hey, guys? Just so you know, I’ve decided to become a monologist.”
After asking someone “What do you do?”, it’s quite a daunting challenge to find yourself immediately stabbed with the answer “Oh, I’m a monologist.”
We live in L.A. and we’re surrounded by people all trying to do the same show bizzy things and I ask you “What do you do?” and there’s a whole bunch of stuff you don’t say. You don’t say: “I’m an actor.” You don’t say: “I’m a performance artist.” You don’t say “I’m a writer/performer” nor “I’m a performer/writer” nor “I’m a theatre-maker” (I did hear that once) nor “I do one-person plays.” You, instead, swing for the fences and—armed with more courage than someone who admits they love origami—say: “I’m a monologist.”
Being a monologist is not a manly thing, yet it still takes balls to say you are one. Is there any way for someone to say “I’m a monologist” and not be met with different variations of the response: “Huh?”? All the times I’ve heard some intense wag wearing a black turtleneck say that he’s a monologist, the reactions range from the aforementioned “Huh?” to “What?” to “Oh.” to “What is that?” to “Can we maybe not be friends?”
To be clear: I’m not railing against what monologists do. My beef is with the word itself. It’s problematic on three levels, the first of which you may have noticed in simply reading thus far: its pronunciation. “Monologist.” Do we go with the hard G or the soft G? I’ve used the word here more than several times thus far and I bet each time your eye gets assaulted by its unfortunate existence, you have an annoying debate with your brain on exactly how you’re supposed to say the fucker. See, the glitch lies in that pesky last syllable of the word. “GIST,” or “JIST?” I believe the former to be the lesser of the two evils, but the word still sounds like it was made up just yesterday. It’s always sounded weird. But you’re almost forced to use the hard G option since no one really wants to say: “Mon-ol-o-JIST.” Because you know where that leads us! We’re gonna start describing euphemisms and turns of phrase in your memorized speech as “monolojisms.” But, now that I think of it, that at least might be funny. Though you won’t think so. Because you’re a monologist.
The second level is the spelling. Did you know that you can also spell it “monologuist?” That’s right! You thought picking the right presidential candidate was a no-win situation. Imagine flip-flopping between “monologist” and “monologuist.” It’s like being forced to choose between “douche” and “super douche.” Is there a bleaker world than the one in which our options are “monologist” or “monologuist?” If those are the choices you’re offering, I want there to be a third alternative: a huge gun for me to eat.
The third level that irks me is what the word suggests about the person who insists on using it to describe what they do. What’s wrong with “writer/performer?” Or just “actor?” Seriously. When you say “monologist” instead of “actor,” you’re telling me there’s more to what you do than most people think. And I guess that’s true. You’re willing to ask people to refer to you as a monologist. And that’s very brave. It takes a lot of courage to have your girlfriend introduce you to her dad with: “This is Brian. He’s a monologist.” Any woman’s father worth his salt should immediately respond with: “What the hell is that, Brian?” even if the dad already knows what it means. Hell, especially if the dad already knows what it means; you should be made to explain yourself. And I guess it’s not enough for you to sufficiently freak him out with just “actor?” You’ve just gotta to ramp up the bullshit with “monologist,” huh? At that point, you might as well thoroughly seal your fate and insist that her dad spell it “monologuist.” Right there in front of you. With a scroll and quill, of course.
Keep doing your one-person shows, but stop calling yourself a monologist. Please. It’s a troublesome, terrible term. Here are some alternative suggestions for the word:
—Art Fuck (Named after the thoroughly unfamous monologist Arthur Fuck.)
—Water-Drinking Jack Hole