Kansas City Fringe Festival: Zeus’ Cuckoo at the Phosphor Studio

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SHOW TITLE: Zeus’ Cuckoo
PRODUCER: Michael Shaeffer
HAILING FROM: Alaska
SHOW DESCRIPTION: He’s the artist MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL magazine calls “inexplicable but totally hilarious” and the Minneapolis Star Tribune hails as “brilliantly funny, unpretentious, and engaging.”  National Poetry Slam poet and pop culture maven Michael Shaeffer flies in from Alaska to spin silly stories from Greek gods to 80s rock, from frisky frogs to Foghorn Leghorn to diesel-powered futuristic funk.  If you missed his 2013 show Hot Lava!–here’s your chance to catch him. The Bird is the Word!

CAVEAT: A word of warning that this is a show that, sadly, will not be coming to the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year. At his request, and because I’m a fan, I agreed to attempt to put a few brief words together.

ADDITIONAL CAVEAT: I have worked and toured with Mike for many years.

Writing reviews of Mike’s shows gets progressively more difficult for me, because he belongs to that small body of people for whom I have seen nearly every show. I’m that much of a fan.

What Mike does is tongue-in-cheek pop-culture slam poetry, with a healthy dollop of dirty jokes, delivered with a juvenile glee. He traffics in filth, but I have a hard time – even in this day and age, when we seem to be addicted to taking umbrage – imagining anyone being genuinely offended. There’s a sweetness to the way he tells them, a giddy, snickering charm that is clearly the product of arrested adolescence rather than outright perversion.

When I saw this, it had been a while since I’d had the pleasure of sitting through one of his shows – he hangs his hat in Alaska these days, so we don’t get to see much of each other. Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder, but this show was easily among my favorites.

I commented, when I ran into him afterwards, “I’d guess that you’ve been writing more than performing lately?” And the reason that I asked is that this show was teeming with a number of subtle, literary touches – the kinds of touches that are rewarding in a full-length show like this one, but often unrewarded in the fast-moving slam world.

It’s not just that he references popular culture, but that he uses those references as some pretty deft metaphors – he brought a Mad Max riff back around to a surprising observation about the Caitlyn Jenner controversy that was as poignant as it was ridiculous, and I mean that as high praise.

What I mean is that he uses reference in a way that enlightens, rather than panders – it’s as much a tool in his toolbox as rhyme or meter or allegory. It’s not a crutch, it’s the language he speaks and thinks and breathes. The language we all do these days, really. As far as I’m concerned, that makes him the Poet Laureate of the Avengers generation – not the poet we deserve, perhaps, but the one that we need. He’s a silent guardian. A watchful protector.

A Dork Knight.

Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!

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One Response to “Kansas City Fringe Festival: Zeus’ Cuckoo at the Phosphor Studio”

  1. 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival Summary | Womb with a View Says:

    […] Zeus’ Cuckoo (Kansas City Fringe only) […]


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