Fri, May 12, 2006 - Page 14 News List

Go on, stand me up

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

Dan Machanik channels Mick Jagger on the roof of his Anhe Road apartment last week.

PHOTO: RON BROWNLOW, TAIPEI TIMES

Dan Machanik's trip isn't the kind your parents read about in brochures.

The self-styled "real live New York Jew" and the newest arrival on Taipei's expat standup comedy scene delivers his material through stories about his travels in the glittering underbelly of Asia.

"Bangkok ... the city of angels where the angels leave heaven for the appropriate barfly," Machanik says of one stop on the tour. "Singapore ... it's like Disneyland with the death penalty," goes his account of another.

"My idea is that after an audience has seen my show, they've not only had a good time and gotten some good laughs, but they've also literally taken this trip with me," he said in an interview at his Anhe Road apartment last week.

Machanik, 40, who's returned to standup after a 10-year hiatus, explained that framing his act with a narrative also makes it easier to remember, and joked that he's seen "150 Grateful Dead concerts ... so my memory isn't everything it should be."

In a 30-minute set at Citizen Cain in Taipei two weeks ago, Machanik introduced his audience to the "fringe characters" he's encountered on his travels. These included a Cambodian elephant who communicated with its stoned passenger -- Machanik -- a fat German tourist in a go-go bar and a drunk Australian who surfed the devastating tsunami that struck parts of Southeast Asia in December 2004.

"I want (the audience) to meet these characters because these are the people who make Asia interesting," Machanik explained. "I listen to them, I go to the bar and talk to them or I do business with them, and some of the stuff you hear, you just couldn't make it up."

By all accounts, Machanik could be one of these characters.

He hung out with ski bums in Aspen, a ski resort in Colorado, and spoofed the lifestyle in standup routines there. Before moving to Taipei for a sales and marketing job, he tried his hand at screenwriting, promoted rock concerts and honed his repertoire of impersonations as a DJ at a radio station, where he once bungee jumped out of a balloon for a live broadcast.

"I like to take it to the edge, and that's how I feel about my comedy," he said, flipping through a photo album that documents his adventures.

It's an image he cultivates as only a person who's had a taste of "the business," as he calls it, can. Machanik knows people who've made it in Hollywood, including an aunt, and he knows that standup isn't just about telling funny jokes.

"Comedy isn't just being funny, it's sales and marketing," he said.

But he is funny. Whether he's on stage or channelling Mick Jagger from the roof of his apartment in a preview of his next act, he knows how to work a crowd.

"I don't get nervous anymore," he said. "But when I'm done with a gig, I'm just pumped up afterwards. It's an adrenaline rush like jumping out of a balloon or seeing a shark."

Performance notes:

You can catch the next installment of Machanik's Secret Life of Suzy Wong Asian Comedy Sessions, along with the rest of Taipei's International Comic Ex-Pat Tour, next Friday at Bliss, 148 Xinyi Rd, Sec 4, Taipei (台北市信義路四段148號). Machanik is also scheduled to perform on Wednesday, May 24, at Citizen Cain, 67 Dongfong St, Taipei (台北市東豐街67號).

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