Kornbluth's Blues

What could the IRS possibly have to do with affairs of the heart?

The name of Josh Kornbluth's latest solo show, Love & Taxes, has a satirical feel to it: What could the IRS possibly have to do with affairs of the heart? But the seemingly oxymoronic title is no joke -- Kornbluth discovered the true meaning of love in his first, rather painful, run-in with Uncle Sam. "I had this really bad tax problem," says the 44-year-old local comic actor and performer, whose past works include other monologue shows like Red Diaper Baby and the Bay Area indie movie hit Haiku Tunnel. "I thought I was going to get a refund," he recalls, "and I wound up owing $27,000." Kornbluth says that his tragic fiscal dilemma, which inspired this latest autobiographical rant (kicking off Word for Word and Z Space's 10th anniversary season), began a few years ago when he decided to file for the first time in his life.

It hardly sounds like the makings of a comedy, but Love & Taxes isn't so much about Kornbluth's ungodly debt or about how he eventually paid it off; rather, it's about the self-exploration he went through in the process. "I had a two-part realization," he says, quite seriously. "First, I realized that I wanted to be able to love a woman with the same intensity as I loved my dad. And then, I realized I could learn that through doing my taxes."

Kornbluth was raised in New York by a communist father who, for many years, boycotted 1040s and W2s in defiance of the system. Kornbluth followed his pop's example, and eventually moved to San Francisco, where bucking the system and avoiding the notion of consequence seemed like accepted lifestyle choices. But after meeting a woman and having a child, Kornbluth began to see things like tax evasion as responsibility-shirking. His father died when Josh was 24, and his childhood memories of his dad are visions of him running around the house naked or getting consistently fired from jobs. But in retrospect, Kornbluth recalls, his dad did start paying taxes when he got older, out of responsibility to his family. "I'm returning to my dad with a lot of affection and understanding of what he was going through," Kornbluth says.

Examining parallels between communism and tax-paying (they're essentially founded on the same principles) and confronting middle age, fatherhood, evasion, and indebtedness, Kornbluth's new show, under David Dower's direction, explores his contribution to society and his new respect for life planning. "When you have a child, the idea of until suddenly becomes totally palpable," Kornbluth says. "The future becomes more real than the present. It makes it a matter of urgency." And while his shtick is consistently culled from his own life and experiences, he's now searching for a way to connect with the larger shared conscience of the people. "I want to take my autobiographical stories out more," he says. "What interests me now is the future and society and how I fit into America." -- Karen Macklin

 
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