This summer, Killing My Lobster, one of San Francisco's most widely respected comedy companies, will lose both of its founding directors. Executive Director Marc Vogl, who has for the past nine years been overseeing everything from writing and acting to directing and producing, is throwing in the comedic towel for a career in the significantly less humorous world of arts policy-making. Meanwhile, Artistic Director Paul Charney, whose Lobster job spec is similarly multifaceted, is taking an extended sabbatical to travel.
Not since Robin Williams went sober has local comedy felt this hard of a, er, blow.
“Many of us … see the group as a projection of these two guys' personalities,” says longtime KML collaborator Jon Wolanske. “It's hard to imagine KML existing without them.”
Then again, is it?
Because the group's output has always been deeply collaborative in nature — KML employs a battalion of writers, musicians, and performers — there's good reason to believe that its cryptic brand of silliness that so embodies this town's sense of humor will remain intact. The more pressing question, then, is what form will it take?
Part of the company's success has been due to the compulsive diversity of its projects, which range from live sketch comedy shows and a long-standing cabaret act to the annual Hi/Lo Film Festival and Bruno's Island Festival of New Plays, not to mention a klezmer-inspired jazz album. At the same time, the troupe's wide-ranging output has also been a source of regret for Vogl, who admits that his schizophrenic interests have hampered KML's ability to achieve certain desired goals, such as commandeering its own theater space.
Despite his plans to, along with Charney, take a back seat with regards to KML affairs as of August, the outgoing co-founder still harbors several potentially unorthodox ideas about the company's future, from turning it into a for-profit entity to ditching the live sketch comedy shows upon which KML's reputation is largely based for film and advertising work, which would be a decidedly bad idea.
Look, as this paper's theater critic I obviously have a bias for bricks-and-mortar, but for my money what KML has always done best is sketch work. I mean, what sounds better, having a KML headquarters and continuing to send up chaps like evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and the oh-so-svelte Matt Gonzalez? Or diluting the gang's talents for the sake of collecting a few bucks from the Red Bull marketing department? New leaders, I beseech thee: Choose the former.