Arts & Entertainment

Houston Goes Mental

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Houston_Goes_MentalRivas Restaurant presents comedian Eddie Sarfaty in an evening of stand-up benefiting The Center for AIDS and celebrating the release of Mental: Funny in the Head. He will be joined by the glamorous Kofi. An interview by comedian Bob Smith.

By Bob Smith

Eddie Sarfaty’s Mental: Funny in the Head is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in the past year. Eddie is effortlessly funny, writes beautifully, and since we’re pals, we decided I should interview him. (It’s also easier for both of us, because neither of us gets angry if we interrupt the interview to check our e-mail or Facebook.)

Bob Smith: I loved Mental! It’s really witty and smart. (And believe me, if it was a bad book, I’d be meaner to you than Kathy Bates was to James Caan in Misery.)
Eddie: Well thank God! Can you untie me now?

Oh, all right. Seriously, your book received great blurbs from Michael Cunningham and Edmund White. What was it like sleeping with them?
Well they’re both so great with language that it was no surprise that their dirty talk was fantastic. (Although when I was IMing with them on Manhunt, I was really shocked by Edmund’s poor grammar. It’s “Who’s your daddy?” NOT “Whose your daddy?”)

LOL! So what possessed you to write Mental?
A concerned friend said I was spending too much time cruising guys online, and that if I was going to spend all that time typing, I might as well get paid for it.

Absolutely! So sell us about your book. Oh, I’m sorry, that was very promo-sexual of me. I meant tell us about your book.
It’s a collection of nine comic essays. I worry when I describe it as “essays,” it sounds like I’m publishing old 9th-grade English assignments.

That explains that book report on the Lord of the Flies in chapter 4.
Please, Lord of the Flies was a picnic compared to the experiences I write about in Mental. But, I wrote about them to show how it’s possible to get through anything — no matter how painful — with humor.

Save that BS answer for Larry King — what’s the real reason you wrote it?
Okay, I really wrote it to get back at people who’ve been mean to me.

Like your cheapskate ex and the psycho drag queen? Have you heard from them since the book came out?
Not a word from either of them. I’m not surprised. Dinah Sores, the drag queen, only buys books on tape — to lip-synch to — and I won’t have to worry about Doug the Cheapskate reading the book until 100 years from now when the copyright expires and the book comes into the public domain.

Your mother’s a great character in the book — I loved her. What does she think of her portrayal?
I heard her talking about the book on the phone with a friend. She said, “It’s very good, but I could’ve done without the language.”

Well you’re certainly comfortable going from filthy to sentimental in a heartbeat. And commendably, you’re not afraid to tackle uncomfortable subjects. You easily go from funny to serious in your writing — was that a conscious decision?
Well I think that’s the way life really is — the serious and silly all mixed together. Difficult situations are much easier to deal with if you can laugh, and funny things are funnier when there’s something important at stake. Dealing with my dad’s illness on our trip to Paris would have been a nightmare — and made writing about it far too upsetting — if my family hadn’t been able to crack jokes. And, if in my story about the older gentlemen who patronized the upscale Eton Club, I’d only focused on their pretentiousness and not shown their formidable toughness, the essay would have come off as nasty.

I always think a writer in any genre should be suspenseful, and each of your pieces is riveting — how do you choose your topics?
They kind of chose me. Since the book is a memoir, I had to write about things that happened in my life. And, each of the particular experiences I included in the book not only made me laugh (mostly in retrospect — at the time they were anything but funny), but taught me to appreciate something or to sympathize with someone.

Writing a book is different from writing a stand-up routine. How would you compare the two genres?
Well to be honest, I have the attention span of a Yorkshire terrier and the idea of sitting still long enough to write a two or three hundred page book seemed torturous. Though writing stand-up material is hard, you can do it your own pace, developing each line over a long period of time. I’m used to coming up with a joke, trying it out in front of a crowd, fiddling with it, trying it out again, fine tuning it some more, and repeating the process until I’m satisfied that it’s right.

Once I started writing the book however, I realized how helpful my stand-up experience was in writing for the page. I really believe that being in the habit of scrutinizing every word was a huge asset. I feel very proud of Mental. And look, I’m a neurotic Jew who’s my own worst enemy and who never thinks that anything he does is good enough. So, if I’m happy with it, it must be good.

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MENTAL: An Evening of Homo-Neurotic Comedy
Sunday, February 28
Doors open at 6:30 pm for 7 pm dinner, 8pm show,
Rivas Restaurant, 1117 Missouri Street, Houston
Tickets can be purchased in advance from www.brownpapertickets.com,
Info: 212 479-8793
Ticket prices: $25 show, $40 show/dinner combo . $65 VIP package (includes preferred seating, dinner, champagne, and a copy of Mental Funny in the Head)

Eddie Sarfaty can be contacted at www.keeplaughing.com and can currently be seen on Comedy Central and Logo. Mental: Funny in the Head (Kensington Books) is available in bookstores nationwide.

Bob Smith has appeared on The Tonight Show, starred in his own HBO special and is the award-winning author of Openly Bob and Way to Go Smith. His novel Selfish & Perverse was just released in paperback by Alyson Books

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