Arts : Church of the Razorback

Comedian Matt Besser is in town. Lock up your priests and rabbis.

“I’m part of the Razorback diaspora,” comedian Matt Besser tells his audiences in preparation for a night of personal-boundary violation and group-identity evisceration. The Arkansas native is the bushy-headed offspring of a lonely Little Rock Jew (the Lost Tribe comprised “maybe 2 percent” of Little’s Rock’s population, he says) and a Southern Christian woman whose mother never ceased reminding her of the sin of that union. The alienation of Besser’s youth led, of course, to a life behind the mic and Comedy Central success with the Upright Citizens Brigade and Crossballs. He brings his one-man show Woo Pig Sooie to the Sanctuary June 3.

Comedian Matt Besser’s newest show, Woo Pig Sooie, is inspired in part by bad priests and the 2004 election.

Where are you right now?

I’m actually in Santa Fe doing this movie called Wanted: Undead or Alive. It’s a zombie Western comedy — I’m sure your favorite genre.

It is my favorite genre. I just can’t remember the industry nickname — there’s Rom Com, Rom Zom Com. This would be ... ?

West Zom Com.

The comedy show that you’re touring now was inspired by the last election?

Yeah, after the 2004 election I was auditioning for a TV show where you had to interview people in the streets about the election. I interviewed, like, 12 people in Sherman Oaks, California, and six out of 12 people said they voted for Bush because they didn’t want gay marriage to happen. It just struck me, that random sampling in a pretty liberal area, and the fact that that was their priority. These were African-American and Hispanic people, too, which the Republican party doesn’t really support in any way, except for things like that. It just angered me and I wanted to start talking about Christian values, and that got me thinking about my parents and what they went through getting married in the South, a Christian-Jewish marriage.

You make being an atheist seem sort of cuddly. I think the Left is often characterized as Nancy Pelosi on a bad day. Are you consciously presenting a low-key contrast?

Sometimes I think people think that the idea behind my show is: Religion is stupid. And though that might be my opinion, I’m trying to more say that I don’t care what you believe in, just don’t tell me what to believe in. So although I’m making fun of just about everything Judeo-Christian, I don’t want to come off like Mr. Know-It-All Atheist.

You say atheists love disasters like Katrina because then they get to ask their question ...

Where’s your God now?

Do people get upset during your show?

Yeah. Yeah.

Matt Besser:
Woo Pig Sooie

9pm Sat, Jun 3

The Sanctuary
1818 Main

What in particular seems to set them off? Are there a few hot buttons?

Yeah. My show isn’t exactly the same every time, but at some point I usually survey the audience to see what religion everyone is ... I like to observe sections of the audience, what jokes they laugh at and what they don’t. So people can be rollicking while I’m talking about the Jews, but then I get to the Catholics and that section goes quiet for a while. People can have not gone to mass or temple for forever, but when you talk about people’s background they get so uptight.

I grew up Catholic, and I think of Catholicism as the perfect breeding ground for atheism, because it’s so rich with hypocrisy. And they’re also busy having a good time. Have a drink? Yeah. Dancing? Absolutely. Fondle a boy? Absolutely. When I get in that area, that’s when people get the most upset, when I talk about pedophilia.

Did you see that New York magazine just came out with a story about a rabbi who’s accused of molesting young boys?

Oh, finally, the rabbis are gettin’ in on it. You never see that.

I think in part because the Catholic scandal was so big, and the Catholic Church managed to just keep making it worse with all of the cover-ups.

Well, also the rabbis, they get to have sex, at least some sects do. That, of course, is the biggest problem. Priests are not allowed to; that’s just part of human nature, to have sex. They’re not necessarily pedophiles, just the easiest target for them is young boys. To me, that’s what happens; it’s a very obvious thing that the church needs to deal with. That’s what gets people mad, and I’m like, what are you mad for? I didn’t do it, I’m just talking about it. If we had articles about truck drivers every day being busted for pedophilia, the government would ban trucks. But we don’t have the same reaction to the priesthood for some reason.

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