How to tell the truth

Phil Goldman has a lot to say
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  March 24, 2010

MOTORMOUTH Goldman at the mic.

You may never have been so upset about being a twentysomething virgin that you hired a sexual surrogate for professional help, but odds are that if you had you’d just gulp and keep it to yourself. Phil Goldman isn’t like that. He went ahead and put together an hour-long monologue called I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This . . ., which continues on March 26 and 27 at the Warwick Museum of Art (401.737.0010).

He has collected stories that are even more interesting, such as being a jungle guide in Thailand, where he was chased by elephants — twice — part of what he calls the tuna fish ice cream philosophy of life. Think of it this way: some people offered tuna fish-flavored ice cream go Blech! and scurry off, and some make a point of taking a lick, to see what it’s like, even if they then go Ptooey! Goldman may occasionally have to rinse a yucky taste out of his mouth, but he’ll never run out of things to talk about.

Goldman knows that in order to sell a story to an audience, he needs to practice his pitch. For more than a year, he has been moderating “Live Bait: True Stories from Real People” on the first Friday of each month at Perishable Theatre. It’s inspired by the Moth in New York and This American Life on NPR. Audience members sign up to speak for five or six minutes and tell a story on the theme of the evening, such as a second chance they wish they had or a dream that came true.

I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This . . . is a lesson in how to tell a story. First you get people’s attention. Goldman says that Shirley Mac-Laine rode an elephant down Broadway for her 50th birthday; for his 30th, he decided to go to Thailand. Then you give them reason to keep their attention. Delaying tactics can work for a while, such as digressing from talk about Thailand by discussing the tuna fish ice cream technique. Sex never fails to work as attention-grabbing subject matter. So as a segue into his promised jungle guide story, he talks briefly about a live sex show he saw in Bangkok. Proving what a classy guy he is, Goldman even refrains from making fun of the name of the city, despite how easily it would work into his subject matter.

It’s hard to talk about I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This . . . without giving things away. Goldman paints convincing pictures — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say he shows us the right snapshots. Morbidly obese as a 22-year-old virgin. An angry elephant face filling his field of vision as it chased a pickup truck he was in the back of. Those images.

Part of what makes Goldman’s low-key take on anything he shares with us so interesting is his honest-to-goodness fascination with things. It isn’t an aw-shucks pose. In fact, it’s so subtle and natural it didn’t even occur to me until now. It’s just that when he says things like river leeches are cute before they become blood-engorged, as they were on him, you’re convinced he’s being real. He says, acting it out, that it wasn’t like in The African Queen, when Humphrey Bogart was disgusted as he pulled them off, but that the little guys are actually “adorable” when they’re standing up on a leaf like an inchworm. and he shows us, crooking and wiggling an index finger before his nose.

The opener for Goldman the night I saw his act was Kevin Broccoli, who told us about a “date” with a girlfriend who knew he was gay and their ending up at a strip club with her boyfriend. It really was funny, but I guess you had to be there. On the last weekend, Marvelous Marvin Novogrodski will be doing some juggling and improv storytelling.

Oh, by the way, Goldman has also been a bank spy and a martial arts instructor, subjects that don’t come up in I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This . . . That probably assures us of another fun-packed show in the future — unless we lose him in his next elephant stampede.

Related: The Carols of Christmas, Spelling-bound, Still Wonderful, More more >
  Topics: Theater , CULTURE, This American Life, Lifestyle,  More more >
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