Men Behaving Badly is a masterful plot in life and art as old as time, and Mike Daisey gave it a wild twist. Not ten minutes in his one night monologue only Scott and Andy and all the boys, he asks a breathtaking question: “Why not just get rid of the men?” For the moment, he thinks so, in all sincerity. “How to get rid of men?
Then, with Swiftian wit, it pivots to a comedic storyline about slaughtering all men like you would euthanize a dog. Realizing that this wacky plan wouldn’t work on a global scale, he summons a Marvel supervillain named Thanos, renowned for wiping out half of all life with the snap of a finger. But Thanos does it randomly, which serves no purpose for a gendered purpose. Getting rid of the men, Daisey concedes, would be rather impractical.
As he says this, there is what appears to be a trace of disappointment in his voice and face.
I was tuning in on YouTube, so I’m not sure how Daisey’s offing men riff landed with people watching in person at the Kraine Theater in New York. I heard scattered, startled laughter and what sounded like a stunned silence. I can only assume that fans familiar with Daisey’s inimitably expressive range as a monologue have sensed here the edge of earnestness and hilarity that he often brings his delighted audiences to. It’s disconcerting and unsettling, but in a good way. This is how he disconcerts us from our preconceived ideas.
Still, a man speaks with a personal passion of hating the patriarchy so much that he imagines getting rid of it by getting rid of all men. This has got to be a hot topic that probably won’t be heard in a locker room let alone a black box off Broadway.
The publicity hook for this 80-minute show is two names in bold – theater and film producer Scott Rudin and New York State Governor Mario Cuomo – whose stories of bullying and abuse of male type have recently become widely known. Daisey fascinates us with a damning dossier on each.
Scott Rudin – the award-winning art eye – has for decades engaged a retinue of young assistants in a hellish work environment where he berates them, smashes them and throws things to hit and hurt them. Indeed, they were being trained to be victims. Rudin’s reputation as an aggressor was no secret in the industry; it was only when Vulture and Hollywood journalist issued the receipts – first-person testimony from those he abused – that he was publicly portrayed as, in Daisey’s words, “an asshole”. Still, the industry’s reaction to the stories, Daisey says, has been silence. “When Does American Theater Matter With Scott Rudin?” he asks, exasperated by the social complicity that allows men in power to weigh in with all their weight.
Andrew Cuomo was for a brief time “America’s Governor,” calming a country with thoughtful advice as he filled the COVID information void left by 45 (“a man who was a walking culture of syphilis “). Cuomo was finally shining with his own light in the shadow of his father, New York State Governor Mario Cuomo. But then his reputation plummeted. He was caught sending people infected with COVID back to nursing homes and concealing the number of people who were dying inside. It was exposed by testimony about an office culture where attractive, young hired women were forced to dress in heels daily and Cuomo touched, groped and sexually harassed them. To date, Daisy notes, there has been no justice, no accountability, not even lame apologies like Rudin’s. Andrew Cuomo is still in power.
“Shitty men are everywhere,” Daisey shares, which isn’t an original observation. But what Daisey is doing in this monologue is counting herself among them. Really and surprisingly. With a singular sincerity rarely seen.
He does this with a framing story about “a very gendered fight” he had with his girlfriend. It was something intimate and monotonous: sheets. She asked him one day while they were rushing on a trip if the sheets on their guest bed needed washing and he said they were fine. They weren’t well and he knew it; they were far from good. But he said they were fine anyway. When she learned of the lie, she was furious (rightly, he fully admits).
Daisey devotes a compelling part of this monologue to analyzing this seemingly tiny incident. What was he thinking? Why did he think he could get away with it? Why did he do it knowing it was wrong? “I’m still trying to figure out,” he said, “what I thought would happen.”
And in a breathtaking leap of logic, he connects this micro ethics to all the other shitty men’s macro ethics: knowing something’s wrong and doing it anyway.
I want to understand what I was thinking when I said the sheets were fine. Why I thought it would work. I must be awake enough not to start again.
Amidst all the laughter, there’s a lesson in lucidity here. With Scott and Andy and all the boys, Mike Daisey single-handedly redefines the concept of mansplaining. He strips the practice of its condescension and defensiveness and transforms it into a conscientious and humble discipline of self-examination as a man.
Duration: approximately 80 minutes
Scott and Andy and all the boys, created and performed by Mike Daisey, aired live May 7, 2021 from the Kraine Theater in New York, produced by FRIGID New York.
To view the video, send $15 via Venmo to @FRIGIDNewYork with the note “Mike Daisey” and your email address, and you’ll receive the link.
Program epigraph page
for Mike Daisey Scott and Andy and all the boys
SEE ALSO: Dispatches from “A People’s History” by Mike Daisey, Chapters 1-18 by John Stoltenberg