Joking With Cancer

Two-Mur Humor, a Dramedy About Cancer is a well-intentioned project. Written and acted by cancer survivors, it is being staged as part of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival as a benefit for the Two-Mur Humor Fund. This foundation pays medical bills and provides "laughter and hope" through "arts and entertainment" to children who are cancer patients and survivors. Unfortunately, Two-Mur Humor is not a very good play. Jim Tooey and Valerie David's plodding script about two thinly sketched survivors who meet in a waiting room begins with a rap number. This is played on a none too clear recording, over which actors (and Two-Mur Humor's Fund president and vice president) Kelly Chippendale and Tooey vocalize. Performed this way, the lyrics are almost unintelligible, except for the ending, in which Chippendale and Tooey chant, "She's malignant, I'm benign/I'm malignant, she's benign" repeatedly. This demonstrates that the phrase "ad nauseam" can accurately describe experiences other than undergoing chemotherapy.

After the rap, Two-mur Humor drags on for an intermissionless two hours. The characters share experiences with which cancer survivors and their loved ones will certainly identify. The dramatic question is absolutely minimal: will they survive? Both characters are essentially passive, no matter what platitudes about positive thinking, learning, and life changes they declare to the audience.

The "humor" is predictable at best and, at worst, embarrassingly ignorant. There is a drawn-out joke about a "stool in the shower" of Chippendale's character's hospital suite. Her Rabbi, a Lubavitcher look-alike, offers her spiritual help in the form of a Hebrew for Dummies Book—for $35, marked down from $37.50.

In another scene, a Chinese-American physician, Dr. Lee, is played by Caucasian actress Chippendale in opaque glasses—with bizarre holograph photos of "oriental" eyes covering the lenses. More Fu Manchu than Patch Adams, Dr. Lee has some trouble pronouncing l's, so when trying to explain that during his MRI test, his patient (Tooey) will see "white lights," Lee stutters "white rice," then "white rights," before Tooey finally corrects him. To check the clarity of his speech, Lee asks, "I making myself queer?" Hilarious.

The celebrated Dr. Adams believed that humor can be used to treat all kinds of diseases. Two-mur Humor tries to fill Adams's prescription but succumbs to complications of mediocrity and racism.

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