Photo credit: Utopia Distribution

In watching this documentary as part of the Portland International Film Festival (March 5–14, 2021), I’m reminded once again of the legacy Del Close left behind that infused itself so deep into my bones that the work has become such a natural part of me like breathing. Furthermore, this romp through of Del’s work reveals the massive extent of his influence within the world of improvisational acting that spoke to those drawn to the subversive works of pioneers like Nichols & May, early SNL, SCTV, and yep, The Wittenburg Door.

While I never met Del in person, I connected with his work via the late Gary Austin, founder of The Groundlings and my improv teacher from 1996 until his untimely death on April 1, 2017. Gary was a member of the legendary San Francisco Committee where Close served as director.

In my tribute to Gary, I reflected on how he informed my work with The Wittenburg Door. I met him in 1996, two years after I sold my first piece for the Door. (Historical note, this piece was “Beavis & Butthhead Are Saved.”) While my work was smart enough to get published, I knew I needed a teacher who could help me how to physicalize my words and get me out of my head and into my body. Gary took away the intellectual safety net that I relied on to make my work witty and wise. He made me let go of being cool so I could get to this vulnerable place of being me.

Watching Del bomb both on stage and in his personal life reminded me of how Gary kept pushing us toward that tine fine line between truth and instantly, a liminal space where satire lives. In particular, he taught me the importance of bombing when I had to venture into the unknown.

Thanks to Gary, I learned how to battle those demons that dared me to be different and express my full creativity. Though him I learned how to stay on my breath, write on my feet and go. According to Gary, if I tried to make sense, then I would end up with boring, predictable sense. But if I stepped out and made choices that didn’t make sense to me, then I would be surprised at how the audience would make connections to justify my nonsense. (This tribute to Gary can be found here).

Gary was able to sober up to where he remained active as a teacher until shortly before his death. Unfortunately, Close’s repeated visits to mental hospitals, resulted in his eventual firing from Second City, as well others’ benefiting fiscally from his genius. As we relaunch The Wittenburg Door, his demise reminded me once again the dangers that face all of us who choose to venture into this creative unknown (especially those like me who come from dysfunctional extended families with strong roots in alcoholism) and walk that fine line between creativity and insanity.

FYI-This film was also a major hit at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, and further news of this documentary can be found here.

Debuting the iBible: Swipe Righteous

Photo credit: Bazelevs

SXSW Online 2021 just dropped iBible: Swipe Righteous series premiere on March 16, 2021. In the spirit of Monty Python and Mel Brooks, these short series takes a 21st century technological spin on well loved Old Testament bible stories. Imagine Adam and Eve meeting on Tindr only to later seek shelter via AirBnB, all the while receiving iMessages, FaceTime requests, and Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. tags from God (and the snake). All good fun, and fortunately, more clever than what passes for typical Christian “humor.”

While the content made me laugh, the constant barrage of screen shots filled with a…


As we head into yet another Thanksgiving, I found it necessary to clear up some misconceptions about Longfellow’s depiction of two of my Pilgrim ancestors (John Alden and Priscilla Mullins) in his famous poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Here is my satirical understanding of how Priscilla might have tried to set the record straight.

Dear Mr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

I objecteth strenuously to thy depiction of me in thy poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” …

The 2020 and 2016 presidential elections lay bare some truths undergirding American Christianity. They have been evident to those looking with a certain point of view for centuries, but have not recently been brought out for public view in this strong a way. They are that religion has been used throughout human history to bolster authoritarianism, enable narcissism and various other toxic –isms (racism, sexism, etc.), and contravene its own principles.

As I noted in my book Roger Williams’s Little Book of Virtues (Wipf & Stock, 2020), the history of American Christianity as a sociopolitical tool in the United States…

The North Arlington neighborhood is pristine, the facades are white washed, in antebellum style; The Family’s complex is like the godly images Thomas Kincaid used to paint about filled with light and faith and harmony. There is the same8 smiles of salvation, the same air of being spiritual and superior.

The Cedars is almost like a mausoleum, or a compound in a heavenly enclave constructed to show the way The Family ought to be. Protecting the powerful in prayer.

As in those paintings, this mausoleum, this model compound, there are no paupers. But tennis courts. And swimming pools. …

A short reflection on an fictionalized encounter with a real terror of a therapist …

I tell of my trauma. The terrors that keep me up at night. Unable to connect. Cannot continue.

Therapist tells me EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) will heal me.

And so I surrender to this therapist’s tricks.

We begin in silence.

He takes his right hand, index finger up.

Moves his finger in front of my face.

Left to right

Right to left.

Rapid repeats…

I feel his breath

in and out.

So we breathe together.

Breathing in

Breathing out.

His right hand continues…

  1. God whipped up a special plague. The plague of infertility… as birthrates fell, they made things worse. Birth control pills, morning-after pills, murdering babies. Just so they could have their orgies, their Tinder.
  2. Well, one sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many.
  3. The world can be quite an ugly place. But we cannot wish that ugliness away. We cannot hide from that ugliness.
  4. The human heart is hard-wired for service, and it’s embedded in the DNA of this institution.
  5. I will not be deterred from my mission of helping kids in this…

Why Didn’t the Media Tune in to Netflix’s The Family?

As someone who has been reporting on the National Prayer Breakfast hosted by The Family (aka The Fellowship) since Jeff Sharlet’s book The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power debuted in 2008, I tuned into Netflix’s docuseries The Family with almost unbridled anticipation. Perhaps I could finally have in hand visual depictions of this secretive organization in action. Could pictures and video convince those not swayed by the written word that the Family’s actions depict a Christian subculture that’s more Mafioso than missional?

In my review

Becky Garrison

Storyteller/satirist. Follow my travels via Instagram/twitter @Becky_Garrison

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