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Gimmicks A Go-Go

July 13, 2007

In our spin-heavy culture, theatre people will stop at nothing to stir up a bit of buzz about their productions. The Washington Post reports that the producer of an off-Broadway show about losing one's virginity entitled My First Time is giving virgins free tickets to see the show. Producer Ken Davenport has hired a hypnotist to screen people standing in line outside the theatre to test whether they're really as chaste as they say they are. The stunt is working, I guess, as the lines to see the show in preview (it opens on July 28) are long and it's garnering the attention of the national press.

Thank goodness that San Francisco comedian Will Franken, in his usual way, is making fun of this kind of gimmickry. An email sent around to everyone on his email list yesterday declared:

"If you come to the show "Grandpa, It's Not Fitting" (Thursdays through Saturdays, 8pm, Marsh Theatre--1062 Valencia Street, SF) and are the first to identify via e-mail ( at what point during the show the titular line--"Grandpa, It's Not Fitting"--is uttered, you will win a date with Will Franken (if you are a female) or a nice conversation (if you are a male)."

The description of the stunt then gets hilariously complicated:

"The date or conversation will be held at a nice cafe next to the theatre. You will be given a piece of cake or a brownie and something hot or cold to drink, free of charge. The date of the date or conversation will be determined as follows: Shows run Thursdays through Saturdays. That leaves three chances each week to listen for the answer. So that Sunday if a correct answer is received, that will be the date of the date or conversation. For example, if you go to the show tonight, Thursday the 12th, and hear the answer that night and then e-mail Will on Friday (or Thursday night) and tell him the answer and your answer is correct--then the date of the date or conversation will be Sunday the 15th at a time to be chosen by the winner between the hours of 3:30pm and 10:00pm which is when the cafe next door to the theatre is open. By the way, you can also go up to Will after the show and whisper the answer in his ear."

I don't suppose The San Francisco Chronicle, much less the New York Times or the Washington Post, will send a reporter out to monitor the results of Franken's competition. This is a shame really, as "a piece of cake or a brownie, something hot or cold to drink, free of charge," and some enlightened conversation with Franken ought to be front page news.


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