Durst, 62, is best known as a political humorist, but, like all good Boomers, he has turned his gaze inward to develop a one-man show, “BoomeRaging: From LSD to OMG.”
Pete Townsend, Baby Boomer, was talkin’ ‘bout his generation when he sneered, “Hope I die before I get old.” Will Durst, Baby Boomer, is jokin’ about his generation when he responds, “Too late.”
Durst, 62, is best known as a political humorist, but, like all good Boomers, he has turned his gaze inward to develop a one-man show, “BoomeRaging; From LSD to OMG,” with which he is currently touring the country. Segments in the 90-min. show include, “Racing from the Shadow of a Mushroom Cloud,” “The Blinking VCR” and “Still Doing Drugs, Only Now There’s a Co-Pay.”
Not everyone gets it. Durst’s only prop in the show is an archaic overhead projector, which might induce either a nostalgic laugh or a repressed shiver of dread in any former middle schooler called on to use the machine to display his mathematical proofs before the entire class. “I carry my own overhead projector with me when I perform shows on the Bay Area (where Durst lives),” he told Millionaire Corner in a phone interview. “When I go on the road, I have to depend on the theatre staff to find one for me. For a show in Milwaukee. I said I needed an overhead projector and they assured me they had one. I got to the theatre, and a kid showed me what they had: a digital projector mounted on the wall over his head.”
“BoomeRaging” is Durst’s follow-up to “Elect to Laugh,” a one-man show about the 2012 election that he performed between Super Tuesday in February through the election. The show evolved from 75-min. to two hours. But then came Nov. 7, the day after the election. “Suddenly it evaporated,” Durst laughed. “Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Rick Gingrich, any of the Ricks; these characters were so funny, but nobody cared anymore. I was devastated.”
Durst does not employ a full staff of writers who keep the joke pipeline flowing on such shows as “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report,” and “Last Week with John Oliver.” “They are the Walmarts of political comedy,” Durst joked. “I’m a small boutique in Soho hand-stitching every joke.”
From a practical standpoint, Durst was looking to develop material less topical and with a longer shelf-life than his stand-up. A routine about growing old in the modern world became the foundation for “BoomeRaging.” “I’m a Baby Boomer, or as I call us, extreme adults,” he said. “I will always be a Baby Boomer, and so I developed this show. It’s not going to evaporate.”
Baby Boomers had long been the target of jokes by older comics, whom Durst grew up watching on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” They were funny, Durst said, but clueless about the younger generation. It was time, Durst said, “for a Baby Boomer to make jokes about us. All their tired jokes about growing old didn’t reflect us. Jokes like, ‘When I fall down, I look around to see what else I can do while I’m down here.’ That doesn’t reflect our reality. That’s our parents’ generation telling jokes about getting old. I didn’t want to commit the same crime. I talk about what’s happening to us.”
One of the set pieces of “BoomeRaging” is an hilarious list of iconic Baby Boomer imagery that Millennials will never experience, ranging from slamming down a phone in anger and the taste of Green Stamps to triumphantly tearing a sheet out of a typewriter and mercurochrome.
“I crowdsourced that,” Durst laughs. “I went on Facebook and I asked Baby Boomers what they remembered. It was the most popular Facebook post I ever had.”
So clearly, “BoomeRaging” is resonating. Which stands to reason. A stereotypical tap against Baby Boomers is what a self-reflective generation they are, more apt to think of themselves as the Greatest Generation. To borrow a Seinfeldism: What’s the deal with Baby Boomers?
“There’s a lot of us,” Durst reflected. “We are legion. All these different mixes went into the cocktail. (We grew up in a time) when kids were to be seen and not heard. We were the first generation to have all this free time. There was a youth culture created through advertising. We grew up under the Cold War and then experienced an explosion of nihilism with the assassinations of two Kennedys and a King. So all we thought was, ‘Screw tomorrow; let’s live for today.”
Durst recalled several generational touchstones. He was in fifth grade in New Berlin, WI when President Kennedy was assassinated. “They called us in from recess and sent us home early,” he said. “I remember looking out my window at home. Nothing was moving, not even the trees. There were no kids playing in the yards.”
He watched the Beatles’ first appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” at a family friend’s house. “They didn’t want to watch,” he said. “We were in the living. I and their daughter knew the Beatles were on, but the adults were watching whatever else was on. Finally, I yelled, ‘For crum’s sake, can we turn on ‘Ed Sullivan?’ and they said okay. I think they were more excited about seeing (the comedy team) Allan & Rossi.”
Durst witnessed the moon landing with his father at, of all places, the Playboy Club in Lake Geneva. “The Bunnies were just standing there and watching,” Durst laughed. “Isn’t that weird?”
“BoomeRaging,” some mild-profanity aside, is a family-friendly show, Durst said, which may seem odd for a show celebrating the generation that gave us Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin and other comedians that infamously broke the barriers of what could be joked about onstage. “I’ve been gravitating toward clean material,” Durst said. “My audience is so tired of all the swearing. Every generation tries to plant its flag and keep pushing the edge of the envelope. My generation blew the envelope apart. What’s left for (today’s younger comics) but to take it another step, which is fine for their audience, but perhaps too much for mine. But that’s the split in every generation. Every generation hates the music of the next generation. It’s supposed to be like that.”
Related story: How have Baby Boomers changed the world?
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.