A writer for the Chucklehead, a comedy troupe based in New York City in the 1980s and ’90s, shares fictionalized first-person short stories about that experience.
A student humor magazine editor at Dartmouth, Dinsmoor was working in medical publishing in New York City in the 1980s when he joined the Chucklehead comedy troupe, which experienced a measure of good press and popularity in its day, including a Vogue article entitled “They’ll Take Manhattan.” The collection’s 18 short stories feature an often overly imbibing Rob (Dinsmoor uses pseudonyms for other troupe members) in various high jinks: rehearsing/videotaping sketches (with one sketch represented in full), panicking about losing videotapes, etc. The last third of the collection describes events after the troupe’s unraveling, which began when Rob’s girlfriend/soon-to-be-wife wanted to move to the Boston area. These remaining stories include Rob driving some of the troupe in his “Death Car” to a member’s wedding in Atlantic City and his traveling to Hollywood for the long-time-coming nuptials of troupe member Angie, who on several occasions flirted with Rob, and her boyfriend, the troupe’s musical director, in the mid-1990s. The collection concludes with an elegiac reunion at the funeral of a troupe member who died of AIDS. Dinsmoor (The Yoga Diva and Other Stories, 2011) has a knack for creating slice-of-life moments and droll endings. “Already they were covered with fresh posters still wet with glue,” Dinsmoor notes at the end of the “Raid on the East Village,” a saga about the troupe risking arrest to put up some very short-lived promotional flyers. Some readers may wish for more real-life details, especially regarding the AIDS tragedy and Dinsmoor’s apparently now-ex wife. Still, Dinsmoor has sketched out impressive impressionistic testimony to 1980s creative and partying spirit as well as its sober aftermath.
Wry reminiscences of the joys and struggles of being a young comedy artist in the 1980s.