Frenetic Phonetics fanatics – Mik and Gilles

Mikhail Horowitz & Gilles Malkine

As if you didn’t already know from the little notation at the bottom of your supermarket receipt telling you how much more money you have to spend on groceries to qualify for your free frozen turkey, Thanksgiving is drawing nigh apace. Folks with a warped sense of humor who live within a certain radius of New Paltz know that this means that it’s high time to call the Unison Arts and Learning Center to find out whether there are any tickets left for Mikhail Horowitz and Gilles Malkine’s annual performance at that venue. This year’s visitation, billed as “Difficult Comedy for Hard Times,” will take place this Saturday, November 17, beginning at 8 p.m.

By way of full disclosure here, I have to admit to bias, as a diehard fan of Mik and Gilles. Their act, which defies all rational description, makes my voice hoarse and my face hurt from laughing. I want everybody who hasn’t already made their acquaintance to go see them at least once before you die, even if it means that I can’t get in. If you fancy yourself artistic, intellectual, well-informed and/or politically progressive, that goes double for you.

I’ve been following Mikhail Horowitz’s career as a self-described “standup poet” ever since his days in the duo Null & Void with Frank Patricolo in the early 1970s. If I were somehow to become a member of the panel at the MacArthur Foundation that recommends people for those “genius grants,” my very first nomination would go to Mik. If you believe, as I do, that the English language is the world’s biggest playground, then you couldn’t find a better team captain. He’s simply brilliant at wordplay, at plumbing the satirical potential in every possible twist of phrase and ferreting out the irreverent topical analogy lurking between the lines of every beloved poem or folksong. Mik’s guitar-toting sidekick Gilles Malkine is no slouch either at making audiences feel simultaneously giddy and smart.

Though much of the impact of Mik and Gilles’ performance poetry and song is distilled from a well-honed sense of outrage over the absurdity of current events, their material wears surprisingly well over time. Longtime fans know to expect a mix of new barbs and blasphemies with comfy old favorites. For example, the Thanksgiving show often kicks off the holiday season with either of two riffs on “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” one featuring Dracula and the other T. S. Eliot; but it’s all but inevitable that this time, some choice Romney references will also be included in the evening’s entertainment.

One wonders, now that Obamacare seems to have weathered all major legal and electoral challenges, how the lads will update their health insurance blues number, “St. James Wellness Facility,” to suit the changing times. And I personally am patiently awaiting a new version of their delicious takeoff on Dante’s Inferno, now that a significant number of their hypothetical pop-culture denizens of Hell have actually passed on.

The lineup for Saturday night’s performance will also include Kimberly Kay and “one or two special guests recently released from the Karma Dharmachakra Correctional Facility.” The event is sponsored by Dahlia Bartz Cabe of Dragonfly Moon Meditation. Unison is located at 68 Mountain Rest Road, across the Wallkill just west of New Paltz.

Advance tickets go for $20 general admission, $15 for Unison members and half-price for students, and can be purchased by calling (845) 255-1559 or visiting www.unisonarts.org. Ostensibly the tickets will cost $2 more at the door, but I’m not kidding when I say that you should expect this show to sell out quickly. Mik and Gilles’ fans are gluttons for punishment (not to be confused with Jews for Jesus).

Mikhail Horowitz & Gilles Malkine, Saturday, November 17, 8 p.m., $20/$15/$10/$7.50, Unison Arts, 68 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz; 845-255-1559, www.unisonarts.org.

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