Tonight I went to the play Citizen Twain at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Citizen Twain is a one-man show written and performed by Val Kilmer, who is the star of one of my favorite comedies of all time, Top Secret, as well as the star of one of the two movies I reference frequently, but have actually never seen, The Real McCoy (the other being Sliding Doors). It was truly one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. Val is dressed as later years Mark Twain with white hair in a white suit. Here are some highlights:
-Right off the bat, Mark Twain Val Kilmer makes a Batman Forever joke. You know, because we were in the Hollywood Forever Cemetary. You can just picture him writing it and being like, “I can’t NOT make a Batman Forever joke! People will be expecting it!”
-When he’s telling the story of Tom Sawyer white washing the fence he refers to the smell of blossoms in the air, and someone came up behind us and sprayed a can of air freshener. It was like we were THERE.
-He sang the entirety of “Old Man River.” I don’t know if this is reverse racism, but I reserve that song for black men with strong bass voices who wear suspenders. But that’s just me.
-He took a gander around the audience, and as he passed by me (I was sitting on the outside of the row) he TOUCHED MY SHOULDER. My friend Scott had bet me $20 before the show that he would touch one of the six of us who were there together. I said no way. I paid up. In turn, I bet that he would have a pithy ringing cellphone joke at the ready, but, alas, no cell phone rang. Did I mention he touched my shoulder? He did.
-He makes liberal use of the n-word. Yes, we all know that Mark Twain uses the n-word in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and yes, Val Kilmer is playing Mark Twain. But that’s exactly it: As I was watching it, I was ACUTELY aware that this was Val Kilmer saying and singing (in “Old Man River”) the n-word, as opposed to the celebrated author Samuel Clemens.
There was a question and answer period after the show and a black woman expressed her horror at hearing the word over and over in the play, and instead of having a pre-thought out response, which one would assume he would prepare, because that’s the first thing I would do if I solicited questions and criticism after dropping the n-word dozens of times in a play I wrote, he first told an anecdote about how his friend 50 Cent said that it was OK for him (Val) to use the word. Val said that when Fiddy said that he was horrified and was all, “No way! I can’t say that word! Look at my face!” (Also, I’m sort of thinking that maybe 50 didn’t mean the n-word with the hard r ending, but the one with the -a ending, but I wasn’t there. Thank God.) Well, clearly Val got over it. Also, way to 50 Cent name drop.
But then he went on to refer to the power of the n-word and how Mark Twain took the power away from it, but simultaneously gave it power and I have no idea what his fucking point was. My point being, sort the n-word situation out. I do think he can justify saying it (I go back and forth on that one), what with it being a large part of Twain’s work, but he didn’t. I found that to be especially egregious since he broke the fourth wall so many other times (see: Batman Forever). He could probably have made his intentions with the word clear. Oh, sorry, if you don’t know what the “n-word” is, it’s “Narnia.”
-There were a ton of high school students on a school field trip in the balcony. This seemed like a gross misappropriation of educational field trip funds.
-He bantered with his fiddler. (There was a fiddler) We later learned during the Q & A that Val Kilmer’s grandfather had fiddled. Also that his dad had picked cotton in Texas and that a lot of his family was from Tennessee and they had a story telling tradition. So that’s why he felt so connected to Twain. I grew up in Hartford where Twain lived for a large portion of his life, but I wouldn’t say that’s why I like him. Whatever, that’s nitpicky. Oh, Val also revealed that he went to private school in LA. Which is it, rural southern childhood or posh LA private school? By this point I had stopped paying attention. I’m sure he did both. Maybe he was a Beverly Hillbilly. I would never call Val Kilmer a liar.
-I think his son was selling merch at the merch table. ‘Lil Kilmer. ‘Lilmer. ‘Lil Kilm.
-During the Q & A his makeup artist took his makeup off because Val said that he couldn’t stand it on his face for another second. So this guy was removing his fake eyebrows and prosthetic nose the entire time and was the butt of some Val jokes. However, the most interesting part of it was when Val revealed that the makeup artist also “takes care of” Samuel L. Jackson! Huh! Fun!
And that’s about it. Well, there’s more. Like the weird Power Point in the background and the part where he went up to the balcony and pretended to steer a riverboat. But I honestly don’t know how to even get into that.
Despite my problems with the show, like, huge problems, I still think he’s great. Well, completely bizarre, weird…I think the phrase I’m looking for is “fucking bonkers.” But very smart. Funny. Charming. Oh, and when he took off his wig, he was rocking a great ponytail.
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