Spalding Gray: Terrors of Pleasure (1988) Poster

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The Pleasure of Spalding
A_F_Waddell1 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I can't remember which I saw first, Terrors of Pleasure or Swimming to Cambodia. It was the late nineteen-eighties. At the time I was taping a lot from cable. Believe me, I could easily monopolize every VCR in the house with my taping schedule. It must have been a compulsion.

At that time I was taping everything in SLP mode, not exactly producing the best picture quality. Today I envision a certain videotape in the bottom of a cardboard box, perhaps in the dark depths of a closet: my handwritten video label displaying multi-colored inks, the tiny script faded and almost illegible, boasting perhaps six hours of cable comedy shows. Towards the end of the disintegrated tape is Spalding Gray's Terrors of Pleasure. (I now have a quality copy, what a find!)

Spalding had not a few brilliant collaborations, including this monologue directed by Thomas Schlamme. It must qualify as his 'lightest' monologue. It's one of my favorites --- especially if I need 'lightness' at a given time. I could easily relate to Spalding's desire to buy rural property --- and his desire to have a porch with a barbecue grill on it! I loved the telling of his 'drunken evening strolls' through Krumville. Yes! The sounds of the woods breathing around him . . . the bears thrashing . . . the psychopaths coming . . .

I thought that the direction and editing were brilliant. As Spalding quoted characters' dialog, he voiced over them in the film clips. And who were these interesting character actors: who portrayed Johnny Delfrado, the florist from Queens; the perky/weird Jehovah's Witness ladies; various small-town handy-men and contractors bearing bad news? No credits are listed!

It however all starts with the written word, and Spalding provided a lot to work with: his lyricism and depth, his lightness and darkness, the extraordinary and the mundane, told in a most honest, unassuming, humorous fashion.

Now, excuse me, I have this wonderful Harry Belafonte tune in my head . . . "House built on weak foundation will not stand oh no oh no . . ."

A.F. Waddell
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KCB62111 September 1999
Spalding Gray's monologues are comic genius! This one is my favorite. Having had similar experiences to the ones he describes, I can relate to this. The intonations he gives his characters while delivering this monologue are hilarious! His timing is wonderful. Although he can sometimes seem to be a bit manic, that is part of his charm.
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