Christine Lavin and Don White: Concert and Comedy
Over the last 20-odd years covering folk music for the Boston Globe, I have often sung the praises of Christine Lavin and Don White, perhaps the two funniest performers on the folk circuit today.
Hearing that they are doing shows together is a dream-come-true for me, along with thousands of their other fans. That is not merely because they promise an evening of such fun and laughter. It is because of what they share, how they meld their comedic gifts with the best instincts of modern folk music.
I have laughed as hard at Don and Christine as I have at any comedians I have seen on stage, but I have never heard either of them tell a mean, scornful, or bitter joke. Always, their humor is fueled by the same empathy, kindness and universality that fuels their songwriting. Always, they look for the lyric, the poetic image, the gag, that reminds us what we share, not what sets us apart. Both their music and comedy is driven by a desire to tell the truth about the lives they live, and to find where those lives intersect with ours.
As you watch Christine and Don, you tend to feel like you're making a friend, rather than admiring some distant star. I can assure you that is no illusion. Don and Christine are very much what they appear to be on stage: genuinely goodhearted people who use their abundant talents to show us how much we have in common, as we all bumble and stumble through our own day-to-days.
Christine is renowned for treating her audiences less like fans than chums at a sleepover. It is a brave, almost naked, informality that only master entertainers can pull off; and it only works if it's genuine. Christine is able to treat her audiences that way, because that's how she feels about them. In her eyes, they are simply friends she doesn't know yet.
Don mines his workaday life as parent and husband, finding humor in the bad moments as well as the funny ones, always finding ways to make his experiences feel like ours. And somehow, once he lets us laugh at our dark moments and mundane struggles, they don't seem so dark, or so mundane.
Many comedians today offer their jokes at other people's expense: the convenience store clerk with the funny accent, the cab driver with the funny name, the stupid flight attendant on the airplane. The laughs that kind of humor produces are sharp, but fade quickly, followed by a certain feeling of emptiness, aloneness. We have laughed as an expression of how different - how apart - we are from each other. And we can't help but wonder if a comic like that would laugh at us, too.
Christine and Don, on the other hand, are both masters of the shared laugh. They turn their keen comical eyes on the foibles and pitfalls we all share. Where did I put my glasses this time? Why doesn't my daughter think I'm cool anymore?
As we laugh that shared laugh, we often eye those next to us, nodding in recognition: "You're that way, too," our eyes say? Then we nod and grin, suddenly feeling that warm, convivial pleasure that comes from knowing we're not quite as alone in this world as we sometimes think we are.
I have often noticed that the laughter Christine and Don receive lasts longer than it does for most comedians. I think that's because we enjoy the sound of all these people around us, expressing by our laughter that we are sharing something about ourselves, something that connects us to one another. The very sound of the laughter proves how much our experiences, our annoyances, peeves, and daily struggles, bind us together.
Because of that, when Christine Lavin and Don White make us laugh, there is always a warm shimmer of community beneath the silliness. Of all the gifts great entertainers can bring to the stage, I think this is perhaps the rarest and most valuable. Many can dazzle us; but only the very, very best can befriend us, and remind us that, in the end, we are all wary acrobats in the great human circus. And really, when have we ever needed laughs like that more?
Folk music writer, the Boston Globe, Sing Out, NPR
Author, Deep Community: Adventures in the Modern Folk Underground
Cotuit Center for the Arts
4404 Route 28
Cotuit, MA 02635
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