Becker’s best jokes are from the male point of view. But what are you going to do? He’s from Mars. Ticket Earth, LLC
It took Rob Becker over three years to hone his one-man play Defending the Caveman, and he premiered it in 1991. That’s one year before the hit nonfiction book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus took the world by storm with the radical notion that, *gasp*, there are differences between men and women.
Becker’s play may have seemed au courant in its’ time. The cultural conversation that Mars/Venus sparked cannot have hurt in propelling Defending the Caveman, now in long-term residency at the D Las Vegas, to the status of Broadway’s longest-running solo show ever.
How does the show fit into today’s gender conversation? Post-Kaitlyn Jenner, the topic has gotten as lofty as “What does it even mean to be a man or a woman?” and as base as “Who can we trust to use which bathroom?” What place does chortling about football vs. shopping even have in that discourse? Is caveman-defender Becker two steps away from being a fossil himself?
I won’t weigh in on gender politics, except to say that Becker hits closer to home than Jenner. I don’t know a lot of Kaitlin Jenners, but I know tons of men who become selectively deaf to their wives’ voices when the TV is on. We may all be different, but over a large enough sample size we exhibit enough similarity that a skilled comedian like Becker can hold up a mirror and leave a room in stitches. Gender may be a social construct, but the belly-laugh of recognition can’t be faked.
Becker certainly looks the part. Heavyset and genial, expressive and physical with his rubber face and flailing meaty arms, Becker comes across as the ultimate “guy’s guy.” He’s had plenty of time to hone this schtick – he played the part from 1991 to 2006 on Broadway, then opened in Vegas in 2007.
This is not a stand-up comedy show. What does that mean for you, other than the fact that Becker uses a lavalier microphone instead of a handheld? Practically speaking, he’s going for observational humor rather than outrageousness. Even at his most crass and hilarious, Defending the Caveman is a think-piece. It also means the show won’t change night-to-night, so if you saw it last year, don’t expect Becker to be workshopping a whole new set of jokes – the show will be largely the same. You may even be able to catch a production at your hometown’s regional theater sometime. But you won’t get Becker. For that, you have to come to Vegas.
Ultimately, this show is too humane to really deserve flak for gender stereotypes. Becker doesn’t cut down anyone (except himself) as he builds his thesis around the comparison of primitive man as the hunter – focused, aggressive, reactive – and primitive woman as the gatherer – observant, social, verbal. Modern man shoehorns this hunter’s acumen into more pedestrian tasks like home improvement, watching the game, or attempting to find a destination without directions. Women, in turn, act out their gathering instincts through group activities of color-based collection (shopping) and expressing their feelings.
Becker’s ruminations are not earth-shattering, but he has a funny take on them, especially when imagining how absurd a man would sound if he said something “womanly” – (deep voice) “Do you ever feel like crying but don’t know why?” Or how men invented fishing because you can’t just say to another man “Hey, want to go sit together by a lake?” Late in the show, he brings down the house by “translating” common male expressions into women-language.
Come to think of it, most of Becker’s best jokes are from the male point of view. But what are you going to do? He’s from Mars.
VERDICT: Reasonably priced at $39, Defending the Caveman at The D Hotel Las Vegas does not break new ground in the gender wars. It’s good for some big laughs, though … and perhaps a few sidelong glances at your spouse.