Almost Obscene

Beware of a Verbose God

In Almost Obscene, his comic tour de force that’s inspired critical raves from coast to coast, MAD Magazine Senior Editor Joe Raiola says beware of any holy book with more than 200 pages. “You can’t trust a verbose God,” according to Raiola, which is why he prefers the Tao Te Ching over The Bible.

A powerful evening of sharp comic theater, Almost Obscene was the hit of the New York International Fringe Festival when it premiered in the dark aftermath of 9/11. Raiola already had a hit solo show with The Joy of Censorship, but after watching the World Trade Center burn from his kitchen window, he felt compelled to speak out on other subjects, especially religion. “The stakes were too high to not speak out,” he says.

The result is what Boston Magazine called “an incendiary combination of performance art and standup comedy” and the New York Times hailed as “a ruefully amusing lament for the ineradicable hypocrisy of humanity.”

In the tradition of George Carlin, Raiola’s comedy hero who he pays homage to in the show, Almost Obscene challenges our most widely held cultural beliefs and satirically reflects on our devolution toward an Orwellian society. While the material changes from year to year, Raiola says “the sensibilities and themes” of the show remain the same.

Raiola says his goal is to “completely uncensor” himself on stage and challenge his audience’s way of looking at the world. He’s an advocate of what he calls “enlightened ignorance.” When asked by an interviewer what that meant, he answered, “Honestly, I’m not sure. I’ve got the ignorance part down all right, but I’m still working on the rest of it.”

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