ROB BECKER'S SHOW STARTS 2ND YEAR ON B'WAY
At the risk of sounding immodest, Rob Becker says he isn't the least bit startled that his one-man comedy hit, Rob Becker's Defending the Caveman, is entering its second year on Broadway in March.
"I'm not surprised," says the 39-year-old California native. "I know it sounds arrogant, but I really came here thinking I was going to succeed. I never let myself think anything else. But I also came here thinking I would run a year, and now it looks like we're going to run a lot longer, so it's really outpaced my expectations."
When Caveman opened in 1995, Rob Becker was a virtual unknown starring in a show that some considered little more than a prolonged stand-up comedy routine on a tired theme: the differences between men and women. But through tremendous word-of-mouth among theatregoers, many of whom have seen the show several times, Becker managed to beat the odds. So much so, in fact, that since January, Caveman has been the longest-running non-musical show currently on Broadway and continues to play to packed houses six times a week at the Helen Hayes Theatre.
Becker started working on Caveman in 1987 when he was performing as a stand-up comic. After being confronted by several women, including his wife, about how men and women almost invariably view the same situation in completely different ways, he wrote a few jokes and put them in his routine. They worked even better than he expected. He knew he was onto something and soon developed the theme of Caveman that the differences between the sexes could be traced back to prehistoric times when men were essentially "hunters" and women were "gatherers." It took him more than three years to write the complete show, which was first presented in 1991 in San Francisco. It was an instant hit and later traveled to Dallas; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia; and Chicago, breaking box-office records along the way. How does he explain the show's success? "Basically, I think we all want to understand ourselves; we all want to understand the opposite sex," he says. "And the show gives people a way to understand themselves and the opposite sex in a way that's fun and feasible." He also says he has hit on a current societal wave that debunks myths the baby-boom generation was brought up believing as gospel.
"We've just been through a 30-year campaign telling us that men and women are not different, that we're not supposed to be different," he says. "When you're talking about hiring somebody for a job or voting for somebody for President, it's useful to think of men and women as interchangeable and certainly equal. But when you're living with somebody and you're married and you're trying to understand them, thinking of them as being the same as you isn't going to get you anywhere. It's the biggest block and the biggest hindrance to understanding the person you're living with. So oddly enough, this is revolutionary, this idea of going onstage and saying that men and women are different."
Becker also bristles at the suggestion that Caveman is essentially a 90-minute stand-up routine. He points out that stand-up comedy consists of a series of unrelated jokes with punch lines that are connected by sometimes jarring segues. But Caveman carries a single theme through a show that contains the classic elements of dramatic structure: introduction, conflict and resolution. So what's next for Becker now that he's made it big on Broadway? He says there are plans for a Caveman book, compact disc, a movie and possibly a television special. He also wants to take the show on the road again.
"I plan to drag this thing into the ground," he says, laughing. "I love it, and I want to show it to everybody." He's also making plans for another one-man show about fatherhood, now that he and wife Erin are the parents of a son and a daughter. The tentative title? Cave Dad.
-- By John Wolfe