NEW YORK - If you ever wanted to attend an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in a bar, make room on your calendar any Thursday evening and go see the very funny one-man show "This Too Shall Suck."
It's written and performed with both sincerity and irony by Matt Graham, who is well aware that he's a narcissistic, self-destructive recovering alcoholic and comedian.
Graham's oddly appealing, sometimes poignant performance takes place only on Thursdays, through May 2 in the downstairs Huron Club at Soho Playhouse, a small room complete with full bar.
Aptly billed as a "traumedy," it's an inventive, intimate, crazy-quilt of a show. Because Graham was a very good standup comedian and comedy writer, he freely improvises, so each show may contain different stories.
His main premise is that he's a lifetime loser, either a total failure or always landing in second place despite having multiple talents. He explains how bad luck, or just maybe his sarcastic personality, propelled him into near-misses at many things in life, starting with being "miscast" by his birth in Indianapolis instead of a more hip big city.
Serially obsessive, he first excelled at childhood pingpong, (but was displaced by "an influx of Asian children"); then high-school quiz bowl (but truants don't make the team); and even (almost) played college basketball at age 39.
Graham had great success at professional Scrabble, coming in second at the 1997 World Championship, and he's good at high-stakes poker, sometimes. When he took to drinking, he was thoroughly dedicated to that as well, to his own detriment. He describes being broke and homeless and sleeping in public parks as an "outdoorsy lifestyle."
His bad luck with women began when a kindergarten crush said she liked him only "in God's way," which he says helped him become fluent in "blow-off language," and he has funny stories about online dating, masturbation and his loving grandmother. Graham gets serious when appropriate, yet inserts wisecracks even when describing his suicide attempt and his addictions.
His enactment of his 5-year-old self impersonating Woody Allen is hilarious, as is the story of how this act bombed in front of his summer camp peers. In Graham's life, there's often been some guy swinging in on a vine to snatch the prize from him. Yet he perseveres, and maybe this winning show will change his luck. For a while.