Tuesday 13 - Kevin Burke of Defending the Caveman

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Kevin Burke is not a caveman, but he gets to play one onstage every day. As the narrator of the one-man show “Defending The Caveman,” Burke portrays an everyman sort of character who traces the formation of his appalling behavior to the days of the cave dwellers.

With the warm and easy delivery of an old-time radio host, Burke leads both sexes on a journey to the past where, hopefully, they can gather clues to the differences between men and women. Or hunt them down, as the case may be. The show is played around the world to couples who can glean a sense of their mate’s more confusing side through humor.

Though he’s been working the prehistoric beat since 2003, Burke’s own talents are far more diverse. His resume includes acting at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, attending the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, graduating from the Players’ Workshop at Second City, being a certified stage combatant and being one of the founding members of the Improv Olympics. (Although Internet searches might imply otherwise, he does not, however, play the Irish fiddle.)

The Best of Las Vegas recently spoke to Burke about being a caveman, indulging his creative side and why Valentine’s Day is so different from the perspective of men and women.

BOLV: What makes the Las Vegas version of “Defending The Caveman” superior to others around the world?
Kevin Burke: Oh, I can’t say that it is. In each country, the show is adjusted and tweaked to fit local culture and dating customs. There’s a show in Mexico City that’s been running for 10 years. The show is huge in Germany. I don’t think necessarily that this show is superior to any other.

BOLV: Who laughs harder at the observations in your show, women or men?
KB: It’s pretty equal. Neither side is right and neither side is wrong, we’re just different, and there’s no bashing of either side, so really they both laugh equally hard.

BOLV: Does knowing the differences between the sexes help you with your own relationships?
KB: Oh, of course, of course! Because the main problem today is that (men and women) communicate differently, and that can cause us to misunderstand each other. For instance, if a woman says she’ll call you, she means when she gets home. If a man says he’ll call, he means before he dies. So you should know that, if you tell a woman you’ll call her, she’s hearing you say “when you get home.”

BOLV: Which do you think is harder: improv comedy or dating?
KB: Dating! With improv comedy, there’s a definite end to the bit. You go onstage, play an improv game and then it’s over. Then, good or bad, you just shrug your shoulders and go, “Oh, well. That was what it was.” But with dating, you really have to put the effort in.

BOLV: What is one of your favorite observations from “Defending The Caveman?”
KB: There’s a statistic in the show that women speak 7000 words per day, but men only speak 2000. And you’ll see that when we text message, because a woman will text her guy and say, “Honey, we really need a night out, so let’s have a nice, long romantic dinner and then let’s go see ‘Defending the Caveman’ starring Kevin Burke!” And he’ll reply with “K.”

BOLV: That’s a very modern reference for a show that was written in the late ‘80s! How often does the show get tweaked to reflect modern life?
KB: All the time, but it’s really just little references like that which we change to reflect what’s going on in society today. The themes of the show are timeless.

How does the difference between men and women manifest itself during a holiday like Valentine’s Day?

KB: When men and women buy gifts for each other, women will go through all the options, they’ll touch each one, they’ll sort through them all and then they’ll find the one that they want, whereas a guy will just go out and grab the first thing that he sees that looks good and that’s it. And that’s because, back in the cave times, when men were hunters and women were gatherers, a hunter had to take down the prey that’s right in front of them, whereas a gatherer has to compare items to make sure if this is right and that is not, and make sure the food was edible. So that’s how we see that trait come out today.

BOLV: So in modern times, what gift ideas would you give a woman who is shopping for her man?
KB: Hmm, that’s a lot of pressure, because guys are going to get a whole bunch of whatever I say. OK, I’m just going to wuss out and say tickets to see “Defending the Caveman.”

BOLV: What if the guy is leery of going to the show?
KB: Tell him it’s a great Broadway show for guys because there’s no singing and dancing.

BOLV: OK, let’s flip the script. A guy is shopping for his sweetie. What gift should he avoid at all costs?
KB: Power tools.

Though you claim to be very different than women, you do have one thing in common. As a former clown, do you find you have a better understanding of females and their need for cosmetics?
KB: Well, I certainly understand that putting on makeup is an art form all its own. And I have to say, not to toot my own horn here, that I can put my clown makeup on so thoroughly that I could go swimming in it.

BOLV: With “Caveman” doing such steady business, why open a second show at Fitzgeralds?
KB: Well, “Defending the Caveman” is what we call a book show. The script is what it is and I’m the actor that plays the role. “Fitz of Laughter” over at Fitzgeralds is my show. I wrote it, and it’s whatever I say it is on any given night. The Fitzgeralds show gives me some artistic freedom and a chance to indulge my own creative side.

BOLV: How often do you get confused with the Kevin Burke who plays the Irish fiddle?
KB: Only when people do Internet searches. You have to put “comedian” after “Kevin Burke” and then you’ll get all me.

“Defending The Caveman” plays at 7 p.m. nightly and at 4 p.m. Sunday-Monday at The Improv in Harrah’s. Tickets start at $39.95. Call 702-369-5111. “Fitz of Laughter” plays nightly at 9:15 p.m. inside the Fitzgeralds. Tickets start at $26. Call 702-388-2111.

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