BWW Interviews: DEFENDING THE CAVEMAN'S Vince Valentine Discusses Playing the Caveman for 10 Years
Vince Valentine is so confident that you'll enjoy Defending the Caveman, he's promised that his mother will cook you a chicken cutlet dinner if you don't! Of course he's joking, but after playing the role simply known as "the Caveman" in Defending the Caveman for a decade his passion for the show is evident.
Defending the Caveman will play Washington, DC's Warner Theatre for two performances only on August 2nd. The one-person show looks at the relationship between men and women using comedy to help bridge the misunderstandings between the genders. Since first opening on Broadway in 1995 for a two-year run, Defending the Caveman has been translated into 18 different languages and played in more than 40 different countries.
DC BroadwayWorld.com recently sat down with Valentine to discuss how the show has been updated since playing on Broadway, what it's like to perform in the same role for a decade and why Yoda is credited in his biography.
Benjamin Tomchik (BT): Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. For those unfamiliar with Defending the Caveman how would you describe it? Is it a play, stand-up routine, philosophy lesson on relationships?
Vince Valentine (VV): That's the appeal of it, it is all of those. Men love it because they think they're coming to see a stand-up show and they are. Women love it because they think they're coming to see a Broadway show, and they are. We say a lot of things through humor. If you want to explain anything, humor drives the point - look at advertising. It [Defending the Caveman] goes in and out between being something very serious and funny. There's something universal about it, because it's been translated into 20 languages and gone around the world over the last 20 years.
Everything you see on-stage is something that you and your partner may be going through, I went through and my parents went through. It's based on the experience that men were hunters and women were gathers. We see that in the show and in life.
BT: How would you describe your role as "the Caveman?"
VV: I play five different roles: myself, the instructor - or Shaman, if you will - my wife, my friend Lou and my wife's friend. The show is not bashing one side; it's not a television sitcom where the guys are always wrong. We're not wrong and I'm not taking sides. It should be called explaining the caveman because I'm explaining. People would leave if I took sides, we're having a conversation. It's all through humor. You can accomplish so much if you do it through humor.
BT: How did you get involved with the show?
VV: I actually was a construction worker, a wallpaper hanger, until my early thirties. I was always told I was funny, even as a kid, and so I took a standup comedy workshop at my local community college. I got a role in The Soapranos, which is sort of like Tony and Tina's Wedding, and one of my coworkers was also in Menopause: The Musical. She knew that Rob Becker [author of Defending the Caveman] was looking for Cavemen and I auditioned. With a little bit of luck and being the right person I got it, I kind of fit the role! And it has been the most fun I can have with my clothes on. I've been off since Sunday and I can't wait to go back onstage!
BT: 2014 marks the tenth year you've been performing as "the Caveman." What is it about the role/show that has kept you interested for the last ten years?
VV: First of all, it's live. There's nothing more exciting, as an artist/comic/actor, to feel that energy. You're having a conversation with the audience. Their response is laughter and you can feel that. Or in a dramatic moment, you can feel their response. You don't get that in other venues like movies or television. Also, we've updated the show. We have the ability to try some new stuff. I wrote a Facebook joke, a Google joke and just did a GPS joke. We do this to keep the show fresh.
For example, on Friday night a couple comes and sees the show. They're a little bit flustered because they've been working all week, the babysitter was late, they are rushing to the theater and I can tell from the stage that maybe there's some friction between the two of them. I'll start the show and you then see them elbow each to say, 'You do that.' Then they laugh together at a joke and finally they leave the show holding hands. Watching this show you realize that you're not alone. Whether you're single, on your first date or fiftieth wedding anniversary we all have the same experiences. Through humor I get to make that point and that's what I love about the show.
BT: Has your performance changed over the last decade, and if so, how?
VV: Of course! It changes every night. You cannot repeat a performance. You can only repeat the process which I use to prepare for the show. That's what makes live theater so exciting, every night is different. It's something my friend "Master Yoda" taught me. That's what I call Bill Primavera. He's a friend I quote in my bio, someone I met through The Soapranos, who helped coach me through the [Caveman] audition and helped me find my way through Caveman, the jokes and the performance.
BT: Does it make you nervous to perform in a one-person show? How do you conquer that fear?
VV: I've been blessed with a few gifts. Even a kid, I had a sense of humor. I also have a great support system of friends, family, fellow comedians and actors. To me, this is something I love to do. It took guts for my dad to get up at 4 a.m. and drive a truck. For me, it's a treat to get up on the stage and make people laugh. I look at it as a gift, 10 years in one role, most actors don't get that. I'm so very grateful for the role and the audience.
I cannot and will not, let fear enter my mind. Is there a nervous energy, yes, but I don't let it enter my mind. I'm more anxious then anything when I'm waiting in the green room after warming up. I can't wait to get onstage. I do a little warm up, little "Yoda" exercises, again which my friend, Bill taught me, to prepare. And finally, I believe in positive visualization.
Look, I have a cousin, who's a roofer, who works 60 feet in the air repairing church steeples. Being up there, that high on a scaffold, that would make me nervous. Getting to go onstage every night is exciting.
BT: Defending the Caveman has been incredibly successful, playing for more than 700 performances on Broadway and touring the world. Why do you think the play has been so successful?
VV: I think it, again, the roots are there and the show has evolved, like the caveman. We also have updated it. It's not like you're going to seeing a play with dated references. We've updated and kept it fresh. There's that whole generation out there who hasn't seen it. It's not like when I take my nephew Angelo to see Transformers and my mom wouldn't want to see the movie. There's a universal appeal to the show, it crosses all languages and cultures. Again, whether you're on the first date or married, there's a universal theme to the show.
If you've seen it before, we've updated it. It's like Rob [Becker] wrote this great song and I'm getting a chance to perform it.
If you have never seen it before, you'll enjoy it or else my mom will cook you a chicken cutlet dinner!
Defending the Caveman will perform two shows on Saturday August 2nd at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St, NW, Washington, DC 20004. For tickets, please click here, call (800) 551-7328 or visit the Warner Theatre box office.
Photo: Vince Valentine in Defending the Caveman. Credit: Theater Mogul