"We're going to get silly, and at the same time find our way through this mire of romantic hell that we often find ourselves in," promises Mark Anderson, describing his show "Crazy Love: A Laughing Look at Romance," which plays this weekend at the Tempe Improv. Anderson himself has, he says, performed both feats.
A former standup comic who appeared on shows such as Merv Griffin's before earning a doctorate in clinical psychology -- "I'm a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. I can't prescribe drugs, much to the chagrin of many of my friends." -- Anderson was a founder of several Improv Comedy Theatres, including Tempe's, and remains a partner in them. He's much respected in standup circles -- Improv president Dan Mer says, "I wouldn't be in this business if it weren't for him, and there are many people in this business who could say the same thing."
Several years ago, Anderson lapsed into a severe depression after a bad breakup, was committed to an institution, became a Christian, was released and decided to channel both his comedic and clinical interests, as well as his new religious viewpoint, into a show of "sketches, songs and standup," in which he performs with Thor Ramsey, John Branyan, Marci Priest and a "goofy songwriter" Rondo. It's aimed at explicating "the psychology of relationships." Says Anderson, "I think romance is the thing which brings people to their knees faster than anything else. It brings people to God, to the shrink's office; it brings more pain than anything else."
While the show sounds like a cross between Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and the PTL Club, Anderson insists "it won't be like church, and it won't be like a lecture." He does, however, say, "The Bible is sort of the ultimate romance guide, because it tells men to love their wives, and women to respect their husbands. It's a subtle difference, but it's important, because men want to be respected for their accomplishments, and women want to be loved for who they are."
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