Rob Becker does one thing, mostly, and he does it very well: Defending the Caveman, the longest-running solo play in Broadway history. Becker has taken shtick -- a standup act about the sexes, with men cast as hunters and women as gatherers -- and made it a phenomenon; 10 years after the play opened in San Francisco, it is consistently fresh, funny and sold-out. And since he hit upon a version he liked, four months into Caveman's run, Becker hasn't changed a word of it.
"I wrote the thing for four years: wrote it, rewrote it," Becker says. "And then I was tinkering with it in San Francisco. At some point I felt it was as good as it could be."
In Caveman, Becker views gender differences through a prehistoric lens. Men, he explains, can focus on the television to the exclusion of all else -- the kids, the garbage, the wife -- because their ancestors applied the same diligent concentration to stalking prey. Women, on the other hand, have always been gatherers and gabbers, good at dividing their attention. They can focus, with equal facility, on roots, berries and the baby on their hip; on shoes, handbag and best friend's crisis. You won't find a theory propounded in quite the same way on Nature, but as Becker insists, "it makes sense. And the main thing is, it's funny."
For the play, Becker, who has been married for 15 years, drew on personal experience. When he was engaged in the mid-'80s, Becker and his fiancée "thought we were beyond gender differences. Then we started to realize that we're not alike at all." They fought, until one day realizing the absurdity -- and universality -- of their troubles.
"Instead of fighting, we started laughing," he says, "and when we'd laugh about it, we'd start to get along."