Kathy & Mo & Escape

The thought of a theater blog seems frivolous to me sometimes, especially on days when crazy men take hostages in a school. Or bombs fall in the Middle East. Or homicide rates ratchet up to 112 in cities where life should be better.

I guess it seems frivolous a lot of the time in this world. But when there’s stress and darkness outside, I retreat inside, and withthe help of TiVo and Netflix, I attempt escape.

One recent escape was quite successful because it involves two of my favorite funny women: Kathy Najimy and Mo Gaffney, better known as Kathy & Mo.

Occasionally the gods of DVD smile, and some treasure is rescued from obscurity.

Just such a treasure is the newly released The Complete Kathy & Mo Show, a two-disc collection from Image Entertainment of the duo’s two HBO shows, Parallel Lives from 1991 and The Dark Side from 1995.

Parallel Lives was filmed at San Francisco’s Theatre on the Square and serves as a record of a brilliant show. I had just moved to the Bay Area and ended up seeing the show four times (I was there for the HBO filming). I remember thinking to myself while I soaked up Najimy and Gaffney’s comic brilliance: “This is exactly why I moved here.”

To my mind, Najimy and Gaffney are continuing the legacy of women in comedy pioneered by the likes of Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. Their sketch comedy (performed with few or no props and minimal costuming) is pointed and funny, compassionate and extremely human. Two of my favorite characters of theirs are the old ladies with a passion for continuing education, Madeline and Sylvia (Mad ‘n’ Syvvie, pictured below).

The two-disc set features the two shows on one disc and then a bonus disc with vintage footage of the duo’s early work stretching back to some 1983 show captured on someone’s home video camera.

One of the more recent sketches is from Kathy & Mo’s greatest hits show, which I saw in Los Angeles in 2004. It involves a support group for all the dead or missing moms from Disney animated films. Priceless.

There’s also commentary from Kathy and Mo, which begs the question: When can we see some new Kathy and Mo material? I need — and the world needs — some intelligent, emotional escape.