By Arrissia Owen
Writer Polly Frost mostly sits around in dirty pajamas tickling funny bones through her keyboard, but her family thinks she spends her days frequenting kinky orgies. “If you ever want your family to think you are goofing off, try writing erotica,” she says with an extended laugh.
The New York City-based humorist has been published in The New Yorker and The Atlantic, written numerous plays with her husband Ray Sawhill, and published a humor book, With One Eye Open. But it’s the smut the brood dwells on, the horror-driven and sci-fi erotica that will always make up the cannon of her work in their esteem.
Family. You’ve got to love ’em, but that doesn’t mean you can’t laugh at their expense to keep your own sanity. Frost, who has been called the Edith Wharton of her generation by Elle magazine, visits the Winery at Canyon Crest in Riverside Sunday, Feb. 12, with her one-woman show, “How to Survive Your Adult Relationship with Your Family.”
Despite her happy childhood growing up in Southern California, Frost knows that functional childhoods be damned, we all grow into adults whose relationships with our ever-evolving families present challenges.
“It’s about all the ways your family can change and how they view you,” Frost says. It’s the extended-blended-hyper family that presents the most material. Frost’s family has an average of three marriages per relative. Even her grandparents, who divorced in their 80s over hitting up the cruise line circuit, add to the absurdity.
“How do you deal with all these crazy relationships thrown at you?” Frost says. Relationships with family members stay very much the same to where you never outgrow your role in the dynamic, or it changes so drastically that you barely recognize one another. Or worse.
“One of the big things is when people you love marry people you hate, those toxic in-laws,” Frost says. “What difference does it make if you had or didn’t have a happy childhood if you have this toxic in-law coming into your family and wreaking havoc?”
And the blended family Thanksgiving with all the exes? “It doesn’t work for me,” Frost says. “I think it’s a massive recipe for indigestion.”
Frost wrote the show after her brother died of Parkinson’s disease two and a half years ago. The cancer surgeon who was struck by a disease that made it impossible for him to carry out his career never lost his sense of humor, Frost says.
The mourning process came with so many insights into the human spirit, good and bad, that Frost began jotting them down. The best therapy, she found, was a hearty chortle and connecting with an audience that could relate.
“With this show I did not want to do stand-up comedy,” Frost says. “People who come to the show laugh, they cry, and thank goodness they laugh again. I wanted to hit a full emotional range.”
Six months later, the show continues to evolve, Frost says. “I was able to face things I couldn’t face at first because I couldn’t talk about them,” she says. “It took a few months before I could face down and talks about some of the things in my family.” The hardest moments to talk about are the ones that resonate the most.
“People come up to me and talk about their experiences,” Frost says. “That’s when you know it’s working for them.” That connection is inspiring, and helps her ditch the jammies and get on stage.
“There is a real tradition of that; Mark Twain wanted to do that at a point in his life, so did Dickens,” Frost says. “I think maybe we are coming back to that, maybe the Internet, it’s fantastic, but I feel that with all of this we need to establish that connection that is very direct with audiences and that is what this show is about for me.” It’s a family-friendly, smut-free affair.
Polly Frost performs “How To Survive Your Adult Relationship with Your Family” at Winery at The Canyon Crest, Canyon Crest Towne Centre, 5225 Canyon Crest Dr., Ste. 7A, Riverside, (951) 369-WINE; www.canyoncrestwinery.com. Sun, Feb. 12, 7PM.