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On the Fly: Mike Daisey

Writer and monologist Mike Daisey describes his inspirations, working customer relations at Amazon, and his latest production, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.


Photograph by John del Signore

In the past several years, writer and performer Mike Daisey has become widely known as one of the most compelling artists working in the solo monologue format first trailblazed by the late Spalding Gray. If you’re not familiar with Gray’s work, you’ll be forgiven if the word ‘monologist’ makes your eyelids droop, but in the right hands the form is as riveting and rewarding as the best ensemble theater. And Daisey’s hands are assuredly right; typically seated at a desk with just a microphone, Daisey has a knack for disarming his audience with an approachable persona, incandescent wit and a gift for virtuoso storytelling. Guernica Editor-at-Large Mark Dowie watched a performance of Daisey’s signature monologue, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, at the Berkeley Rep and afterwards caught Daisey “On The Fly” back to New York, where Daisey will open his enthralling new play, How Theater Failed America, a rollicking and dismaying backstage tour of the highly dysfunctional “machine that makes theater” in cities across the nation.

Part One: The birth of an “investigative comedian”

Press here to play the MP3.

Part Two: The theater of the extemporaneous over “real estate” theater

Press here to play the MP3.

Part Three: How Western journalists subsidize Chinese censorship

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dowiebio60.jpgMark Dowie is an editor-at-large at Guernica, an investigative historian and the author of seven books, including Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century, American Foundations: An Investigative History, and, most recently, Conservation Refugees: The Hundred-Year Conflict between Global Conservation and Native Peoples. During his thirty-five years in journalism, Dowie has won nineteen journalism awards and been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

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