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Manscaping Monologues

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Was it only three years ago that the chest-waxing scene in The 40 Year Old Virgin caused such a ruckus?

Well, manscaping time must be like dog years: We have come so far in the mainstreaming of male hair removal since then that a chest wax is no longer shocking or wince-worthy. It just seems normal -- like shaving your head. (Although I have to admit I'm getting a little tired of so many men looking like walking fetuses. I want balding men to go back to wearing the fringe proudly.)



But back to the trendy denuding of male parts: If speaking of such things in public is progress, certainly it's due in part to the influence of the hilarious Web site, shaveeverywhere.com, created last year by DDB Tribal for the Philips Norelco Bodygroom. It's worth a trip to the site for the phallus-replacement graphics alone. (The fruit basket was the funniest.)

I guess because it was the virgin version, the site featured a baby-faced, frat-guy type standing stolidly in a white robe. Because he did seem so conservative, the "music video" he performed in is that much funnier. Like Sting, he's surrounded by hundreds of lit candles (no doubt scented) as he soulfully plays his guitar and sings his heart out about his man parts. "I was a lonely hairy man," he croons. "My life was second-rate." He goes on in this vein until he starts using penis-related words that are loudly bleeped out. These are the best bleeps ever, as in "It's so hard to be a Don Juan when you've got a chinchilla wrapped around your (bleep.)" Later, he sings, "My love life was slow like an antiquated dial-up modem. Now it's going broadband with my new silky scr-(bleep)." I mean, how do you improve on that?

So it was with the memories of how my sides split when I watched that guy sing that I checked out the latest version, "The Bodygroom Manalogues."

"Manalogues'' is funny coinage, except for the suggestion of Barry Manilow -- and worse. There's the natural link to The Vagina Monologues, which were far more serious (some dealt with sexual violence against women), but were also spoken by celebrity monologuists.

This is an artier try, featuring comedian Bryan Callen, a veteran of Mad TV. A huge change from the scrubbed, pink-faced guy in the robe last year, Callen is a scruffy, skinny actor type with a scratchy voice wearing a wrinkled T-shirt and jeans. He's shot in low light, and in black and white, which comes off as gritty and urban, but at the same time seems to highlight the odd fuzz on his head and face. (Is a new-born bird the nouveau look for the Bodygroom man?)

The theater-related graphics (including a very phallic microphone) are great, once again, and the introductory text is clever. It explains that the viewer is seeing "theatrically reinterpreted real-life accounts from the frontlines of male body grooming."

Our presenter also tells users to "share your experience. If we like it, we might just be performing it for all the Web to see."

So I naively was expecting real-life stories. I didn't actually understand until the second monologue that these are fictional pieces written for comic and dramatic effect. Wearing the same T-shirt and jeans, Callen transforms himself into five different guys -- and he's good, although he's no John Leguizamo or Borat (Sacha Baron Cohen). His French guy, who is called a "monkey" and can perform as a gorilla without a suit, sounds a little too much like his Russian guy, "Hair Model Number 6."

I liked the stories that were the most natural, such as "The Dreaded Call.'' It features "Sam G.," a mild-mannered English dude arguing with his dad on the phone. His father expresses the prevailing thought from five years ago or so that if you shaved your "giblets," you're a porn star or a member of a "sex club." The son explains that his girlfriend told him, "The smaller the nest, the bigger the bird." (Yes, achieving that "optical inch" is a recurring sales theme.)

As "Douglas B.'' of Seattle, Callen delivers his best performance. He's a shy guy transformed into a Superman at a poetry slam. The piece is funny and well written, including the line, "Is that a poet, an artist, or just a baby Sasquatch?"

Given that Callen inhabits five different people, I was surprised that the elephant in the virtual room of male grooming was never acknowledged. Yes, the device has broken all sales records by appealing to that break-out demographic, straight men. But the natural audience is gay guys and couldn't that at least have been acknowledged?

It will be interesting to see which of the user-submitted stories gets performed. But while they're about letting the little bird fly, perhaps these stories place more angst in the creative nest. Call me old-fashioned: I prefer the chest-ripping jokes of the original one.