By George, It’s Donny Clay

Jason Alexander brings special one-man show to Harrah's Resort Saturday

By David J. Spatz
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 13, 2009

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Jason Alexander as Donny Clay, at Harrah's Resort Saturday, Oct. 17.

Right off the bat, actor Jason Alexander doesn’t deny the similarities between George Costanza, the self-loathing and neurotic character he played on television’s Seinfeld, and Donny Clay, the comedic self-help guru he’s been channeling for live audiences the past couple of years.

“I would say they’re at least pen pals, if not related,” Alexander says with a chuckle. “They’re cut from the same schmucky cloth.”
Although Alexander will leave “George” in the wings of The Concert Venue at Harrah’s Resort on Saturday, Oct. 17 (9pm; $40-$60) when he performs the title role in Donny Clay, audiences will definitely see some of his television character’s less-than-sterling personality traits in Clay, whom Alexander considers America’s fourth-leading motivational speaker.

“One of George’s key aspects was this sort of over-inflated ego based on very little actual ability,” Alexander adds during a chat with Atlantic City Weekly from his Los Angeles home. “That is also true of Donny, so in that way I think [the audience] will be very, very satisfied.”

Alexander says his 75-minute program — a cross between a theater piece and standup comedy — will include a few “winks” toward the Seinfeld series. But unlike Jerry Seinfeld, who usually closes his stand-up comedy performances with a question-and-answer session about the television show, Alexander — whose first love has always been live theater — remains in character from beginning to end of the interactive program.

Donny Clay took shape several years ago when Alexander and his friend, writer Peter Tilden, set out to create a character out of the ashes of Alexander’s short-lived 2001 sitcom Bob Patterson.

Alexander, 50, performed the show mostly for corporate audiences before rewriting the script to appeal to a broader demographic. The show contains audience interaction, music, comedy and even partial nudity, Alexander explains.

“And if the money’s right,” he says, sounding very George-like, “that partial goes to full monty.”

The show is conducted much like a motivational speaker’s presentation, says Alexander, who broke into theater in the early 1980s in Broadway shows like Steven Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along, Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound and in Jerome RobbinsBroadway, where his performance earned him a best-actor Tony Award.

But his one-man show gets plenty of laughs, he adds, slipping into his Donny Clay character.

“The goal of the evening is that you will find the you inside of you, because you’re not you yet, you’re not even close to being you,” he prattles. “Through my seminar, you will find the you in you and … make deeper connections, real commitments, you’ll overcome obstacles, you’ll let go of judgments, you’ll improve your health, you’ll double your income and you’ll find true love all in one evening.”
Born and raised in New Jersey, Alexander says his Donny Clay show is a way for him to do a form of stand-up comedy while still remaining in his theatrical comfort zone.

“Having watched [Seinfeld] and met all his [comedian] friends and seeing the best guys in the business doing it, I would be very loath to get up there and say, ‘Hey, it’s me, I’m doing stand-up,’” he says. “That’s a little too frightening for me, and it would not be my turf.”
Alexander says he doesn’t possess the ability to look at the world and see the comedic potential in everything, which is Seinfeld’s forte.

In fact, Alexander was always considered a fairly serious person in college who was more interested in discussing politics or world affairs than cracking jokes.

“Yet when those [comedy acting] doors opened, I found it delightful to be a part of, and I’ve been thrilled that comedy has sort of been the foot forward for my career,” he explains. “But I wouldn’t necessarily go and seek out a venue to do stand-up.”

It was just coincidence that his October Donny Clay dates coincided with the Seinfeld reunion story line that debuted two weeks ago on Seinfeld co-creator Larry David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm. The dates were booked after Alexander knew he would be appearing on the HBO series with his former Seinfeld cast members, but before the shows were filmed or the air dates set.
Alexander’s long-range goal for Donny Clay is to take the show to a spot where motivational speakers and self-help gurus would find a target-rich environment: Las Vegas. He’d like to land a long-term deal there.

“Las Vegas is commutable for me,” he says. “I could still be with my kids. When Seinfeld ended, one of the reasons I didn’t run back to New York and do theater was because of my kids. I didn’t want to uproot them, and I didn’t want to be away from them for a long time.” 


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