Alford, Henry 1962-
ALFORD, Henry 1962-
Born 1962. Education: Studied acting under Paul Sills and at Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 299 Park Ave., New York, NY 10171-0002.
Actor and writer. Appeared on Bobcat Goldthwait's Big Ass Show; host of Rock of Ages, VH1; also appeared on radio program The Next Big Thing, WNYC, New York, NY. Spy magazine, former staff writer.
Municipal Bondage: One Man's Anxiety-producing Adventures in the Big City, Random House (New York, NY), 1993.
Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Top, Villard (New York, NY), 2000.
(With others, and creator with Jonathan Karp) Big Kiss (stage production; eight monologues), produced in New York, NY, 2000.
Out There: One Man's Search to Find the Funniest Person on the Internet (e-book), At Random (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor to periodicals, including New York Times, Vanity Fair, New Yorker, and Details.
Henry Alford has been described as an "investigative humorist." In books such as Municipal Bondage: One Man's Anxiety-producing Adventures in the Big City, Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Top, and Out There: One Man's Search to Find the Funniest Person on the Internet, he uses wit and self-deprecating humor while examining aspects of life ranging from low-wage employment to trying to make it in show business.
His first book, Municipal Bondage, presents a collection of original and reprinted pieces about life in New York City. He goes "undercover" as a client of a clutter consultant, an applicant for a job at the Macy's department store, a guest at various bed and breakfasts, and a driver for the governor of Colorado at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. The last two are "some of the best" pieces in the book, according to a Publishers Weekly critic, but to Booklist contributor Donna Seaman, the best aspect of Municipal Bondage is "Alford's dry-martini humor and unfailing wit … he is simply devastatingly deadpan, tears-to-your-eyes funny."
In Big Kiss Alford chronicles his adventures trying to make it in show business. He studies under several acting coaches and attends a program at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. He also goes to a Midwestern improv camp with his sixty-nine-year-old mother, who out-performed him, and later recounts this episode in what Michael Lazan called in Back Stage a "sweet and even touching" chapter. Along the way, Alford bombs at a few auditions and lands jobs as a phone sex operator, an extra in Godzilla, and a perfume salesman before finally making it as an on-camera interviewer for the VH1 program Rock of Ages. Many reviewers cited a favorite escapade: Buffalo News critic Kathleen Rizzo Young warned readers not to venture into the chapter covering Alford's role in Godzilla in public, "as you will soon be doubled over in laughter, attracting the stares of adults and the pointed fingers of small children," while Onion A.V. Club reviewer Noel Murray found Alford's description of his two days as a phone sex operator "both hilarious and poignant." To Harper's Bazaar critic Maureen Callahan, on the other hand, the "most stridently hilarious" chapters of the book are those at the end, which describe Alford's tenure with Rock of Ages, where he tries to get children and elderly folks to have funny reactions to the music videos that he shows them.
Alford describes surfing through the craziest, most hilarious pages on the Web in Out There, an e-book. "I think what makes so many of the … [sites] I write about funny is the fact that … [the Internet] is a medium without gatekeepers," Alford explained in an interview with Kelley Kawano on the Random House Web site. "So many humorists and satirists are beset by censorship, political correctness, issues of length, and, on the Internet, you can be your own bad self and ain't no one going to tell you otherwise." His stated goal in Out There was to find the "funniest person on the Internet," and he meets a number of wacky candidates along the way: a gun-toting rabbi, someone who chews on glass, and a "hot skating grandma." "This brief, light read should appeal to cubicle drones, procrastinating college students, and anyone else wanting to chase away the boredom," said Library Journal reviewer Heath Madom.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Libraries, April, 1994, review of Municipal Bondage: One Man's Anxiety-producing Adventures in the Big City, p. 376.
Austin Chronicle, June 16, 2000, review of Big Kiss: One Actor's Desperate Attempt to Claw His Way to the Top.
Back Stage, November 17, 2000, Michael Lazan, review of Big Kiss, p. 44.
Back Stage West, July 5, 2001, review of Big Kiss, p. 5.
Booklist, March 15, 1994, Donna Seaman, review of Municipal Bondage, p. 1321; February 15, 2000, Jack Helbig, review of Big Kiss, p. 1068.
Buffalo News, April 9, 2000, Kathleen Rizzo Young, review of Big Kiss, section F, p. 5.
Harper's Bazaar, March, 2000, Maureen Callahan, review of Big Kiss, p. 304.
Lambda Book Report, May, 1994, review of Municipal Bondage, p. 26; March, 2000, Philip Clark, review of Big Kiss, p. 24.
Library Journal, January, 2000, Barry X. Miller, review of Big Kiss, p. 110; July, 2001, Heath Madom, review of Out There: One Man's Search to Find the Funniest Person on the Internet, p. 75.
New Yorker, May 7, 2001, review of Big Kiss, p. 24.
New York Times, February 24, 2002, Bob Morris, "Happy Birthday, to Me," p. 3.
New York Times Book Review, March 20, 1994, Robert Plunket, review of Municipal Bondage, p. 6; March 19, 2000, Susan M. Kirschbaum, review of Big Kiss, p. 19.
Palm Beach Post, June 4, 2000, Scott Eyman, review of Big Kiss, section J, p. 6.
Publishers Weekly, February 28, 1994, review of Municipal Bondage, p. 71; January 17, 2000, review of Big Kiss, p. 49.
Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO), March 12, 2000, Lisa Bornstein, review of Big Kiss, section E, p. 3.
Time, March 15, 1999, Joel Stein, review of Rock of Ages, p. 92.
Gay Today Online,http://gaytoday.badpuppy.com/ (November 3, 2004), Jack Nichols, review of Big Kiss.
Offoffoff.com,http://www.offoffoff.com/ (July 15, 2000), Joshua Tanzer, review of Big Kiss (stage production).
Onion A.V. Club Web site,http://www.theonionavclub.com/ (November 3, 2004), Noel Murray, review of Big Kiss.
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (November 3, 2004), Kelley Kawano, interview with Alford.*