Eric Bogosian Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In addition to his prolific career as a playwright and creator of solo shows, Eric Bogosian has branched out into other written forms as well. Notes from Underground (1994), which takes its inspiration from Fyodor Dostoevski’s Zapiski iz podpolya (1864; Letters from the Underworld, 1913; better known as Notes from the Underground), is a novella in journal form detailing an isolated man’s attempts to connect with the outside world and his increasing tendency toward antisocial and sociopathic behavior. Bogosian also published a novel, Mall (2000), which focuses on the ways in which a shopping mall ties together the lives of a bizarre array of seemingly unrelated characters. The novel is part comedy and part crime thriller and contains much of the stinging social criticism found in his plays. Bogosian also wrote introductions to two books: Physiognomy: The Mark Seliger Photographs (1999), a collection of celebrity photographs, and How to Talk Dirty and Influence People (1992), the autobiography of comedian Lenny Bruce, whose standup routines laced with social criticism are an obvious forerunner to much of Bogosian’s work as a dramatist. In addition, Bogosian has also written screenplays for adaptations of his work including Talk Radio (1988), which he co-wrote with director Oliver Stone, Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll (1991), and subUrbia (1996), as well as the pilot episode of the television program High Incident (1996).


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Eric Bogosian has been an active and versatile playwright since the late 1970’s, crafting numerous short ensemble dramas and full-length plays, of which Talk Radio and subUrbia, which were both adapted to film, and Griller are the best known. However, Bogosian’s greatest contribution to modern drama is his series of solo shows. These solo performance pieces—Men Inside; FunHouse; Drinking in America; Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll; Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead; and Wake Up and Smell the Coffee—consist of short monologues spoken by different characters and have led to three Obie awards. Drinking in America and Pounding Nails in the Floor with My Forehead each garnered the Obie Award for playwriting, and Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll received a special citation. An outspoken supporter of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Bogosian has received two NEA fellowships, and the film version of Talk Radio received the Silver Bear Award from the Berlin Film Festival.

Bogosian’s work, more than that of most writers, has drawn particular praise for being “hip” by demonstrating a thorough understanding of contemporary culture and concerns. From his searing indictments of consumer culture to his satirical takes on morally compromised yuppies, drug pushers, Hollywood agents, and traditional tough guys, Bogosian has garnered a reputation as a devastating social critic with a biting, edgy, and oftentimes grim sense of humor.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Clements, Marcelle. “Eric Bogosian as the Man Who Won’t Shut Up.” Esquire, September, 1991, 184. This profile attempts to see the similarities between Bogosian in private and his public persona as evidenced in Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll.

Eck, Michael. “The Mouth That Roared.” The Times Union, October 4, 2001, p. 27. Includes many comments from Bogosian, centered on how he changed material he was ready to perform in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers.

Handelman, David. “A Man Under the Influence.” Rolling Stone, June 19, 1986, 49-51. Written during the period of Bogosian’s solo show, Drinking in America, this article connects the performance to the playwright’s feelings about the death of the comedian John Belushi.

Lacher, Irene. “Bogosian Says So Long to Solo Performances: The Older and Wiser Bad Boy of Monologuists Says He Is Moving on to New Projects.” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2002, p. F2. Bogosian discusses his years of doing monologues and expresses how his interests and focus have changed since he began. He suggests that he might stop doing solo shows and devote his attention to other works.

Shirley, Don. “At His Worst.” Review of The Worst of Eric Bogosian. Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2002, p. F21. A review of The Worst of Eric Bogosian, a monologue taken from Bogosian’s Wake Up and Smell the Coffee and other solo performances. Shirley finds the show, in which Bogosian portrays a series of flawed men, including an obsequious actor at an audition and a randy drug dealer, to be a sort of “best of” compilation.

Vitello, Barbara. “Bogosian Undefined.” Chicago Herald, June 1, 2001, p. 8. Profile of Bogosian as he prepares to open a one-man show in Chicago.

Weber, Bruce. “Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?” The New York Times, April 3, 2002, sec. E, p. 5. Weber finds too much of a cautionary tale in Bogosian’s play Humpty Dumpty.

Wilmeth, Don B., and Tice L. Miller, eds. Cambridge Guide to American Theatre. Cambridge, Mass.: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Contains an overview of Bogosian’s work to date.