|You can call him AJ, you can call him Andrew ...|
No, no, no. He doesn't have a freakishly large head. That's something his mother casually mentioned to the barber, which is what they called stylists back in the olden days, when she brought her circus-sideshow-destined son — oops, sorry — in for a trim. Bugged the hell out of him for years, too, until he discovered the root cause of the problem with certain meteorological data. It's one of the first stories he tells in the film. You'll hear a lot about his family in the film and, seriously, it has all the makings of a Fox sit-com. You could call it "AJ's Family" or something: Boy with a freakishly large head, the last of five children, desperately seeking attention, who gets the boot from Catholic school, and seems destined to spend some time in reform school; father a former Marist Brother with the zeal of a dozen converts, whose life revolves around the Catholic church; Mother, a little worn down, beat up by life, a little resentful in that passive-aggressive way moms have, a complete movie freak, so into it that she takes sides on the squabbles of the day, sneering at Big Head because he brags about being born on the same day as Eddie Fisher, who dumped the lovely Debbie Reynolds for that hussy Elizabeth Taylor; Memere, his grandmother, who, like the rest of the adults in the family, speaks in a rapid-fire backwoods Quebec dialect, and is convinced that Liberace can see her from the other side of the television, so she gets all dolled up before he starts tickling the ivories; sister, a do-gooder who only wants to help poor kitty cats and gets repaid — in kitties — for her efforts. You can almost hear the theme song to "Soap" playing in the background
This is actually the third incarnation of "Thanks for Listening," and a project that has been more than a decade in the making — and it shows in the normal-sized face of the semi-famous Mungo, who wrote, performed and produced the film. He is sporting, at various times: shaggy hair and beard, short hair and no beard and short hair, well-trimmed beard. He started the project eight years ago with Rain Breau, daughter of Screening Room projectionist and almost-famous street musician Jack Garvey, in the director's chair. The project came to a disastrous end when the film got snatched during a burglary at Breau's home in Los Angeles. He connected with Salem filmmaker Amie Spiridigliozzi-Keefe to reinvent the film in 2005, then three years later, with an all-but-finished reel in their hands, they decided they had to reinvent the project one more time, reshooting and recutting it in the now-mandatory high-definition format. An earlier version of "Thanks for Listening" was shown last year, just up the street from the theater, during a meeting of the Newburyport Film Club at the library. The critique was tepid. "I think they were just trying to be nice," says Mungo, who also works for the post office (He has one of the rural routes. "I see cows every day," he says.) Since then he's made ten revisions, reshooting the opening and closing sequences and generally tightening up the film, which runs a little over an hour.
No matter what you call him, Mungo has been doing the storytelling thing for, well, as long as people have been calling him AJ. Why? Because no one would listen to him, as least that's the story he tells. But don't call him a professional storyteller, even though he's been doing it for three decades. He doesn't like it. He prefers to be called a working stiff folk artist. And just so there's no misunderstandings, this is a "talking head flick." That's what he calls it. It's just THE STORYTELLER telling stories with very few visual distractions: a few illustrations, some live footage, some rapid-fire Q&As between stories, a nickel tour of the theater, even one science experiment involving ... well, never mind. There's also lots of local folks involved — and familiar locations. There won't be much of a fuss about the premiere: Mungo will do a question-and-answer on Oct. 10. "Otherwise I'll just be loitering in the lobby," he says.
JUST THE FACTS, MAN: "Thanks for Listening, a Memoir" plays from Oct. 7 to 13 at The Screening Room, 82 State St., Newburyport. There will be a Q&A session following the Oct. 10 screening. For more information about the film, log onto thanksforlisteningmovie.com. For more information about the cinema, call 978.462.3456 or log on to newburyportmovies.com.