Brooklyn-based playwright-songwriter-performer Dan Fishback has recorded an EP documenting his life "as a chronically ill, queer Jew in an age of rising fascism." Ill I: Laughing With Lizards will release February 16. See the music video for the title track, featuring hand-drawn animation from Fishback, above. The video is also directed by Fishback and edited by Sean Puglisi.
The project is the first of three planned short albums, with the first focused on the "chronically ill" portion of Fishback's life. "Ill speaks to dysfunctional imbalances, not just within my own body, but within the body politic, and this first collection focuses on that political disorder," says Fishback in a statement. "The subtitular track, 'Laughing with Lizards,' explores the grief of witnessing injustice and the solace of knowing that ours is not the first generation to fight against overwhelming political cruelty."
The series was inspired by a 2016 gala for the Zionist Organization of America that honored Trump advisor Steve Bannon. "I immediately began laughing at the absurdity—a Jewish organization praising an antisemite for supporting Israel, while that same antisemite was empowering an unprecedented explosion of domestic antisemitism," Fishback shares in press notes. "But this laughing soon melted into crying as my fear of fascism overwhelmed me."
Fishback turned to social media, wondering if there was an expression for laughing at fascism because it's ridiculous but also crying because it's terrifying. The answer came from Yiddish, specifically the phrase "lakhn mit yashtshterkes." Literally translated, the phrase means "laughing with lizards."
"Upon reading this, I was overwhelmed, not only by the surreal, mysterious beauty of the image, but by the tangible sense that my ancestors had gifted me with cultural wisdom, to prepare me for that moment," shares Fishback. "The problem was that I couldn't readily access those gifts, because I did not speak Yiddish. Like so many members of so many displaced peoples, I dream in a language I do not speak."
The album's songs all feature music and lyrics by Fishback, and are produced by Matt Katz and mixed and mastered by Corey Tut. The cover art is "Tourist (BRAF V600E Mutation J/6) (Detail)" by Avram Finkelstein.
Fishback has been performing in NYC since 2003, a member of the Lower East Side's anti-folk scene. His plays include The Material World, You Will Experience Silence, and thirtynothing.
Visit DanFishback.com for more.