William Shatner isn’t particularly surprised that his one-man show has been successful, on Broadway and on tour in cities across North America.
Reviews have been, well, mixed. In February, a writer for HollywoodReporter.com called the show “witty,” characterizing Shatner as an “engagingly hammy and funny raconteur.” In March, on SFgate.com, Steven Winn called the evening “a shoddy piece of work, faux-casual to a fault and frequently tedious, unfunny or banal.”
“To be successful in show business is unusual enough,” Shatner said. “To glory in the few moments that you are successful is really great.”
Shatner is bringing his autobiographical show to Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 22 — although he doesn’t altogether agree with terming the show “autobiography.”
“Really, what it is is an entertainment,” he said in a phone interview. “It is stand-up comedy. It is philosophy. It is personal. I riff on horses. I do a little on skiing and my kids. I do music. I riff on comedy. I riff on love. I talk on death — get some laughs on death. It goes on. The subject matters are many and, in some cases, perverse, and yet it seems to work. And it works because as soon as you think you know where I’m going, I’m off on another track.”
He bounces from subject to subject in the show, but the actor claims there’s a thread that runs through the 100-minute presentation.
“Basically, I used the theme of say ‘yes to life’ — the idea that life has to be joyful, otherwise it’s too painful to endure,” Shatner said. “Say yes to opportunity. Say yes to new ideas. To new love. All that kind of thing.”
And the 81-year-old actor sounds like a kid talking about his “World.” “I am having the best time doing it,” he said. “There’s so much laughter. The audience participates so much. There’s so much affection between the actor and the audience. It’s palpable. And it’s a joy to be there.”
The audience crosses generations — “from 6 to 80,” according to Shatner. The show attracts baby boomers who grew up knowing him as Captain James T. Kirk on “Star Trek” and young adults who first became Shatner fans from his Emmy-winning role as lawyer Denny Crane on “The Practice” and “Boston Legal.”
“There is an unspoken understanding between us,” Shatner said. “In the short time after I begin, they start to listen with an intensity that you may not have seen too often before.”
When he says the audience participates, he doesn’t mean they’re invited to join in. Audience members speak out “infrequently, and I hush them up right away as kindly as I can.”
It’s hard to say the octogenarian is a new man these days, but he does seem entirely at ease with himself and his career. And he demonstrates an ability to laugh at himself. “Well, there’s a great deal to laugh at,” Shatner said, proving the point.
That sense of humor was sometimes misinterpreted. Trekkies took it far too seriously when he made his infamous “Get a life!” statement to them in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. Which became the title of an autobiography. And a documentary.
“The truth of the matter is, I never really felt badly about ‘Star Trek,’ ” Shatner said. “I was always aware that the celebrity I garnered from ‘Star Trek’ is the reason I’m, for example, talking to you. It all started there. I have nothing but great affection for ‘Star Trek.’ And I talk a bit about that in the show.
“What I do dwell on is how lucky I am, and I have nothing but gratefulness for my life and the opportunities that I’ve been given. I’m cool with everything.”
Shatner’s World: We Just Live In It
P William Shatner presents a one-man show.
When • Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 7:30 p.m.
Where • Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City
Tickets • $30, $50, $60 ($5 with a valid University of Utah student ID) at kingsburyhall.utah.edu or 801-581-7100