Josh Kornbluth Proves We’re All in This Together!
by Barry David Horwitz
What a show! What a Genius! “Citizen Brain” is a one man show by the extraordinary solo truth-teller Josh Kornbluth. Josh became a UCSF Brain Fellow, along with being a master storyteller and comedian.
Have you ever been at a solo comedy show that discovers the source of dementia and then applies that discovery to the whole country? As Dr. Bruce Miller, Josh’s mentor at the UCSF Brain Institute keeps saying: “Go Bigger, Josh! Go BIGGER!”
Josh exudes empathy: he’s loyal, trusty, and true. Listening to his amazing story, I nearly fall over with laughter. He tells us about his mom Bunny in Brooklyn and his stepfather Frank Rosen, an electrician and celebrated union organizer, who suddenly came down with dementia.
When Josh talks about his mother’s coolness toward her son, he turns it into a love story. With the onset of Frank’s Alzheimer’s, we get to see Josh’s caring and love.
Josh, a determined soul, applies to be a Brain Fellow at UCSF, a total turnaround for a comic storyteller. Yes, the story is miraculous, fitting, and hilarious. Kornbluth weaves self-examination and new ideas into irresistible comedy.
We all lean forward to catch the next twist in his gripping brain studies—the neurons and blockages that appear in brain scans. We sit with Josh at the high-powered classes full of scientists, along with Josh who barely passed science in school. And somehow, it all makes brilliant sense.
For his project at the Brain Institute, Josh looks for a way to activate the Empathy Center in the brain. Turns out that empathy is the royal road to cognitive curing. If we train ourselves to be empathetic to people who offend us, then we are exercising our own brains!
This great discovery makes it worthwhile being cool and empathetic, especially towards those who make us angry. Josh discovers a special formula to putting those Empathy zones into action and he makes it funny and fun. It’s like mental exercise—do it now or suffer later.
He also begins to see empathy blockage as a symptom of a wider lack of fellow feeling in our country. We need a new kind of Citizen Brain, based on the power of Empathy—which also cleans up our neurons. Imagine–thinking of others makes us stronger and healthier–who knew?!
Kornbluth presents us with his modest technique to avoiding dementia—how’s that for a worthwhile theater ticket? And there’s more—he applies his new mental exercise to the world at large.
He puts forth the idea of a Citizen Brain, where we extend our empathy to people afflicted by poverty, racism, and misogyny—to cure collective cold-heartedness.
Josh asks, “If it works for one, why not for all?”
But Josh discovers people who oppose his idea for the Citizen Brain—find out why at MarinShakespeare.org on Friday, January 19, only. I highly recommend Josh’s solo show, featuring his household full of hilarious characters. It’s a great night out, packed with comedy and compassion.
“Citizen Brain” by Josh Kornbluth, with Aaron Loeb, Casey Stangl, & David Dower, original direction by Casey Stangl, at Marin Shakespeare Company, San Rafael, California. Info: MarinShakespeare.org – playing Friday, January 19, 2024, only.
Cast: Josh Kornbluth
Banner photo: Josh Kornbluth. Photo: Chris Hardy