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MSP Magazine: Q&A with Dudley Riggs

By Drew Wood
Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Flying Funny (Dudley Riggs)There’s a massive painting hanging above the sectional in Dudley Riggs’s loft. The main living area’s two exterior walls are floor-to-ceiling windows with unabated views of the Guthrie, Gold Medal Park, the Stone Arch Bridge, and just about every other Minneapolis landmark you’d want a view of. But it’s the painting that grabs you. It’s not the subject of the old oil painting (a 1600s man surrounded by a feast) that draws you in, but that it’s casually hanging above someone’s couch—its aged wood frame and shadowy brownish-black color palette creating a vortex of darkness in an otherwise sun-flooded space. “We only would’ve bought a place that had room for it,” says Riggs’s wife Pauline Boss, as she passes through. “We kind of acquired it by default,” adds Riggs. The 85-year-old founder of the improvisational comedy theater Brave New Workshop acquired the painting in the early ’70s from an artist friend who was moving abroad and thought it might work well in the workshop’s one-time sister theater/café, the Experimental Theater Company. “He brought it over to me on the roof of his Volkswagen in a rainstorm,” Riggs laughs. “He said, ‘You’re the only one who has a wall big enough for this, can I leave it here?” Fast-forward more than 40 years and the painting presides over Riggs’s daily life and witnessed him writing his memoir, Flying Funny: My Life Without a Net. We sat down with the legendary satirist in the shadow of his painting for a chat.

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