Steve Seabrook serves up self-help laughs

Courtesy PhotoKurt Bodden plays a motivational speaker in “Steve Seabrook: Better Than You.”

Despite thoroughly amusing claims, Steve Seabrook’s motivational course “Better Than You” isn’t likely to significantly  change anyone’s life.

It’s also both the beauty, and conundrum, of Kurt Bodden’s one-man show onstage at The Marsh in The City.

Bodden is pitch-perfect as the smooth-talking Seabrook, who heads up a weekendlong personal growth workshop in which he offers confoundingly true philosophical gems like, “People who are no better than you are more successful than you.”

Seabrook’s shared meditation on procrastination is equally hilarious: “Celebrate the fact that you’re not doing something you don’t want to do.”

Slightly awkwardly, yet with poignancy, the show combines Seabrook’s slick workshop sessions (with participants, the audience) and a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his offstage life as he tries to make ends meet as a lifestyle coach and motivator. His cellphone calls reveal a touching envy for folks such as Deepak Chopra and Richard Simmons; it’s even a bit sad when he gets an invitation to appear on a “consciousness cruise,” and it is later retracted.  

Yet while they are mostly funny, and often thought-provoking, Bodden/Seabrook’s plentiful aphorisms don’t add up to a unifying whole, and the show wobbles. It’s not quite stinging enough to be an all-out satire of hucksters in the personal growth movement (though his attempt to sell bottled water as an ionized, pH-balanced system is funny); at the same time, it’s not quite sympathetic enough to be an enlightening story about a man seeking change, or helping people make meaningful change.

It is, however, filled with laughs and fleeting truisms about life. It’s hard to resist comments like Seabrook’s answer to the question, “Am I my own worst enemy?” He says: “On the one hand, I hope you’re not, but on the other, no one else will be.”

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

Steve Seabrook: Better Than You

  • Where: Marsh Studio Theater, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.
  • When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 8:30 p.m. Saturdays; closes March 30
  • Tickets: $15 to 50
  • Contact: (415) 282-3055, ?www.themarsh.org
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