It took British comedian Dave Gorman's uniquely quirky and obsessive mind to parlay an unsolicited e-mail into a quest of heroic proportions and to chronicle it in a hilarious confessional solo performance piece, "Dave Gorman's Googlewhack! Adventure," currently at UCLA's Macgowan LittleTheater.
In the e-mail in question, an unknown Australian informed Gorman that he was a "Googlewhack" -- the byproduct of an obscure cyberspace pastime involving the ubiquitous Google search engine, in which the arbitrary pairing of two key words yields only a single link out of billions of searchable Web pages (it takes an esoteric combination such as "hydroids/souvlaki" or "dork/turnspit" to hit a Googlewhack). Needless to say, there is a small but zealous Internet subculture devoted to the pursuit of Googlewhacks.
The timing of this discovery was particularly fortuitous for Gorman. Having reached his 30s, he'd recently decided it was time to finally shoulder some adult responsibility and had recklessly accepted a publisher's cash advance to write a novel ("Don't they know that's no way to get me working?"). Nearly all his available distractions had been exhausted when he discovered the seductive Googlewhack portal to infinite procrastination.
Where most Googlewhackers confine their globetrotting to the keyboard, Gorman combined the game with one of his long-standing fascinations: using chance operations to make contact with people around the world whom he never would have met otherwise (a previous Gorman monologue described his pursuit of people with the same name as his).
Adding to the story's dramatic stakes were the terms of a drunken New Year's Eve bet that launched his adventure -- he had to follow a chain of 10 consecutive Googlewhack website owners who were willing to meet him in person. Each had to find him two other candidates for the next link in the chain. And he had to complete the entire chain by his next birthday, two months away.
Gorman's zigzagging transcontinental journey to meet other Googlewhacks (traveling more than 90,000 miles at an average speed of 50 mph) bears more than passing similarities to that of his equally obsessive fictional compatriot and spiritual predecessor, Phileas Fogg, whose 80-day voyage around the world also started with a wager. Both stories come down to a nail-biting race against the clock.
Unlike the fanciful yarn Jules Verne concocted for Fogg, Gorman's story -- he insists -- is entirely true. Accurate reporting shifts the emphasis from his own cleverness to an appreciation for the rich diversity of humanity he would rather celebrate. Besides, he points out, "If I could make things up, I'd have written a novel in the first place."
While Gorman's timing is impeccable, he also weaves disparate narrative threads with the seamless assurance of an accomplished raconteur. Supplemented with photos and educational graphics from his laptop computer, his Googlewhack adventure is more than a collection of jokes and amusing anecdotes. It's a richly varied, delightful and at times surprisingly touching human tapestry.
Having blown his publisher's advance on his quixotic effort, Gorman was at least able to leverage it into this award-winning show and a related book. His ingenuity puts to shame those of us who fend off deadlines with mere errands and household chores.
'Dave Gorman's Googlewhack! Adventure'
Where: Macgowan Little Theater, UCLA, Westwood
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays
Ends: April 10
Price: $20 and $25
Contact: (310) 825-2101 or www.ticketmaster.com
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes