Spalding Gray revolutionized solo performance. Using his gift for storytelling, he reinvented what an actor can do alone on a stage. While most of his monologues have been published as books and audiobooks, most of them are readily available and easily accessible. These are my top ten favorite solo shows of his, along with where you can find them:
  1. HONORABLE MENTIONS
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    "Interviewing the Audience;" "Impossible Vacation;" "The Great Crossing;" "47 Beds" (All are available on the Stitcher Premium podcast SPALDING GRAY: GREAT LIVE PERFORMANCES)
  2. Sex and Death to the Age 14
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    Gray's debut monologue is exactly what the title says: a string of memories dealing with both topics from his childhood to age 14. Not quite as engaging as his later work would become, but his signature humor, detailed memory, and unblinking openness are all still at play. (Available as a bonus feature to the documentary AND EVERYTHING IS GOING FINE)
  3. India and After
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    Gray recounts stories from his time in India , but with an experimental twist: another person reads words for him to free-associate and a time limit under which to do so. While the format takes some getting used to, it's ultimately a fascinating exercise that displays how quickly Gray could work on the fly. (Available on the podcast)
  4. A Personal History of the American Theatre
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    Another unique experiment. Gray unveils titles from his stage credits from a shuffled set of cards and tells the stories associated with them. A bit of my own personal bias plays into this ranking, but it's a must-listen for any actor or theatre-lover. (Available on the podcast and as a bonus feature on the Criterion release of GRAY'S ANATOMY).
  5. Life, Interrupted
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    I struggled a bit over where exactly to put this on the list. Gray's final, unfinished monologue - about the car accident that almost killed him - is a tough listen. His ability to string together thoughts had been slowed, and you can hear the depression he'd been struggling with (a result of the brain damage that would lead to his suicide) in his voice. However, it's power and resonance as his final work of self-expression is undeniable. (Available on the podcast)
  6. The Terrors of Pleasure
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    In his attempts to renovate an old house into a dream cabin, Gray encounters one headache after another. It's an absolutely hilarious cautionary tale about stubbornness and willful ignorance in the pursuit of idealistic happiness. (Available on the podcast. In 1988, HBO released a one-hour TV special that's only available on VHS...and possibly here: https://youtu.be/otktRxKo2XY)
  7. Monster in a Box
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    This is Gray at his flat-out funniest. As he attempts to work on the massive manuscript for his novel, he finds himself continually sidelined with various other projects and realizes that there are deeper things he's avoiding. It's a terrific combination of his neurotic self-awareness, frantic energy, and dry wit. (A live performance is available as an audiobook on Audible. There was a feature film, but the DVD is out of print..so unless you have a VCR, be ready to pay up!)
  8. It's a Slippery Slope
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    Spalding shares the time he learned how to ski, and draws parallels to his descent into depression following the traumatic end of his first marriage. The tone follows suit, starting off light and hilarious, delving into serious vulnerability, and eventually finding it's way back to a place of light. (A live performance is available on the podcast...but you can also listen to the CD recording here: https://youtu.be/SfGmfLlSW5Y)
  9. Swimming to Cambodia
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    The seminal work that launched Spalding Gray into fame. He talks about his time in Cambodia while filming his role in the movie THE KILLING FIELDS, also delving into the country's history, its culture, and his search for the "perfect moment." It's a wild story that's an examination of pure experience in a harsh environment. (The celebrated feature film of the abridged version is available on DVD. Part 2 of the original 4-hour version is available on the podcast)
  10. Morning, Noon, and Night
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    The high rank of this one may surprise some people. It's simply a series of misadventures in Gray's newfound life as a father of three in his 50s. Maybe it's the simple humor that runs throughout. Maybe it's the sweetness of his discovery of a new kind of love late in life. But I think, for me, it's the sense of joy that's felt throughout. It's Spalding at his happiest, and probably the way he'd want to be remembered. (Available on the podcast)
  11. Gray's Anatomy
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    After discovering that he has a rare condition developing in his left eye, Gray explores various forms of alternative medicine before taking the required surgery. This, to me, is the complete package of a Spalding Gray monologue: witty observations, eloquent delivery, energy ranging from subdued to frantic...and, of course, a fascinating story. (Available on the podcast and as an excellent feature film...which you might find here: https://youtu.be/6mtzEkD0uZ4)